Organized by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston for the month of February 2013, this film series included all movies directed by Kubrick shown in chronological order, from Fear and Desire (1953) to Eyes Wide Shut (1999). With a few exceptions, all films were screened on 35mm, with prints provided by UCLA and Harvard Film Archive.
Feb 27, 2013
Organized by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston for the month of February 2013, this film series included all movies directed by Kubrick shown in chronological order, from Fear and Desire (1953) to Eyes Wide Shut (1999). With a few exceptions, all films were screened on 35mm, with prints provided by UCLA and Harvard Film Archive.
Posted by Dan Streible at 12:54 AM
Feb 26, 2013
- two blues performances from the sixties, “Every Time We Say Goodbye” and “Ball and Chain,” on loop (eye-level television)
- Cecil Taylor: All the Notes, 2004 documentary on the free jazz pianist (eye-level television)
- Symphony in Black: A Rhapsody of Negro Life, 1935 short film set to the music of Duke Ellington (wall projection)
- R&B performances from the band Trouble Funk (eye-level television)
- a performance of the song “Devil Got My Woman” (floor-level television)
- Anything for Jazz: Jaki Byard, 1980 short documentary (eye-level television)
- Art Ensemble of Chicago, 1981 documentary about the musical group (wall projection)
- several Henry Flynt musical works on loop (audio-only station)
- Henry Flynt in New York, 2008 web video profile on the avant-garde artist (eye-level television)
- Space is the Place, 1974 science fiction musical film written by and featuring musician Sun Ra (large eye-level television)
- The Wire, 2002-2008, five-season television program (floor-level television)
- The Polymath, or The Life and Opinions of Samuel R. Delany, Gentleman, 2007 documentary on the life of the science fiction author (eye-level television)
- music videos by the eighties hardcore punk bands “Bad Brains” and “Minor Threat” on loop (floor-level television)
- Richard Pryor: Live in Concert, 1979 recording of the stand-up comedian (eye-level television)
- rap music videos “212,” “Get Got,” “Wut,” “Ellen Degeneres,” and “Are You . . . Can You . . . Were You . . .” on loop (eye-level television)
Posted by Rebecca Fraimow at 7:50 AM
On Wednesday, February 20th, 2013, at 7 pm, the Millennium Film Workshop held the first event in a three part Personal Cinema Series at the New School under the banner New From Old: Practices of Appropriation. The venue was Wollman Hall, in the Eugene Lang Building on the outskirts of the West Village.
A sampling of the exhibited works:
Posted by Jeisenstat at 1:23 AM
Dance on Camera Festival
1-5th February 2013
The 41st edition of the Dance on Camera Festival took place in February at the Film Society Lincoln Center. For five days, people dashed to and from locations, trying to catch as much as possible. In previous years the festival was primarily situated in the Walter Reade Theater, which sat many more at a time, but prevented simultaneous events. This year three separate screening locations enabled the showcase of a larger amount of films but also caused some trouble for dedicated viewers, like myself, as we tried to be in several places at once, so as not to miss anything. The annual event was primarily located in the FSLC's Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center. The Francesca Beale Theater and Amphitheater hosted the majority of the feature length films paired with shorts. Almost every film program was either introduced and/or followed by a Q&A with directors and dancers. Joanna Ney (co-curator of the festival) held the microphone most of the time while one session was conducted by the former MOMA film and media curator Laurence Kardish (for the Shirley Clarke program). Most films were projected using a digital projector (and this was made apparent since it froze at least 3 or 4 times throughout the festival) and 16mm prints were used for Shirley Clarke's films.
A small gallery space a few blocks away was used to showcase two programs of short films. Set on an hour-long loop, playing from a DVD from a projector, they were projected onto a small white wall with a not-so-cozy-floor seating approximately 10 people (see picture). This space also hosted "meet the artist" events and a Dance Film Association reception.
