Within 3 1/2 minutes, performance artist Jillian Mayer goes from weird to mystifying with her short film "MakeUp Tutorial: How To Hide From Cameras."
Speaking cheerfully, Mayer, of Plantation, presents a parody of illegal surveillance in the age of Edward Snowden, Wikileaks and facial-recognition systems, all dressed up in the guise of glitter and makeup. Gussied up in ugly dollops of white cream and smeared black lipstick, not unlike a Kiss fan, Mayer proceeds to espouse "different techniques which will let you walk around the city undetected by cameras … and you will look great."
"You, too, can avoid being recognized by computers, machines, robots — anything," Mayer deadpans, dragging a tube of lipstick across the bridge of her nose.
If Mayer's experimental short film sounds bizarre, it is among familiar company as a finalist at Optic Nerve 15, the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami's returning festival of experimental short videos. On Friday night, Mayer's film — the lone South Florida finalist — will screen alongside outré films from artists living in New York, Berlin, Montreal, Los Angeles and London.
The YouTube culture of user-submitted, often-girlish makeup videos inspired Mayer's entry, as well as the work of Brooklyn artist Adam Harvey, who claims to have invented an over-the-top makeup camouflage called CV Dazzle to thwart facial-recognition cameras.
"His work is very smart and fun," says Mayer, whose art videos have screened at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Sundance Film Festival and at South by Southwest. "I think the video's about our ever-evolving engagement with technology and exploring ways to maneuver through it. The makeup has geometric shapes in contrasting colors, which is a kind of camouflage. But I show it in the format that YouTubers turn to for their cosmetic application tips."
The roundup of off-kilter videos is the invention of Bonnie Clearwater, MOCA's former executive director, who supervised this year's Optic Nerve with a panel of six world-class curators. The museum's Alex Gartenfeld organized the bulk of the festival, which fielded about 250 video submissions of five minutes or less. After Friday's screening, Gartenfeld will handpick a winning short, to be added to the museum's permanent collection.
"I like to think of the films as drawings. The artists who used their short to subvert the video form quickly rose to the top of the heap," says Gartenfeld, 26, hired in May as MOCA's new curator of exhibitions. "They happen to be a popular and cutting-edge way of producing art, while responding to content and length."
In the pack with Mayer's film is New York artist Juwon Lee's "Hidden Stories of Super Mario Bros.," a two-minute documentary that uses montage to answer why the Nintendo character eats mushrooms. Other finalists include New York artist Cindy Hinant's "Selfish," a re-interpretation of a Britney Spears music video; and Los Angeles artist Amy Bessones' "Untitled (Sunny Side Up)," a one-minute, stop-motion work that tracks a pair of Venus de Milo salt-and-pepper shakers as they cross the kitchen in search of eggs.
Optic Nerve 15
When: 8 p.m. Friday(with 7 p.m. art talk by Aram Moshayedi)
Where: Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, 770 NE 125th St.
Cost: $3-$5, free for members, North Miami residents
Contact: 305-893-6211 or MocaNomi.org