Wednesday, October 20, 2010

10/20/2010 Thomas Comerford

The Indian Boundary Line, 2010, 16mm/8mm/super-8mm on digital betacam, color. 41 mins.

Over the last eight years, Chicago musician and filmmaker Thomas Comerford has been at work on a series of quietly-observed films that contemplate the entwined social, political, and environmental histories of Chicago (Figures in the Landscape, 2002; Land Marked/Marquette, 2005). The Indian Boundary Line (2010) follows a road in Chicago, Rogers Avenue, that traces the 1816 Treaty of St. Louis boundary between the United States and “Indian Territory.” In doing so, it examines the collision between the vernacular landscape, with its storefronts, short-cut footpaths and picnic tables, and the symbolic one, replete with historical markers, statues, and fences. Through its observations and audio-visual juxtapositions, The Indian Boundary Line meditates on a span of land in Chicago about 12 miles long, but suggests how this land and its history are an index for the shifting inhabitants, relationships, boundaries and ideas of landscape -- as well as the consequences -- which have accompanied the transformation of the “New World.”

Land Marked/Marquette (Series), 2005, 16mm sound, color, 23 mins.

A series of clear, concisely observed landscape studies of sites and monuments in Chicago connected to 17th century exploration by Jesuit missionary Jacques Marquette. In examining the monuments to Marquette, the "stories" the monuments tell, and the relationship of the monuments to their surroundings,the film deploys different audio-visual and stylistic tactics, allowing for the contemplation of both historical representation and the transformation of the land in the passage of time.

THOMAS COMERFORD (b. 1970, Richmond, VA) is a media artist, musician, and educator residing in Chicago. Trained in sculpture, performance, and the classics, he began making films in the early 1990s. In 1997, he embarked on an influential series of films, made with a pinhole motion picture camera and home-made microphone, under the title, Cinema Obscura (1997-2002). His recent films are site-specific to Chicago and explore the evidence, revision, and erasure of histories in the landscape. His work has screened at many festivals and venues, including the Gene Siskel Film Center, Anthology Film Archives, San Francisco Cinematheque, and the London Film Festival. Comerford has also toured the United States with his films, screening in spaces ranging from church basements and backyards to regular old movie theatres. As songwriter, singer, and producer for the rock band Kaspar Hauser, Comerford has performed his music around the Midwest and eastern U.S. and released three LP records. He currently teaches film production, DIY exhibition, and punk rock history at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.