Winter/Spring 2001

All films shown in 16mm unless otherwise noted.


February 8-11

(1987, color/B&W/sound, 117 min.)

"Awarded Best of the Festival, Ann Arbor, 1989, and selected for the 1989 Whitney Biennial, Uncommon Senses was filmed between 1985 and 1987 during a series of journies across the United States, from Montana to Florida, from San Diego to New York. The ideas it encompasses were established during this period, though beneath that lay a long chain of earlier development seen in the filmmaker’s earlier work, most readily in the 1973 essay-film Speaking Directly, though as well in other work. As with those films, Uncommon Senses is concerned with coming to an understanding of a nation - the United States of American - and with the many-layered means by which we perceive and speak of such things, as well as of our place within them. Rooted deeply within the traditions of American literature and political thought, the film draws on both the forms and contents of these, while also underlining their inherent contraditctions and flaws. Thus, while employing a Whitmanesque rhetorical posture which seeks to embrace all, Uncommon Senses simultaneously offers a critique of this stance, radically uprooting, in the truest meaning of the word, our assumptions and platitudes about our language, our country, and ourselves. Deliberately constructed as a provocation, this work seeks to disturb the viewer - to break down, through a variety of means, the social constructs which our culture devises to obscure from us a clear vision of our own world."

— Jon Jost

Alice In The Cities / Alice In Den Städten by Wim Wenders

March 9-11

Alice In The Cities / Alice In Den Städten
(1973, B&W/sound [English subtitles], 110 min.)

Philip Winter is a journalist in Munich who has been ordered to write a story about the American landscape for his publisher. He only brings a handful of Polaroid photographs back from his four-week tour of the States. Philip wants to return to Germany, but the agent in New York refuses to give him an advance. Since he is unable to book a flight to the Federal Republic of Germany because of a strike by the airline staff, he spends his remaining 300 dollars on a ticket to Amsterdam. At the airport, he meets Lisa and her nine-year-old daughter Alice. They too want to fly to Amsterdam. He spends a night in Lisa’s flat. Lisa has to cancel her flight and asks him to take Alice with him, saying that she will follow shortly. Philip and Alice are compelled to get on together. They wait in vain for Lisa to arrive in Amsterdam and get on a bus to Wuppertal where Alice thinks her grandparents live. All she has is a yellowing photograph of her grandparents’ house. The two drive round the Ruhr area together and finally locate the house in Gelsenkirchen, but it is now occpied by a guest worker and his family. Philip decides to visit his parents where he hears that Lisa has arrived in Munich. At the station, Alice gives Philip a 100 dollar bill; he takes the same train and reads John Ford’s obituary in the newspaper in the compartment.

"Wenders’ films always concentrate on the same themes of homelessness, the search for an identity and loneliness. His characters find their identity in their movement, during their travels. They meet other people and strike up relationships that break through their speechlessness. Wenders’ figures are constantly looking for their social place, their home. "They wander round places like strangers although they should really be feeling at home there."

— Peter Buchka, Eyes are not for sale. Wim Wenders and his films.

A LYRIC SUITE: Video Works 1983-2000 by Peter Rose

March 29-31

Peter Rose is currently professor of film at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where he directs the film and video program. He received his B.A. in Mathematics from the City University of New York in 1967, with subsequent graduate study in film at San Francisco State University.

His film, videotape, installation, and performance works have had extensive exhibition, and won numerous awards, both in the United States and abroad. There have been more than sixty one-person exhibitions of his work, including shows at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and he has presented performance works at the Polyphonix Festival and the American Center (both in Paris), New Music America, and at more than thirty sites internationally.

Peter Rose has written that his work "has been engaged with issues of perception, language, time, and mythos... leading to the generation of new cinematic structures, improvisations in fictitious language, and the invention of obscure journeys."

This program of selected video works is presented with the generous cooperation of the artist.

