Buffet Volume 1 is a short film festival on a DVD. The packaging is a striking full color tri-fold with the title and concept centered “BUFFET all you can eat video” and excellent stills from the movies surrounding it. Inside, a letter from The Buffet Chefs explains their metaphor where artists bring their short videos to the pot luck party to make the sum greater than its individual parts. Fully opened, the packaging separates the films into Breakfast Specials (containing 7 short videos), Lunch Specials (containing 6 shorts), Dinner Specials (containing 5 shorts) and a single Dessert, Untitled Street Performances 2004-2008 by Nancy Popp. Popp’s film consists of ambient sound and single camera setups of the artist perched like a Buddha halfway up tall street signs and traffic signal poles at various intersections all over the world. It is mesmerizing to watch her peacefully “be” while cities bustle by below. Some passers by are inspired, some are seemingly hypnotized by her, some do not notice her, and some are compelled to near violence in an inexplicable instinct to disrupt her passive performance.
But my favorite films were the first 4 Lunch Specials. The Drift, by Kelly Spears, is 8:14 in length and features a slideshow of Nasa-esque photos and a surrealist voice over story about the history of this unnamed space program. It is abstract and nonspecific in story but, at the end, when the narrator tells us that eventually the public fell out of love with the peaceful exploration of space, I could not help but feel a specific, real, and familiar sadness. Aura by Laura Park is made up largely of a white screen being slowly populated by red pixels revealing the face of a pretty woman. As I watched it unfold on the screen mounted above my mantle it occurred to me as a painting, and I thought how appropriate this, and in fact all of the films, would be if played on a loop at a dinner party. The black and white two minute short Self Portrait by Dan Zajicek was my favorite. The black field with a rectangular image of a man’s eyes lingers long enough to evoke a tone and level of unsettling emotion that left me thinking of the short films of David Lynch. The fourth Lunch Special Bubble Hurricane by Susan Chen is a 1:15 excerpt that left me wanting to see the full length movie and more of her work. This was the most stylized of all the Buffet Specials, heavy with effects that I’d have ordinarily assumed were prohibitively expensive for someone working in this medium. The color and scale brings to mind Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box” video. The film is a succession of palm treed green islands floating in a sky of after-the-rain clouds. I hope to see more of Chen's work in future Buffet Volumes. (www.susanchen.com)
Buffet Chefs Kelly Pike, Sasha Dela and Kara Hearn will release the Volume 1 DVD this Sunday at Domy Books, 1709 Westheimer. The party is from 6-8pm and admission is free. The Chefs are an inspiring new addition to the alt-film scene in Houston. This is an amazing first piece. I can't wait to see how this project grows.
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