JUNE, 2022

STANYA KAHN
FILM SERIES

KAJE is pleased to present a series of roving impact—the films of Stanya Kahn. Opening Wednesday, June 15th, and running select nights the following weeks of June, the series will interlace a mix of Kahn’s feature films and shorts, made over the course of the past 12 years.

The boundaries of Kahn’s filmic realities are fluid. A protagonist maneuvers across Los Angeles in a trauma state, joking while maybe dying. Strangers set up triage stations in newly built homes left vacant in the real estate crash. Cameras and computers mediate the intensities of uprising and death, globally and in the intimacy of the family. Veering through configurations of collective or alienated tension; through frustration, delirium, or derisive default, the films cut experiences of distress and exuberance with visceral presence.

All screenings will be held at 7pm, at KAJE 74 15th St Brooklyn, NY 11215.

SCREENING DATES

WEDNESDAY, June 15

So Low You Can’t Get Over It, 2021

Stand in the Stream, 2011–17

SATURDAY, June 18

Friends in Low Places, 2018

Don’t Go Back to Sleep, 2014

SUNDAY, June 19

For the Birds, 2013

Happy Song For You (made with Llyn Foulkes,) 2011

It’s Cool, I’m Good, 2010

WEDNESDAY, June 22

Friends in Low Places, 2018

Don’t Go Back to Sleep, 2014

SATURDAY, June 25

For the Birds, 2013

Happy Song For You (made with Llyn Foulkes,) 2011

It’s Cool, I’m Good, 2010

SUNDAY, June 26

So Low You Can’t Get Over It, 2021

Stand in the Stream, 2011–17

WEDNESDAY, June 29

Friends in Low Places, 2018

Don’t Go Back to Sleep, 2014

Stanya Kahn (b. 1968, San Francisco) is a multidisciplinary artist who works primarily in film and video with a practice that includes drawing, painting, sound and ceramics. Humor, pathos and the uncanny are central to a hybrid practice that seeks to re-work relationships between fiction and document, the real and the hyper-real, narrative time and the synchronic time of impulse.  In a long-term investigation of how rhetoric gains and loses power, Kahn’s projects often situate language in the foreground of works that are dialectically driven by the demands and of the body. Sometimes language falls away altogether. 

Her work has been presented in solo exhibitions at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH; Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, MO; MoMA PS1, New York, NY; Grand Arts, Kansas City, MO; and the New Museum, New York, NY. In January 2023, a large selection of her film and video works will be presented at the International Film Festival in Rotterdam. Two of her recent films, Stand in the Stream and Don’t Go Back to Sleep will be exhibited at KAJE in Brooklyn, NY beginning on June 15, 2022. Kahn’s work is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art/NY, the Walker Art Center, the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

INDIVIDUAL FILM STATEMENTS

Don’t Go Back To Sleep, 2014. Don’t Go Back To Sleep is a haunted experimental narrative feature that operates primarily as a metaphor for the violence of the American state and its resulting trauma. In the tenuous relations of strangers collaborating under pressure, resilience and regenerative energy rise in small, understated human exchanges, like sparks in the dark. 

Shot in Kansas City, Missouri, in newly built homes left vacant and unfinished in the economic crash, Don’t Go Back to Sleep follows roving groups of medical professionals, frontline emergency workers adrift in nearly empty, end-times urban and suburban landscapes. In a series of uncanny scenes, dark joking emerges alongside efforts at cohesion and collectivity. Squatting never lived-in suburban developments and luxury high-rises, depressed with the aura of so many displaced by the housing market catastrophe, nurses and doctors establish make-shift triage centers within the architectural mundane: fixtures and countertops, carpet pads and exposed wiring, fireplaces and crown molding. Untouched appliances glow dully in the market’s wake.  Time alternately slows and speeds as the characters recalibrate their stress responses, suspended in the in-between of waiting, activated by uncertainty, disasters already underway and the reverberations of decades of distress.  Alcohol, cake and lunchmeat provide unstable sustenance as the workers labor, sleep and bury their dead. 

