Abstract Film Bursts onto the Downtown Art Scene

November 25, 2013 |

Dave Sherman outside his cinephile haven.
photo: Craig Baker

When David Sherman and his wife Rebecca Barten ran their first microcinema in the San Francisco area—really, the first microcinema in existence anywhere – it was in an unattached basement adjacent to the home they were renting.

“People could go in without having to go through our house,” says Sherman, “but they did all have to use our bathroom, so it could get pretty messy in there.” Their landlord at the time didn’t know they were using the underground space, says Sherman, so the venture, called Total Mobile Home Cinema, operated rent-free throughout its life the 1990s.

The couple moved with their young son to Bisbee in 2005, and, of course, they brought their passion for artistic film with them. Sherman and Barten operated within the experimental film community there for eight years before coming to Tucson in early 2013 – a move back to Sherman’s childhood roots. In October the couple nabbed a property on Toole Avenue in the Warehouse Arts District and – BOOM! Exploded View Microcinema was born.

Though somewhat tucked away—it would be easy to walk past Exploded View (EV) on a dark night without seeing it—what lies behind the black curtain partition at this rather unusual gallery may well blow your mind. Unlike a traditional movie theater, the downtown microcinema concerns itself more with rare and non-narrative films, that is to say, films with what Sherman calls an “experimental aesthetic.” These films are usually relatively short, often bittersweet with respect to production quality and subject matter, and are almost always intensely abstract—we’re talking out there.

The real appeal of the place, though, is not just in its large collection of celluloid film or its slant toward the abstract (though EV is unique in both respects in Tucson), but rather the charm of the newest cinephile haven lies primarily in its special events. The artist-in-residence installations, for example, offer an exclusive glimpse into the mind of an artist at work. Stop in on Saturday, Dec. 6 to see visual artist Noah Saterstrom’s interpretation of Theo van Doesberg’s 1921 series of visual poems titled Letterklankbeelden (Lettersoundimages).

Look to the left as you enter Exploded View to catch a glimpse of their film wall.
photo: Craig Baker

At their “artists in person” events, anyone is welcome to come and see the walls between artist, gallery space and audience come down. “Animation Explosion” on Saturday, Dec. 14 will feature a rare screening of painter Wayne Thiebaud’s film How to Make a Movie Without a Camera in the original 16mm celluloid format, along with the premiere of artist-in-residence Saterstrom’s film, Wastrels. Film not exactly your thing?  The event “<)))Audio as Experience>< Conversation” on Wednesday, Dec. 11 will feature local sound artists Glenn Weyant and Aengus Anderson as they share their experimentations in the realm of all things sonic. EV even has something for run-of-the-mill film junkies that may not be so in to the way-far-out: Carl Hanni, host of KXCI’s “The New World” on Tuesday nights, shows primarily art-based documentaries at his regular Wednesday Cine Club screenings.

But don’t mistake this hole-in-the-wall spot for just another small-time movie theater. The goal is to allow EV to function as a sort of “connective tissue” between not only artists and art lovers, but also to bridge the gap between certain artistic mediums, according to Sherman. Today, where most inter-artist and artist-audience dialogue takes place in the digital sphere, bringing artists and the viewing public together in the same space is increasingly difficult.

Sherman points out that Tucson is a place without an “extensive film art culture,” meaning that EV essentially aims to build the local medium-specific art scene from the ground up. Though the obstacles to this plan are bound to be plentiful, if the movement does take hold Tucsonans may find their community ripe for the development of something completely novel in the world of film art. Sherman is also quick to point out, that despite the lack of a film art scene, “there are just so many creative people in Tucson,” so the possibilities for video expression within our community are truly limitless.

So, the question, then, is this: is Tucson ready to undertake the development of a scene for a medium that is altogether new to this city? If so, Exploded View is waiting with open arms. And who better to start us off than the people credited with coining the term “microcinema” in the first place? Regardless of whether or not downtown Tucson ever becomes a true film art mecca, Exploded View Microcinema promises to add some funky flavor to the local art community mix.

Exploded View Microcinema is located at 197 E. Toole Ave. and online at ExplodedViewGallery.org.

Category: Arts, DOWNTOWN / UNIVERSITY / 4TH AVE, Film