GLR September-October 2022

Angelo Madsen Minax’ Surreal Documentaries ARTIST’S PROFILE

J OHN R. K ILLACKY A juxtaposing present-day footage with Super 8 home movies, animation, staged rituals, and ethereal voice-overs. Chaos and anar chy are embedded in his hybrid cinema of survival, acceptance, and transcendence. His work has been screened throughout the United States, Europe, Canada, and Mexico—winning awards at many presti gious festivals. His “North by Current” was screened nationally on PBS’ POV se ries in November 2021. In this feature, shot over five years in an auto-ethnographic style, he returns to his family of origin and grapples with the death of a niece, addiction, incarceration, misguided reli gious fervor, and rejection of his gender transition. His experimental shorts are equally com pelling. Gorgeous landscapes, queer rituals, and cinema-vérité ruminations provide kaleidoscopic glimpses of his artistic and personal explorations. Some are rooted in NGELO MADSEN MINAX creates audacious experimental films of trans embodiment by discordantly

John Killacky: Please talk about your process in making these extraordinary films. Angelo Madsen Minax: Working within vérité documentary, you can’t make predic tions. You adjust your expectations and goals, and you’re in a constant state of revi sion—shooting, shooting, shooting and lots of looking at things. I don’t separate out the process between production and post-pro duction. I begin editing right away, otherwise I can’t get a shape of what the story will be. When I shoot again, the process dictates how and what I shoot in the future. In my films, you will find trails of information I find in teresting rather than attempts to entertain the audience. I hope the audience will overlap with what I find interesting. JK: You describe your projects as spanning “documentary filmmaking, narrative cin ema, essay film, media installation, sound and music, performance, text and collective practices.” However, you’ve also said: “I don’t tell stories. I explore ideas and con cepts.” What do you mean by this? AMM: Content is more interesting to me than narrative. The narrative is what allows

few years ago, I added Angelo to my first name. It feels like some reconciliation with my childhood, and I like that. As I get older, I have more of a need for reconciliation than differentiation. JK: Your films have been shown in festi vals and you co-curated a “Cinema of Gen der Transgression: Trans Film” series at Anthology Film Archives in New York. Is there a distinctive queer/trans æsthetic? AMM: I don’t know, but lots of people think so. I know that I am not interested in one-dimensional content, and work about identity can be one-dimensional. Work where identity is one of many nuanced lay ers in a conversation is better. Unfortu nately, queer film festivals are usually not interested in formal rigor or in people leav ing the theater with questions. They assume people want to leave feeling fulfilled. My goal is not to tell you that everything will be okay. I don’t think that’s fair to people, and I don’t think it fulfills their deeper need to question their humanness. JK: With your recent Guggenheim Fellow ship, you are developing a documentary on Fakir Musafar, an icon of body modification and what was called “The Modern Primitives Movement.” What interests you about him? AMM: During the last ten years of his life, I was part of his community. There was a Radical Faeries gathering in the late ’80s where a group of leathermen attended and were thrown a lot of shade for their S/M practices. The next year, that group devel oped their own collective, which I got intro duced to in 2004 and started participating in. Fakir and his partner were largely active in that community. It’s all about this desire to stretch the limits of the body in both its physical and spiritual dimensions and find meaning in community. When he passed, his wife and I started talking about the archives. I was blown away by what was there. JK: By creating such raw intimate works, do you see them as political as well? AMM: I am not of the camp that believes visibility is equal to politics. You have to be more than alive in the body. The personal will always be political. Resistance to vari ous forms of oppression is important. My politics work best if I can generate empathy or compassion or insight—this is where I do my best work. John R. Killacky is the author of because art: commentary, critique, & conversation (Onion River Press).

Angelo Madsen Minax. Image courtesy of Angelo Madsen Minax.

the particularity of location—utilizing archival news clips from a television station in Dallas or exploring Memphis’ geo graphic and sexual underground. His surre alist short “Two Sons & a River of Blood” (2021) is a poignant meditation on preg nancy and desire with a self-made family of “two dykes and a trans man.” This past spring he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. Minax is also an educator, currently an associate professor of media studies at the University of Ver mont. He was doing pre-production work on his next project when he took time out to speak with me on the phone.

anyone to access it, which I think is impor tant, but the content is doing the heavy lift ing in terms of making people ask questions about the world around them, which is the difference between art and entertainment. JK: You’ve changed your name twice. Can you share this journey with readers? AMM: I changed my name to Madsen in 2005. It felt like the right thing to do. I came of age in punk, feminist, and BDSM cultures. It was a different world—throwing parties and working multiple jobs to pay for our surgeries. We had to go to therapists to tell us we weren’t crazy to get hormones. A

The G & LR


Made with FlippingBook. PDF to flipbook with ease