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Dancing for Dara

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“One Trick Pony”

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“Little Flags”

Film nerds who haven’t seen Ben Coonley’s “One Trick Pony” are in for a real treat tonight. In this almost five-minute-long 2002 short, a toy pony—yes, you read that right—offers dance instructions for the Texas two-step. If that sounds a little simple, it is, but this cheeky short can still catch you off-guard. Performance/video artist Coonley is no one-trick pony himself—just check out his trailer for the final 2008 edition of the New York Underground Film Festival starring “dermatologist” Dr. Jonathan Zizmor. And “One Trick Pony” is just one of nine impressive shorts assembled by Chicago’s Video Data Bank for tonight’s benefit screening.

Whom the benefit is for is what really makes the evening worth attending. Artist/activist Dara Greenwald discovered she had cancer last year, and since last fall her community of artists has been sponsoring benefits to help her and her artist/activist partner Josh MacPhee, the founder of the Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative. (For more information, visit The Video Data Bank put together this program of shorts—excerpts from Pink Bloque’s “Dancing in the Street,” Coonley’s “One Trick Pony,” Tara Matiek’s “Operation Invert,” Caspar Stracke and Gabriela Monroy’s “Kuleshov Sukiyaki,” Melinda Stone and Igor Vamos’ “Suggested Photo Spots,” Jim Finn’s “Sharambaba,” Jem Cohen’s “Little Flags,” Paul Chan’s “Untitled Video on Lynne Stewart and Her Conviction, the Law and Poetry,” and Greenwald with Ona Mirkinson’s “The Package”—that was locally coordinated by a battery of creatively minded and socially engaged hyphenates: Stephanie Barber, KJ Mohr, Jenny Graf Sheppard, Jesse Stiles, and Olivia Robinson.

“She found out in late June, early July, and since then people have been planning different events and fundraisers because while she does have health care, it doesn’t cover all of the costs associated,” co-organizer Robinson says. “And they’re artists, and that goes with not having a huge amount of disposable income.”

A multimedia fiber artist, Robinson moved to Baltimore last summer to take a full-time teaching position at MICA. “I met Dara while in grad school up in Troy, N.Y., up at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute,” she says. “And Dara, Josh, and I have collaborated on a number of art projects over the last four or five years.”

One of those projects, Spectres of Liberty (see:, offers an illuminating window into Greenwald’s fluid intermingling of creative labor and social awareness. The project imagined the ghosts—of space, of social interaction, of memory—of an African-American church in Troy, N.Y., that was demolished; a parking lot occupies that space now. Tonight’s suggested donation: $5-10, with all proceeds going to Greenwald and her partner/primary caregiver MacPhee. (Bret McCabe)

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