Media Arts Program

Wednesday, January 6, 2016 at 7:30 p.m.

$8 general, $5 members/seniors, FREE for UB Students

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UB Department of Media Study and Hallwalls present

Emulsified #3: Obedience

Curated by Ekrem Serdar

OBEDIENCE brings together four works that variously invoke and depicts the evening's title; nudging, calling, and assaulting its audience with commands through one segment, and documenting the harrowing and endlessly debated results of an infamous experiment in social psychology in the other.

Jesse McLean's Lose Yourself lures us in with the dubious guidance of pop life, while Michael Robinson's Hold Me Now asks the audience to sing back similar advice to rescue a troubled scene from Little House on the Prairie. The violence remains however, as Paul Sharits' T,O,U,C,H,I,N,G makes its famous demand to viewers on the soundtrack, the word shifting and changing, repeated among imagery both violent and sexual. The evening then shifts gear with the film giving the evening its name: Obedience depicts the "Milgram Experiment," charting the willingness of people to obey or defy orders that conflict with their personal conscience. Conducted by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram, the experiment had an unwitting participant ask questions to an unseen person in another room, administering increasing amounts of electric shocks for false answers. In reality, the unseen person was an actor, and no electric shocks were transmitted. The documentary - tense, fascinating, and the instigator of countless discussions - charts a variety of responses from its subjects, seeking an answer to Milgram's questions arising from the Holocaust: "Could it be that Eichmann and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders? Could we call them all accomplices?" The evening both portrays and conjures a tension between subjugation and refusal, our willpower suspended in a nebula of mass media, violence, and the deliberation of others.

OBEDIENCE is presented by Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center and the UB Department of Media Study, who have generously provided wonderful prints of both T,O,U,C,H,I,N,G and Obedience. Curated by Ekrem Serdar.

Lose Yourself (Jesse McLean)
5 min, digital, 2011
"A driving disco beat demands that you nod your head while an ever-shifting sunset doles out questionable advice culled from the top of the pop charts." — J.M.

Hold Me Now (Michael Robinson)
5 min, digital, 2008
"Plagued by blindness, sloth, and devotion, a troubled scene from Little House On The Prairie offers itself up to karaoke exorcism." — M.R.

T,O,U,C,H,I,N,G (Paul Sharits)
13 min, 16mm, 1968
"starring poet david frank whose voice appears on the soundtrack / an uncutting and unscratching mandala." — PS
"…merges violence with purity…" — P. Adams Sitney
"Surrealist tour de force." — Parker Tyler

Obedience (Stanley Milgram)
45 min, 16mm, 1962
"The film, Obedience, depicts several subjects in performance of the experiment on obedience to authority reported by Milgram.

Conditions of filming: The film was shot in May 1963, in the Interaction Laboratory at Yale University. Only one camera was available for the film; therefore, certain ancillary materials, such as the numbers flashing on the answer box, were filmed separately and edited into the film. But all sequences involving 1) arrival of subjects, 2) performance of subjects at the shock generator, and 3) debriefing, were spontaneous and unrehearsed. Following the performance in the experiment, subjects were informed that their behavior was filed and their permission was requested to use the film for educational purposes. Consent for such use was granted by the subjects in the present film.

Selection of subjects for filming: Subjects used in the film sequences were selected in the normal manner for recruitment of subjects described in Milgram (1962, 1965). Fourteen subjects in all were filmed over the course of a two day period. Four subjects are depicted in the film at length, while brief sequences are shown for several others. The final subject depicted in the film represented an unusually high degree of externalized conflict, an example of the type of extreme tension sometimes observed in the subjects. The one type of subject not adequately represented in the film is the subject who obeys in a more routine, matter of fact fashion. (Such a subject was originally depicted, but because of the time limitation, was eliminated by the film editor.) The experimenter and 'learner' shown in the film were the same persons who performed these roles throughout the year. Unlike the naive subject, they knew their performances were being filmed. This did not affect the performance of the learner, but the experimenter was made somewhat nervous by this fact and talked more than was usual. In other respects the film accurately conveys the details and tone of the obedience experiments." - S.M.

Ekrem Serdar is a curator and artist from Ankara, Turkey. He completed his MFA at the University at Buffalo, SUNY. He frequently shows his work with the Küçük Sinemalar group, and is a co-founder of Experimental Response Cinema in Austin, TX. He is currently based in Bufflao, NY, where he is the Media Arts Curator at Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Arts Center.

About Emulsified: There is a room off the fluorescent-lit white corridors of the Department of Media Study at the University at Buffalo called the Bone Yard.

The Bone Yard is where pieces of equipment not yet completely trashed come to wait out their days. A limbo of sorts. A purgatory of tech souls. The objects sit on shelves holding onto the feeble hope that maybe in a few years their particular approach to rendering an image or sound—with tubes, or alternating scan lines, frame buffers and 8-bit audio, magnetized particles on tape—will come back into favor. Like a comet returning after 17 years. Or the eighties.

In the same room, sit rows of metal cans, each a bit wider than 16 millimeters. In each of those cans is a reel of film, each containing a series of thousands of emulsified images rolled up on acetate. Light struck images, but kept in the dark. These films are what remains of the university's 16mm film collection, saved (barely, and some quite literally) from the trash bin of progress.

Most of these prints haven't seen the light of day in years, possibly decades. Animation. Documentary. Industrial films. Other Sundry and Miscellaneous. Some are visionary works. Some are less profound, but speak to us nonetheless—of film, of light, of the time of times, of all time.