Tristen Ives’s new film is an exercise in vulnerability and the inexpressible

Screening: take a pic of me and leave me here

Public Space One — Sunday. March 1 at 6 p.m.

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From ‘take a pic of me and leave me here’ by Tristen Ives. — courtesy of the artist

On Sunday, March 1, at 6 p.m., Public Space One will screen PS1 Free Studio Resident Tristen Ives’ diaristic film take a pic of me and leave me here, a screening and installation that is the culmination of their four-month residency. The screening is free, and patrons should note that 225 and 229 N. Gilbert are only accessible via stairs.

Ives’ films often capture their body in the frame: performing labor, moving in play, or reposing.

“I grew up a dancer, and I remember dancing for hours in front of a camcorder and immediately playing the footage back to see where I messed up,” Ives reflects. “I feel like that repetitiveness is … the purest form of research and truth-seeking for me. Maybe if I can embody how this person did this movement, maybe somehow I can understand how they felt, how their body felt when they performed this act.”

Movement is a radical act of empathy for Ives—a way of making sense of their place within the world.

Ives is a 2019 graduate of the University of Iowa Department of Cinematic Arts with a certificate in Writing. They are a former executive director of the Bijou Film Board and currently the assistant head projectionist, programming assistant, and theater manager at FilmScene. Their films have screened at Les Femmes Underground International Film Festival, Montreal Underground Film Festival and Seen|Scene Screening Series. Additionally, their film paper dolls was analyzed as part of a paper presented at the University of Chicago’s 2019 conference Documenting the Archive.

A still from Tristen Ives’ ‘paper dolls.’ — courtesy of the artist

Ives notes that they did not always think they would be a filmmaker. They credit the UI for “really open[ing] up my world into seeing that I could do this on my own terms. That I don’t need to adhere to Hollywood’s terms. I could make films in my apartment by myself with whacky DIY costumes and makeup and that is just as valid.”

They cite filmmakers like Dani Leventhal ReStack, Jonas Mekas and UI MFA alum Carl Elsaesser as inspirations for take a pic of me and leave me here. These filmmakers, noteworthy for their diaristic and performative approaches, evoke the same sensibilities present in Ives’ own work.

“I am always drawn to diaristic and vulnerability,” Ives says. “I am really drawn to openness and bravery. Images that make the audience hold their breath from intensity. I’m drawn to experimenting and filming as a surviving technique. This film I’ve made has been extremely cathartic and I feel that I needed to make this film.”

In many ways, take a pic of me and leave me here is Ives’ most ambitious and achingly tender film to date. It’s a film about belonging, or the lack thereof (in a house, in a body). It’s a film about identity and what happens when identity is regulated to boxes that don’t account for the full spectrum of one’s humanity. It’s a film steeped in silence as if to intimate what cannot be said whether out of circumstance or survival.

Tristen Ives’ film ‘take a pic of me and leave me here’ will screen at Public Space One on Sunday, March 1. — courtesy of the artist

“When I want to focus on something intensely, everything sonically falls away for me,”Ives says. “So I wanted to echo that experience.”

But take a pic of me and leave me here is also a film that is ludic in its editing approaches. At one point in the film, Ives addresses the camera about having blood drawn and the vein rolling. The scene abruptly cuts to the camera rolling, the image tumbling over itself, as if embodying the vein previously described. These formal moves of levity allow the film to breathe, balancing the more bracing moments like a phone call with a parent that repeatedly starts and stops, Ives stalwartly training the camera on their face as their expression shifts from hope, to frustration, to resignation.

There’s a moment in the film that always snaps me to attention in my own body. Ives writes on a piece of paper taped to a window: “I think about getting ‘change’ tattooed on me. I can’t decide if it’s a memorium—or a demand.”

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Change is a liminal place, a juncture in the road from which we can walk toward freedom, toward the unknown. Sometimes change is chosen for us; if we’re lucky, we get to choose it for ourselves. take a pic of me and leave me here is a deftly rendered gesture and performance toward this interstice which is the breath of becoming: hushed, fervent, ever searching.

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