Walker Art Center

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About the Program

The Walker Art Center presents a wide range of contemporary moving image artists, explores the history and creative use of the medium, represents our global community, and engages our audience with artistic approaches to the ideas that define our times.

For more than forty years, the Walker has celebrated cinema with groundbreaking programming and the preservation and presentation of the Ruben/Bentson Moving Image Collection.

For more information about upcoming Walker programs, screenings, and exhibitions, see the Walker Calendar.

Programming

The innovative, interdisciplinary, and community programs that reflect the integrative force of moving images are crucial to the Department’s ongoing success. Under the leadership of Senior Curator Sheryl Mousley, the creation and presentation of contemporary and historic screenings take place throughout the Walker: in the Walker Cinema, via an interactive Mediatheque, in the Best Buy Film/Video Bay, online via the Walker Channel, and in gallery exhibitions.

Renovated in 2012, the newly enhanced 21st-century Walker Cinema is one of the best places to view film in the country. Regular weekend screenings follow an art house model for presenting contemporary films. This has positioned the Walker Cinema as a destination for film enthusiasts in the Twin Cities and beyond.

Theatrical runs of new features are the mainstay of the year-round programming schedule. Recent films have included A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night by Ana Lily Amirpour, Goodbye to Language by Jean Luc Godard in 3-D, Timbuktu by Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissako, and National Gallery by Frederick Wiseman, which were presented in combination with guest filmmakers. Guest filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan came from Istanbul to premiere Winter Sleep, which won the Palme d’Or at the 2014 Cannes film festival. The Walker also screened with a short retrospective of his earlier films, including Climates, Distant, and Once Upon A Time in Anatolia.

As an integral part of the cinema program, filmmakers are invited to show their works and engage the audience through the Walker Dialogue & Retrospective series program and Filmmakers-in-Conversation. The Walker Dialogue and Retrospective series celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2015. This series began with Clint Eastwood’s inaugural visit in 1990 and has hosted more than 60 guests. The array of stellar American and international directors includes Joel and Ethan Coen, Steve McQueen, Isabella Rossellini, Béla Tarr, Ang Lee, Claire Denis, Miloš Forman, Mike Leigh, Harry Belafonte, Kelly Reichardt, and Olivier Assayas. Many programs can be viewed on the Walker Channel.

Filmmakers-in-Conversation began in 2010 as a means of connecting filmmakers with their audience via an in-depth discussion. In 2015, Force Majeure by Swedish director Ruben Östlund was followed by a post-screening Filmmaker-in-Conversation with Dennis Lim, director of programming at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Filmmakers-in-Conversation Vital community partnerships have sustained relationships with local and regional filmmaking and academic organizations for many years. The Walker’s collaboration with IFP/MN has resulted in the popular Film Independent Spirit Awards screening series, where Walker audiences have been able to view Spirit Award nominated films for free. The Walker and IFP/MN also frequently share visiting filmmakers who present master classes and workshops in addition to their Walker screenings.

Since 2008, our academic partners have worked closely with Walker on historical series and retrospectives to connect new scholarship to significant works or artists. These partnerships have included programs such as Riff on the Rif, films from North Africa; And Yet She Moves: Reviewing Feminist Cinema, a chronicle of the impact of activism over the last four decades which included the work of Lynn Hershman; People’s Republic of Cinema, a celebration of the cinematic version of history in exploring the 60th anniversary of post-revolutionary China; and Abderrahmane Sissako: Africa’s Visual Poet, a retrospective with post-screening conversations with Sissako moderated by African film specialists from St. Olaf, Carleton College, Macalester College, and the University of Minnesota.

In addition, the department continues to stimulate scholarship and understanding of film through program notes at screenings, introductions and post-screening discussions by curators, scholars and artists. In 2014, Isla Leaver-Yap began her two-year appointment as the Walker’s Bentson Film Scholar and contributed to scholarship on the Ruben Bentson Moving Image Collection through blog posts and programming.

The Walker’s mission is to mark artists’ shifts in practice and programmatic experimentation. From this directive the annual series Expanding the Frame began in 2007 for directors breaking the boundaries of moving image. 2015’s Expanding the Frame focused on projects that comb theater and cinema with work by Miwa Matrayek and Sam Green, whose cinematic presentations only exist when performed live.

Artists’ commissions constitute another trans-platform series at the Walker. In 2012, Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul premiered Cactus River (Khong Lang Nam), the first artist video to be exhibited on the Walker Channel.