Pressures of the Text
(1983, 17 min.)
Direct address, invented languages, ideographic subtitles, sign language, and simultaneous translation are integrated, to investigate the feel and form of sense, the shifting boundaries between meaning and meaninglessness. Pressures of the Text has been performed as a live work at major media centers and new music festivals in the United States and Europe. Written, directed, and delievered by Peter Rose; co-directed and with sign language and ideographic symbols by Jessie Jane Lewis; and with English simultrans by Fred Curchack.

(1996, 3 min.)
A cross between a speech and a fireworks display. Digital editing techniques have been used to reflect and refract a complex monolgue about memory, time, and language. Corresponding gestures are embedded in a spectacular diachronic array, creating a new form of poetry.


Foit Yet Cleem Triavith
(1987, 2 min.)
This work (whose title is an anagram for "the verticality of time") uses a text about the nature of time, perverse visual quotations from art history, and vocal improvisations by David Moss and Peter Rose to generate a kind of rap video.

The Gift
(1993, 6 min.)
Commissioned by New American Radio and Performing Arts and adapted from a serial bedtime story the artist told his daughter over a period of six years. A parable that explores the conflicts between language and innocence, and between sounds and ideas, offering a strange connection between time, language, and self.

Digital Speech
(1985, 13 min.)
Using a traveler’s anecdote (a perverse variant of a classic Zen parable) as a vehicle for an exploration of language, thought, and gesture. Digital Speech plays with the nature of narrative, with ways of telling, performing, and illustrating, and uses nonsense language, scat singing, and video rescan for comic comment. Gesticulation by percussionist Jim Meneses.

(2000, 11 min.)
The second part of a projected trilogy, Omen presents a series of slow transformations that elude language and that can only be watched with patience, and simple moments of observation that witness mysterious conjugaions of light and shadow. Linking these are a series of performances in which beams of light are used to "write space" through a process that is like both drawing and dancing. "I wanted the viewer to be carried along by a current of sounds, images, ideas, and metaphors into an unknown territory of feeling."

The Darkening
(2000, 9 min.)
The darkening is a Stygian night journey animated by unknown languages, illuminated speech, and mysterious conjugations of light. Peter Rose writes, in reference to this work:

If language is to be involved in order to give some shape to thought, then it is to language as invocation, rather than denotation, that we must turn. And if the visible has been thoroughly colonized by culture, then it is to the invisible that one must turn for a reprieve from history and narrative. And if one wants to subvert the technologies of simulation, one looks to preliterate cultures, wherein touch, sound, and sense still retain their numinous impact. My logic has led me to invent a novel form of performative image-making that integrate speech, gesture, and light in order to conjure iimages through a kind of cinematic incantation.

