curated by Vanessa Renwick and Bill Daniel

10 artists from Portland , California and New York
Thurs. Dec. 12, 20026:00 - 11:00 PM
Sat. matinee: Noon- 4:00 PM
$ 6 admission

At: MachineWorks, 1115 NW 14th at Northrup, Portland.

BEAMSPLITTERS is a 2-day film/video installation art event held in conjunction with PDX, the Portland Documentary eXperimental Film Festival.  PDX is a project of local filmmaker Matt McCormick and is co-sponsored by the Northwest Film Center, PICA, and RACC. More info at

At the heart of the Bolex 16mm reflex camera is a beamsplitter prism, and at the heart of this show is a visual metaphor - the beamsplitter.

BEAMSPLITTERS is a sprawling showcase of new, genre-challenging works of film and video-based installation art.   Participating artists from Portland include Brad Adkins, Philip Cooper, Bill Daniel, The Distance Formula, Vanessa Renwick, and Melody Owen.  From San Francisco comes Thad Povey, from LA, Animal Charm, and from New York, Tony Oursler.  The artists each have distinctly different methods and working vocabularies, but in this show all will be working in various ways with the projected image---whether manipulating the projector's beam mid-throw, placing the projection within a construction or sculpture, or variously modifying or interfering with the projected image.  BEAMSPLITTERS showcases 7 new installation works that demonstrate a range of technical methods that run from the low-fi to the hi-tech, and encompass sculptural, performative, and even documentary approaches.   

A long time ago, before corporate power point presentations created a huge demand for inexpensive portable video projectors, before the consumer market was flooded with cheap dvd players, home video editors and disc burners, artists would sit around and devise and improvise "sculptures" made of salvaged a/v gear, like reel to reel tape decks, record players, slide projectors, 16mm projectors, industrial video monitors and thrift store TV's.  The art would often be "performed" by manually manipulating film and audio loops, by projecting onto unlikely surfaces and objects, and building sculptures that functioned as motion picture viewing devices.  In the 60's and 70's Nam June Paik pioneered this kind of fusion between media and sculpture that has since become an accepted form, so popular now as to become practically a folk idiom like garage rock or hip-hop. 

The availability of new, relatively inexpensive, projectors, editing and playback systems (DVD and DV) has helped create a spike in the production and exhibition of video art installation.  This show, Beamsplitters, showcases 7 new installation works that demonstrate a range of technical methods that run from the low-fi to the hi-tech, and encompass sculptural, performative, even documentary approaches.   Many artists here, who have for years been "film loyalists", are now using these LCD projectors and simple DVD players.  The miniaturization of consumer video projectors has allowed big-time artists like Tony Oursler to position their video work into coffee table video sculptures that are on par with high-end art commodities such as painting and sculpture.

By including their own installation pieces with that of their friends, the curators are also working with the fact that there are few opportunities for these kinds of shows in Portland.  In the absence of established venues and institutions willing to produce large-scale shows within the community here, they hope to help build the scene from the artist's level up.

The Work:

 Thad Povey
 "Wrapped Around The Screw"  (2001) 

A 16mm film loop installation featuring a group of whiskey bottles containing postcard size rear projection screens.  Mirrors are used to split the projector's beam into four discrete films.   Flickering in the bottles, like remnants of tall tales, is a ghostly fleet of Navy ships steaming home through a fierce gale.

 Bill Daniel
"The Girl on the Train in the Moon"  (2001)

A hobo's campfire scene is recreated by two video projections, one representing the moon and one representing the campfire.  An audio collage plays the sounds of freight-riding adventures and interviews with tramps and railworkers.  The piece is based on documentary film material gathered for an on-going film about rail graffiti and hobo folklore.  Sound edited by Philip Cooper

Vanessa Renwick and Bill Daniel, with Animal Charm          
"Driver's Lounge"  (2002) 

Renwick and Daniel collaborate to set up a truckstop lounge and restroom based on notorious trucker graffiti.   Projected video, 35mm slides, and CB radio audio collage set the scene for possible trucklot romance.  Material for this piece was gathered on Daniel and Renwick's recent 14,000-mile East Coast exhibition tour, The Lucky Bum Film Tour.  
PLUS: A SPECIAL NEW VIDEO BY ANIMAL CHARM.  "Driver's Lounge" also includes a new video, made for this installation, by the Los Angeles-based group Animal Charm, AKA Rich Bott and Jim Fetterly.

Philip Cooper
"Liquid Crystal Persuasion"  (2002) 

Film loops and digital projection combined, looped, and reflected on to domes, discs, and mechanical flowers comprise my new experiment for the "Beam Splitters" project. My film work feels most at home in an open storefront, club, or warehouse so as to be accessible from all sides. The down and dirty film and mirrors technique I've used in the past for my electro-centric band 'The Sensualists' performances, has evolved into it's own free form environment, equally sharing elements of film (found, shot, optically printed, painted, belt sanded), digital video, mechanized mirror discs, and various projection surfaces. Abstract images wrap around these surfaces to provide a fresh approach to the audience vs. screen equation. Sci-fi, psychedelic, and superficial all apply to this work. I hope viewers will feel inclined to step into the beam, sit on the domes under rays of color, and look behind the curtain.

Brad Adkins and Melody Owen
"WAR IS HELL"  (2002) 

We're creating a video installation/performance with a video projector,
one monitor, and my own body.  I'll be narrating/performing live. It has
something to do with magic, comedy, and control issues.  I can't give it
all away, but it should be both really funny and really sad.  (after the
show is over, I'll likely be afraid to go out in public for a while).

Conceptual monkeywrencher and art organizer, Brad Adkins (The Charm Bracelet), teams up with visual artist Melody Owen (2001 Oregon Biennial) to create a piece employing video projection and a live-performed narrative.  Adkin's work is usually audience-interactive, so watch out.

The Distance Formula (AKA Johnne Eschleman >>>>>>>>>>>>
 (no title at press time), (2002)

In an attempt to calculate the distance between what is, and what is not; we find a line. Indefinite, undescribed, and infinite. Realizing there are no answers, only open equations, it has become all we can do, but simply travel this line. The distance formula then, has become the very vehicle in which each new equation can be approached, and explored. Based in the aesthetic principles of a modern art movement referred to as eschleism, each active part, and viewer transcends individuality to become integrated, and vital to the "experience" as a whole.

Local hero, Johnne Eschleman, has created a legend for himself in the Portland underground as a musician, artist, designer, and filmmaker.  Usually his work has him playing all roles at once.  His meticulously handcrafted 16mm projections are also works of performance as he builds melancholy narratives from scraps of film and fragments of sound coaxed from low-fi electronics.  For the Beamsplitters show Johnne will be creating a walk-through tunnel of images filled with sounds recovered from long-gone vinyl records.