Critics Page

Cheap Seats

As the director of The Nightingale, a microcinema in Chicago, I often find myself standing around talking about the contemporary state of moving image work, and usually just as some concrete progress on the topic is made, somebody asks where the bathroom is and we are back to square one.

In the day-to-day of a busy microcinema, there isn’t too much time for questions of conceptual boundaries. Moving image work is now officially undefinable and that is an exciting state of affairs for all involved. From here, in the really cheap seats, moving image art still looks primarily like cinema—people in a room together. I watch moving image art in galleries and online. Those experiences have value but they don’t differentiate themselves very often from how I consume the random sea of moving images that are always around me—distracted, distanced, looking for a snack. There is something especially singular now in the invitation to focus, to be swallowed by this experience, and to do it sitting in the dark next to other humans. With its social underpinning, cinema is a potent way to engage the widespread development of the more nuanced media literacy that comes with growing up in an overgrown garden of screens.


Christy Lemaster

CHRISTY LEMASTER is the founder and director of Chicago's rough-and-ready microcinema, The Nightingale, and teaches Critical Studies at Columbia College, Chicago. She is currently programming events for TRACERS, Chances Dances 10th Anniversary Retrospective, and co-curating Run of Life, a documentary series for the Chicago experimental media venue Constellation.