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Henry Hills


PennSound presents a full-length (83 minute) version of Henry Hills's film Emma's Dilemma (1997-2012), which had its premiere at the Microscope Gallery (Brooklyn). With: Jackson Mac Low, Roberto Juarez, Susan Howe, Keith Sanborn, Cheryl Donegan, Julie Patton, Carolee Schneemann, Lee Ann Brown, Sally Silvers, Susan Bee, and Charles Bernstein.


Kevin Killian has written an appreciation for this release, link also includes Hills on the film.

from the EMMA'S DILEMMA project

In NERVOUS KEN, experimental film legend Ken Jacobs is "interviewed" by my urbane 12-year old M.C., Emma Bernstein. Envisioning an exploration of the nature of listening (of apprehending or not, remembering or not, and creating meaning) and of the repetitions & variations of verbal expression and its accompanying often-emphatic physical gesturing as a basis for making visual music, I, as filmmaker turned "media artist", employ the full range of temporal manipulation available within my concurrent digital set-up, exploiting unique corners which differentiate DV from 16mm, though including frequent references to themes & techniques from Jacobs' own work within the arcanum of film. The "musical score" is derived through permutations of the sync track. This was the first released section from the ongoing series, premiering March 2004 at the Museum of Modern Art. (duration 20min)

Watch "Nervous Ken" in Fullscreen


KING RICHARD is a portrait of New York avant-garde playwright Richard Foreman in his Ontological-Hysteric Theatre. A charming yet revealing interview on the set by pre-teen protagonist Emma Bee Bernstein is interwoven with footage focusing on the periphery of a recent production--the elaborate set design and lighting, the non-speaking supporting cast (the so-called "stage crew") with their frantic movement patterns, typical props and recurrent imagery, all shot & edited in a disruptive manner to mimetically compensate for the loss of actual presence. Though it may sound odd for a work which has never left the digital realm, I think of KING RICHARD as a totally hand-made piece. Probably because I fidgeted with it for so long, even carrying it with me on a LaCie drive whenever I left town. I had shot the interview in 1997 after a performance of BENITA CANOVA and the performance footage not until the final dress rehearsal of COWBOY RUFUS RULES THE UNIVERSE in 2004. I first assembled them as two separate strands, suffering over every frame, tweaking density/saturation/contrast/brightness/ direction/orientation, analyzing Foreman's rhythms and creating my own, building and eliminating patterns of repetition, downloading thousands of relevant images from Google, synching the performance footage to every combination of Foreman's sound loops on, expanding and shrinking my ingredients (like baking bread), then interweaving (like a tapestry), chipping away the unnecessary, to create the right nuance of movement and thought, emotion and motion. Curators don't seem to get this piece. I don't understand because I find it fantastic and endlessly interesting. This is my most misunderstood work in years! That's why I'm giving it away to you so you can see for yourself. (duration 20min)

Watch "King Richard" in fullscreen.


Hills introduction to his final cut of "Emma's Dilemma" (2012)
Below are excerpts from some sections of the final, all in-process as of 2004.


EMMA'S DILEMMA, my major project at the turn of the millennium, has not yet been completed. I haven't touched it since I began teaching in Prague several years ago and it seemed a shame to not at least share some of its treasures. Shooting began in 1997 shortly before Emma's 12 th birthday and basically completed when she was 17 (although it could restart at any moment). Our first encounter was with Jackson MacLow and we continued through Fiona Templeton, Tony Oursler, Cheryl Donegan, Keith Sanborn, Carolee Schneemann, Sianne Ngai, Charles Bernstein, Felix Bernstein and Susan Bee (all forthcoming), as well as those presented here. Gradually as she moved from sophisticated child to confrontational adolescent, Emma began to command center stage (also forthcoming). I missed a few hair color changes while out of town on an editing job in 2001. Editing proceeded sporadically, but was more or less continuous throughout 2002-2004 , altering speed, direction, orientation, density, color balance, employing repetition with or without variation. Complex cuts were made into single objects which could then themselves be heavily manipulated. Hopefully each section is radically different in form and method. Finally, though, no matter how wacked-out my experiments, the internal spirit of the composition takes control and leads where it will.

The selections:

"Maybe (or, In Pursuit of Parker Posey)" with Emma Bee Bernstein

Watch "Maybe (or, In Pursuit of Parker Posey)" in fullsreen (2:26)

"A Lee Ann-thology of Concrete Poetry" with Lee Ann Brown

Watch "A Lee Ann-thology of Concrete Poetry" in fullscreen (4:00)

Julie Patton

Watch "Julie Patton" in fullscreen (4:10)

"Printed Matter" with Kenny Goldsmith

Watch "Printed Matter" in fullscreen (3:13)

"Susan Howe"

Watch "Susan Howe" in fullscreen (3:35)

"Henry Hills' Emma's Dilemma reinvents the portrait for the age of digital reproduction. In a set of tour-de-force probes into the images and essences of such downtown luminaries as Richard Foreman, Ken Jacobs, Tony Oursler, Carolee Schneemann, and Fiona Templeton, Hills' cinematic inventions literally turn the screen upside down and inside out. In this epic journey into the picaresque, we follow Emma Bee Bernstein, our intrepid protagonist, from her pre-teen innocence to her late teen-attitude, as she learns about the downtown art scene firsthand. In the process, Hills reimagines the art of video in a style that achieves the density, complexity, and visual richness of his greatest films."
             --Charles Bernstein

In memoriam: Emma Bee Bernstein (1985-2008)

Henry Hills on PennSound Daily

These .mov recordings are being made available for noncommercial and educational use only.
All rights to this recorded material belong to the author. © 2008 Henry Hills. Used with permission of Henry Hills. Distributed by PennSound.

photo: ©2006 Bernstein/PennSound

back to Hills main PennSound page