The festival typically works but selecting films from a large range of submissions and then pairing them with a retrospective of some sort, sometimes connecting old films to new ones, sometimes not. This edition contained a wide variety of films, some more dance-like than others and incorporated a tribute to Shirley Clarke (five of her films) and a documentary on Busby Berkeley by Andre Labarthe (1971). The main slate was held at the Walter Reade Theater (for opening and closing nights premieres) and the Elinor Bunin Munroe Center, (Francesca Beale Theater and Amphitheater). Most feature films were grouped with one or two shorts at times displaying a historical connection (ex: a Merce Cunningham night), at other times focusing on a geographic one (a Finnish film night). The general scope of "dance" was expanded to include ice skating, music videos and music performance. The films are a mix of narrative films about dancers, documentaries on performers or choreographers, and experimental work falling under the category of "dance for camera". Two nights compiled all short films and these were the nights where the breadth of the art was truly conveyed.
A parallel shorts program was programmed to run twice a day on a daily basis at the 25CPW Gallery, 25 Central Park West. This exhibition was presented in part by Rooftop Films (Underground Film Outdoors). It included on the walls of the space drawings of dancer Sylvie Guillem and the film loop. It was unclear why these films were relegated to the "free of charge" venue with bad seating and semi-darkness. Films were screened in a different order than the one listed on program making it frustrating to match each film with its description.
Free panel discussions such "Fair Use for Film and Video Projects: Real Cases and Trustworthy Answers", "Preserving a Legacy: Eistein on the Beach", and "Capturing Motion NYC" were held though I was unable to attend most of them. "Meet the artists" were held in the gallery space and 4 artists were invited to informally discuss their work. I attended a book signing and was one of the few aware that the book in question was not in fact the "journal" described in the program. At least they got the author right.
The festival was organized by Dance Film Association. The curators were Liz Wolff (newly hired, works for DFA) and Joanna Ney (Film Society's curator for Dance on Camera since 1996) both of which I was able to meet and have a quick word with. According to the program, Dance Film Association was founded by Susan Braun in 1956. Braun was an enthusiast whose goal it was to collect and preserve dance films until her death in 1995. Their small archive that holds narrative films, documentaries and experimental films. I am also told that they keep a copy of every (new) film screened at the festival. I have been in their headquarters and must say that for the most part these films are on DVD and stored in big grey file cabinets. Access to these is therefore limited to those who know that they are there. They have no screening facilities and the borrowing procedure is not made public anywhere. They also used to publish a small journal called Dance on Camera for about ten years, but it was discontinued last year. DFA employs approximately ten people, their office seats three.
DFA's mission is to promote the art of dance film and to establish a network of dancers, filmmakers, and enthusiasts. Their organization is dedicated to "bringing dance film to the widest possible audience by promoting and facilitating its production, distribution, and presentation". Their three areas of activity include preservation, presentation and production. They are sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Jerome Robbins Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the New York State Council for the Arts, the New York Department of Culture and the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. The first Dance on Camera festival was held in 1971 at Anthology Film Archives and later moved to the Lincoln Center in 1996. It was originally intended to foster collaborations between choreographers and filmmakers but now focuses more on reaching a wider audience. Sponsors of the 2013 festival include Spain arts & culture, General Consulate of Finland, Spain Culture New York, FilmoTeca de Catalunya, John Wim Macy's CheeseSticks (HA! I did not see any cheesesticks anywhere)
As one of the oldest festivals of its kind Dance for Camera has a good reputation. Filmmakers are attracted to its status as a New York City event, giving them visibility in the local dance world. Apparently this year the festival received three times as many submissions as they usually do which could mean that either more artists are producing films or the festival is becoming better recognized on a global scale. However it does cater to a broad audience and therefore is known to lack a specific curatorial argument.
The primary audience would be the kind that goes to the ballet, shows at BAM or the Joyce. Select events were attended by dance "royalty", including former dancers with prestigious companies and noticeable by their rigid posture and loud dramatic embraces and hellos. In large part the weekday and daytime events were attended by people within the industry while the weekend evenings and matinees were attended by old people and a few children. While the audience did seem to be the intended one, I was surprise to see that there were few people under 20. The price of tickets ranged from $13 general public, $9 students, and $8 for members of the FSLC or DFA. The festival also had discounts for buyers of multiple tickets which was great for me since I went to a total of 13 events.
