phantom limbs

journal by Sam Zimmerman concerning new media arts in New York City, curated events at Monkeytown (the video dinner theater in Williamsburg) and his personal projects

Monday, January 14, 2008

Superamas Big 3rd Episode

Superamas Big 3rd Episode is a musical play that is very stripped down in its staging, but extremely complex in its production. The minimalistic process is very exposed: the control booth is on one side of the stage, the dressing room on the other, and, aside from two songs, the characters lip sync throughout, pacing repeatedly through two mechanically spliced and diced scenes - the men at band rehearsal and the ladies changing for dance class. The story is fleshed out with a rock anthem (mimed), a disco scene (with a girls-only battle), a light design car crash, and video vignettes that deliver the backstory (with cameos from Peter Sellers, Peter O'Toole, Jacques Derrida, Claude Wampler and Cake).

Everything is very squeaky clean, and the process is fairly nerdy, but the with much campy gossip about the characters' tawdry sex lives, and the undressing of the ladies set on infinite loop, there is enough fizz to weather the de- and re- and deconstructions. Chewy ideas cleverly guised as polite naughty fluff.

UPDATE: A video report by about Superamas Big 3rd Episode is available here:,big-3rd-episode.htm

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Monkey Town does Mago

Following up on our 2006 project, Bacchanale, Monkey Town has assembled a team of 50 audio artists to re-imagine the sound for Mago (2002).

Mago, from Korean director Kang Hyeon-Il and writer Jang Kyung-Ki is one of the largest-ever Korean film productions, though few souls outside of that country have experienced its unique charms. Described alternately as "dazzling and daring, mind-blowing and surreal, beautiful and horrifying" or "pretentious, vulgar, unbelievable, mind numbing, and appallingly hypocritical," the film is most notable for the acreage of epidermis employed in telling its tale. Although the Korean government is very conservative about nudity and sexuality depicted in mainstream movies, Mago escaped the ban by relentlessly and with grim precision neutralizing sex with anti-sex for the duration of the film - a monumental and alchemical artistic feat with dubious and discomfiting results.

Purportedly depicting the zen story of creation, beginning with paradise and progressing into man's destruction, Mago is a mashup of nostalgic pre-Christian Korean creation mythology and critical vignettes from this misguided modern world we call home. The visceral implication: our hospitals, cyber cafes, discos and subways are a very poor substitute for a world where 825 care-and-clothing-free elemental goddesses spend their days frolicking or in benign appreciation of the air and nakedness.

Is it art caught in the culture gap or heartless exploitation fare? As with all misfit masterworks, opinions run the gamut:

"although I don't know much about Zen or the YinYang symbol, I found the film to be unique and a very moving experience. It's like nothing I've ever seen in American cinema! 10/10"

"It's quite beautiful and surprisingly wholesome, proving that the unclothed human body is a work of art and nothing to be ashamed of."

"yet more proof that Korean cinema is a force to be reckoned with."


"Mago's incoherence is only outstripped by its pretentiousness. It’s like the Cremaster cycle with a dub track by Greenpeace."

"ends up feeling like being locked in a room with a snotty teenage zealot who beats you with a stick"

"One of the biggest "HUH?" movies ever made."

For this exclusive remixed presentation, Monkey Town distributed short silent clips from the film to 50 audio artists. The artists composed a new soundtrack for their clip, and the film was reassembled as a 65 minute feature. Additional edits by Sam Zimmerman. Inserts by Shu Lea Cheang.

Screenings at Monkey Town in December 2007 were feature recommendations in Time Out, Village Voice, and Flavorpill.

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