OLHAR DE CINEMA 2018: VALERIA STREET BY JANIE GEISER

This entry was posted on June 25th, 2018

By José Sarmiento Hinojosa

After watching most of Janie Geiser’s work for Olhar de Cinema, I came up with the term “steoroscopic artifacts” in search for a proper definition for her cinema that would make me understand what I was watching. It’s not that Geiser’s films are unlike anything I had seen so far (an immediate connection with Rhayne Vermette comes to mind), but it was the particular use of layered images, each one with its own particular significant, (which reminded me of Val Del Omar’s words about his expanded work) that allowed me to coin such a term. Of course, relating Val Del Omar’s paracinema with the works of Janie Gesier might be far-fetched, but the effect that they have, I dare say, are similar. Both seem to expand the mere experience of cinema through their use, in Geiser’s case, multi-sourced images, and the framework of expanded cinema, in Val Del Omar’s use of multi-audio channels and other manifestations of the experience of his films.

This manifestation of “expanded cinema” in Geiser’s work lies in her particular use of animation and found footage, a structure that also discovers new terrain in the use of instruction manuals, pages with equations, or other data, graphics of waveforms, among an infinite resource of elements. The multi-dimensionality of her cinema maybe doesn’t relate to Youngblood’s example of what “expanded” cinema is, but in the realm of “camera-less” work, Geiser’s has few rivals, and as I have mentioned already, the effect is somehow similar as experiencing this particular strand of filmmaking. Geiser’s films are unique in this aspect, in their manifestation of a post-cinematic experience. And that’s precisely what I could see, again, in her latest film: Valeria Street (2018).

Valeria Street is, first and foremost, a fantastic exercise in what is the heart of found footage. Here, Geiser discovers a number of photographs from a staged office shoot with her father and other men, a representation of “male power” in her own words. Then, the work of re-contextualizing the images in her own imaginary turns to the use, again, of geometric patterns, maps, documents and other images to recreate a universe for his father to inhabit, in a particular view from the dark interstices of the mind. Like a dream, or a fever, Geiser’s work deals with the unfathomable, with the ungraspable, a universe that has a particular meaning inside her mind, something that we deal to discover. This representation of the dynamics of a board meeting, or the mere presence of the father as a power figure, this collage of different discourses is particularly haunting, and maybe one of her most accomplished works. There’s so much to unveil in Geiser’s images, her complex language is like a vast manual of instructions of the unconscious, playful images with a particular voice, layers and layers of different dialogues.

Rhayne Vermette’s Les Châssis De Lourdes (2016)

I’m returning to the work of Rhayne Vermette to find some rapport with Valeria Street, and I may articulate that films like Vermette’s Les Châssis De Lourdes (2016), and Geiser’s Valeria Street are both exercises on unveiled memory, on the particular effort of these two filmmakers to deal with their own memories and try to construct a proper universe out of them, maybe for liberating themselves of trauma, maybe for delivering catharsis, or maybe to come to terms with the ticking and pulsing manifestations on their minds. Vermette and Geiser both use the collage as their favorite element, Vermette turns to architecture, Geiser to documentation, their building blocks for regenerating and rebuilding their memory. The image of the father weighs heavy in both films, like an anchor for the constructions of the mind.

I will close this piece on a meditation on the images by Geiser and Vermette, such lucid articulations of the hidden, of the discovery of new manifestations of the image, the recall of phantasmagoria to resuscitate hidden ghosts, new appearances that populate the archicortex, like a poem, or an elegy.  The reconstruction of memory via the surging of new narratives, fantastic creatures and universes in constant flux.  Both remarkable works, a double feature that is waiting to be premiered.