Other elements that shaped the exhibition were the side registration room, intended to welcome filmmakers and artists and sign patrons up for DFA memberships. This was only visible to patrons if they ventured into a room by accident while looking for the bathroom. It had one television monitor playing two films from previous year, on a loop and available for purchase. The merchandise table, which was my job for a while, was a sad site. I sold one DVD in 4 hours and was almost going to tell the customer that the documentary in question was available to stream online on Netflix but decided he did not look tech-savy enough to understand.
Generally speaking the screens were large and made the viewing of the films pleasant. The scheduling of events unfortunately coincided with a "big dance weekend". For example Trisha Brown had a show up at BAM which was sold out and which had me dashing across town to get to all the events on my list. The seats in the auditoriums were comfortable and the local snack-bar was getting good business.
Both DFA and the FSLC websites had the full program of events. Numerous trailers were available which helped decision making when it came time to ordering tickets online. Here is the link: http://www.dancefilms.org/festival-items/2013/
The program was filled with typos and hard to navigate. It gave the impression that it had been put together in a rush and sent to print without a copy editor. It could use some serious help. All the information was there but the calendar should be foregrounded and the organization of programs should be chronological not thematic (such as all the short films on one page, all the feature on another). This caused too much flipping between the pages, a sound that was most irritating during the beginning of screenings.
If the festival's goal is to gain a broad audience then the current format of the festival works well. It promotes big names and slides in short films that are inspired or related to these names. It packages all the recent short films by emerging artists together so that in one evening one is bound to find at least one good film. It also promotes getting closer to the artists with popular Q&As and meetings. Typical questions at these included: "So...tell us...what inspired you to make this film?", "What was it like to work with so-and-so?" The curator's task here seems primarily to assemble a selection of films that gives a broad definition of dance film, draws from some historical footage in order to reflect on the current practices. It does not offer a critical stance or forum for debate. The films presented are no longer being judged, there are no prizes given out, simply "festival highlights" or "not-to-be-missed" ones.
Overall I would say that the festival was a success on the basis of attendance. Many screenings were sold out (to my knowledge the Shorts program were especially popular, a feature film "Five Dances" and a music video night featuring the work of Sigur Ros). I found myself unable to attend certain events because there were no tickets available and I was booking 10 days in advance. The festival's strengths would be bringing together an international selection of films and filmmakers. Their new initiative to start discussing the process of distribution for short films would benefit the industry and myself for my research. Aiming to produce a DVD to collect and distribute the shorts (as other festivals have done this as well) would guarantee greater visibility and documentation of these films which often go "missing" after festivals. Just in case this never happens I hunted down as many filmmakers as possible to recruit films, telling them that I "plan to write about them". Some events were free which allowed greater access. I do not think it generated a larger number of patrons. The main weakness of the festival was the scheduling which made it impossible to see everything at least once. In addition the connections between films were primarily based on country of production, (for example a Finnish night) whereas I would encourage more thematic grouping to be able to compare and contrast the working methods and styles of the choreographers.
