Bash Compactor: Big ‘Screen’

Written by Peter Neofotis on . Posted in Bash Compactor, Posts.

In seeing Rob
interact with
others at the Hudson Hotel that followed the premiere of his film Screen Test, it became apparent that he
himself could be the subject of an artist’s study. Highly animated, wearing a
silver-sequined shirt underneath a conservative formal black jacket, the
founder of the Click Drag and Mother parties holds a no nonsense, mature air
about him. “I had to film Screen Test before I could move forward,” he confessed to me in the
“But I realized in doing so, that I also had to let go of the theater piece as
it was.”

How to
document but at the same time let go of his highly successful performance art
show with Theo Kogan must have been a daunting challenge for Roth as he sought to adapt the
artwork to film. To this end, he succeeds not in creating the enormous tension
that can exist in such live performance art, but instead whirls us into a
meditative journey through a dark/light modern mosaic, mocking the post-World
War One machine culture of mindless industry output. At the same time, he
succeeds in giving his audience a glimpse of a reality that might be pure and

As a
filmmaker, Roth is immensely talented at making us question reality; there are
moments of real wonder displayed by his painterly hand. The most jarring and
wonderful come in the juxtaposition of colorful scenes of Kogan singing with
freezes to the set transforming to a gray stage filled with men wearing
elephant-like gas masks. His mixing of film media—some course grained—further
aids in creating feelings of disorientation within a world which is fantastic
yet familiar. Lastly, Roth’s film contains a scene with a haunting light on a
male torso, colored like internal organs flashing as the external becomes
internal and stark nakedness oddly becomes a comfort.

It is at these
moments, when Roth has forsaken the theater piece and created something new
that the work works best. Yet there is an inner conflict in this film—or an artist
still at war with himself—because at times he seems to forget that as a
filmmaker his characters no longer not need a “stage.” The result was that
often I was left wanting to be in the audience for the live performance, or
just wanting more. As strong and innovative as this film is, I still felt that
Mr. Roth has the talent to push the limits of deconstruction further.

In Roth we
have an artist who is able to carry an Ariadne thread through the most baffling
of labyrinths of the modern psyche. The mystically wonderful work as a whole
seems to question why we continue to live in a world were the personal lives of
celebrity have become an industrial commodity, comfort is viewed as an
artifice, and an individual must fit into a box and be dissected while in his
place in an assembly line. Rob Roth, like a modern Brecht, takes his hammer and
smashes apart such imprisoning notions, leading us through a dark and joyous
romp to illuminate the the present world.