Sunday, November 20, 2011

what to call it?

I might just have to settle on a term for it. Try explaining to your two year old the difference between experimental film, avant-garde film, poetic cinema, underground film, etc, etc, blah blah blah. He can say "mommy making movies" and "mommy working". But what of the films I like? "Experimental" film seems falsely modest. "Avant-garde" sounds self-important. How about "Film art"? (but in a theater which I prefer over the gallery?) I want to show him a Pat O'Neill film for some reason. What to call it? Yes, Yes, just let it speak for itself, but sometimes a label is required.

It is amazing to see Teo learning a new language- his first of course. I cannot even begin to describe how wondrous it is. He and I are also trying to learn Mandarin and it is as if my brain is fossilled over and nothing penetrates. Teo has the memory and "brain absorption capacity" of a champion. I admire it immensely (and I have a little nostalgia for when I might have had such a spongy brain).

But back to the point of this....What to call those challenging, sometimes beautiful, complex, sometimes difficult, personal, non-commercial, debt-producing films that I love (to watch and make)? It's a tired question that I never bothered with much before (using all terms interchangeably) - well maybe that's the best that we can do since the film work I'm discussing defies fixed language.

I'm part of a gallery talk in NY next weekend (Jan 29) please come!

Ad Hoc Vox and Foxy Production are pleased to invite you to meanwhile... A panel discussion on time in narrative, meanwhile... will take place at the gallery on Saturday, January 29th at 5:00 PM.

Narrative is fundamentally concerned with sequence and this is as true of nonlinear narratives as it is of plot lines structured around clearly identifiable beginnings, middles, and ends. In this way, broadly conceived, time is the subject of all narratives. Consequently, how duration is represented in narrative has long been a subject of aesthetic study, just as the nature of time itself has long been a subject of philosophic and scientific inquiry. meanwhile... will look to how duration is represented and its effect on how time is experienced as a means of understanding time. We will focus on narrative forms that have historically been bound up with questions of how time is represented and manipulated, such as literature, theater, and film.

meanwhile... will elaborate on a conversation that began in an April 2010 panel held at Galerie Zurcher that investigated varied and at times contradictory definitions of time generated in the sciences and humanities. Its participants - Royal S. Brown, Mary Ann Caws, Sam Ishii-Gonzales, Jennifer Reeves, and Rebecca Schneider - are practitioners and theorists of note in the fields under discussion. The panel will be moderated by Colleen Asper and followed by a Q&A with the audience.

Organized by COLLEEN ASPER and JENNIFER DUDLEY, Ad Hoc Vox is an ongoing series of discussions and lectures without a fixed location that addresses a wide range of issues in contemporary art. More at

ROYAL S. BROWN is a Professor at Queens College and at the Graduate Center in the City University of New York. He also teaches film music and film theory at The New School. He is the author of three books, with two more on the way, and numerous articles on and reviews of film and film music.

MARY ANN CAWS is a Distinguished Professor of English, French, and Comparative Literature at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, author of many volumes on art and text, and most recently of Surprised in Translation, Salvador Dali, and Provencal Cooking: Savoring the Simple Life in France.

SAM ISHII-GONZALES is Assistant Professor of Film Studies in the Department of Media Studies and Film at the New School where he teaches aesthetics and hybrid theory/practice film courses. He is the co-editor of two books on Alfred Hitchcock and has also published essays on the work of Luis Bunuel, David Lynch, the painter Francis Bacon, and the philosopher Gilles Deleuze, among others. He is on the editorial board of a recently formed London based art journal entitled Art Fractures, where he contributes short articles on the state of contemporary cinema, and has just completed a book manuscript entitled Being and Immanence: Deleuze, Authorship and the Practice of Modern Cinema.

