June 1 – Southern California Video Part III, An Evening with Jordan Biren

Sunday June 1, 2008, 7:00pm

At the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood

Los Angeles Filmforum presents
Southern California Video: An Evening with Jordan Biren

In our Southern California Video series, Filmforum highlights the work of four artists whose work cries out for more exhibition – significant pieces by fine artists of their media. In our final evening, we feature Jordan Biren.

Jordan Biren is an artist for whom video is the poetic rehearsal of his artistic endeavor.

His work has long pondered meaning as a migration behind the illusory promise of narrative utterance. His is work of a melancholic tension built around narrative dissolutions in the chasms of granular image, text, and sound. Narrative, rather, has inhered in his video as a vaporous impossibility against which the work is directed.He seeks in this the more enigmatic holes of unexplained human experience—those breaches covered over, as if unsightly, by the image, sound, and textual impulses of an arbitrary existence. Of late, his work has approached an equivalence of film aesthetic against which notions of video define a new, hybrid form of narrative province.

“Rather than focus exclusively on mid to latter works with their emphasis on the filmic, this program will include three early works which clearly establish the trajectory of “video” in terms of my fascination with the medium. A very representative collection presenting the full measure of my labors in video.” – Jordan Biren

“The way up was through tangled thickets…”

The Ochre Valley, 1998

“…it is language, the naming of things, that separates us from original places, from origins. So the unity that once existed between landscape and habitation is severed, perhaps irreparably. Ironically, the way back to that unified sensorium is through language. A passage back through words, through utterances, to call forth the elemental simplicity of first places.

“Jordan Biren does not want to return to that elemental simplicity. But through the deliberate rehearsal of his videoworks, he seeks a unity where language, the things referred to, and the indescribable emotion between work in consort, evoking a sense of being-in-this-place. Biren’s is no nostalgic retreat into an original Edenic unity, but a developmental project, an evolving try out, for a return to the efficacy of utterance. Make no mistake about it: images matter, desperately—images in a medium that favors the eye over the ear and certainly over enunciation.

“But what of Biren’s videoworks? Strongly crafted, composed in startling stasis, infested by text spoken or otherwise. And each work an incremental advance from the last, evolving in slow retort from one to the next, moving closer toward the dimensions of his being. “ –Steve Seid, Carefully Worded: The Videoworks of Jordan Biren

MEANING (1991, 22:00 min.)

In Meaning, the electronic edit subsumes performance aspects of earlier video works. But intuitive timings render the edits more abruptions than splices in a contiguous narrative. As such, flatly stated images of ocean, motel room, generic houses, mall, and lamps find themselves inexplicably placed in proximity to abject texts of unspeakable violence. MeaningThe hard, unexpected edits conjoin image and text but keep them isolated, unable to explain each other’s presence. A performance of shifting references resists the assignation of meaning. It was this that I set out in Meaning to consider, the murderous circumstances of meaning itself.

TEXT (1992, 6:20 min.)

In Text, the hyper-idealized landscape and confrontational text are placed at each other’s doorstep. While a furiously scrawled missive notates an urgently repeated injunction, saturated landscapes languorously dissolve in and out of the hostile monotony. Loosed from one another, text moves through image, and image through text, while neither bear points of arrival.

MY MOTHER’S FAMILY (1993, 13:40 min.)

In My Mother’s Family, disembodied stills of quotidian scenes indicate family without it ever being sufficiently described. Pages of text that follow detail in sundered time the hallucination of my mother’s habituated life. Both image and text imply narrativewhiledisjointed from one another impede its progression. Instead, My Mother’s Family becomes the residue of an aftermath to the events that have never quite happened.

THE OCHRE VALLEY (1998, 22:30 min.)

Beneath a disembodied voice of narration, hyperbolic landscapes quietly unfold before their abrupt collapse into dimly lit interiors. Unnamed people move through a darkness bereft of any context for their gathering. As the voice resumes, the silent figures suddenly become constituents of an audience. Only in the end does The Ochre Valley reveal the image of a reader who has been reading throughout. With the text dislodged from visual description, it collapses into itself and attempts a return to from where it began—The Ochre Valleythat shimmers immutable in dry grasses.

MY MOTHER’S HOUSE (2006, 23:00 min)

I went into my mother’s unoccupied house after her passing in late 2004 intent on capturing the strange residue of her life in the stasis of after-death. In the resulting work, memories stutter back through a faltered reading recalling holidays past. Objects of my mother’s personal history sit frozen in a disquieting search through her uninhabited home. And, her voice crackles back through telephone lines to an impossible present. More displacement than loss, My Mother’s House describes a disembodied space onto which her personal narrative has been projected—that empty space rendered invisible behind the cinematic projections of her arbitrary existence.


The image is intimate. For it makes of our intimacy an exterior power which we suffer passively. Outside of us, in the ebb of the world which it causes, there trails, like glistening debris, the utmost depth of our passions. –Maurice Blanchot

It Was Dark As Night In Shadows takes its title from the journals of Joseph Cornell, and from his film, Rose Hobart, its inspiration. I imagined in this work a larger narrative from which are cut fugitive images to emerge from impeccable darkness. While the larger narrative exists, it does so only in its absence. What remains, in the ebb of the world these images cause, is but the lure of melodrama trailing like debris in the shadows of glistening cinematic moments.


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