Free, outdoor Beltline series will project art films onto 8-story building

Emory professor Gregory Zinman is bringing experimental films to the people.

Credit: Courtesy of Off the Wall @ 725 Ponce

Credit: Courtesy of Off the Wall @ 725 Ponce

When they write the history of hipsters in America, Emory University associate professor Gregory Zinman may very well be cited as one of 21st century’s original bohos.

Long before he was nerding out over handmade and experimental film as an academic at Georgia Tech and now at Emory, Zinman burnished his hipster bonafides in the Brooklyn band Sea Ray that opened for acts like Interpol and Yo La Tengo. He also labored as a fact-checker at Vogue.

In what may be the first pop-culture reference to him, writer Ann Powers in a 2000 New York Times feature surveyed a cadre of artists and musicians, including Zinman, about their favorite Brooklyn “pleasure dens” on a borough bar crawl.

When he’s not schooling a new generation in the avant-garde cinema of Stan Brakhage or Al Reinert at Emory, Zinman is a curator who will bring his esoteric cinematic expertise outdoors to the Beltline on Friday, Aug. 18.

In conjunction with 725 Ponce, Zinman is curating the inaugural public film and video series “Off the Wall.” The innovative mix of experimental, art and feature films will be presented on the Eastside Trail of the Beltline.

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

The logistics of pulling off the project were challenging, requiring two enormous laser projectors installed on the North and Line Apartments roofline to project the films onto the eight-story 725 Ponce building, creating a 100-foot “screen.”

The ongoing series will begin with a screening of “Let Light Perpetual,” a mood piece from Atlanta wife-and-husband team Whitney Stansell and Micah Stansell and short experimental work by New York-based filmmaker and photographer Alyson Denny.

“All three of them are incredibly sensuous filmmakers” said Zinman, speaking about this inaugural pairing of films. “Which is one of the reasons I wanted to kick off with them, because their work is so inviting and warm.”

Denny “has this real feel for texture, and color,” Zinman said. “And she’s made these incredibly beautiful, hypnotic, abstract loops. And I think of them as almost a beacon. They’re a way to call people to the site, to invite people in.”

The Stansells, who are artists and filmmakers, have often grounded their work in the emotional landscape of Atlanta. In “Let Light Perpetual,” they have created what Zinman describes as an “ode to the Old Fourth Ward.”

“It has an almost elegiac quality about it. It’s also very beautiful. It tells a story of three children, a brother, sister and friend, as they sort of move through a single day.”

Credit: Tamara Gonzalez

Credit: Tamara Gonzalez

Audiences can bring a folding chair or pull up a patch of grass to watch the films. The series will continue with a lineup of contemporary Black video art curated by Maori Karmael Holmes, the Philadelphia-based BlackStar festival creator and filmmaker.

A series of short dance films will include Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Anima” featuring Radiohead’s Thom York, one by Georgia State professor Kristan Woolford and another by avant-garde cinema master Maya Deren. Also screening later in “Off the Wall” will be the groundbreaking 1991 Black independent cinema classic, Julie Dash’s “Daughters of the Dust.”

Though Zinman has programmed films at venues such as the Museum of the Moving Image in New York and the Smithsonian in D.C., as well as at the Ann Arbor Film Festival, he acknowledged that this is his first truly public program.

Credit: Courtesy of Maori Karmael Holmes

Credit: Courtesy of Maori Karmael Holmes

“That’s why I’m so excited about it,” he said of curating video art for Atlantans in a public setting.

“The truth of the matter is that if you provide the right kind of information and the right kind of context and you’re inviting people to experience something together, there are ways to make this not challenging, not confusing, but beautiful, uplifting.”

Part of Zinman’s elevator pitch for “Off the Wall” project was the city’s headline-grabbing film production.

“Atlanta has become this epicenter for film and television production over the last 10 years and right now outpaces Hollywood. But you know, there’s room for other kinds of film and video work that doesn’t get shown. And this was such a unique platform for that new opportunity,” he said.

Credit: Courtesy of Off the Wall @725 Ponce

Credit: Courtesy of Off the Wall @725 Ponce

Zinman’s interest in film and art and bridging the divide between academia and pop culture began growing up the child of academics in East Lansing, Michigan, before collecting degrees at Yale and New York University. He has been in Atlanta since 2011 with his wife, Lauren Klein, as associate professor in Emory’s Quantitative Theory & Methods Department and its English Department. They have two children.

In a unique crossover career, Zinman has written for eggheady journals like October and authored a scholarly book about video artist Nam June Paik. But Zinman has also mused on AI, holograms and avant-garde outer-space films for a far more general audience in the pages of Elle and The Atlantic.

He was a technical consultant on James Gray’s “Ad Astra,” dipping into his film knowledge to help the director achieve the proper conceptually grounded, trippy vision of space for the film. And writing for publications like The New Yorker, he has also defied the academic stereotype of humorlessness with snarky hot takes like “Elon Musk refers to Mars as a ‘fixer-upper’ planet — a colony in waiting, ready for those fleeing the condemned warehouse-district condo project known as Earth.”

“I’m pretty much an omnivore when it comes to movies and film,” Zinman said, admitting to occasionally taking in hoi polloi fare like “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning.”

“For me, it just comes down to ‘I love this stuff, and I want to share it,’” he said. “And I want to share it beyond, you know, the so called Ivory Tower.”


“Off the Wall @725 Ponce”

Aug. 18-Sept. 2, 9-10 p.m. Fridays and Sundays. Series continues through December with additional programming. Free. 725 Ponce on the Beltline, 725 Ponce de Leon Ave. NE. Offthewall725 on Twitter/X and Offthewall725 on Instagram.