by Leslie Gray
What does a song look like? How do you play a film? Can a still life dance?
The Palace Film Festival, which was held at historic Thalia Hall in Chicago on January 28-29th, investigated these questions with 30 short films, 2 live performances, an afterparty featuring Xeno + Oaklander, Champagne Mirrors and Simulation and a discussion panel. It played at the intersection of art, film and music—and invited us to join them.
Now in its 3rd year, the festival is a collaboration between Heather Gabel (musician and artist), Anna Cernigilia (Johalla Projects) and Robert Stockwell (Cinema Libertad). I asked Heather a few questions about how Palace comes to life.
The Brvtalist (Leslie Gray): This is the 3rd year of Palace, how has it developed from your original vision?
Heather Gabel: Palace started with a focus on the intersection of music and the moving image, on work from non-filmmakers, artists working outside of their usual medium, as well as established video artists. The programming has continued in that spirit.
TB: What inspired the interdisciplinary focus?
HG: I was in a place creatively where I was craving a challenge, a little fear, and work in different mediums that I had little to no previous experience in. I have been doing visual art for twenty years beginning with photography, then painting, then settling into collaging for the past twelve or so years. I made a film, started writing lyrics, singing in a band—I wanted to do everything. The way all areas of my work were coming together as a result of doing all these different things simultaneously was really exciting. That, and feeling compelled to present a wide array of works connected solely by their relationships to sound are what inspired the interdisciplinary focus.
TB: Palace is 100% curated. How do you select the artists featured?
HG: I see what friends of friends of friends of friends are doing. I reach out to artists that I don't know whose work I want to include. I select work for it's relationship with the soundtrack/score and because I believe in and want to share it. That means an art school student is on the bill with Asia Argento (we screened the Chicago premier of "Misunderstood" in 2016) or Mark Pellington (Mothman Prophecies, we screened his feature length video for Chelsea Wolfe's "Pain is Beauty" album in 2013 titled "Lone").
TB: As a writer I have to ask, where does the written or spoken word fit in?
HG: ADULT.'s performance piece "The Perfect Accent Piece" on Saturday night is the perfect illustration. Nicola was reading aloud written reviews of a sex doll and a vase from the internet, Adam was live manipulating Nicola's voice as she read. The video content and live performance were interactive and sounds from each informed each other.
A lot of the films are experimental and features no written or spoken word outwardly. There are always artists’ statements about the work though and that translation from visual to written language is also an intersection.
TB: What stood out to you, in or at the festival?
HG: I'm always really excited to share everything with the audience. Hearing people laugh or seeing them wince, it feels great be able to facilitate that. The live performances, giving artists a space to do something different, are especially rewarding.
TB: Did anything this year change what you’ll do in 2018?
Q: We went with one live act a night this year instead of a few; I think we'll stick to that moving forward. I'm looking forward to putting it together!
We tend to put borders around our artistic expressions. There’s music class and art class. Nightclubs and dance studios. The movie theater and the stage. But in reality, film, photography, music and dance steal from and inspire each other like children. The same principles—story, rhythm and form—pulse through their veins. The Palace Film Festival stands out not just for the work it spotlights, but for the barriers it tears down.
For the complete list of artists, visit PalaceFilmFest.com. Follow on FB and Instagram @palacefilmfestival