Saturday February 25, 7:30pm
Why Sing When Nobody Hears?
Films by Mary Billyou
Q&A with the artist following the screening

Still from “Idyll” by Mary Billyou, 2014 – image courtesy of the artist

Microscope welcomes Brooklyn-based artist and filmmaker Mary Billyou back to the gallery for Why Sing When Nobody Hears?, a screening of films and videos including the New York premieres of her latest GUN, HAT, GIRL, SCREAM (2016, 16mm, 12 min) and Demonstration (16mm transferred to digital video, 4 min).

Poetic, social, or political, Billyou’s works present a range of subject matter combined with a sensibility for and understanding of the varied moving image formats employed in each work.

Her new video Demonstration utilizes footage from a found 16mm instructional film on self-defense, slowed and dramatically looped, to form an unexpected choreography between attacker and victim. In GUN, HAT, GIRL, SCREAM black & white film both found and shot by the artist is used to created the look and atmosphere of film noir in a work consisting of four 100 foot films, played in an order determined by the projectionist at the time of screening.

The lo-fi aesthetic and texture of toy Pixelvision video underlines the punk attitude behind the bold distorted tunes of “the best band to last an entire afternoon”, featuring Rebecca Gaffney, Victoria Reis, and Billyou herself in her 1995 Baby Girl Jesus, shot in a loft above an Adams Morgan, DC bakery. Other works such as CBS Eye featuring a “rayogram” of the CBS logo,  Available Properties, addressing urban development, and her anti-war film/essay The Wonder of it All, in which a nine-year-old reads from Virginia Wolf to a sequence of press war photographs, finds the artist engaged with socio-economic issues – past and present.

The title of the night, Why Sing When Nobody Hears? is borrowed from Billyou’s paraphrasing of a letter by Emily Dickinson, referring to the singing of a bird in her garden that goes unnoticed, with a parallel to the condition of the artist. The bird responds: “My business is to sing”, and such seems Billyou’s.

Mary Billyou will be in attendance and available for a Q&A following the screening.

Mary Billyou is a practicing filmmaker whose work accesses cultural memory by directing attention to the limits of institutional frames. Editing found footage with original material, Billyou investigates the aporias of cinema’s structural forms. Re-ordering anonymous authoritative directives, the plastic qualities of media lead to further unresolved questions. Currently, she is writing a series of articles on minor cinema in NYC for The Brooklyn Rail. In January, her first films were acquired by the Getty Research Institute as part of the feminist counter-cinema Joanie4Jackie. Screenings include: Art in General, The New Museum, Participant Inc., Images Festival, Spectacle Theater, UnionDocs, Bard College, and Sundance Int’l Film Festival, among others. She has been awarded filmmaking grants from Outpost, NYSCA and the Jerome Foundation. Billyou received her MFA in Film, Video, and New Media from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and attended The Whitney Independent Study Program. Her work has been recognized in The New York Times,, and Octopus Journal, among others.

(running time approx. 50 minutes)

Demonstration, 2017, 16mm transferred to digital video, 4 min
A new dance craze is sweeping the nation. Check out these fantastic moves and get ideas from the pros. Pay attention to the dancers to see what they are doing. What is their technique like? Do their emotions complement the music? If you notice what inspires you in their movement, it may help you decide what you want to do.

GUN, HAT, GIRL, SCREAM, 2016, 16mm, 12 min
Four 16mm films, each one-hundred feet long. Either by chance or inclination, the programmer/projectionist plays a role in the presentation of the sequence. The film’s interchangeable elements allow for dispersal and reorganization. A film noir, GUN, HAT, GIRL… plays with B-movie aesthetics and its characteristic look toward the past.

Idyll, 2014, 16mm, super8 and digital video, 6 min
Fewer families were born, lived, and died in the same place. People, especially young ones, were ready for a new life, as far removed from the old one as possible. Living space was much smaller and there were few, if any, servants. Many wives were working outside the home and leisure was not to be spent doing housework, but in being out of doors as much as possible. Emphasis was on informal living and informal entertaining.

Available Properties, 2011, 16mm transferred to video, 6 min, silent
A Real Estate film of the East Riviera.

CBS Eye, 2010, 16mm rayogram, 3 min
A color rayogram of the famous monocular logo, where registration is nowhere to be found. “The following film was pre-recorded.”

The Wonder of It All,  2010, video, 9 min
Press photographs are stacked, one on top of another, of war, conflict, and border crossings. Over these is the sound of a nine-year old girl reading aloud from Virginia Woolf’s anti-war essays. This video is grounded strictly within the American amnesiac arenas of cash money and the rat race.

Baby Girl Jesus, 1995, Pixelvision video, 3 min 40 sec
Shot in Washington, DC 1993 above Heller’s Bakery in Mount Pleasant. Fisher Price Pixelvision music video of the best band to last an entire afternoon.

Ours Be the Tossing, 2005, video, 7 min
“Why sing when nobody hears?” No response is made to the letters read in this film of lonely island landscapes. Meetings are imagined, but are never realized. Intimate yearnings and unknown bliss intermix over flickering home movies.


Still from “GUN, HAT, GIRL, SCREAM” by Mary Billyou, 2016 – image courtesy of the artist


With the underwriting support of the Robert D. Bielecki Foundation.

  • join our mailing list

    F T V instagram