is experimental film becoming popular

From: Pip Chodorov (email suppressed)
Date: Sat Jun 24 2006 - 11:36:00 PDT

Hi Andy,

> We have entered into an age and a
>world where talking about filmmakers is getting to be,
>I feel, a bit old. We should be discussing ourselves
>as moving-image makers.

In my post I was not thinking only of people working in celluloid.
This started as a specific topic about gender, for which I was
talking about experimental film and video, even if the examples
included darkrooms. The conversation about the success of
experimental film in general is another topic, and it has been
discussed here before. The conversation about the difference between
film and video is also another topic and, again, probably not
productive to discuss again.
In any case, I agree with you, you should reread my post and replace
"filmmakers " by "film and video makers"

>but by and large I'd say that the experimental cinema
>culture in New York City is not as bustling as what
>you are describing in Paris.

Paris was only an example, because I know about it. I would think
that there are more screenings in New York now than there were
fifteen or twenty years ago. I think the same goes for Chicago or
Toronto or Tokyo or almost anywhere, though I do agree that there are
periods of intense activity: San Francisco in the 60s, Paris in the

>What labels and distributors are "making a living"
>selling experimental work. Do you mean that they are
>turning a profit? I'm aware of many of the labels out
>there, but who is having grand success of it?

They are successful because they continue to exist and release work.
Sheldon Rochlin who started Mystic Fire bought a house in Montauk,
but not, I'm sure, because he sold Maya Deren and Harry Smith tapes.
The fact that we can find so many avant-garde works for home use is,
to me, the success story.

>What Universities are you thinking about here?

My sources are various: universities that buy Re:Voir tapes; students
that come to me for their research; students I meet at the Cannes
festival (I organize a group of 150 American students each year) who
represent maybe half as many film schools or programs, and most of
them have seen experimental films in one of their classes. Where once
I felt school ridiculed the work we promote, I now think they
generally take it seriously. My point was also poking fun at today's
curricula (as teaching less and less practical material).
And again, I am talking about educating new generations that this
stuff exists, whether the schools are renting prints or just talking
about it.

> The canon doesn't seem to be expanding in
>this particular area, and if we are going to bring
>this back to gender, they certainly aren't beating
>down our doors for more info on women filmmakers. I
>find all this strange and inexplicable.

Well it's better to study the "canon" than nothing at all.
Eventually, given enough interest, people will seek out new and
different work on their own. The same is true in all fields of study.

>You are right here. Still, in the shows that you
>describe was film shown on a looper in a gallery or in
>a cinema? And was it shown on film?

I agree that museum viewing conditions are far from ideal, but these
shows serve to sensitize new audiences. Peter Kubelka hated the
Pompidou show, but for some reason he defends Starbucks because they
sensitized Americans to good coffee. Hopefully museums showing film
will not replace alternative screening venues, the way Starbucks
kills off mom and pop coffee shops. To rememdy this, the museums
should raise awareness about the artist-run venues, and the venues
should work more closely with the museums for joint events.

>but what experimental filmmakers are
>having success selling prints in this world to
>insitutions other than the occasional museum or
>archive? What doors are being opened? Do you have
>specific examples?

I do. I know major museums in Europe buying film prints and
negatives. The Venice Biennial last year featured a whole pavilion
devoted to Jonas Mekas, and it won honorable mention. The show was
made up only of film and video screenings; there were no photographs
or objects in the pavilion. So what if Jonas is a man and is in the
"canon," I still think of it as "getting our foot in the door"
because that show was seen and written about seriously in the art


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