Overshare: October 7-22

Overshare: October 7-22

Overshare: October 7-22

Overshare: October 7-22

Overshare: October 7-22

Overshare: October 7-22

Overshare: October 7-22

Overshare: October 7-22

Overshare: October 7-22

Overshare: October 7-22

Overshare: October 7-22

Overshare: October 7-22

Overshare: October 7-22

Overshare: October 7-22

Overshare: October 7-22

Overshare: October 7-22

Overshare: October 7-22

Overshare: October 7-22

Overshare: October 7-22

Overshare: October 7-22

Overshare: October 7-22

Overshare: October 7-22

Overshare: October 7-22

TLDR – an essay on oversharing

by Gus McGrath/California Girls

Cinema is neither top or bottom, but an interesting spectre.

Arts discourse via the Internet literally sucks ass sooo hard (derogatory) but I should start here because a friend just sent me this thing on Twitter that everyone’s ripping into where some Good Reads nerd says that “good art affirms beauty and makes you feel comfortable” (which, like, literally try be more of a loser fascist), and has a long list of what “BAD ART” does, all of which sounds cool. I’m especially struck by the term “A MALEVOLENTLY BAD MAP” which, they claim, is a flaw; but it’s exactly what I like in a work. I recount this anecdote out of necessity, at the beginning, to start by addressing the Internet (capitalised due to proper noun). It’s the cold place I’ve accessed the Overshare Video Festival before its opening – first in my Eora sharehouse bedroom, then later on an airconditioned bus to Ngunnawal Country. I’m sent screening links to films in the program through an impressively ordered Google Sheet, trying to watch them all one by one on my 14” macbook to prepare this very essay, imagining what the real-life festival might be like.

The experience of watching these films this way wouldn’t be uncommon – intentional use of a double negative here, paying homage to the art of film processing – in the case of a conventional film festival. The experiential difference between ‘a conventional film festival’ and Overshare would be; in the former, which I’d attend as a paying customer (spoiler: conventional film festivals are zealous money makers) and *cough* on exorbitant ticket prices to watch films, surrounded by a significantly older audience, who laugh at strange points, and would be putting up with a screen that may have a large stain on it (read: dead pixel). The idea of a conventional film festival generally goes: one film, another film, another film, another film, bus, another club, etc, and then maybe at some point you go to the sponsored bar to chat with the people you watched the movie with who aren’t in film but all work for Original Spin. Garden Reflexxx have played that game before, and Overshare is a desperate attempt at something else. It’s 10 film reels in one canister, overflowing. It’s the knowledge there’s too much world so why try harder. It’s that a movie can physically be broken. It’s that lots of people make incredible films even if they don’t know how, or intend to. It’s that we are all filmmakers. We watch films at every moment.

Garden Reflexxx are such omnipresent culture-enjoyers that I assume everyone knows them. But to assume is to make an ass out of you and me (derogatory). The pair is made up of Jen Atherton and André Shannon, who introduce themselves on their website not as filmmakers, but by the ‘aims’ of what they hope to achieve. “The purpose of Garden Reflexxx is to liberate films of their staunch structures.” This is personified in the fluid way they work: making films, collaborating to help others make films, producing events, even their weekly show Movies,Movies,Movies on Sydney’s FBi Radio. Or, as they say it better, “Garden Reflexxx’s singular open-filmmaker artistry upends mono-director banality, mediating on group play and experimental making.” I message André asking for a PDF of the floorplan of Testing Grounds Emporium because I want the malevolently bad map of a space that is (sincerely) playing (probably) at least four films at any given time on a variety of different formats, screens, lengths, orientations, perspectives, angles. André says (amongst their constant barrage of references) that art house cinemas don’t exist anymore, and this is a “kinda homage to one”. André says this festival is a playground (“a bit Pipilotti Rist”). This is definitely like, a little bit post-Internet but also kinda offline but then the amount of visual stimuli is a bit…Internet. I imagine it’s like Goodbye, Dragon Inn (2003) by Ryan Trecartin.

Later upon reflection though it’s not like something Ryan Trecartin made, but rather that Garden Reflexxx and several of the filmmakers programmed feel like characters out of Trecartin’s hyperactive video works; but if they were making films in homage to James Benning. Lauren Servideo makes Instagram reel skits that include Cremaster Cycle jokes. Joel Sherwood Spring teaches and holds theory discussions on twitch streams. 2 Lizards (2020) is a diary of COVID but everyone is a CGI critter. Martin Bruch is an Austrian man with multiple sclerosis who videos, and then presents real-time, his hand bike rides through major cities. Fox Maxy makes video diaries as photo dumps, or at least that’s what I felt like their short San Diego (2020) was, until I watched their full length Gush (2023-) and realised it was kinda like an experimental club night with performances but then it was, like… Why does it even need to be compared to other forms? Gush (2023), and all Maxy’s work, is its own, that is très contemporary. It’s one of the most sincere interminglings of life and its endless flows of screen information. Of course Garden Reflexxx programmed this. Is it surprising that their only note for the first draft of this essay was “MORE OF EVERYTHING”? Note to reader: ‘reflexxx’ draws from Alli Coates and Signe Pierce, creatives whose film American Reflexxx (2013) brought 2010s reality art into cinemas. We’re eternally grateful to all unsung lesbian heroes.  