Posted by Dan Streible at 12:43 AM
Feb 25, 2013
A brief introduction of the festival's history
The Museum of Modern Art presented the first Documentary Fortnight from December 6 through December 16, 2001. The event was organized by Sally Berger, Assistant Curator, and William Sloan, Librarian, Circulating Film and Video Library, Department of Film and Media. According to MoMA's press release in 2001, Doc Fortnight "reflected an expanding interest in the documentary form," and provided "a provocative examination of recent documentaries produced by independent film- and videomakers worldwide." Films showcased in the first exhibition included "a timely collection of works that focuses on the effects of the tragic events of September 11 as seen through the fimmakers' lens" as well as a range of collaborative works on the disaster. In the following year, Doc Fortnight added "nonfiction film and video" as its focus, and mixied the word use of "nonfiction film and video" with "documentaries" in the introduction of the exhibit. This showcase went on under the collaboration between Berger and Sloan for nine years until 2010 when William Sloan stepped down from the festival comittee. Then the festival was organized by Sally Berger, with the assistance of Maria Fosheim Lund, Director Liaison, Department of Film. In the same year, DF claimed itself as an "International Festival of Nonfiction Film" and rearranged its organzing strucutre, introducing a selection committe of three members. The 12th Documentary Fortnight inherited this type of structure except for one thing that it rebranded itself as an international festival of nonfiction film and media, starting from 2011. The current member of the selection committe are Sally Berger (2010 - Present), Chi-Hui Yang (2011 - Present), independent curator, and Michael Gitlin, documentary filmmaker and professsor at Hunter College (2013). Chi-hui Yang is also the President and Board of Trustee of the Flaherty Film Seminar, a nonprofit media arts institution in support of documentary and other independent film and video.
Although claiming itself as an international festival, DF actually doesn't accept submissions from film- and videomakers worldwide. Therefore the festival's line-up largely relies on the active outreach of its selection committee members, especially on Berger and Yang's connections. Doc Fortnight is based on an art museum. It is not an indepedent film festival. Then it's unlikely that MoMA would offer substantial financial support to have their programmers travelling all around the world and have access to films directly from the filmmakers. Therefore, DF would mostly rely on other international and regional documentary film festivals to have a first-round selection.
From my knowledge, an interesting case study would be the seletion of China Concerto, conceived by a China-born, Brooklyn-based artist Bo Wang, who is also a graduate from School of Visual Arts in New York. His film was world premiered in the 8th Beijing Independent Film Festival in August 2012. The gurilla-style film festival was shut down and power-cut by the local security several times. However, the film was recommended by America- and Canada-based film critics or distributors who specify in Chinese Independent Cinema to Sally Berger or Chi-Hui Yang, and had its North American Premiere back in New York.
The opening was on Friday, February 15, and started at 4:00pm in the Roy and Niuta Titus Theatre 2 (T2). Films in the thematic programs were screened for once, while most of the films in the international selection were shown twice, one screening in the afternoon and another in the night. There were four screenings in the weekdays starting from 4 pm and six screenings on the weekends from 2 pm through 10 pm-ish.
Bo Wang, the director of China Concerto, is another example of "crossing the boundary." Wang holds a master degree of theoritical physics from Tsinghua University, one of the most elite universities in China, and shifted his focus to photography and new media after quiting his Phd progam from University of Maryland. Wang's film is narrated by an untraceable female voice reading fictional letters of a man. This essay film, a salute to Chris Maker's Sans Soleil, reflects the author's thoughts on spectable and ideology in a quasi-totalitarian country. Mixing found/propoganda footage and documentation of the resurrgence of "revolutionary songs" (红歌) from the Mao era in the public space in the city of Chongqing, Wang's homeplace, the film presents a somehow sophisticated juxtaposition of the past and the present. In both post-screening discussions, Wang introduced the background story, the reason for the uprise of the collective activities in all types of "People's Park" in China, and the collapse of the Chongqing regime. Wang Lijun, Chongqing's police chief, broke up with Bo Xilai, the head the Chongqing muncipality, and fled to the US consulate in the nearby city of Chengdu. Bo Xilai was later dismissed. Some observers saw this incident as the biggest politcal scandal in China since 1989. The first screening of China Concerto was in the afternoon of a Wednesday and in the Roy and Niuta Titus Theatre 1 (T1) of MoMA. Audiences were dispersed in the theatre and half of them were the students brought by their professor from SVA, celebrating their excellence alumi. Another screening the next day was a full house.
As a film festival attached to an art museum, it is difficult not to compare these moving image exhibitions to the gallery ones. One thing is very clear: moving image exhibitions lack academic publications. When I was doing research on Doc Fortnight's histories, what I can have access to is only the press release for each year's exhibition, plus the brochure at the front desk. Comparing to the close relationship between art history department of universities and art museums, college's film and media studies departments are loosely-connected with film festival and exhibitions. Another issue is the lack of technical info of the selected films: 35mm or 16mm or DigiBeta or HDCAM? And what is the ratio? These are significant technical info for researchers to trace back the history of film exhibitions. Also this technical shift is a significant parameter to evaluate the ambiguity and the blurred boundaries of nonfiction filmmaking in this transitional period from grain to pixel.
