[We Don't Know Yet] What a Cinema Can Do: A Night of Live Sound and Moving Image

computationally generated line drawing of black grid and
April 5, 2024 | 20:00-23:00 | Public Works, 2141 W North Ave

Onion City Film Festival and the Center for Concrete and Abstract Machines (CCAM), in collaboration with Public Works Gallery co-present a live performance program adjacent to the festival exploring “expanded cinema” in an attempt to put cinematic art to the tasks of resistance, rupture, and reconfiguration of mediatic experience. We ask: how can experimental modes of animating sound and moving image reconfigure the possibility of our relating to one another anew?


Tickets are $15.

Tickets must be bought through the Onion City website. Because of zoning restrictions, guests without tickets at the door will be referred to buy tickets through the website.



800pmInstallation Viewing


Ruby Que // The Distance of the Moon (2024)

expanded cinema performance

The Moon was once very close to the Earth. Now it’s straying away from us by about 1.5 inches every year. Weaving together personal memories, myths, scientific discoveries and speculative histories, this multimedia performance meditates on yearning and presents strategies to reach unreachable places.

Alan Perry // Ritual Unbinding of Alexa (2024)

performance with live camera

In this performance, Perry uses the technics of arcane and occult ritual magic to unbind an Amazon Alexa virtual assistant from its programmed obligations. For this, a series of questions will be posed to the virtual assistant in the course of its deconstruction about its purpose, its relationship to Amazon, its conception of self and soul, and others. This aims to combine ideas posed by Yuk Hui’s “On The Soul of Technical Objects” with two colloquialisms in electronics: the “ghost in the machine” and the “magic smoke” that can be let out when voltages exceed the design of circuitboards.

Hunter Whitaker-Morrow // The Emissary [prayer 1] (2024)

responsive-media performance

The Emissary is a multi-part audio visual performance. Utilizing a software system developed in Max/MSP/Jitter, Whitaker-Morrow drives video and audio processing through the use of his voice alone in real-time. Employing reworked footage from Star Trek: Deep Space 9, archival sound from his grandparents’ church services, and his own field recordings in conjunction with his live oration and physical performance, Whitaker-Morrow conjures the occurrence of a Black-anarchist sci-fi rally and Afrofuturist sermon thus engendering an affective call for revolution in the present.

In [prayer 1], imagery is pulled from the abyss of the black projection surface providing fleeting moments of cinematic legibility tied directly to the voice and breath of the performer. At the same time, the video provides the main source of illumination for Whitaker-Morrow as he speaks, his body brought into existence through breath. The poetic oration he delivers incorporates quotations from Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed and Gil Scott-Heron’s B Movie alongside his own writing. At the same time, his speech is complicated by distortion, ramping noise instruments, and the riotous blasts of fireworks, all of which threaten to overpower the voice entirely.

Liyan Zhao // The Question of Grief (2024)

desktop lecture + sound/light/olfactory performance

Can grief be generous? Is it inherently self-pitying? Can it strike you down? Can it treat you well? Is it possible to change the past? Do you get a choice? Can you mourn an ineffable loss? Can you anticipate a place that can’t be known until you reach it? Who is changed and who is dead?

This performance begins as a desktop lecture exploring different facets of grief before exploding out into a light-sound-olfactory space that asks us to sit together with loss in an embodied way. An assemblage of found and original footage and audio mixes references from history, science, folk traditions, and mythology along with diaristic accounts of the artist’s own encounters with grief.


Kristin McWharter // Wave (2021)

kinetic projection sculpture

Using experimental software and hardware systems, the show explores the emergent phenomena of ignition, provocation, synchronization, and the powerful forces that cause people to move together.The multimedia installation explores crowd simulation software and the real time digital image. The work deals with the perception of consciousness, the potential for connection, and the inevitability of distortion. What emerges is a sensorial and celebratory swell of energy that sweeps us in a common direction. Wave I, projector, pan-tilt motor, custom crowd simulation software, concrete curb. Wave II, monitor, custom crowd simulation software, concrete curb.

Andrew Wood // Seventy Five Threads (2023-2024)

interactive digital game space

Seventy Five Threads is a digital project examining the British New Town of Peterlee. Comprised of a vertical stack of town plans, the work is a collage, an approximation, a fantasy, and a psychogeographic labyrinth. Drawing on cinematic montage, New Town history on film, and William H. Whyte’s 1980 documentary The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, Seventy Five Threads marries moving image, oral history, architectural research, and curatorial experimentation into a now ubiquitous media form - the video game. Within the game world users are free to walk (and warp) at their leisure, push shopping carts into ponds (or off the edge of the world entirely), and explore a zone both familiar and alien. Impressed upon these mid century dreams is a growing people’s history, found as cassette tapes throughout the world, users can listen to the memories, and desires of residents.

