‘Episode: 2’ — Video art

  • Chris Janke with his video art installation at the LAVA Center in Greenfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Chris Janke with his video art installation at the LAVA Center in Greenfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Chris Janke with his video art installation at the LAVA Center in Greenfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 10/22/2020 10:02:25 AM

Christopher Janke was going through some of his older work when he came upon the second in a series he had started after Sept. 11, 2001.

“Episode: 2,” he calls it, is part of a series he says is “thematically and materially similar to ‘Episode: 1,’” but the experimental film is not necessarily linked narratively with the first.

“It was when I started to write ‘Episode: 3’ that I realized I should look at ‘Episode: 2’ again,” the poet and visual artist said. “After watching it again, I realized just how timely it was in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election and inauguration.”

Starting Friday, Janke, the co-owner of The Rendezvous on Third Street in Turners Falls, will share his work with others at the LAVA Center, 324 Main St., in Greenfield through Nov. 1.

What struck the local artist as he watched “Episode: 2” again was how relevant, “in a surprising way,” it is now.

“It was done right after Trump was elected and sort of forecast some of the things manifesting themselves now,” he said. “Will it be relevant after this election? I don’t know.

“I talked with Vanessa at the LAVA Center and asked what she thought,” he said. “I wondered if it would fit into the center’s programming and could be shown before the 2020 election. I’m so pleased that it will be.”

They talked about how to do an installation during a pandemic, presenting art so that people feel like they’re participating and that’s when they decided they could, but in a safe way.

“It’s short (a half-hour), so people will arrive to view the film and there will be a limited capacity — there are three screens that will run simultaneously,” he said. “That way, we’re keeping everyone safe.”

The short film tracks a relationship between two people viewers never see and one of whom they never hear, he said. The mixed-media video installation “hacks up styles from Chris Marker, Marguerite Duras and Plato. The experimental film is an inquiry into racialized fear and “the turn” from politics to violence and to what extent politics can ever be distanced from violence.

The second in the series, “Episode: 2,” he continued, “evokes and lives” in the “uneasy time” between the election of 2016 and the inauguration of 2017.

Janke’s “Episode: 1” was similar, looking at things from a classical American racialized terrorist viewpoint.

“Decades after 9/11, we’re trained as a culture to view Muslims with suspicion, for instance,” he said.

Janke used screening technologies to set up the installation — it can’t be shown in a “typical theater.” He said he shoots something new every time he shows it — it has been shown several times before this — so that it is “significant to the time and place of the viewing.”

Janke doesn’t want to give a lot away, so doesn’t share a lot of details about the experimental film.

“As a poet and visual artist, I come at something like this driven by ideas,” he said. “Then comes the emotional aspect.”

Janke says his work almost always comes with a desire to use contradiction and complicated ideas. Once that happens, it creates an emotional experience for him, at least.

He shares just a few of his thoughts and ideas, which might be clues to what viewers can expect from his latest installation.

“I like to squeeze ideas until they bleed,” he said. “Since I was a teen, I’ve felt the rhetoric around nationalism to be confusing and problematic. I think about, for instance, how the nation with the largest military budget decries (the) militarization of other nations. It’s hypocritical.

“I have hopes for this installation, not expectations,” he said. “I hope it creates an emotional release — leaving viewers with a problem.”

He’s not sure what viewers will do with that problem but hopes they can figure it out.

The 50-year-old father, who grew up on Long Island, has a master’s degree in fine arts in poetry and another in studio art. He teaches at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Springfield College and he is the senior editor of Slope Editions, a small poetry press. He said he moved to the area to go to UMass and never left.

Janke’s poems have appeared in Harper’s, A Public Space, American Poetry Review and dozens of journals. His first book, “Structure of the Embryonic Rat Brain,” won the Fence Modern Poets Series Prize. 

His visual work has been in juried shows nationwide, and his site-and-time-specific large-scale installations use sun-shadows and perspective-troubling etched tracings on clear acrylic to inquire about the relationship between words and objects.

“Eposide: 2” will be shown Friday and Saturday at 6:30, 7:15 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1, 1:45 and 2:30 p.m. It will continue Friday, Oct. 30 at 6:30, 7:15 and 8 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 1 at 1, 1:45 and 2:30 p.m. 

Tickets are required and limited. Each half-hour segment is for one individual or one quarantine pod (folks who have quarantined together and do not need to maintain distance from each other). Reserve a spot with a donation of your choice (suggested sliding scale donation is $2 to $10 per person). Donations will go toward supporting the LAVA Center nonprofit community arts space. Tickets can be purchased at bit.ly/3jodjHr.

The LAVA Center will host a Zoom meeting with Christopher Janke for a question and answer and chat about the project, each Sunday following the programs. When you register at localaccess.org for the program, you’ll receive via email an invitation to the Zoom chat for the Sunday of the weekend you’re attending.

For more information about Janke and his wide range of work, including performance art, installations and sculpture, visit: christopherjanke.com.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.


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