The Ambulant Flipbook Museum (Some of) the videos of Kim Kielhofner – Anne Golden

Snap Shot, Kim Kielhofner

When I stayed home sick as a kid, I used to watch a long departed show on television called Matinee. It was broadcast on CFCF 12 and was hosted by Joe Van, a man who sported the most astonishing handlebar mustache. At the time, we had a black and white TV and no remote control. Matinee presented movies I really loved but that were often way over my head, including Hamlet with Laurence Olivier.

My childhood sick day viewing habits lead me to misremember two classic movies. In fact, I conflated the two films for a long time, making a peculiar hybrid movie that existed only for me. Both films, Jezebel and The Little Foxes, starred Bette Davis and were directed by the same man, William Wyler. Jezebel was released in 1938 and was about a headstrong southern belle in the 1850’s. The Little Foxes was released in 1941. It was also about the south and took place in a large mansion, but was set in the early 1900’s. Until I went to film school and saw The Little Foxes in its entirety, I thought the two movies were one and the same. I probably listened to Joe Van’s introductions to the movies, and then fell asleep halfway through one or the other. In my movie, Bette Davis wears an inappropriate red dress to a cotillion (Jezebel) and later an enormous hat with birds on it (The Little Foxes). I thought this ‘film’ was about eccentric garment choices. This anecdote belongs to what I call ‘viewer-induced-plot-mishaps’ and it came back to me because of Kim Kielhofner.

I would like to consider just a few of the many videos made by Kim Kielhofner.

Snap Shot (2008)
‘So I saw this movie the other day on TV’ begins the narration of Snap Shot, a video by Kim Kielhofner. Her video shook loose my memory (shared above) of having invented one peculiar and incoherent film out of two classical Hollywood narratives. I think Snap Shot resonates because I suspect many of us have had a Jezebel/Little Foxes viewing moment in which we shred up odd bits of pop culture and reassemble them into our own mash-up narratives. Kim Kielhofner drops us in the middle of a narrative by taking us with her as she ruminates about a film she has viewed. We discover that her initial reading of the film has been flawed, that she, too, has suffered a viewer-induced-plot-mishap.

At times, the link between image and narration in Snap Shot is maintained. For example, an illustration of a man in a hardware store is repeated when Kielhofner corrects herself concerning the profession of the main character in the movie. Occasionally the links between text and image are literal and at other times general. Kielhofner plays on this expectation, teasing out witty combinations (the word ‘spent’ soon brings an image of six shiny pennies) and less literal amalgamations (the word ‘mean’ is matched to the shot of a broken window.) When we learn that the main female character has died, we are shown flowers. Other image/text pairings are more evocative. When we near the end of Snap Shot, Kim states that the journal of the girl in the film is blank. There are no images to match this declaration or, rather, all is black. Some of these pairings serve as anchors because they offer fixed meaning amidst a flood of information. The narrator of Snap Shot is Kielhofner herself. She gives an accomplished vocal performance, offering a perfect mix of tentative and assured.

Snap Shot is made up of still images with three exceptions: two shots of a figure ice-skating and one shot of a glass filled with something that looks like beer (or ginger ale). The first image of the ice skater gliding breaks up the torrent of still shots depicting people, rooms, food, objects, just to list a few. The narrator informs us that she thought the film would be ‘a movie going through the moments of a life’. It is this phrase we hear as the moving skater breaks away from the surge of still images.

An idea emerges from my experience of the collage of images and from my Jezebel/Little Foxes mishap: perhaps I am reading Snap Shot wrong, too, and sculpting my readings into a narrative that is more my own than the artists’. I think of Kielhofner’s work as offering glimpses into her personal image bank. She serves the function of curator for her archive of images but does not generally impose meaning. Ultimately, I am a flawed viewer enjoying direct references (death=flowers), less direct ones (narration: ‘he made it all up’/image: church nave) and processing the overall impact of images and voice.