Further extending a video practice that allows fluid boundaries between the real and the fictive, between narrative and abstraction, Kahn directs an ensemble cast of mostly non-actors to perform both scripted and improvised scenarios in which their agency becomes central to the film’s construction. Her sound design, anchored here with original compositions by Kahn and musician Keith Woods (of Hush Arbors and Chelsea Light Moving), holds a central role in the language of the film. The edits and the cameras’ movements and fixations play with reconfigurations of space, time, materiality, alienation and the overworking of Nature. A quieter humor of anxiety seeks out the edges of despair while trying to connect. 

Stand in the Stream, 2011–17. Stand in the Stream is an ambient digital feature film shot on multiple camera formats over the course of six years. The film’s vast and varied footage—shot or screen-captured during livestreams by Kahn in real time—is edited to create a visceral reflection of life, power, and uprising in late capitalism. As the film travels through cities and wilderness, domestic and public spaces, online chat-rooms and home movies, it is framed by the decline and death of the artist’s mother—a shipyard electrician and activist—with glimpses of Kahn’s own experience of motherhood and the toil of daily life. Stand in the Stream situates these intimacies within the shift of political and digital landscapes over time, revealing multiple intersections of the personal and the political. 


It’s Cool, I’m Good, 2010. It’s Cool, I’m Good features a severely injured protagonist (Kahn), moving through twenty different locations in and around Los Angeles—from hospice to the desert and the sea—seducing, harassing and charming caretakers along the way. Sharing humorous anecdotes and questionable advice on living through difficult times, the bandaged character is at once narcissistic and self-deprecating, precariously poised perhaps between life and death. The video features a complex audio score, which simultaneously heightens and subverts the viewer’s experience of reality within the work. Economic collapse, urban tensions, and ecological demise are contexts for Kahn’s “patient,” whose metaphoric embodiment of overwhelming psychic and environmental stress remains relatable and prescient, ten years later. 

SHORTS

So Low You Can’t Get Over It, 2021. So Low You Can’t Get Over It is a digital animation with sound, made from paintings. Abstract forms create landscapes which seem to burn and flood, shift and collapse in an unstable world. Ghostly figures stare at cellphones while floating down river and falling from the sky. That which is familiar bends into the unknown and that which seems solid breaks down into its parts until perhaps the world is just algorithms and ideas, hallucinatory after-images of what we imagined we knew to be true.  

Friends in Low Places, 2018. Friends in Low Places is a short digital animation with sound, made from paintings. A figure finds water against a backdrop of glowing nation states. As nothing is ever free, they are promptly imprisoned. With poetic abstraction, a short allegorical cycle of death and regeneration plays out in blooms of color and ends with an escape to freedom. Made in a spirit of solidarity with the people and the planet in these terrifying times, Friends in Low Places dissolves borders and celebrates care and otherness. 

For the Birds, 2013. For the Birds is a digital animation with sound, based on line drawings. Two tired birds sit on a branch, haggard with a contemporary American melancholy and numb to the hostility of their environment. The birds’ delirium of exhaustion and frustration creates a lucid imaginative space that is potentially productive. Complaints dovetail into desires, complicated visions and questionable recollections. The video's low-fi, hand-illustrated rendering draws a correlation between the laborious processes by which it is made and the toils of daily life, the residual yearning and intensified sense of fantasy that ensue as pleasure and rest become harder to attain. In the end, a massive boulder lands on the branch above their heads, threatening to finally destroy them. It is marked 'ACME BOULDER' in a nod to American cartooning's preoccupation with mechanisms of extraordinary violence, and a play on the symbolic weight of the manufactured and branded, perhaps a foreshadowing of western capitalism’s impending collapse. 

Happy Song For You (made with Llyn Foulkes,) 2011. Stanya Kahn and Llyn Foulkes. Made with legendary painter Llyn Foulkes, Happy Song For You is infused with Kahn’s unique approach to storytelling in which humor and absurdity, death and tenacity function as central forces. Influenced in turn by Foulkes’ unique, three dimensional approach to painting and a shared morbid sensibility, the video is set to a carefully crafted soundtrack, and features an original song written and performed by Foulkes.