Posted by Dan Streible at 11:45 PM
|(Image taken from the Spectacle's page for the series)|
|The Spectacle Theater|
Posted by Dan Erdman at 11:35 PM
Organized by Sarah Suzuki, Associate Curator,
Department of Prints and Illustrated Books.
January 9th - May 6th 2013
Set in Japan at the end of World War II, the twelve minute video is simplistic in its nature, showing a man and wife sitting at a chabudai, or low table, in a traditionally japanese living room setting. The dialogue is purposefully repetitive and centers around impending disaster and death - most likely the kamikaze pilots that flew into American warships in the Pacific Ocean, the husband being one of them. The viewer quickly realizes however, that both characters are blind, the wife both physically and philosophically. “Please come back alive,” she tells her kamikaze husband. It is indicative of a social and political ignorance from both a Japanese and American, or simply an Eastern and Western standpoint.
To a passing spectator, Koizumi’s two other pieces in Projects 99, Human Opera XXX (2007) and My Voice Would Reach You (2009), seem tacked on and even unrelated to the exhibit’s main attraction. Whilst Defect in Vision is presented in its very own space, in a dark room separated from the museum floor by large thick curtains, the companion films are presented outside this room on two television screens, a square 4:3 screen and wide 16:9 screen respectively. Nonetheless, after watching both pieces - you must use the provided headphones and stand (or sit on the floor), the relation between them and the exhibit’s focal piece becomes clear. In all three pieces, Koizumi plays on human emotions, bringing them to the forefront via forced emotional manipulation as in Human Opera, by way of decisive ignorance as in My Voice Would Reach You, and through a mix of both in Defect in Vision.
Like Nickelodeons of the early twentieth century, film exhibitions in a museum setting tend to play on a reel, and the films in Projects 99 are no different. Spectators coming and going at different parts of a piece can often be chaotic and distracting, however for Defect in Vision, there is method to the madness, of sorts. Whilst Human Opera and My Voice Would Reach You have defined beginnings and ends, albeit not controlled in time by the viewer (they’d have to wait for it to end if they wish to watch from the start), Defect in Vision has no clear-cut story arc. The very fact that museum-goers enter the room at various points in the film, coupled with the double back-to-back screen, emphasizes the idea that there is no one way of seeing and experiencing the piece.
The room that hosts the film is also very purposeful in its presentation; it is a dark room with black walls, black paneling and black carpeting, and serves to reflect the film’s black and white saturation in a simplistic yet meaningful way. Not only do the streaks of light pouring in through slits in the curtained doorway accentuate the shadowy style of Koizumi’s film, but as spectators enter the room from the brightened museum corridors, they fumble as their eyes adapt to the dark. Asides from the low lighting, there is another initial confusion for the viewer to contend with upon entering the room; some people see the screen in front of them and cease to move from where they stand, others notice the flashes of light from the opposite screen on the back wall, and head straight for the farther side of the room, and a handful of viewers circle the screens and watch the film for a time on both. However, even amongst those that notice the back-to-back screen set up, there seems to be few who realize that the content of each differs. At one point on the far screen, a man, who Ken Johnson in his New York Times article (January, 2013) deems to be a production assistant, enters the frame and rearranges items on the table whilst the man and wife continue their conversation obliviously. Johnson writes that it “lend[s] it all an oddly artificial feeling,” however it is probably more important to note that the spectator who declines to watch the film by way of the far screen, will never garner that specific component of the film. Perhaps, something is lost on them as a result, but perhaps it is their unique experience of the film, however great or small that is more important to Koizumi’s vision.
