Saturday, June 22, 2024

Lilan Yang prepares her exhibit “Nowhere Near” at Gallery 263 in Cambridgeport. (Photo: Claire Ogden)

Gallery 263’s summer artist-in-residence show “Nowhere Near,” by experimental filmmaker Lilan Yang, is a haunting reminder of every vacation photo you’ve taken intending to do something with it … eventually.

Yang loves to travel and takes a lot of film and photos when she does. But waiting is part of her process, and she leaves film undeveloped “for as long as I can” – her “joy of delaying [to see] how it surprises you three months later.” (The gallery’s six-week residency and its modest stipend meant going way beyond that, giving Yang time to edit film dating back to 2021.)

“Everything Comes Full Circle,” Yang’s 2022 thesis film from pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Rhode Island School of Design, screens in the darkness of the gallery’s corner as a showcase of her methods: She shot it on Kodak color negatives that were printed out using inkjet technology and cut back into a filmstrip. The ink doesn’t really stay, so each time the film plays, it slowly melts.

Every time the film plays, it’s different. The degradation of the physical mirrors the erosion of memories.

A projector set up as part of “Nowhere Near” at Gallery 263. (Photo: Claire Ogden)

Experimental filmmaking plays with the medium, pushing it to its limits physically to see how how the visuals are affected. The works tend to choose style over content; but what they lack in plot they make up for in spectacle.

Like most people, Yang tends to prefer narrative films – but one experimental film stuck with her: Anthony McCall’s “Line Describing A Cone” (1973), which puts a smoke machine between projector and screen and makes smoke part of the work. Light emanates through the smoke in a beautiful way, and you can see the projected image within.

Yang’s exhibit includes film printed out using inkjet technology and painstakingly cut back into film for an ever-evolving watching experience. (Photo: Claire Ogden)

Elsewhere in her own “Nowhere Near” show are similar explorations. A series of short films will project on both sides of the building’s window; from inside, attendees will be able to hear and see, while those outside will see just the visual. This represents the duality of storytelling, Yang said.

Yang is also reminding viewers what goes into making a film – in these works, the machines get starring roles. “Projectors are always hidden in the back,” Yang said, “but I want to invite people to hear the projector running and to see what it takes to make moving images,” she said.

“Nowhere Near” is up through Saturday at Gallery 263, 263 Pearl St., Cambridgeport.

This post was updated Aug. 21, 2023, to correct that Lilan Yang got a master’s degree from the Rhode Island School of Design.