In the 2003 film Get Rid of Yourself—screening at New York’s Metrograph on February 12—the actress and 90s It Girl Chloë Sevigny walks around a kitchen in a floral dress, repeating the lines of protesters at the 2001 G8 summit, in Genoa, Italy, which turned violent when anti-globalization riots broke out. “I ran into an old friend I hadn’t seen in months,” she says, looking down at her hands. “I saw her, all by herself, smashing up an ATM machine with a hammer.”
Sevigny talks, laughs, goes silent, and then starts all over again. The whole thing is awkward—the way she fumbles over her words, the way she clears her throat, the way she breaks up her speech with silences. The scenes with Sevigny—and there are a number of them—are interstitial, blue periods in an art film that is very much about the noise of the world.
Made by the once anonymous art collective Bernadette Corporation, Get Rid of Yourself sees Genoa through the eyes of the Black Bloc, an anonymous anarchist collective that convened during the 27th G8 summit.
Edited shortly after 9/11, the film cuts back and forth between images of the towers crashing and bloody footage from the Genoa riots. Cars are lit on fire and cops attack protesters; disorder reigns. There’s also an audio component, which features commentary from members of the Black Bloc. These scenes, along with Sevigny’s clips, create dissonance between what’s on-screen and what’s heard.
They also reflect Bernadette Corporation’s unique approach to politics and art. Formed in 1994 in response to the hyper-acceleration of capitalism and big business, the ironically dubbed “corporation” worked in mediums such as zines, films, and a fashion line that featured ready-to-wear collections for downtown kids. Helmed by the elusive Bernadette Van-Huy, Bernadette Corporation made highly disruptive art for disaffected freaks and aliens.
”Get Rid of Yourself for me is musical,” Van-Huy tells me. “It’s the rhythms, sounds, and images of a riot pulled apart and used with compositional intent.”
At Metrograph, Get Rid of Yourself will play alongside another of the collective’s films, 2000’s Hell Frozen Over, which intercuts footage of a poetry lecture by the late theorist and writer Sylvère Lotringer with a fashion shoot. Both films—the first is an hour long, the second just under 20 minutes—get at simmering disillusionment with clotted capitalist wealth and decadence.
Radical fringe artists such as the Bernadette Corporation make work that is de-stabilizing, yes, but also invigorating. How many political films can say they have Chloë Sevigny pacing around a serenely lit kitchen, reading out lines about blowing up gas stations? To quote one particularly potent moment in Get Rid of Yourself, “The revolution is molecular.”
Hell Frozen Over and Get Rid of Yourself will show at Metrograph, in New York, on February 12
Sophie Kemp is a writer living in New York City. She is a contributor to AIR MAIL’s Arts Intel Report