If you could dream the world into a sweeter nightmare, this is what it might look like. Moving from aesthetic formalism to splintered narrative evoking things gone awry, the below selection of Alexandra Velasco films exhibits a slow unraveling into the exorcism of beauty and horror.
In the first two, Velasco performs film as celluloid material and film as projection by physically engaging with the medium. By hand-painting 16 mm film, she alters its surface to achieve an energetic, flickering visual poetics of fibrous color and line. In the next, she works with its projection, turning her bare body into a surface to be projected upon, while she dances with the eddying pools of yellow-greens, reds, and electric blues in an erotic display heightened by a distorted opera aria.
The third and fourth films move the element of performance to fragmentary narrative, as we are left to make sense of collaged found footage and images that stumble, break and freeze, in the wake of a profound sense of disturbance, in concert with a kind of close-up portraiture of women as it manifests in the moving image.
To watch these films is to gradually, temporarily allow yourself to become submerged in a sense of seductive derangement.
Holy Water (2011)
silent, color, 1:55 min, hand painted 16 mm
Velasco performs the film as material by directly painting on the film itself. The poetic layering of color, form and texture echoes the film’s eventual introduction of hand-written text, a single phrase: “Cuando la luna cierra los ojos el sol le canta serenata mientras [las estrellas] besan sus parpados rosados,” meaning, “When the moon closes her eyes the sun serenades her while the stars kiss her rosy eyelids.”
Stratum Substratum (2013)
sound, color, 3:47 min, digital
Stratum Substratum engages film as projection in performance through an erotic interplay of body, shadow, and colored projection of a previous VHS film Velasco shot. The artist dances and turns in front of the projection, her shadow a third partner. Her skin becomes surface to the swirling colors of projection. A romantic opera aria that Velasco slowed down and manipulated using static and reverb adds another layer. We see her face only momentarily.
The Family (2012)
sound, color, 2:42 min, digital, found footage
A psychological portrait of the enigmatic, murdersome Manson Family in the late 1960s. The image comes apart and pixelates, slows down and stumbles in a superimposition of images that at one point seems to slide off the screen. Color inversions of frames evoke the scene of a crime or criminal passion. Sound oscillates “between music and noise that remind me of a void or a vacuum,” says Velasco, as she describes an amalgamation of sound manipulated from footage, downloaded sounds like the sound of water, invented sounds in Garageband, and her recorded voice as she both sings and talks along to someone’s mouth moving.
sound, color, 4:53 min, digital, found footage
A montage drawing parallels between women, possession and seduction using source material like horror film Stigmata (’99) and cult classic Empire Records (’95). Velasco’s varying use of speed in jump cutting and cross-cutting give a sense of motion across time. It’s a film aware of its screen, not just any screen, but a television screen and its archaic broadcasting conventions of an electronic misread, glitch and test card. Sound from footage is distorted and manipulated by reverb or put in reverse, combined with music created in Garageband using synthesizers. It recalls the dark, maudlin tones of Lynchian scoring for Twin Peaks by Angelo Badalamenti with a ’90s Liv Tyler pout. A scream travels. An eye opens.