Sight Unseen brings avant-garde cinema to Baltimore

“Often these works are painterly, expressionistic, poetic and visceral.  They are often made on little or no budget and often they are a voice coming from and representing one author, the filmmaker.” – Margaret Rorison on avant-garde cinema


In the spring of 2012, Lorenzo Gattorna, Margaret Rorison and Kate Ewald got together to discuss the idea of putting together avant-garde film screenings in Baltimore. At the time, there wasn’t a strong focus or dedication to  avant-garde or experimental cinema in the area. Rorison had been hosting concerts at her home in Waverly and had been very active with The Red Room Collective where she put together experimental music and film shows from time to time, but wanted to connect with others who had a penchant for avant-garde cinema.

“I was in search of other people who were interested in focusing and collaborating on having a dedicated film series in Baltimore,” said Rorison.

Gattorna, a filmmaker himself, had recently moved from New York to Baltimore and saw the potential and need for an experimental film community in this area.

“Mainly the transition occurred to further the accessibility, application and appreciation of avant-garde cinema within a burgeoning arts community,” said Gattorna. “This type of time-based media could thrive due to its experimental tendencies because of those that came before such as Magic Eye by Mary Helena Clark and MicroCineFest by Skizz Cyzyk.”

Rorison, Gattorna and Ewald received a Launch Artists in Baltimore (LAB) grant in 2012, an initiative designed to keep recent graduate artists in Baltimore and invest and develop projects serving the region. “We proposed the idea for a new roaming film series and we won. The rest is history.”

From the LAB grant came Sight Unseen, a nomadic organization that showcases avant-garde film, video and expanded media in Baltimore. Now, nearly two years later, Sight Unseen has started a filmmaking workshop series thanks to another LAB grant they received in the spring. Their first workshop was held in July at Current Space and featured two members of the film collective, Process Reversal.

Sight Unseen is striving to make a permanent place for avant-garde film in Baltimore working with venues like Current Space, The Crown, The Baltimore Museum of Art, Johns Hopkins University, MICA, Gallery CA, The Wind-Up Space and The Red Room. While still a nomadic organization, Sight Unseen hopes to have a location to call its home sometime in the future, providing a permanent space for the avant-garde film community.

Sight Unseen has shown visual art/ avant-garde film screenings by several local filmmakers and artists including Jimmy Joe Roche and Alan Resnick of Wham City, Kate Ewald, a founding co-director of Sight Unseen, and Karen Yasinsky of the Johns Hopkins film program.

They are also in the midst of a fundraising campaign through Artists Public Domain, so follow the link for more information. The Deutsch Foundation supports  Sight Unseen and their dedication to experimental and avant-garde cinema.

Tonight (August 12th) Sight Unseen hosts Creative Destruction: The Smyth Brothers at Wind-Up Space in Station North. Jeremy and Brendan Smyth are 16mm documentary filmmakers and visual anthropologists that make films based on their world-wide explorations. Follow this link for more information.

Sight Unseen Highlight Reel from Lorenzo Gattorna on Vimeo.


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