Devised from fragments of color and music, Lynn Marie Kirby's kinetic films reflect the splintered nature of urban living. Yet if Kirby's body of work were ever to spawn a movement, it would be called Pragmatic Optimism. Her camera always pitched toward the light, Kirby provides 10 moments of beauty for every one of alienation.
The San Francisco experimental filmmaker is in the spotlight this month with a midcareer retrospective at the S.F. Cinematheque, a show at Ampersand International Arts (Nov. 22-Dec. 20 at 1001 Tennessee at 20th Street), and a Web-based piece at online salon CultureLounge (www.culturelounge.com, click on "Lab"). The Cinematheque series, "Discreet and Continuous Border Crossings: The Multi Media Art of Lynn Marie Kirby," compresses two decades of films, videos, and installations into three high-energy nights.
One highlight is Three Domestic Interiors ("Relocating Boundaries" on Nov. 24), an oblique, impressionistic profile of three unrelated adults, which gradually exposes the fiction in the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. That show also includes the three-screen installation Off the Tracks (2001), which uses a brief sequence from the filmmaker's train trip with her husband and young son to illuminate the imperfections of human communication.
Screens at 7:30 p.m. Sundays, Nov. 17 and 24, at the S.F. Art Institute, 800 Chestnut (at Jones), and Thursday, Nov. 21, at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission (at Third Street), S.F.
Admission is $4-7
In both this piece and Photons in Paris ("Location of the Boundary" on Nov. 17), Kirby repeatedly degrades the digital image into rectangular blocks that resemble paper cutouts. By reducing the shot to light and shadow Kirby reveals the DNA of her medium.
"The Observer and the Boundary" (Nov. 21) includes her 1988 breakthrough, Sharon and the Birds on the Way to the Wedding. An exploration of the chasm between what we are taught about romance and what it really is, Sharon is an elegant investigation into the connection between the private and the public. And, as ever, Kirby finds beauty in the seams.