During International Film Festival Rotterdam, Witte de With organizes a night of short films followed by a Q&A with artist Michael Portnoy, to expand upon the conceptual approach of his new work, Relational Stalinism – The Musical. The films are selected by Portnoy to draw out the comedic, absurdist and lexically playful streak in artists’ moving image.

Tamy Ben-Tor and Miki Carmi

Young Emerging Artists Eating and Fucking, 2015
This video work encapsulates and contemplates a state of contempt towards normal behavior in a society that sanctifies notions of career, functionality, rationality, and compartmentalization. Yet it is not merely an angry vent towards this zeitgeist. It offers a parallel universe in which an alternative exists. It is one of many limbs of an ongoing collage that both artists have produced over the past 7 years and that strives to substitute cultural hermetic discourse with idiosyncratic and broader psychological references.

Erkka Nissinen

Tilaa massa tilassa massa litassa maalit: ali tila, 2014 (English translation: Material Conditions of Inner Spaces)
Erkka Nissinen is interested in alternative histories. He looks for anomalies, for moments of instability or failure, and tries to put pressure on fixed assumptions. For his recent work, the artist uses palindrome-titles: words or phrases, which can be read both forward and backward. These titles refer to the cyclic, from-beginning-to-end-and-back-again ideas that feature in many of his works. Tilaa massa tilassa massa litassa maalit: ali tila is a video work about three men who are trying to change the material conditions by social action. The lead characters of this absurdist slapstick musical are on a quest to find their inner spaces.

Mary Reid Kelly

The Thong of Dionysus, 2015
In this final installment of her Minotaur trilogy, Mary Reid Kelley revives and revises ancient characters such as the Minotaur, Dionysus, and Ariadne. By participating in this cyclical refreshment of myth, Reid Kelley performs a ritual repetition and adds multiple meanings to the myth through her distinctive pun-filled narratives.

Catherine Sullivan

The Chittendens (20 of 100), 2005
In collaboration with Sean Griffin The Chittendens (2005) derived its mise en scène from Thorstein Veblen’s The Theory of the Leisure Class and was shot in a liquidated office building in Chicago and at Poverty Island Lighthouse, which sits abandoned off the Wisconsin coast. The piece consists also of choreography, music and vocal arrangements developed with a frequent collaborator, composer Sean Griffin. The actors rehearsed gestures and attitudes that could be scored and performed like percussion. The work hopes to create suspense between the actors’ execution of the score and the score’s automation of them. In the scenes at Poverty Island, a sea captain looks for an emblematic lighthouse and is melancholic because the lighthouse is in decay. He can’t resuscitate his metaphor, and neither can we the metaphoric. During the film night the piece is screened as a short film which shows roughly 20 of the 100 minutes of footage from the original.

—With Thanks To:

Fonds 21, the city of Rotterdam and the American Embassy in The Netherlands.