Optic Nerve XIII: And the Winner Is...

This year, Optic Nerve was chosen the Miami New Times' Best Film Festival in the publication's mega issue highlighting the 305's finest offerings.But it should have come as no surprise that MOCA's vaunted showcase of short, homegrown experimental films running under five minutes would end up muscling its way onto the national stage after opening up calls for submissions to include talent from all points of the compass.

Optic Nerve XIII drew 144 entries from across the country and the

program boasted 18 films by 15 artists and two artist collectives.

Represented were artists from Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New

York City, San Francisco and Oakland, California, Jamaica Plain,

Massachusetts and Gifford, New Hampshire. Four of the finalists, the

biggest group, are from South Florida. Read about the 18 finalists here. This past Saturday night, nearly 400 people flocked to MOCA for both screenings of the film festival. The museum purchased one video for their permanent collection and the crowd weighed in to choose the audience choice winner.

And not only will this year's finalist's films be screening at MOCA through September, but they will also be on view at the de La Cruz space in the Design District during this month's Art Walk and have already been tapped for an upcoming screening at Big Screen Plaza by Dodes at a date soon to be determined.

Optic Nerve XIII's jurors included Stephanie Dodes, curator of New York

City's Big Screen Plaza and Shannon Stratton, co-founder and executive

director of Chicago's threewalls Artist Residency.

It also included MOCA's curatorial staff; Justin Long,

an artist and founder of Miami's More Funner Projects and one of last

year's winners; and Ibett Yanes of Miami's de La Cruz Collection. You

can be sure that with this type of selection committee, Optic Nerve

participants will be now receiving much broader visibility.

A film that grabbed our attention was Remake by New Hampshire's L. Ashwyn Collins, who sourced 16 YouTube videos consisting of the original shower scene from Hitchcock's '60s classic Psycho, and 15 amateur recreations of the same scene. Presented in a grid of contrasting scenes, it brought to mind Douglas Gordon's 24-hour opus in which he slowed down the original film to spool over an entire day's period shown at MOCA back in November 2004 as part of the group show "Cut/Films as Found Object."

Locals in Optic Nerve also made a big impression on the audience. Jillian Mayer's minute-long I Am Your Grandma is the artist's sensational autobiographical video diary which the artist created for her unborn grandchildren. The stunning piece, featuring Mayer in a quick-change relay of discomfiting masks singing to her progeny, was showcased at the David Castillo Gallery earlier this year, later at the Borscht Film Festival, and has garnered over a million views on YouTube. The viral video was even spoofed on Web Soup as I Am Your Lawyer, where a Mayer imposter wills her grandkids her freaky collection of masks.

Another local, Karlo Andrei Ibarra, collected "Audience Favorite" honors with Crossover, in which random Puerto Rican citizens appear mangling the Star Spangled banner in a disjointed warble, amplifying the socio-cultural distance between the tropical island and the U.S.

Among our favorites for festival winner were Perfect Lives's Marfa, by Oakland collective, D. Sadja and S. Martinez, who combine elements of narrative film, music video and performance art in a story about a duet of unsuspecting cowpokes shot over an 18-hour period in Marfa, Texas. The artist's grainy videos is underscored by sinister overtones and evokes comparisons to harmony Korine's Trash Humpers and Dennis Hopper's crazed nitrous oxide-addled hit man in David Lynch's Blue Velvet. One of the pair's cowboy's appears wearing a red rubber clown nose, which later shows up bobbing is a swirl of blood and water sucked down a bathtub drain.

This year's winner and our own personal favorite was Brian Bress's It's Been a Long Day, chosen by Clearwater to enter MOCA's permanent collection. It is a 2:13 minute skull-staver revealing the artist with a bullet wound in his forehead.

Bress stares at the camera while blood oozes out of his head wound bringing to mind medieval altar pieces depicting the crucifixion, stigmata or images of flayed church martyrs.While lamenting his suffering, Bress, wearing black pajamas and appearing a little like Gomez Addams, looks directly at the spectator and says he enjoys "painting every night before hitting" his pillows. Then he begins swabbing the blood from his suppurating wound and finger-painting his mug until it turns a rosy crimson not unlike a glowing cherub straight out of one of the works of a Flemish master. In fact, Bress is speaking to the tradition of religious subject matter and the self portrait with a droll wit and irony that elevates his work above the others.

Bress's It's Been a Long Day will make a great addition to the museum's collection even if observers this past Saturday had trouble stomaching his imagery.

See a collection of the videos online here.

Catch the collection of films at the de la Cruz Collection (237 NE 41st Street, Miami) beginning Saturday, September 10th during the Art Walk and running through October 8. Call 305-576-6112 or visit delacruzcollection.org. You can also see all 18 films on uvuvideo.org. "Optic Nerve XIII Through end of September Museum of Contemporary Art 770 N.E. 125 Street, North Miami 305-893-6211or visit mocanomi.org.

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