FILMS BY CHICK STRAND: 3 Nights, 14 Films

May 11-13

Chick Strand in person

"First starry night San Francisco 1931, then Berkeley a year later, playing baseball on Curtis Street, mud ball fights, building stilts and silly cars out of boxes and old wagon wheels, I remember Pearl Harbor, digging bomb shelters, stranding on the roof watching for subs in San Francisco Bay, Principal Mr. McGillicuddahy letting loose a dozen doves in the schoolyard with what we thought was bird shit on his head, all of us wishing for the war to be over, the art teacher sobbing as she told us the news of FDR’s death. Skating with the sailors at ICELAND, mommie telling me to talk to the young boys waiting to be shipped out because they might never come back to their little sisters. 14 and the war was over, hearing about it coming out from a war movie, now my life begins, I thought. Maybe all of the Japanese kids will come home. Seeing the MovieToneNews images of the death camps, the ruins of Hiroshima, innocence gone. Berkeley High School, Stan Kenton, Billie and "Strange Fruit," hubba hubba suits, Burgie, Bogy, Gilda, the Woodys Herman and Gutherie, Duke, Cab, and boogie woogie. Korea, the boys leaving to go. Night school at junior college, science, philosophy a new world, early marriage lovely baby girl, more night school no marriage, UC Berkeley, anthropology, waiting for On the Road, coffee houses and bad poetry, cofounded Canyon Cinema showing experimental films three times a week for five years, marriage, lovely baby boy, Dizzy, Brubeck, stop the bomb, civil rights, help get first black city official elected, women for peace, the wobbles, walking the Sierras, no marriage, meet Neon Park, run off to Mexico. UCLA film school, Guggenheim Fellow(ette), rock and roll, love ins, light shows, making movies, movie shows at MoMA, London, Chicago, so many I can’t remember, there’s a big list somewhere, teaching film a Occidental College, kids grown, making more movies, more shows, Mexicao and more Mexico, films in Mexico, summers, sometimes months, Neon, Neon, dear Neon. 1988 and I start painting too, working side by side with him on the same paintings, our econoline. 1989 and I’m painting my own stuff, getting the news of Neon’s terminal illness, still painting because I can be in the next room to him as his body slowly refuses to work, show him what I’m doing, heart breaking, he dies, and I added yellow lightning for a border on the painting I was working on, it makes the eyes water it is so askew, like my heart. Retirement, I miss the fall quarter and the sight of the lovely young men in their shorts, tanned legs, hip manner, eagerness and courage, the young women too. Now I have a nice doggy, four films to edit and paintings constantly coming, sometimes in bunches, sometimes slowly. I love it all and am strangely happy."

— Chick Strand

"Since Chick Strand’s films have constantly maintained their own integrity somewhat aslant of prevailing fashions, only recently have the extent and significance of her achievement become clear. Now we can see her as a radically original pioneer in ethnographic, in feminist and in compilation filmmaking, and above all in the innovation of a personal film language created across these modes.

"After graduating from Berkeley with a degree in anthropology, Strand threw herself into the cultural ferment of the Bay Area in the 1960s. Along with Bruce Baillie, she founded Canyon Cinema in 1961, nurturing it for four years as it grew into the premiere screening and distribution organization on the west coast. Moving to Los Angeles, she studied ethnographic films at UCLA, graduating with an MFA in 1971. Since then she sustained herself by teaching, primarily at Occidental College where, during a 25-year-long tenure, she directed a program in film as art.

"During the course of these activities on behalf of the independent cinema, Strand made her own films. Her first were documentaries about Meso-American cultures that brought to ethnography the expressive languages of the experimental film. As today anthropology increasingly recognizes the subjective interplay between self and other, it finds itself in a land that Strand mapped 20 years ago. A similar vanguardness informed the next phase of her work as she brought her vision to bear on people in America, especially women.

"By the late 1970s Strand had full mastery of what had become her signature style: photographing her subjects in motion, frequently back-lit. using a hand-held telephoto lens in extreme close-up so as to all but eliminate depth of field, she magnified the somatic responsiveness that Maya Deren had claimed as the great potential of the body-as-apparatus. The result was an extraordinary sensuous lyricism, constantly dissolving into abstraction, that became for her the vehicle for intuition and sensuality in both iconography and the medium itself. The core of her life’s work has been a series of intimate portraits of women envisioned in this mode, but since its unabashed lyricism and eroticism ran counter to feminist theory of the time she began it, its full power has only gradually been recognized.

"These films were accompanied by yet another series, one of compilation films that surreal-istically fragmented and recombined found footage, often foregrounding women’s issues otherwise latent in them. With the increased currency of quotation and the non-organic representation of already-existing images in post-modernism, compilation films have acquired a fresh eminence. Again Strand’s work has been seminal, her achievement spanning and summarizing the possibilities of an avant-garde."

— David E. James, Notes from Los Angeles FilmForum retrospective, 2000.