Organized by Sarah Suzuki, Associate Curator in the Department of Print and Illustrated Books (an unusual project for someone in such a department), the presentation of Defect in Vision at MoMa also lends itself to both the abstruse and performative nature of the film. The latter is reflected in the simplicity of the darkened room and the connotative power of its cinematic display, the curtains, carpet et al. evoking the theatric and the dramatic. The former however, is slightly more subtle. The film on the first screen is almost entirely close-up shots of the face, which comes in and out of focus as the subject moves back and forward, and as the image blurs, so too does the spectator’s agitation. Not only does the focus, or lack thereof, illustrative the protagonist's blindness and ignorance, but it is also analogous to the awkwardness of the museum-goers as they fumble into the room, often crossing the view of their fellow spectators. It is appropriately reminiscent of the film’s chaos. Cheiko, the man’s wife continues throughout the film to ask the same questions and make the same inane comments. As he puts down his newspaper, the husband explains to Cheiko that the Japanese offensive against the Americans in Okinawa will commence soon. And throughout the piece, we come to realize that he will be part of it. At one point on the far screen, the husband is seen in a shaky, handheld, and almost fish-eye close-up shot were he is obviously flying a plane. Amongst the roar of the engine and the whooshing sound of the wind, he cries out to Chieko that he is sorry. Her questions posed to her husband in the piece such as “Will kamikaze blow again?” make it clear that he is embarking on a suicide mission, yet they still converse as if this is not the case. Planning his supposed return, she says “We will take a long walk... have a long bath... [and] have sake for lunch.” But, whether they are playing a game for the sake of normalcy amongst his impending death or whether the husband is satisfying his wife’s ignorance and/or denial, is not acutely evident. Even the thought that the couple are simply well lubricated on sake is not far from the viewer’s mind. The obscurity of the film nonetheless is given ample opportunity to thrive in the exhibit’s dark and somewhat somber environment.
The inclusion of the two other video installations, Human Opera and My Voice Would Reach You, as accompaniments to Defect in Vision seems to be a purpose based choice. Koizumi’s films are seemingly very different, yet broach similar territory in both theme and tone. He is known to be a quirk both in his personality and his art, blending tragedy and comedy into an intractable bond, and all three films showcase this in varying ways. In Human Opera, Koizumi interviews a man who responds to the artist’s advert (the text of which we see at the start of the film) that asks for someone with a tragic life story to recount the tale on camera for a substantial amount of money. It begins with Koizumi himself, with his face painted silver, setting up the interview room with random objects such as foil tubing, rubber animals et al. Finally, Rob Hoekstrer, a computer engineer from Amsterdam, is brought in to be interviewed by the artist. Koizumi gets him to recount his story in which his girlfriend took away his daughter as result of his alcoholism. However, as Hoekstrer tries to tell the tale, Koizumi continuously interrupts him, saying that “something is missing in the image,” or that he “need[s] something more vivid.” He gives Hoekstrer different obscure objects to hold, cuts his shirt open, doodles on his face, writes “free drink” on his bare chest, and even has him continue his story with a bread roll in his mouth. As Johnson (January, 2011) writes, “the final scene, a kind of shamanistic exorcism, is shocking, scary and hilarious.”
Similarly, My Voice Would Reach You delves into that obscure yet intrinsic correlation between humor and tragedy. The emotional response to both - laughter and crying - is equally cathartic, and Koizumi displays that effortlessly in what seems to be the overriding theme of the exhibition as a whole. Defect in Vision however, is slightly more akin in its form to My Voice Would Reach You. The film centers around a man who calls the information desk at a credit card company and acts as if he is speaking with his deceased mother. Like in Defect in Vision, he suggests they book a trip to a hot spring, after which the phone operator asks him if he means “hotline.” Whilst absurdly funny at times, it is rooted in the man’s devastation, and probably more so in his guilt about not becoming the man his mother hoped he would be. Unlike Defect in Vision though, the protagonist is most certainly play acting for the purpose of normalcy - he just wants to have a simple phone conversation with his mother - in the face of a tragic reality.