In 2015, a new commission series asked artists to respond to films in the Ruben/Benston Moving Image Collection. Moyra Davey, a Canadian artist based in New York, created Notes on Blue, which reflects on Jarman’s film Blue. James Richards, a London-based video artist who received the prestigious Jarman Prize in 2012, was also commissioned to create a work inspired by Jarman. Both works launch during the Walker’s 2015 conference SuperScript: Art Journalism and Criticism in a Digital Age. Leslie Thornton, whose films were shown in 2012 as part of the Walker’s Radical Light series, and Seth Price, an Israeli-born New York–based artist who studied with Thornton at Brown University, were chosen to create works responding to director Bruce Conner. Price and Thornton both work in the context of Conner’s complex inquiry into appropriated material and the aesthetics of technology, and were chosen for their artistic connections with their subject. Finally, Iranian-born, Berlin-based Shahryar Nashat and Jerusalem-born Uri Aran were selected to develop new moving image pieces responding to the work of Marcel Broodthaers. Nashat engages with the practice of collecting and artistic reuse of materials, while Aran also follows in Broodthaers’s style of collecting objects and images to create sculptural elements in his media work.

History of the Department

Widely recognized for presenting a full range of moving image art forms, the Walker Art Center’s programs feature both contemporary and historical works. Starting in the 1940s, the Walker identified moving images as integral to contemporary life. Artists of that time were experimenting with film’s formal properties, such as light, motion, and sound, while also separating film art from conventional narrative cinema. The Walker recognized the importance of these developments and made a commitment to the presentation of both experimental, international and classic cinema as essential to its core mission—a philosophy that continues today.

Before Walker had a its own screening venue in 1971, film programs took place at the nearby Women’s Club Assembly and included contemporary works such as Five Film Exercises (1943–1947) by John and James Whitney and Ritual in Transfigured Time (1946) by Maya Deren. The Center Arts Council, a volunteer-run programming group, began to present films as early as 1953, including those by accomplished Hollywood directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Ernst Lubitsch, and Billy Wilder as well as works from abroad, such as Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon (1950) and Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali (Song of the Road) (1955). Film classes for Walker members screened contemporary works like Jean Cocteau’s Orphée (Orpheus) (1951) and Sidney Meyers’ The Quiet One (1948).

During the 1960s, a bimonthly program featured films that critiqued contemporary culture. The program featured Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie’s Pull My Daisy (1958) and Ron Rice’s The Flower Thief (1960), which were balanced with classics such as Carl Theodore Dreyer’s La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (The Passion of Joan of Arc) (1928) and Sergei Eisenstein’s Oktyabr (October: Ten Days That Shook the World) (1927). In 1966, this program began to be curated thematically and included series such as Italian Neo-Realism; Expanded Cinema, which featured underground protest films such as those by Stan VanDerBeek; and the Experimental Film Series, featuring the avant-garde work of Ed Emshwiller, Kenneth Anger, and Bruce Baillie.

In 1973, the Film/Video Department was officially formed and John Hanhardt was named as the first full-time film coordinator. That same year, the Walker’s Edmond R. Ruben Film and Video Study Collection was established, along with an endowment to fund the development of the archive. Ruben, a leading figure in film exhibition in the Upper Midwest, and his wife Evelyn believed in collecting films as a way of preserving the art form. Today, with over one thousand titles, the Ruben/Bentson Moving Image Collection brings together classic and contemporary cinema as well as documentaries, avant-garde films, and video works by artists. The films are shown on original 16mm and 35mm film and digital formats. The collection is distinctive for its holdings by visual artists that range from classics by Salvador Dalí, Marcel Duchamp, and Fernand Léger to extensive contemporary work by William Klein, Derek Jarman, Bruce Conner, Marcel Broodthaers, Nam June Paik, and leading experimental artists who challenged the form and content of film, such as Paul Sharits and Stan Brakhage.

In 1974, Melinda Ward began her tenure as film coordinator and quickly instituted the exhibition structure that still has relevance today. She expanded the annual screening program to more than two hundred fifty different presentations of narrative, documentary, avant-garde, and animated films organized into series by filmmaker, historical periods, and stylistic themes. Some popular programs that began around this time still continue today, including Summer Music & Movies and Live Music/Silent Films.

Richard Peterson succeeded Ward in 1979, when she went on to create the Walker’s Learning Museum Program and then continued at Walker through 1985 as producer of the public television series Alive from Off Center. Peterson presented a broad range of films with a focus on contemporary avant-garde and added a significant number of these films to the Ruben/Bentson Moving Image Collection. He is recognized for bringing to the Walker silent film legend Abel Gance from France, along with his three-screen epic Napoleon. Peterson also coproduced Filmmakers Filming, a collaborative project with Film in the Cities for visiting filmmakers to show work at Walker and engage in master classes with this St. Paul–based community partner.

