This spring the Walker Art Center inaugurates Artists’ Cinema, a new annual series of films and public programs that explores the status of the moving image in contemporary art today. From artist talks and screenings to a rotating program of free films in the Lecture Room and a temporary installation at nearby Midway Contemporary Art, the series, which runs from May 3–June 26, highlights work by an international roster of artists.
In the last decade, as distinctions between traditional artistic mediums have continued to erode, we have witnessed the emergence of a new artists’ cinema, however heterogeneous and dispersed, marked by a sense of fluidity between the roles of visual artist and filmmaker, the gallery and screening room as sites. While some artists have sought a wider audience through feature-length films, others have embraced the cinema as an integral part of their studio practice. This recent proliferation of moving images in the art world speaks to a pervasive interest among artists, curators, and critics as to what constitutes the cinematic today. As artist Redmond Entwistle notes, “The cinematic experience has not always been a fixed one—it’s been one that’s open to new possibilities of screening.”
With Artists’ Cinema, the Walker explores these possibilities with works by artists who are reinvigorating the moving image with fresh approaches and forms. No longer content with the arbitrary distinctions that have separated art and film in the past, these artists are approaching the cinema as a renewed site of inquiry and experimentation while continuing their work across multiple mediums.
This mirrors Walker’s long-standing commitment to artists’ cinema in all its forms while also looking forward. In 1974 the Walker presented Projected Images, a seminal gallery exhibition of film and video installations by such canonical figures as Paul Sharits and Michael Snow. While film had been an integral component of the Walker’s artistic program since the 1940s, this exhibition offered a possibility for dialogue and exchange between the two fields. Today, projected images are ubiquitous in our galleries, and as we look back, our series participants also do the same. What ties together this varied group of artists and their wide-ranging work is their inquisitive, often critical stance in relation to past cinematic traditions. Recasting genres and reconfiguring the filmic apparatus, they all reference more than a century of cinema while forging new futures for the moving image—a gesture that signals the emergence of a distinctly new artists’ cinema embodying our contemporary moment.