JENNIFER REEVES is a New York-based filmmaker whose acclaimed first feature, The Time We Killed (2004), won the Critics prize at the Berlin Film Festival, Outstanding Artistic Achievement at OUTFEST, and Best NY, NY Narrative Feature at Tribeca Film Festival, and screened at the 2006 Whitney Biennial. Subsequent works have screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, the Rotterdam Film Festival, the Wexner Center, AFI Fest, Diapason Gallery in New York, Kino Arsenal in Berlin, and the Contemporary Art Museum of Strasbourg. Reeves is currently writing her second narrative feature, Firelight Song, which has received a Media Arts Fellowship from Renew Media/ Tribeca Film Institute, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.

REBECCA SCHNEIDER is Chair of the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies at Brown University. She is the author of Performing Remains: Art and War in Times of Theatrical Reenactment, out in February 2011 with Routledge. She is also the author of The Explicit Body in Performance and co-editor of Re:Direction. She is the author of numerous essays as well, including "Hello Dolly Well Hello Dolly: The Double and Its Theatre" in Psychoanalysis and Performance and "Solo Solo Solo" in After Criticism. She has given talks nationally and internationally at museums, universities, galleries, theatres, and art schools.

another movie in NY recommendation: Standard Gauge

Wish I could say "see you there" but still stuck up here uptown, barely going out...
but if someone of you could go see this movie for me I'd be really happy. I saw it once about 5 years ago and loved it and I don't think it shows often at all. I rarely blog anymore, or recommend movies, so take this as a strong recommendation.

Light Industry at PARTICIPANT INC:
Morgan Fisher's Standard Gauge + HC Potter's Hellzapoppin’
Monday, November 22, 2010 at 7pm

253 East Houston Street
New York, New York

Standard Gauge
Morgan Fisher, 16mm, 1984, 35 mins

A frame of frames, a piece of pieces, a length of lengths. Standard gauge on substandard; narrower, yes, but longer. An ECU that's an ELS. Disjecta membra; Hollywood anthologised. A kind of autobiography of its maker, a kind of history of the institution from whose shards it is composed, the commercial motion picture industry. A mutual interrogation between 35mm and 16mm, the gauge of Hollywood, and the gauge of the amateur and independent. — MF

HC Potter, 16mm, 1941, 84 mins
Print courtesy of Ken Jacobs.

Rarely shown in the U.S. these days, this 1941 film of the wildly deconstructive stage farce with Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson is still regarded as a classic in Europe, and it lives up to its reputation. The credit sequence establishes the wartime mood with its vision of hell as a munitions factory (where demons preside over the packaging of Canned Guy and Canned Gal), which is shortly revealed as a movie soundstage, the first of many metafictional gags. Very belatedly the movie gets around to telling a spare musical-comedy story (with swell numbers by Martha Raye and the jazz duo of Slim Gaillard and “Slam” Stewart, and some very acrobatic jitterbugging), but the main bill of fare is manic nonsense that almost makes the Marx Brothers look sober. — Jonathan Rosenbaum


My films tend to be about the making of films. I didn't programmatically set out to do this, it's just something that I can't seem to resist. The more deeply I delve into it the more inexhaustibly rich the subject becomes. The process by which motion pictures are produced is distressingly complex, and every aspect of it is to me fraught with suggestion, though of a seemingly bathetic sort. So my films incline to the literal and the matter-of-fact. In a sense they are educational in that they explain procedures or apparatus underlying film production that an audience might not be familiar with. My feeling is that it is important for an audience to understand how it is that a film comes into being, where it comes from, so to speak, and what it must have undergone (in the material sense) before it appears before their eyes as shadows on the screen. People should know that these phantasms are the upshot of a ponderous and refractory art. If they are not aware of it they are denied the chance to understand film as such.

Actually, it has always puzzled me that my films weren't done long ago. Once one starts to reflect on film they are for the most part obvious ideas, though none the less elegant. From the beginning there has been a reflexive strain in cinema, but it has always struck me as half-hearted, Vertov and Hellzapoppin' notwithstanding. Film should have taken the plunge at the outset and begun by looking at itself, a pursuit as worthy as the treatment of “subjects.” Hence my films represent an effort to catch up, to redress an oversight committed by history. — Morgan Fisher, 1976