Postwar Queer Underground Cinema

From: Chuck Kleinhans (email suppressed)
Date: Sun Mar 26 2006 - 05:21:06 PST

Beyond Warhol, Smith, and Anger:
The Significance of Postwar Queer Underground Cinema, 1950-1968

A Conference at the University of Chicago, April 7-8, 2006

The Conference is free and open to the public.

It will be held at the
Film Studies Center Auditorium
Cobb Hall, Room 307
5811 South Ellis Avenue
University of Chicago

Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising (1963), Jack Smith’s Flaming
Creatures (1963), and Andy Warhol’s Chelsea Girls (1966) are
widely regarded as some of the most important and influential
films of postwar underground cinema. But cinema studies has
only recently begun to take seriously the fact that Anger,
Smith, and Warhol were gay filmmakers whose films developed a
queer aesthetic to explore questions of queer subjectivity and
world-making. Moreover, the field has still barely registered
the fact that they were not just brilliant auteurs but were
enmeshed in and influenced by a larger circle of mostly New
York-based queer filmmakers, performers, writers, and artists.

At this conference we aim to map the contours and assess the
significance of this wider cultural formation, which we call
postwar queer underground cinema. This cinema largely
developed in the 1950s and 60s in the ferment of New York’s
East Village, the scene of complex interactions,
collaborations, and conflicts between mostly gay or bisexual
male filmmakers and mostly heterosexual but resolutely
anti-heteronormative female filmmakers and between white and
Puerto Rican bohemian, queer, and street cultures. Speakers
will explore the work, interrelationships, and influence of
Marie Menken, Willard Maas and Ben Moore, Barbara Rubin, José
Rodriguez-Soltero, Gregory Markopoulos, Mario Montez, Naomi
Levine, Shirley Clarke, Charles Boultenhouse, Parker Tyler,
and Ken Jacobs, among others, as well as Anger, Smith, and
Warhol. We will also explore their relationship to other
queer underground theater and arts scenes and to the queer
and/or Puerto Rican worlds of the East Village, as well as the
transnational circulation and formation of postwar queer
aesthetics. Throughout, we will consider the implications for
our understanding of the postwar avant-garde of taking
seriously the role of queer subjectivity and world-making in
its formation.

Organized by the University of Chicago Lesbian and Gay Studies
Project in cooperation with the Committee on Cinema and Media
Studies, Experimental Film Club and Film Studies Center.


4:30-5:45 pm: The Queer Underground as a Cultural Formation
--George Chauncey (Chicago): Introduction: The Queer
Underground as Cultural Formation
--Stephen Bottoms (Leeds): From Off-Off Broadway to
Underground Cinema

Break for Dinner.

7-9 pm: Special Conference Screening and Live Performance
“The Life of Juanita Castro”


9:30-10 am: Registration & Coffee

10-11:45 am: Formative Encounters
--Ron Gregg (Chicago): Welcome & Introduction.
--Juan Suárez (Murcia, Spain): Puerto Ricans, the East Village
and the Queer Underground
--Tom Gunning (Chicago): Incandescent Images Burning through
the Celluloid Closet

12-1 pm: Break for Lunch

1-3 pm: The Queerness of the Women’s Avant Garde
--Lauren Rabinovitz (Iowa): The Queer Underground, Shirley
Clarke and Portrait of Jason (1967)
--Ron Gregg (Chicago): Barbara Rubin, Christmas on Earth
(1963), and Cultural Revolution in the 1960s
--Leanne Gilbertson (Rochester): Out of Place! in Time:
Reclaiming Female Agency in the 1960s Avant-Gardes of Warhol’s
Factory and Judson Memorial Church

3:15-5 pm: The New York Underground and the Transnational
Formation of a Queer Aesthetic
--Marc Siegel (Free University, Berlin/UCLA): VIVA la
différence! The American Underground Goes to Europe
--Tom Waugh (Concordia): Underground, Closet and Periphery:
McLaren, Jutra and Montreal

5:15-6:15 pm: Round table on the Significance of the Queer
B. Ruby Rich (UC-Santa Cruz) and others.

6:15-7 pm: Reception

For more information on this and other events, please call
773.702.8596 or visit the Film Studies Center Website at

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.