Garden Reflexxx already float in a funny/weird zone between programmers and filmmakers. They’ve collaborated on many of the films across Overshare in an array of capacities, and are even constructing a work as part of Overshare with the audience through the Film School workshop. Screenwriter Enoch Mailangi has a work in the festival, and also plays a central character in Garden Reflexxx’s feature Grape Steak (2023), and is also running a film criticism class with Priya Leigh that I can only begin to imagine (these two are the best cultural commentators on the planet and will suffer one day from a defamation case). I know Garden Reflexxx love to use “hang out film” as a buzz term but this festival is legit HangOutCore. It’s hard proof of the way their work, and lives are indistinct. All these components are one, where friendships and intimacies are implemented and elaborated on screen and behind the camera. Even the inclusion of an early work by Academy Award winner Kathryn Bigelow is featured by virtue of a long and complicated story about my dear, deceased uncle, and André acquiring his long protected film reel, gifted from Kathryn, by spending a day with my aunt, on Ngunnawal Country, on his birthday, and having a spiritual interaction with him, manifest as a kangaroo. 

Verity Mackey’s Dressing Party (2021) and Joe Pol’s lalilpiccicitalaltzarita (2015) are both documents that truly depict hanging out, but with fun people who are not mumblecore types. Consider this a warning to all Film Vic and Screen Aus believers. The In The Basement space – downstairs at Testing Grounds Emporium – I bet will be the same too. The Ground Floor, for expanded cinema workshops, are vibey spaces. When I first spoke to André about the festival, I thought a lot about Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, Samuel R. Delaney’s book documenting the NYC porn theatres and the social, economic and cultural shifts created when they were closed as part of Rudy Giuliani’s 90s gutting of the city. Through detailed descriptions of countless sexual encounters with a significant range of men Delaney sees intimate contact (hands-on connection, if you will) as necessary and communal moments in the city. It’s about challenging the isolationist mode of capitalist living. The films that played in these theatres, while maybe not the most central part of the specific sexual sociality Delaney describes, still play a key role in this place. They’re giving us an excuse to congregate. Overshare lets us come together, to forge socialities; but it also plays really important films too! Appropriately, Blake Lawrence’s Dust (2020) – about cleaning up an abandoned sex club in Eora’s Kensington suburb – screens on four screens in a toilet block. I believe this very essay is physically printed for you to pick up there too, because words can be dirty and nasty and sexy and fun too. Maybe we’re intermingling. This essay belongs in a toilet.

I realise, ultimately, it’s about excess. OVER SHARE. Too much to handle. Too much to take. Cinema is a naturally overflowing form. The shape of Testing Grounds Emporium in the plans looks like a simple grid block, very similar to the form which appears in Enoch Mailangi, Amrita Hepi and Future Method Studio’s Real Real #4: Flora for Flora, which is one of a series of performances for social media/video commissioned by Campbelltown Arts Centre. It’s such a simple shape – ideal to see overflow. Why should it be complicated? It doesn’t need to be. The works are (un)complicated. They neither lie nor fuck around. And when they do it’s for the purpose of honesty. 

Overshare overflows beyond what it can prepare for. One way is through the No Gatekeeping: Open Mic Film Screening where anyone can arrive and screen their film for free. It goes beyond the screen – as all movies do – because there’s dozens of ways to engage beyond-filmic. Artist Evelyn Roth is quite literally smashing video tapes so everyone can weave with its material basis. She, and one of her giant inflatable artworks, also appears in one of Megan Alice Clune’s music videos screening in the program. There’s even screenings of films made within Overshare; films made at Overshare showing in Overshare. I feel insane.

Before I zip down to Ngunnawal Country for a funeral, see my parents, host a film screening for Garden Reflexxx, and perform live at said event (because these programmers have infected my daily life and I now experience t00 much too), I’m in the studio I share with a digital artist who bought three boxy TVs like we had in our homes as kids. To watch the screener link I have for Fox Maxy’s San Diego (2020) I plug my laptop into power because it’s about to die but then turning on the power board also means powering up all three TVs, which cast the room in their blank-screen blue glow and leave a near imperceptible high pitched tone ringing. The screens cast a reflection on the corner of my screen. Every pixel begs for attention. Participation is mandatory. 

Jen Atherton of Garden Reflexxx says that “the way we are using aesthetics of ‘bad art’ to actually give a sense of beauty rather than a sense of cult/trash/camp” relates to how frequently Garden Reflexxx renounce the ‘success’ of filmmaking within parameters of incomprehensible budgets. Their bio continues: “Can images free themselves of the price tag? Do films have pretty privilege?” I think a lot about how Jen says they’re messaging a guy right now who’s body is ‘crazy’, but all signs point to them being a dead eyed model. I received this message in the immediate aftermath of reading about supermodel Janice Dickinson who dated Jon Lovitz in 2004. While she’s slept with an impressive list of Hollywood’s leading men, she insists that Jon Lovitz is “the sexiest man alive, the most well put together man who walks the earth. And most importantly, he’s one hot stud muffin.” Or maybe it’s better to simplify via André’s words: “goofy is sexy”. These two are self-proclaimed cheap queens of ekphrasis, or vice versa. 