Madonna Swimming (2007)
If Snap Shot is a deft text/image precision piece, Madonna Swimming is a textless experimental meditation on the pop star with a thousand names and personas. Most of us know at least a little something about Madonna. In the video, we can just make out vague images of Madonna from her films and music videos. We know that she has made movies and that most of these have been decidedly terrible (Body of Evidence, anyone?) Kim Kielhofner presents us with a super saturated, mediated Madonna unconfined by the strict tenets of her own bad movie narratives. Film has not been a good medium to/for Madonna, but she is free to swim in video. Kielhofner concentrates on the video membrane where images of Madonna waver and seem to dissolve or even break apart. With no story to guide us, I imagine that this Madonna is finally having some fun, drifting through the video, unfixed, barely recognizable and out of reach. Experimental-video-Madonna usurps the several other personas in the pop star’s lexicon. She becomes the imMaterial Girl floating in and out of focus in Kielhofner’s video.

Hail the Failure of Urban Planning (2007)
The stuttering quality of rapidly changing images is featured in another video. Hail the Failure of Urban Planning does not include narration, but does incorporate written text. ‘Maintain a self-alienating spirit’, reads one cryptic and ironic entry.

The video begins with images taken from a train. Soon after, we are awash in descriptions that are blurry and grainy. There are no characters, but there are recurring identifiable people. Once again, there is a standout shot to which we must give some consideration because it is so unlike the other images in the video. It is a street scene in black and white. There is a slight zoom as passersby cross the street. Is this place significant? Is it earmarked for some gentrification? No answers here, but it seems key because it ends the video with camera movement and also slows down the barrage of information. Like the skater in Snap Shot, the shot stands out because of movement. The singular use of movement is noticeable. The focus may be on the fact of the movement, not the description of it.

As the world goes by my window with Thurston and Kim (2007)
As the world goes by my window with Thurston and Kim includes footage of a Sonic Youth performance. It begins with slow mo images of Thurston Moore, and then progresses to a barrage of quick images – shots from a train window, images of a woman with a dog, images of Kielhofner. There is a difference between the way Moore and Kim Gordon are shot and presented and the ways in which other shots are treated. The musicians are showcased in slow motion and the shots of them are continuous. We have time to see them, take in the surroundings, and study their gestures. However, other kinds of shots flicker by. Kielhofner is working at a fast pace, offering images that we barely register but which still contribute to an overall impression. Her videos are like stories being displayed on the far edges of our retinas, fleeting and elusive but meaningful and weighty. At some point, I stop trying to shoehorn her videos into my own narrative readings. This space is one in which reminiscences/activities are represented by a barrage of images flashing briefly. Does the performance by Sonic Youth anchor these images? Or engender them? It is like watching a compendium, a flipbook narrative. While we are shown an astonishing amount of images, one of the ideas I am left with after watching some of Kielhofner’s videos is that there is an infinite number of photographs.

Kim Kielhofner’s work triggers a cumulative effect in the growing impression of wavering uncertainty. While there are image-anchors represented by recurring depictions of key people (herself and others) and of objects (trains, food, street scenes), there is also the sense of a kaleidoscopic array washing over us. An image is held for a short time and is replaced, briefly, by another. Each of her images is significant, but the fact of their replacement/vanishing is perhaps more so.

Anne Golden is Artistic Director of Groupe Intervention Video, an artist-run distribution, exhibition and production centre for videos directed by women. She is an independent curator and writer whose programs include Horizontal Holds/Vertical Views: Recent Canadian Art Video (Musée National du Québec, 2001) and Seuils/Thresholds (Edges Festival, Victoria, 2006). Golden has made 12 videos since 1991. Among these are Fat Chance (1994), Big Girl Town (1998), Somme (2005) and From The Archives Of Vidéo Populaire (2007).

Kim Kielhofner is a multi-disciplinary artist working in Montreal, Quebec. While her work spans a multitude of media, she is know for her small-scale drawings, video works, and books. Her recent projects include playing in a fictional noise band called Gelding Express and an immersive video installation in the form of a giant wood box. She is currently working on a video about Alsatian immigrants turned train robbers. 

Comments from old site:

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 06/22/2009 – 00:48.

Great article about a fascinating artist. Thank you!