The Short Movies of Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby
Editor: Mike Hoolboom.
Featuring essays by: Jason McBride, Claudia Dey, Sholem Kristalka, Kyo Maclear, Terence Dick, Andrea Slovakova, Tom Sherman, Steve Reinke, Sarah Hollenberg, Monique Moumblow, Akira Mizuta Lippit.
“[Here] exists a kind of nakedness, a peeling away of propriety, a questioning of behavioral and social systems—and yet I find their work refreshingly playful and deeply generous.”—Deborah Stratman, University of Illinois at Chicago.
The literary post-punk short movies of Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby have been tearing up the festival/gallery circuit for the past fifteen years with their blend of bedroom pop, perverse animations, and hopes for fame. In this collection of award-winning scripts, creative writings, and critical missives, scholars, video legends, and animal experts—including Steve Reinke, Sarah Hollenberg, Akira Lippit, and Tom Sherman—weigh in on why these movies matter.
Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby have been collaborating since 1994. Their work has won the top prize at festivals in Ann Arbor and Chicago, and awards in , Zurich, and Hamburg. They teach at Syracuse University.
Mike Hoolboom is an internationally renowned experimental moviemaker and critic.
Made possible by: Pleasure Dome, mocca, and The Canada Council for the Arts.
Available from Coach House Books and amazon.com
Here Is Everything (2013, 15 min) presents itself as a message from The Future, as narrated by a cat and a rabbit, spirit guides who explain that they’ve decided to speak to us via a contemporary art video because they understand this to be our highest form of communication. Their cheeky introduction, however, belies the complex set of ideas that fill the remainder of the film. Death, God, and attaining and maintaining a state of Grace are among the thematic strokes winding their way through the piece, rapturously illustrated with animation, still and video imagery.
It is a work that contains specific details about its themes, but sufficiently ambiguous and free of dogma, including religious dogma that, our futuristic visitors explain, is a vestigial leftover from an earlier phase of evolution. And while Death is an ever-present rumination, so are Redemption, Affirmation, and Possibility.
– John Massier, Hallwalls Catalogue for the exhibition “Hopelessly Middle Aged”, Fall 2012
Here is Everything, Bones on Steel, 12×26″
Lesser Apes (2011 13 min) tells the story of a love affair between a primatologist, Farrah and a female bonobo ape, Meema. Bonobos are the species with which humans share the most DNA, but unlike our species, they are matriarchal, live without conflict, and are unabashedly sexual. A paean to perversion, the film combines animation, live action and song to challenge attitudes about sex, language and our relationship to nature.
Lesser Apes tells the story of a love affair between a primatologist, Farrah and a female bonobo ape, Meema. Bonobos are the species with which humans share the most DNA, but unlike our species, they are matriarchal, live without conflict, and are unabashedly sexual. A paean to perversion, the film combines animation, live action and song to challenge attitudes about sex, language and our relationship to nature.
Beauty Plus Pity (2009 15min)
The contemporary fables of Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby propose that existence is abject, farcical, and messy. In their richly textured videos, Duke and Battersby employ live action footage, scavenged images, and simple animations to create episodic structures that evince a simultaneously utopian and dystopian world view.
‘Beauty Plus Pity’ sets a colourful single-channel video within a lush viewing environment populated by costumed taxidermic animals. Presented in seven parts, the video considers the potential for goodness amidst the troubled relations between God, humanity, animals, parents and children. While an animated cast of animal “spirit guides” quote Philip Larkin’s poem, This Be the Verse, and implore us to “get out as early as you can” from life and our parents’ grasp, a hunter dreams of a zoo where he might lie next to tranquilized animals calmed of their savagery. A senile and unstable God stumbles, forgets to take his medication, and turns frost into diamonds. ‘Beauty Plus Pity’ contemplates the shame and beauty of existence; it is part apologia, part call to arms.
Songs of Praise for the Heart Beyond Cure (2006, 14min) marks our return to the episodic structure of our earlier works Rapt and Happy, Being Fucked Up and Bad Ideas for Paradise. As with earlier works, Songs of Praise takes on difficult, often painful subject matter. Themes of addiction, violence, the destruction of the natural world and the agonies of adolescence are woven through the work.
“anything but depressing… [it is founded in] a sense of wonder at the endearing weirdness of life and all the vulnerable, furry little creatures immersed in it (especially us).” Sarah Milroy The Globe and Mail
“a moving yet relentless experience of contemporary life (human and biological) in the face of moral, physical and environmental degradation” Emily Jones, Catalogue Essay, Songs of Praise for the Heart Beyond Cure, Dalhousie Art Gallery, 2007
“…a series of pagan hymns that unearth slight but potent saving graces amid seemingly inescapable pain and anguish.” Jon Davies, Canadian Art, Fall 2006