This is not to say that the films in Overshare are goofy but they exude a raw energy and attractive pull of pleasure that can be reached and transcend when we divorce cinema from rigid ideas of what makes a “good movie”. And that’s part of it, right: the sexy model hookup will tell you they are real with a taught body, a piercing look in a selfie they send, but they’re only high production value. A digital, cardboard cutout. They’re wallpaper. A goofy Jon Lovitz can show you the best time you’ve ever had while also appearing in Todd Solondz’s Happiness (1998), Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales (2006), Penny Marshall’s A League of Their Own (1992), the first two Hotel Transylvania films (they are good), and even Garry Marshall’s Mothers Day (2016).

To go cannonic (I know, sorry): look at the films shot by Andy Warhol that are generally devoid of anything but highlight and personify the community madness of the scene making them. Think about the fags and freaks around John Waters in the early days of the Dreamlanders, shooting murder and scat scenes raw on the Baltimore streets without permits. Picture Fassbinder’s drug-fueled, incomprehensibly productive 1970s where filmmaking was a daily activity. Still though, Garden Reflexxx flex all over this because what we find in all the above examples is male auteurism. They wanna be on top. Garden Reflexxx, across their true fluidity in projects as producers, schemers, organisers, mobile phone pests, on-and-off fiancés, trolls, critics, and cosplayers have a practice that is sincerely vers. Cinema is neither top or bottom, but an interesting spectre. 

A cringe version of this festival would attempt to coddle the nostalgia of the desperate Gen X hordes. Overshare takes the memory, and the idea of cinema, and reBirths it, reverting to a kind of free-spirited warehouse that might play Kathryn Bigelow’s first film on 16mm (shown at Overshare for the first time ever in Australia). There is a strange, across-time echo because Overshare doesn’t forget her development into genre blockbusters, and loaded docudramas. The Garden Reflexx way, as I said before, is to do it all at mega speed, dressed up in five layers of your brightest clothes, and taking that seriously. Is “Unapologetic” cool to say because Rihanna used it as the name for that really good album of hers? 

Pop music, of course, is important as a cultural form that so deeply centres around community and soundtracking. Music is sincerely felt in Overshare. An early sequence of 2 Lizards (2020) near moved me to tears as two CGI reptiles listen to Miles Davis on a roof. A sweet scene in Grape Steak (2023) where characters sing along to Macy Rodman’s cover of Fleetwood Mac. Endless flows of mangled pop in Fox Maxy’s movies. There’s an incredible section near the end of Joel Sherwood Spring’s DIGGERMODE (2023) – a film about the multiple methods of settler colonial extraction, which he said was contingent on screening in the festival only if it had good speakers – where Babyfather’s track ‘Mediation’ plays (“GET THESE WHITE GIRLS OUT OF MY HOME” emblazoned lyric-video-like over videos of people pretending to be herded sheep) which is apparently a repurposed, dub-y loop from R. Kelly’s ‘Half on a Baby’. No one samples and rechops like Dean Blunt of Babyfather fame. What’s the point here? I don’t know. Some of these films maybe chop video-shit up in a not-unrelated way. It’s best to quote from the material about Bhenji Ra’s Trade Routes (2023), that “conversations between image and sound form a resounding intimacy that hijacks us – or at least creates a quality of spirit hijacking.” There. 

In it’s everythingness, I’ll never be able to fully describe Overshare. What haven’t I talked about yet? Francesca Ruth Levi and Mica Levi doing a Colour of Pomegranates (1969) homage? The rich engagement with scratch film through artist Lucy Kostos? New work by iconic performer Brian Fuata? A Fox Maxy QandA? recess programming a selection of international films? Jimmy Nuttall screening a musical alongside a Gillian Armstrong short about sad gay guys? Viccy T?! Grant Ionathán aka HTMLflowers?! Maybe I should over share. I google Meshes of the Afternoon because I still haven’t seen it and that feels important for the 16mm programming (even though it isn’t a scratch film, but still, film history and all), but then since I’m hungover from a Kelela gig and home alone I decide to watch some more recent digital experimental shorts instead: “Receiving a massage and getting my d*** s*****”, and “J****** off in my car and c****** over m*****”, and of course “Showing off my body and c*** while talking dirty and s******* a big l***.” 
Overshare takes these different types of films and places them on the same value. This isn’t some exercise in irony, or cult-trash, or post-porn academia. It’s certainly not José Esteban Muñoz. It’s all acting. It all should be fun. It’s everything for everyone. It’s really bitchy, but in a fun way where you respect how smart it is. It’s too expansive to really contain. It’s that everyone can make a film. It’s that everything is sin, which is good. It’s that everytime I try to fly I fall without my wings I feel so small. I guess I need you baby…