Why Emily Pelstring Rules by Mike Deane (2017)
Emily Pelstring’s work makes me want to be a more involved and evolved human being. It makes me want to know more about video art, art history, feminist theory, technology, and the world in general. I’m completely blown away on a visceral and intellectual level whenever I see Emily’s work, but I’m also left feeling like there will always be layers to discover – like, no matter how much I learn, I will always be a few steps behind Emily’s big brain.
But this can also be a good thing: because when there’s so much going into every piece, even a video art ignoramus and casual college film theory burnout is able to walk away completely satisfied.
I would talk about Emily’s dance performances and, indeed, one of my first memories of her was Emily nailing a live performance of the dance from Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights”, but am not sure I have the vocabulary to really do justice to the skill and choreography. I would talk of her installation and musical performances with The Powers, but I fear I wouldn’t be able to fully explain their advanced and humorous exploration of the occult, contemporary feminism, consumer culture, and art itself (though I will say the skeleton body dance is both a mind fuck and hilarious.) And I could try to explain Emily’s installations, but I think you’d do much better to go see the incredibly appealing and innovative multimedia structures currently on display at Kazoo! HQ – like much of what Emily does, they are deftly crafted, visually impressive, somewhat funny, and are imbued with an originality and thoughtfulness rarely seen (when setting up, the artist helping Emily with the installation remarked “I could never think of something like this; my mind just doesn’t work that way,” and I knew exactly what they meant). So where does this leave us?
Emily’s music videos are perfectly paced pieces, and highly involved affairs, mixing heightened aesthetics with advanced DIY, giving them a professional and personal feel at the same time. The shimmering lights, smokey production, glammed-up Midwestern “Heart of Glass” feel of the U.S. Girls’ “Jack” video, the retro creeped out belly dancing Maddin-vibed “Wild Love” video by The Pink Noise, or the stop motion puppet animation of Yamantaka Sonic Titan’s “Hoshi Neko” all differ wildly, but at their heart is a technically proficient perfectionist creating something that has hints of nostalgia, but goes so far beyond anything it nods to.
Emily’s videos deliver on every level: they are masterfully crafted pieces that would impress any video art auteur, they are packed with meaning that could busy a media or gender studies major, and they can entertain anyone from a stoned teenager to a high-art snob. Whenever someone brings up video art, music videos, or anything to do with video cameras, I will always bring up Emily Pelstring, because I think everyone can get into what she creates. As heady as her work can be, it’s often hilarious, and just looks fucking cool. Go see her work at Kazoo! HQ and when she does projections for U.S. Girls on Thursday night.
Mike Deane is a member of the Kazoo! Fest programming committee and the President of the Board of Directors.