Embracing Radical Sincerity and an Extremely Small Curated Space< < Back to
A man and a woman dressed in grubby layers of clothing sift through garbage and piles of disintegrating cardboard. They find an old USB stick. A “memory stick.” They hold it dear. Then, they part with it for 21 credit cards from a mean-spirited merchant with an empty binder.
A lean and disoriented man claiming to be Jeff Foxworthy climbs up from underneath heaps of cardboard. “This is my home – this is my PRISON,” he says, telling a nonlinear sequence of events into an unplugged microphone — his monologue tinged with tragedy and, at times, a hint of pure, hungry desperation.
Piles of cardboard stacked with nail polish remover, dog collars, and credit cards serve as a throne for a man clad in metallic leggings and heavy boots, absent-mindedly stroking the greasy head of a thin man chewing on cardboard. The booted man laughs. “Look at them,” he says.
This is Heavy Obsolescence, a film crafted by producer and director Joe Cox and assistant producers Max Baron, Hiatt Hernon, and John Noble.
Initially, the short was created for Ohio University’s 48-Hour Shootout, although it has grown and shifted to the point that an entire performance showcase shaped entitled “An Extremely Small Curated Space,” based on the general aesthetic of the video, will take place April 1 at Station 116.
“We knew we weren’t going to win,” said Joe Cox, an Ohio University Honors Tutorial College senior studying media arts and studies. “The media school is more interested in technical skill, and we were definitely not interested in that. We were interested in asking how to bring the ‘art’ back to ‘media arts and studies.’”
Filmed entirely through the greasy, distorted lens of VHS cameras, Heavy Obsolescence is a triptych meditation on late stage capitalism and the looming world of post capitalism, taking place in the year 2019 A.D.
“I think the best way to talk about the film is to consider where title comes from,” said Haitt Hernon. “Joe (Cox) applied these tenants of late capitalism to everything that we did with the project, and the one that really stuck with me is this idea of planned obsolescence; like the idea that Apple will continue to make iPhones, whether or not we really need another iPhone. Everything is planned to be obsolete – but what about when there’s nothing left coming next to replace it? That’s heavy obsolescence.”
Dan Manion, a senior in the Ohio University College of Fine Art studying print-making, said that when he was asked to join the project, he found the themes resonating strongly with his research of performance artist and self-proclaimed “very small man,” Alan Resnick.
“[…] Apple will continue to make iPhones, whether or not we really need another iPhone. Everything is planned to be obsolete – but what about when there’s nothing left coming next to replace it? That’s heavy obsolescence.” – Haiti Hernon
“The project itself excited me because as we were throwing out ideas, and especially Jeff Foxworthy, it was very reminicient of Alan Resnick, especially Visitor Information,” said Manion.
Another tenant of late capitalism bleeding into post-capitalism is a strong sense of personal identity tied to corporate branding, an idea that Cox became fascinated with after presenting one of his projects at the Slamdance Festival, which takes place at the same time as the Sundance Film Festival.
“I’ve been thinking about (late capitalism) for a while, and I think that cynicism is a big part of that. The election could have been a bit of a catalyst, but presenting at Slamdance was huge,” said Cox. “Every car that went by was either $200,000 or had a logo on it. I feel like between seeing that and seeing the films there, I felt like it gave me some kind of weird agency that made me feel like I could make this film now.”
Cox said that much of his work tends to be “critical of the medium that it’s working in.” Heavy Obsolesence was no different.
“In a lot of ways, in making the film, we were very much rejecting Hollywood, and the ways in which we did that were largely unwritten,” said Cox. “When I approached our team and told them that we were recording on VHS, they were like, ‘oh, of course we are.’ There’s this quality that comes out of VHS that is vaguely voyeuristic – like a mom shooting her son’s school play or an audition tape. VHS gives the film an interesting textuality – it’s immediately off-putting because it is so dated.”
Although the world of Heavy O is clearly not the one that we’re living in, when one watches the short, it is clear that it isn’t just a darkly comedic take on a post-apocalyptic United States. Every vignette may result in a case of the giggles, but there seems to be something much deeper, much truer, going on.
“There’s this quality that comes out of VHS that is vaguely voyeuristic – like a mom shooting her son’s school play or an audition tape. VHS gives the film an interesting textuality – it’s immediately off-putting because it is so dated.” – Joe Cox
“It’s hard, because you can’t really control how someone is going to interpret media,” said Hernon. “It would be easy for people to look at what we’re doing and think ‘oh, so this is just a bunch of people goofing off,’ – but the thing is, it’s incredibly sincere. All of it is so genuine.”
“I’ve been saying it for years, but sarcasm is dead,” said Cox. “People are just settling into sarcasm – I guess it’s on the weird tail end of what people call hipster culture; but sarcasm and irony – especially sarcasm, is dead. People are looking for authenticity or some kind of genuine quality.”
The Extremely Small Curated event is just a part of the seemingly ever expanding world that was created as a part of Heavy O, as it is affectionately referred to by those who worked on it. In February, Cox installed a display on Court Street, next to Brenen’s Coffee, which had the film on loop alongside various bits of trash from the actual 48-hour shoot. Cox also has a zine in the works, and plans to take the project to the Bobcat Student Expo.
The Extremely Small Curated Space kicks off tomorrow at 8 p.m. with a performance by Columbus-based MC Freeman and his rhymes about the technological age; followed by a set by Athens’ own trash pop outfit, Totally Miguel; Marker 1 and His Crazy Keyboard (he might play “Crocodile Rock,” if we’re lucky); a special performance by Urine Wizard; followed by a screening of Heavy Consummation and Heavy O; followed by a stand up set by Jeff Foxworthy himself. A first-time screening of Llamageddon, a horror movie that has been in the works for several years, will also debut.