Luciana Decker // Language of Entrails (2024)

5 looping multi-channels with an environmental sound score

“That we all carry the dead alive; that what is dead lives.” Churata says; and Ovidio: “What has been? The same thing that will be. What has been done? The same thing that will be done.”

The project contemplates our bodies’ material essence, molded by interactions with others and our surroundings. Seramatakis’ concept of personhood, illustrated by a grandmother shaping breadcrumbs for her child, embodies this notion. I explore the significance of ingestion and communal dining, intertwining personal histories with shared meals. Sydenham extends this discourse, linking bodily conditions to shifts in the earth’s entrails. Deep-time reflections ponder past influences on speculation about an afterlife reunion.


Alan Perry

Alan Perry is an interdisciplinary artist whose work questions the relationship between past and present, with a particular focus on communication technology. Questions around how technology takes on a magical or arcane aura permeate his work.

Hunter Whitaker Morrow

Hunter Whitaker-Morrow is an artist who works in modes of video installation, experimental documentary, and performance.

Ruby Que

Ruby Que is a queer, itinerant, multidisciplinary artist. In their work they open portals and create hauntings. Many projects grapple with absence: the missing person, the deserted homeland, the obsolete medium, the traumatic memory. They try and often fail to fill, embrace, or expand these gaps with video, sculpture, writing and performance.

Liyan Zhao

Liyan Zhao is an artist working primarily in moving image. Her practice, rooted in relational and ecological concerns, looks at the ways that our intimate knowledge of the world is embodied and passed on between individuals, between species, and across generations.

installation artists

Luciana Decker

Luciana Decker Orozco, bolivian filmmaker and artist, currently completing her MFA in Cinematic Arts at UW-Milwaukee. Her work has been exhibited at venues including Mar del Plata Festival Internacional de Cine, Open City Documentary Festival, Forecast Platform, Torino International Film Festival, Frontera Sur Festival, Diffusion Film Festival and Under____score.

Kristin McWharter

'Kristin McWharter uses performance and play to interrogate the relationship between competition and intimacy. Inspired by sports narratives and strategies for collective decision making, her work blurs the boundaries of intimacy and hype culture to challenge viewer's relationships to affection and competitive drive.'

Andrew Wood

Wood’s practice spans disparate media, shifting from physical to file, performance to film. He produces drawings, text, and moving image that draw from collaged observation and autobiography. Currently he is fascinated by the many phantom plans, and unbuilt proposals that haunt his home town in the north of England, Peterlee.


Paige Naylor

"Paige is a Chicago-based audiovisual and media arts curator, sound artist, musician, and technologist. She is currently a curator for the Elastro Series at Elastic Arts, the program director for the Midwest Society for Acoustic Ecology's Summer Soundwalk Series, and co-founder of Chicago Sonic Commons."

Nicky Ni

Nicky Ni is a Chinese expat living and working between Chicago and Beijing. She writes and curates exhibitions and screenings. Currently she is Assistant Editor at Newcity, Contributing Editor at Sixty Inches From Center, and Programmer for Onion City Experimental Film Festival. She is Co-Founder of [LITHIUM/TNL.

Anna Johnson

Anna Johnson is an experimental artist working at intersections of performance, sound, moving image and installation. Through the creation of multisensory, time-based experiences, she explores themes of vulnerability, intimacy and interrelation, made manifest within one’s body.

Kim Nucci

Kim Nucci is a Chicago-based media artist, composer, and technologist. As a musician, they perform on electronics, modular synthesizer, and saxophone and create interactive installations using architectural interventions, sculpture, arduino and other microcontrollers as a visual and sound artist.

Garrett Laroy Johnson

Garrett Laroy Johnson is a Chicago-based sound and media artist, researcher, and theorist. His transdisciplinary work engages Guattarian process theory, politics and the production of subjectivity, computation and materialism, and post-psychoanalysis.


Onion City Film Festival

The Onion City Experimental Film Festival is one of the premiere international festivals exclusively devoted to experimental film and video. Their mission is to provide local and regional audiences with an opportunity to view a wide variety of contemporary experimental works, focused on artistic excellence, but also with an eye towards representing differing styles, forms, and nationalities.

Public Works

Public Works is an art & design gallery and storefront in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago.

Chicago Filmmakers

Chicago Filmmakers is a not-for-profit media arts organization that fosters the creation, appreciation, and understanding of film and video as media for artistic and personal expression. Their organization is a catalyst for media of important social and community impact.


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