Deborah Stratman
The conventional understanding of time posits that it flows forward only, that the past is the past, and we are always heading toward a better future. In her closed and now reopened Chicago Works exhibition at the MCA, the experimental filmmaker Deborah Stratman creates a far more critical and embodied experience of history, immersing visitors in the sounds and sights and troubles of hundreds of years of Illinois. The main vehicle for this travel is her elegiac film, “The Illinois Parables,” which includes chapters on the removal of the Cherokee, the destructiveness of tornadoes and fires, the invention of the nuclear reactor, and the murderous police raid on the headquarters of the Black Panthers. Everything is intercut with strikingly beautiful scenes of forests, rivers and prairie, in all seasons, as they are now and as they may also have been then. Nature, at least, has borne witness, as Stratman asks the rest of us to try to do, too. A new twelfth chapter, “Feeling Tone,” recreates Studs Terkel’s WFMT radio booth, complete with an audio program of the great oral historian’s unedited interviews. (For those unable to visit the museum, audio files, transcripts and more are available on the MCA website. The film will be streamed online during the show’s final week.)

—Lori Waxman 2020-09-22 1:37 PM
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