Projects 99 is also part of MoMa’s Elaine Dannheisser Project Series, which is dedicated to giving new and emerging artists space for their work. And, as both the abstract for the exhibition and Johnson’s article (January, 2011) mention, there is a relevance to the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, which supposedly occurred whilst Koizumi was in the midst of making Defect in Vision. And so, the sense of impending catastrophe, as well as the running motif of blindness and ignorance take on a greater cultural meaning. The viewing experience thus employs at least one other consistency other than natural sound.
Projects 99: Meiro Kuizumi runs through May 6th at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Defect in Vision (2011)
Installation with two-channel high definition video
(black and white sound)
Human Opera XXX (2007)
Video (color, sound)
My Voice Would Reach You (2009)
High Definition video (color, sound)
Ken Johnson, 2011
Posted by Jessica Pitcher at 11:21 PM
"Avant-garde Masters: A Decade of Preservation "
Anthology Film Archives (Jan, 16th, 2013)
(Image taken from AFA’s Series page)
• Frank Stauffacher, Notes On the Port of St. Francis (1951, 21 min, 16mm Preserved by Pacific
Film Archives, with narration by Vincent Price)
• Rudy Burckhardt, The Climate of New York (1948, 21 min, 16mm, Preserved by Anthology Film
• Beryl Sokoloff, GAUDI (1962, 14 min, 16mm, Preserved by Silver Bow Art)
• Tom Palazzolo, HE (1966, 8 min, 16mm, Preserved by Chicago Filmmakers)
Originally scheduled for Sunday, October 28th and then lumped again into their “Sandy Redux” series on January 11-16th, this screening was an attempt to give these films a reception when their original screenings had been cancelled due to natural disaster and emergency. The ameliorative screening showed to a nearly sold-out crowd in the 60 seat Maya-Deren Theater. The “Avant-Garde Masters: A Decade of Preservation,” showed the above works to a crowd of students, film lovers, archivists, and film-makers. There was lingering discussion and chatter, and many greetings in the crowd afterwards.
As the eponymous title indicated, the A-G Masters is a singular grant, now in its 10th year, devoted specifically to preserving avant-garde films. The A-G Masters grant recipients are one of the very few ways in which these already overlooked works have been saved from obscurity and a slow death. Created in 2003 by the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF) and The Film Foundation with the intent to preserve American Avant-garde cinema, according to the NFPF website this grant has preserved over 105 films by 49 filmmakers. Twenty organizations have thus far participated in sponsoring films for preservation that run the gamut from classics of the avant-garde (ex: Brakhage) to handmade efforts by overlooked, never-heard from artists (ex: Sokoloff). The unknown films that are chosen challenge and help expand the idea of the “avant-garde” American film. However, it is interesting to note that the grants restrict themselves only to film made beyond the last 20 years, film as a medium (rather than video, for example), as well as welcoming artists excluded from exhibition and the canon. As Martin Scorsese, the funder/patron of the fund notes on the NFPF website, however, "there's no other program of its kind."
Anthology Film Archive had been one of the recurring sponsoring institutions, as it is similarly singular in being held synonymous with the avant-garde canon it helped create and their preservation and exhibition today. Dedicated in not only showing, but also actively preserving and archiving film, it has actively sponsored a number of films for NFPF grants and is, therefore, also one of the few institutions around the world in which such an screening is perfectly natural and in tune with the institutions missions from its very founding until now: to provide a home and effectively help canonize, preserve, and show in their original format works that were rarely seen to begin with
Introduced enthusiastically by archivist Jon Klacsmann, the four small gauge films shown were not introduced in any heavy-handed way that introduced the curation involved, however the films evidenced a commonality that went beyond their avant-garde status to their content of cityscapes and street pedestrian scenes, in a lyrical and loosely-documentary fashion that would be immediately appealing in a grant application. These films often showed unusual footage of a variety of neglected districts and areas, such as the then empty wasteland of Astoria, the “foreign and exotic” Chinese enclaves in San Francisco, or New York City’s Times Square at mid-century lit up and aglow with neons.