Bruce Jenkins, who started his curatorial role in 1985, produced ambitious screening programs that embraced all genres. In 1990, he initiated the prestigious Walker Dialogue and Retrospective series series, which showcases the work of distinguished directors and actors, and features onstage dialogues between artists and noted critics. During the 1990s, moving images were increasingly incorporated into exhibitions, as artists from all disciplines explored the possibilities of the medium. The Film/Video department played a major role in exhibitions such as In the Spirit of Fluxus (1993), Bordering on Fiction: Chantal Akerman’s “D’Est” (1995), and 2000 B.C.: THE BRUCE CONNER STORY PART II (1999).

From 2000 to 2003, Cis Bierinckx served as curator and expanded the presentation of contemporary world cinema through the Walker’s Bush Global Initiative and through expansive world cinema series, such as New Asian Currents, Africa Crossing, and Hubert Bals Fund at 15, and explored the transition to digital with a two-year festival titled Dig.It.

Building on this illustrious history of programming, the department is currently headed by Senior Curator Sheryl Mousley. Starting in 1998, she has presented moving images inside and outside the cinema to examine ways that filmmakers and artists alike explore our contemporary age. Mousley continued the Walker Dialogue and Retrospective series program that reached its 25th year in 2015. The anniversary was commemorated with a Walker-produced documentary about the program presented in the exhibition Art at the Center: 75 Years of Walker Collections, celebrating the Walker’s 75th anniversary as a public art center. This installation is made up of excerpts from each Dialogue from the inaugural visit by Clint Eastwood through Steve McQueen with the 2013 premiere of 12 Years a Slave.

Mousley’s commitment to researching and curating contemporary and historic film programs continues with a dynamic program of Premieres, the newest of feature films; the ongoing series Filmmakers-in-Conversation, which connects makers with their audience; and the experimental program of Expanding the Frame, which marks artists’ shift in practice and programmatic experimentation. All three programs started in 2007, and remain highlights of the programming today. Vivid partnerships with our academic and filmmaking communities are ongoing along with special international series that have evolved over the years to cover most of the globe with distinct programs coming from China, Latin America, and Iran. Mousley produced an annual international film festival of women directors that ran from 1999 to 2010, titled Women with Vision.

Popular programs that have continued for more than 25 years are the British Arrows Awards that screen throughout the month of December and the outdoor Summer Music & Movies in Loring Park. Recent exhibitions of films include The Renegades: American Avant Garde Film, 1960–1973; Album: Cinematheque Tangier, a project by Yto Barrada; The Clock by Christian Marclay; and installations such as whiteonwhite:algorithmicnoir by Eve Sussman in 2012.

Over the years, the department has organized a number of seminars and panel discussions, including two major national conferences focused on the democratization of media production and the aesthetic of the new moving image: Media Arts in Transition, held in 1983; and its 1999 sequel, Media Arts in Transition, Again, which explored changes in the field within a rapidly expanding global, multidisciplinary, and technological context. Media Arts in Transition, Again was a trans-department collaboration with Film/Video, New Media Initiatives, Design, Visual Arts, and Education. In 2015, Superscript: Arts Journalism and Criticism in a Digital Age brought a diverse array of writers, editors, artists, curators, and theorists to address questions around online art publishing’s present and possible futures, and included two premieres of Bentson commissions for on-line moving image works. The Moving Image department’s artist-in-residence program has supported such projects as Cheryl Dunye’s screenwriting workshops conducted inside a prison that led to the production of the film Stranger Inside; Spencer Nakasako’s filmmaking classes with teens; Nicole Hewitt showing animation from Zagreb; Ramin Bahrani, Astra Taylor, Rakhshan Bani-E’temad, Debra Granik, and Zhao Liang teaching master classes at local schoold along with showing their films at Walker. Long-term residencies have also resulted in new commissions, including Alan Berliner’s The Language of Names (2001–2002), Ericka Beckman’s FrameUP (2004–2005), and Wang Jianwei’s culinary performance/installation Moveable Taste.

Through innovative programming, community engagement, and a firm commitment to the history of the medium through the preservation, presentation, and digitization of the Ruben/Bentson Moving Image Collection, the Moving Image department at the Walker Art Center has become a cornerstone institution in the presentation of moving images that define our times.