May 11th

Mosori Monika (1970)
Elasticity (1976)
Fever Dream (1979)
Anselmo and the Women (1986)
Kristallnacht (1979)

May 12th

Mujer De Milfuegos (1976)
Cosas De Mi Vida (1976)
Soft Fiction (1979)

May 13th

Guacamole (1976)
Fake Fruit (1986)
Cartoon Le Mousse (1979)
By The Lake (1986)
Loose Ends (1979)
Artificial Paradise (1986)

*Program order and selection created by Chick Strand. Chick will present each night’s program, and conduct a post-screening Q&A.

The Films of Robert Machover

June 5-7

Robert Machover in person

June 5

WE GOT TO LIVE HERE by Robert Machover & Norman Fruchter
(1965, 16mm B&W/sound, 20 min.)
"Following four years of college....and already a bit of a film buff, I looked for something to do that was "artistic," but didn’t require that I draw well, hold a tune or confront my muse in isolation all the time, like writing. In 1958 I acquired an 8mm camera and went around shooting silent footage at a school for disturbed kids where I was a teacher, or in Cold War Berlin....By 1960 I’d graduated to 16mm, and made a short film while I was living in Paris, situated somewhere between the center and the fringe of the hip ex-pat jazz and drug scene... When I returned to the states in ’61, my little film got me a job as an apprentice film editor with the NBC White Paper Documentary series, home to some of the most interesting documentary filmmakers of the period..."

Troublemakers by Robert Machover & Norman Fruchter
(1966, 16mm B&W/sound, 54 min.)

"In 1964, I spent that summer in Cuba as part of a "student" trip protesting the State Department’s travel ban. When I got back in the fall, I ran into a friend, Norm Fruchter, who approached me with an idea of doing a film on a community organizing project in Newark, New Jersey that Tom Hayden, an old friend of his, was involved with. My time in Cuba had stimulated my political synapses and this was just the kind of project I was hoping Newark, the short films that we made (Had Us a Time, and We Got To Live Here) turned out to be excellent organizing tools, stimulating activism among both organizers and neighborhood people. With Troublemakers, I think we started out with the assumption that it, too, would work as an organizing tool. It didn’t quite come out that way. The logic of the narratives we traced in the film led to a relatively bleak picture of the prospects for success, hardly occasion for uplift. Subsequent reality seems to justify this analysis...

I’m now in the early stages of developing a project to make a movie about the Newark riot/uprising/rebellion of 1967 and how it is remembered by those who lived through it and what it has come to mean for them."

June 6-7

Shop Talk by Robert Machover & Catherine Pozzo di Borgo
(1980, 16mm color/sound, 83 min.)
"In 1980, I was working with Catherine Pozzo di Borgo. I had just bought a used Arriflex BL camera and an old model Nagra tape recorder for a bargain and we were looking for something to use them on. We were told that our friend Howie had a fascinating story to tell about recent events at the printing plant where he worked. We invited him over and, after dinner, he agreed to tell his tale for the camera. Luckily for us, the New York State Council on the Humanities was looking to fund media projects about "work" and Shop Talk fit the bill perfectly...Not all unions are or were as management-friendly and decrepit as the lithographer’s union in Shop Talk...As for consciousness, I have little doubt that many of the divisions among workers are depicted in the film--along the lines of job categories and race, for example--persist. At the same time, I’m sure workers across a wide range of incomes and status continue to identify themselves as "middle-class, just as Pablo and Marty do in Shop Talk."

Binocular Visions by Robert Machover
(1988, color, 28 min., 16mm)
"For the last twenty years or so, I’ve been an avid birdwatcher. Friends urged me to make a film about birding, which I did. I had made many "subversive" films, I had never gotten signed releases from people, and I often used unlicensed music, yet no one ever sued me and I never needed a lawyer. Until Binocular Visions, when the National Audobon Society threatened to sue me--not because they didn’t like the film, but because they felt that I didn’t mention them enough in the film or give them adequate credit--despite the fact that the subtitle of the film is The National Audobon Society’s Christmas Bird Count. Go figure..."

*Program descriptions by Robert Machover.

View more programs in the Exhibition Program Archive