Media Arts Preview: Topanga, Panama and Japan

Mill and the Cross
This week's media art scene is political, conceptual, beautiful and provocative, a perfect way to start a new year.

Thursday, January 5
MOCA Grand Avenue presents Dubious Equalities, the first of three Engagement Party projects featuring the work of CamLab, an artists' collaboration uniting Anna Mayer and Jemima Wyman, who formed the entity in 2005 at CalArts. For their event tonight, the duo will transform two spaces in the museum: The lobby will be made into a comfortable waiting room with a "durational Double Open Mic session during which visitors will be invited to read from texts collected around the theme of 'empathy and misunderstanding.'" Guests will then be ushered into a second space featuring a video booth with mirrored live feedback. "Donning garments stitched by Los Angeles-based textile activist Frau Fiber, visitors may oscillate between immersion and agency as they occupy the various perspectives proposed by the installation." The event starts at 7:00 p.m. and ends at 10:00 p.m.

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Focus On Female DirectorsThe American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre presents its 7th Annual Focus on Female Directors tonight at 7:30 p.m. with a program of award-winning shorts. Filmmakers Penelope Spheeris, Natasha Subramaniam and Alisa Lapidus will be on hand to discuss their films after the screening, which includes Cross, Maryna Vroda's winner of the Palme d'Or for Best Short Film at the 2011, Mitsuyo Miyazaki's USC student film Tsuyako, about a factory worker in postwar Japan, and Wonjung Bae's Vera Klement: Blunt Edge, which is a portrait of the Chicago-based artist.

Friday, January 6
The Culver Center of the Arts in Riverside presents Polish director Lech Majewski's extraordinary film The Mill and the Cross tonight and tomorrow night, 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. The film uses various techniques to re-stage "Way to Calvary," an epic painting from 1564 by Pieter Bruegel. "Here is a film of great beauty and attention, and watching it is a form of meditation," writes Roger Ebert, who claims that viewers will never forget the opening shots.

Saturday, January 7
Slota LabuteRobert Berman Gallery presents Home.Sweet.Home, a collaboration between writer Neil LaBute and photographer Gerald Slota that started with an email inquiry and morphed into a rich exchange, with LaBute sending provocative phrases to Slota, who then visualized them in a series of disturbing and intriguing images. The show opens today, with a reception 5:00 - 7:00 p.m., followed by a performance of LaBute's new play, Filthy Talk for Troubled Times, at City Garage Theater at Track 16 Gallery at 8:00 p.m.

Join Toni Basil, Tosh Berman, George Herms and Russ Tamblyn at Cinefamily for a screening of films made in the mid-1960s by a group of underground artists and Topanga Canyon bohemians. Titled Wallace Berman's Underground, the show is part of Filmforum's Alternative Projections series, and will include screenings of films such as Aleph, by Berman, and Breakaway, by Bruce Conner. The show starts at 5:00 p.m.

Gusmano CesarettiLos Angeles-based photographer Gusmano Cesaretti will be featured in a show at Roberts & Tilton opening today, with a reception 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. Curated by Aaron Rose, the show includes Cesaretti's early work documenting East LA, as well as newer work shot in Colón, Panama. The photographer is known for capturing the vulnerability of his subjects, and for earning a level of trust that allows him to present worlds otherwise off limits to outsiders.

Opposing ViewsSunday, January 8
Filmforum continues its Alternative Projections screening series tonight with a screening titled Dangerous Ideas: Political Conceptual Work in Los Angeles, 1974-1981. The show is a collaboration with MOCA, and features work from the 1970s and '80s that merged conceptual art and politics in film and video. Films include Tom Leeser's Opposing Views, Nine Scenes by David James and The Broken Rule, by Ericka Beckman. Filmmakers Tom Leeser and Dennis Phillips will in attendance; the screening will take place at MOCA Grand Avenue at 3:00 p.m.

About the Author

Holly Willis teaches in USC's School of Cinematic Arts and writes about new media art. She is the author of "New Digital Cinema: Reinventing the Moving Image" and editor of "The New Ecology of Things" on pervasive computing.
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