Chicago artist Melika Bass makes experimental films that explore cults, womens asylums, and menacing creatures through atmospheric narratives that emphasize image and sound textures. Using both non-professional actors and performance artists, her films often reveal a subtle surrealist influence and focus on enigmatic actions and situations. Shooting in 16mm film and exhibiting in digital video, Bass presents her work in an installation that opens this evening during First Fridays at the monthly "UBS 12 x 12: New Artists/New Work" at the Museum of Contemporary Art
(MCA), Chicago, and runs through February 27, 2011.
The film presented in the exhibit, Shoals: A Film Cycle in Seven Parts, is shown in a series of seven chapters. The premiere of the theatrical version of Shoals (52 min) is screened separately in the MCA Theater along with the Chicago premiere of her film Waking Things (40 min) on Sunday, February 6, at 3 pm. Shoals explores cults and womens asylums in America as it follows three women on the grounds of a rural sanitarium. Inspired by both Southern and Midwestern gothic sensibilities, Shoals creation began with sound recordings of the Wisconsin countryside. Fluctuating between awkward, dry humor and psychological dread, Shoals is visually inspired by early photographs, which are often blurry and atmospheric. Objects on display in the gallery are presented as historical artifacts that extend the fictional world of the film.
In Waking Things, a mysterious family ritually prepares a seasonal feast for visitors while shadows reveal menacing and wounded creatures. Waking Things is co-produced by Every house has a door, a Chicago-based collaborative performance group, and features members from the ensemble. The screening is co-presented as part of the groups performance Let us think of these things always. Let us speak of them never. (Feb 9-13), and the symposium Reconstructing Utopia: Cinema, Performance and Ex-Yugoslavia (Feb 6), both in the MCA Theater.
In 2007, Bass received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she is an instructor on film, video, new media, and animation. She discusses her work in a free, informal gallery talk on Tuesday, February 8, 2011, at 6 pm.