While I thought the night’s screening of 16mm preservation work within the Maya Deren theater at Anthology Film Archives quite fitting and successful, some other attendees closely affiliated to pieces felt that the films were not absolutely loyal to the original works in some way. Another attendee mentioned to me that he thought the colors were much too bright to not have been improved upon in some way. I also later found out that one of the pieces was an 8mm blow-up and that the accompanying sound had been played on CD. These comments rang in my head, as questions of fidelity to original format is a difficult philosophical preservation issue, given the lack of 8mm screening opportunities. The technical issues of syncing a separate sound source is a difficult technical issue. How to appropriately preserve work that cannot be readily screened in its originally format is a dilemma that preservationists will only be forced to grapple with more and more. Given the committed audience members, however, it seems only natural that there were some mixed criticisms on the philosophically as well as technically difficult work that went behind the screenings of the night.
In its yearly exhibitions of NFPF film grant preservation projects, Anthology Archives is one of the few forums to actively promote preservation work that would otherwise never be seen in their film format. The NFPF events page makes it clear that while the grant application reserves a section on the access/exhibition of the film, films in 16mm such as the ones included on the program are probably difficult to screen. In addition to the fact that many film theaters simply would not have the audience or desire to screen these works, technical limitations and the very real lack of 16mm projectors in film theaters today due to the very decisive turn to digital formats have also decreased the chance of these films to be reconsidered and re-seen. Luckily, institutions like AFA have continued in their dedication to film. Jed Rapfogal, curator at Anthology has interviewed regarding his curating practices and states that "our goal...is to give exposure to films that might otherwise fall through the cracks." The work screened, due to content as well as its film medium certainly counts as films that have fallen through the cracks.
Given that these films will be very difficult to see in 16mm, I've decided to include links to online digitized clips of from these not-often-seen filmmakers:
Palazzolo's Jerrry's Deli (1974)=
Stauffacher's Bicycle Polo at San Mateo (1940)
Posted by --- at 10:24 PM
- Museum of Fine Arts, Boston MA
- "Blues For Smoke" at the Whitney Museum
- New from Old: Practices of Appropriation
- Dance on Camera Festival 2013
- Documentary Fortnight 2013
- FILM AS A SUBVERSIVE ART at the Spectacle
- Projects 99: Meiro Koizumi
- "Avant-garde Masters: A Decade of Preservation "An...
- 'Film as a Subversive Art' Tribute at Anthology Fi...
- Blog Version of Paper 1
- Divorcing the Medium from the Message
- Time & Timeliness: ‘NYC 1993’ at the New Museum
- Attracting an Audience: Video Games at the Museum ...
- Art(Core) and the Celluloid Body
- Anthology Film Archives' “A Tribute to Amos Vogel ...
- A diverse and desultory film festival
- Fwd: A propos
- Piwo zostalo (Left Over Beer)
- A CZY MY TO JACY TACY: Are We Cool or What...?
- Gwiazda byc / A Star is Born (1970)
- Enthusiasts Archive: Crushing, the Crushing Fruit
- Plakaciarz/Flyposter, 1980
- Bielsko-Biala wczoraj i dzis - Bielsko-Biala Yeste...
- Enthusiasts archive: Przez Lustro (Through the Mir...
- Homo (Man), 1975
- Symbioza (Symbiosis) 1969
- Enthusiasts: archive: Romanza ludzika / Flirt
- Enthusiasts Archives: Obcy (comments by Austin K...
- Humbug, 1970
- Amateurs with Palettes
- And After the Night Comes the Night
- Left Over Beer (198?)
- Oscar Obscurities and A Foodie Dance Party this we...
- Hope Shorts
- Digital curation
- Fwd: UPDATED: NYU Cinema Studies Student Conferenc...
- Bastards & Orphans & medical films - oh my!
- The Kidnappers Foil: National Film Registry, TAMI,...
- Saturday: Roger Corman's THE TRIP at 92Y Tribeca
- Re: TODAY - Stan Brakhage's The Art of Vision
- Tony Conrad
- ▼ February (45)