This Friday night, the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami will celebrate the 10th anniversary of Optic Nerve, its annual festival of short films and videos by South Florida artists. This year’s rendition entails 22 films by 21 artists, chosen by a jury from an open call for submissions. As usual, audience members will vote for their fave-rave film, and one effort will be bought for the museum’s permanent collection. In February, selected films from Optic Nerve will be screened on the beach in Bal Harbour.
A few of this year’s films, such as Juan Carlos Zaldivar’s Horror (Horror Sickness), embrace the era of blood lust, a leap from the camp of Dark Shadows to True Blood. Some of the other homeboys and girls also reference, well, home. Justin Long’s In Search of the Miercoles veers from Bas Jan Ader’s quest for a miraculous slay-’em-all performance with an ordinary afternoon on the beach under a leering sun.
Other artists explore terrain that covers the spectrum of art and pop. In anticipation of Oliver Stone’s coming Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Barron Sherer — the Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Florida Moving Image Archives at Miami Dade College and the great Cinema Vortex — has created Wall Street Neu!, using the private-jet sequence of the first Wall Street.
Two of the films prove that high art can be high fun: Lew Lautin’s Paris: A Ride on Le Metro, is all quick, madcap images; Susan Lee-Chun’s Let’s Suz-ercise! (Chicago-Style) uses background images of Chicago’s “L” train to great effect. Underneath the train, three pretty girls in futuristic leather ensembles dance and work out in unison with leather-clad barbells. The image is Tom of Finland crossed with middle-period Jane Fonda and Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love video. The Suz, on the other hand, is three alter egos that explore race and identity politics: Sue (assimilation), Sioux (independence), Su (mediation). Come for the dancing; go away thinking.
This year’s juror list includes Anthony Allegro, a professor of motion pictures at the University of Miami, and the jurors have picked a few true gems: Shane Eason’s Works of the Flesh: Second Study uses found 1960s Super 8 footage from medical schools to examine body modification. Erwin Georgi’s Lines is an acid-trip light show that’s simultaneously riveting and hard to watch, sort of like a good first date.