Bill Brown is a media artist interested in ways landscape is interpreted, appropriated, and reconfigured according to human desires, memories, and dreams. His research interests include haunted houses, UFO’s, memorial architecture, and outsider archaeology.
Brown’s films have screened at venues around the world, including the Rotterdam Film Festival, the London Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival, and Lincoln Center. He lives in North Carolina and teaches at UNC-Chapel Hill. Sleeping Giant is excited to have Bill return to Jacksonville to present a few of his short works.
“Buffalo Common,” a wisp of a film at 23 minutes, is a veritable smorgasbord of sorrow and a chronicle of the American Midwest as a no-man’s-land of dying towns and hobbling industry. Documentary rarely strives for formal beauty, but Brown’s film has the luster of real art… Brown’s hauntingly beautiful film calls to mind Robert Frank, Jim Jarmusch and Wim Wenders. –Felicia Feaster, Creative Loafing, 2002
Bill Brown makes reference to “the secret languages of exile,” and while this reflective, even somber film presents a pastiche of places across Canada where Brown has lived, its real subject is the limits of knowledge. Its long takes are accompanied by verbal meditations on the nation’s recent history, including the separatist bombings in Quebec during the 60s, and the battle between English and French becomes a metaphor for the filmmaker’s divided mind. Brown applies stickers with city names to a huge outdoor map of Canada, his voice-over suggesting that ‘we’ve found our place in the universe’ as a result of the ‘Copernican revolution’ but then the stickers are blown away by the wind. Brown implies that images are insufficient: we need to know their history, their locations, their meaning. But landscapes can’t be fully decoded, nor past events captured on film: in the final shot a woman sings, ‘I don’t know where he’s headin’ for,’ while a car travels in a circle. — Fred Camper, Chicago Reader
Life on the Mississippi
An essay film about a river and the limits of knowing it. Using Mark Twain’s “Life On The Mississippi” as a road map, Brown travels along the Mississippi River from Memphis, Tennessee to New Orleans and considers ways that river pilots, paddlers, historical re-enactors, and civil engineers attempt to know the river through modeling, measurement, and simulation. As the planet warms and the oceans rise, this film asks whether the measurements we take and the models we make are wrong, or if we just keep learning the wrong lessons from them.
A pocket-sized travelogue about leaving one hometown and looking for the next one.
In this film, Brown re-works 16mm footage that he shot years ago during a cross-country road trip from Chicago to Las Vegas. The spatial discontinuities of the road trip are rendered as visual continuities across three frames as Brown goes in search of the next town to fall in and out of love with.