Amazements: Videos by Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby
For 25 years, Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby have been producing one of the most singular and exciting bodies of work in experimental cinema. Their videos combine animation, wry humor, and custom-written songs into interwoven vignettes that explore the perplexities, heartaches, and fleeting wonders of the contemporary world. This program features a selection of Duke and Battersby’s earlier work, as well as their most recent video, You Were an Amazement on the Day You Were Born, which tells the story of a fictional woman, from her birth in the 1970s to her death in the 2040s—a life, the artists write, that is “characterized by damage and loss, but in which she finds humor, love, and joy.”
In person: artists Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby
Being F***ed Up
(2000, digital, 10 min.)
“Episodic video about doing drugs, being young and feeling inadequate. Despite this youthful nihilism, it’s engaging, humble and ultimately optimistic.” (International Film Festival Rotterdam)
Beauty Plus Pity
(2009, digital, 15 min.)
Beauty Plus Pity sets a colourful single-channel video within a lush viewing environment populated by costumed taxidermic animals. Presented in seven parts, the video considers the potential for goodness amidst the troubled relations between God, humanity, animals, parents and children. While an animated cast of animal “spirit guides” quote Philip Larkin’s poem, This Be the Verse, and implore us to “get out as early as you can” from life and our parents’ grasp, a hunter dreams of a zoo where he might lie next to tranquilized animals calmed of their savagery. A senile and unstable God stumbles, forgets to take his medication, and turns frost into diamonds. Beauty Plus Pity contemplates the shame and beauty of existence; it is part apologia, part call to arms.
You Were an Amazement on the Day You Were Born
(2019, digital, 33 min.)
You Were an Amazement on the Day You Were Born is a visually rich film that follows a woman through a life characterized by damage and loss, but in which she finds humor, love, and joy. With a score that follows the span of Lenore’s life, from her birth in the early 70s to her death in the 2040s, the film takes us from moments of harrowing loss to those of poignancy and dark humor. Her life is told through voice over, narrated by performers who range in age from nine to sixty-nine, and is beautifully illustrated with images of animals (including humans), insects and landscapes.
Film theorist Eli Horwatt writes “You Were an Amazement… conveys how the human animal’s ineluctable death drive can be the source of both profound comedy and tragic cruelty. In the many stories relayed across this short but voluble film, viewers are invited into an intimate identification with the experiences of marginalized others.”