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You Know What Them All Say: The Films of Merle Mitchell

February 6, 2020 @ 7:00 pm


Come enjoy an evening of short films by CHARLES JOHANNSEN.

Chuck Johannsen (same guy) has been making films and videos for 50 years. He’s made lots of videos for other people, documenting events and performances, and producing promotional/fundraising videos for non-profits. Out of personal interest, and paid from his own pocket, he’s made environmental documentaries including “Aldo Leopold at Faville Grove” (about the beginnings of prairie preservation – near Lake Mills) and “Bracelets for Birds” (about an an all-volunteer bird banding station west of Beloit).

In addition, he’s made a bunch of projects under the umbrella of Dada-loco… a loose group of artists and musicians that formed as a band around Watertown and Madison in 1971. Dada-loco continued as a film group, with Chuck Johannsen and Dal Lazlo as the main perpetrators, along with many long-time contributors. Besides the dozen or so projects that include the Mitchell twins, there are notable videos like “Poetry in Watertown”, “Wayne’s Art Shorts”, “Dr. Trondant’s UFO Report” and more.

Currently, he is working on videos for conservation and nature education organizations, as well as putting together a number of short (20 second) video bits of Dal Lazlo artwork that Mr. Lazlo keeps changing and painting over, making for interesting dissolves. He has a Youtube channel under the name Charles Johannsen and a Facebook page, called Dada-loco, that has some videos and over 2000 photos of Dal Lazlo artwork.

You Know What Them All Say is a 38 minute chronicle of the 40-year film career of “outsider artist” Merle Mitchell.

Merle and his twin brother, Marvin, lived at Bethesda Lutheran Home in Watertown during the 1960s and early 70s, then spent time in Fort Atkinson before moving to Illinois. Over the years, they acted in numerous Dada-loco Productions (originally a Watertown-based film group) – the first in 1974, the final one in 2016, months before Merle’s death. Merle appeared in around 12 films, with Marvin joining him in nine of them.

Another Dada-loco documentary, Bill and Art, with epilogue, about 25 minutes, will round out the evening. Bill Sweeney became quadriplegic in 1998 as the result of an auto accident near Lake Mills. The film focuses on Bill’s interest in art as a way to deal with being paralyzed. After this film was made, Bill started doing remarkable Photoshop work, inserting his image into painting masterworks. At Bill’s request, this video is not on Youtube.  (Bill is a private guy, and is afraid people will steal his artwork or use it without permission). So, this is the only chance to see this film.

On one level, these are art therapy films, and the projects are infused with compassion. But the approach is 100% Dada-loco…irony, surrealism, and humor.


February 6, 2020
7:00 pm