59th Ann Arbor Film Festival

Juror Presentation: Sheri Wills - What Does Light Remember?

Expired April 1, 2021 4:00 AM
Already unlocked? for access

After the initial live event, the program will be available for on-demand viewing until 12am midnight EDT on 3/31

As a small child, looking at the stars, Sheri Wills wondered: if light from a star takes so long to get here, what does it remember of its journey? How is it changed by its travel? Where does light go, after it can no longer be seen? Questions about the material nature of captured light, in terms of its capacity to hold memories and illuminate small experiences, are central to Wills’s experimental film work. In this program, the physical characteristics of time-based media become a framework for understanding human experience. Wills works with the material qualities of analog film, audio, and digital media. This is combined with historic and contemporary research about how the human visual and auditory systems operate, to examine the gaps between what is measurable in the physical world and what we perceive as experience. Just as peripheral vision is essential to survival, it is by paying attention to the gaps, the margins, and the in-between personal moments that we might gain a fuller understanding of others and of our relationship to what lies outside our immediate perception.

Sheri Wills is an artist whose work is based in film, video performance, and installation. Her work has been exhibited internationally, including one-person shows at the Director’s Lounge in Berlin, the Robert Beck Memorial Cinema in New York City, and The International Experimental Cinema Exposition. Her films have been screened at venues such as the London Film Festival, the Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival, the Ann Arbor Film Festival, the International Film Festival Rotterdam, Experiments in Cinema (Albuquerque, New Mexico), and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Her collaborations include live video projects with music composed by Jan Jirásek, Charles Norman Mason, Bright Sheng, and Ofer Ben-Amots, and video performances with music ensembles including the NYC choral group Khorikos, the Providence String Quartet, Luna Nova New Music Ensemble, and Ensemble QAT in Montreal. Wills has presented at venues including both Roulette and the Firehouse Space in Brooklyn and the Czech Center in New York City. Her film-based installations have been exhibited in galleries and museums including the Islip Art Museum; Hobusepea Gallery in Tallinn, Estonia; and At Home Gallery in Šamorín, Slovakia. She is a professor in the department of Film/Animation/Video at the Rhode Island School of Design. She lives in New York City.

Box Series is a series of single-channel videos with sound, comprised of a series of chapters that explore the peripheries of perception, space, and time. While Scene Box investigates the idea of the landscape in a box, Abound Box tests the film frame as a box for the margins of experience. Nostos (Nostalgia) conflates the gap between time and place, while Camera Obscura shifts where one should look for meaning—from center to edges. Sounds seep from one piece to another, drawing connections between the works. Like print-through, which happens when magnetic audiotape is wound too tightly, thoughts, memories, feelings, and ideas transfer from one layer of time to another.

Films included:

Scene Box

Year of Completion: 2011

Runtime: 5

Synopsis: Scene Box explores the landscape in a box: dioramas, view-masters, and scenes from the car window, all contained with the box of the film frame.

Abound Box

Year of Completion: 2015

Runtime: 5

Synopsis: Shot on Super 8 and combined with photograms, this abstract piece explores the film frame as a box for things that live within the margins of experience. Small moments, soon to be placed on a crowded shelf, impossible to find again. The sound is adapted from recordings from the University of California, Santa Barbara Cylinder Audio Archive

Nostos (Nostalgia) (excerpt)

Year of Completion: 1996

Runtime: 2

Synopsis: With special thanks to Lia Alexopoulos, Alex Papadopoulos, and Daniel Taylor. “O Caritas” by Cat Stevens.

Camera Obscura

Year of Completion: 2019

Runtime: 6 

Synopsis: This short experimental film explores improbable chances, the direction of time, a fragility of feeling, and the nature of the universe—as understood within and outside the confines of the Super 8 film frame. Recorded voices are taken from vintage answering machines from Richman films and Leonard Susskind from “Boltzmann and the Arrow of Time.”

  • Year
  • Runtime
    18 minutes
  • Country
    United States
  • Note
    New York City, New York
  • Filmmaker
    Sheri Wills