From: Mark Webber (email suppressed)
Date: Fri Oct 03 2008 - 12:59:02 PDT
Online now at www.tank.tv
From now until 30th November, www.tank.tv presents an online
portfolio of 20 complete or excerpted works made by Ken Jacobs over
the past 50 years. More details below.
For the duration of the show, we are running an extended Q+A so please
send in a question to <email suppressed>. It may not be possible for Ken to
respond to everyone, but the ongoing dialogue will be continuously
updated at www.tank.tv/askken
1 October - 30 November 2008 at www.tank.tv
Ken Jacobs (b.1933) has been active as a filmmaker, performer and
teacher for the past five decades. Rigorous and dedicated, his work is
characterised by a keen eye for formal composition and a fierce
As a central figure of the generation that defined independent
filmmaking during the post-War era, Jacobs contributed to the
liberation of cinema from technical and ideological conventions.
Beginning in the 1950s, he developed an ‘urban guerrilla cinema’ out
of poverty and desperation, shooting improvised routines on city
streets. The early works Star Spangled to Death, Little Stabs at
Happiness and Blonde Cobra feature a nascent Jack Smith, years before
the renegade artist produced his own films.
Having lived in New York all his life, the changing character of the
city has been a strong presence throughout Jacobs’ work, from his
manipulation of vintage street scenes in New York Ghetto Fishmarket
1903, through to the diaristic video Circling Zero: We See Absence,
which observes the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Center,
a few blocks away from Jacobs’ home. The Sky Socialist was shot in a
deserted neighbourhood (long since decommissioned) below the Brooklyn
Bridge in the 1960s, and Perfect Film uses raw television news reports
on the assassination of Malcolm X.
Found or archival footage is a source for much of Jacobs’ work. In
Star Spangled to Death, entire appropriated films contribute to an
accumulative denunciation of American politics, religion, war and
racism, whereas an analytical approach to reclaiming cinema’s past was
originated in Tom, Tom the Pipers’ Son by re-filming selected details
of a theatrical production dating from 1905. This same footage has
lately been digitally excavated in Return to the Scene of the Crime.
The technique of unlocking aspects of film material that would
otherwise pass unnoticed is the essence of the live Nervous System
pieces that Jacobs has performed with two adapted projectors since the
mid-1970s. Repetition and pulsing flicker teases frozen images into
impossible depth and perpetual motion (demonstrated in New York Street
Trolleys 1900), a process further developed by the Eternalism system
of editing used in many recent videos. The previously ephemeral live
performances Ontic Antics Starring Laurel And Hardy; By Molly! and Two
Wrenching Departures are amongst the works that take on new life in
their digital form.
A contemporary of Stan Brakhage, Bruce Conner and Jonas Mekas, Ken
Jacobs is one of the true innovators of the moving image, who
continues his radical practice in the present. Though his images
frequently depict bygone eras, the works are resolutely contemporary,
displaying a vitality and ingenuity that is rarely matched.
The exhibition at tank.tv presents a portfolio of 20 works covering 50
years of Ken Jacobs’ artistic production from 1957 to the present day.
Curated by Mark Webber.
The Whirled, 1956-63
Star Spangled To Death, 1957-59/2004
Little Stabs At Happiness, 1958-63
Blonde Cobra, 1959-63
The Sky Socialist, 1964-65
Tom, Tom, The Piper's Son, 1969-71
The Doctor's Dream, 1978
Perfect Film, 1985
Flo Rounds A Corner, 1999
New York Street Trolleys 1900, 1999
Circling Zero: We See Absence, 2002
Krypton Is Doomed, 2005
Let There Be Whistleblowers, 2005
Ontic Antics Starring Laurel And Hardy; Bye, Molly!, 2005
The Surging Sea Of Humanity, 2006
Capitalism: Child Labor, 2006
New York Ghetto Fishmarket 1903, 2006
Two Wrenching Departures, 2006
Razzle Dazzle: The Lost World, 2006
Return To The Scene Of The Crime, 2008
ASK KEN !
For the duration of the online show, tank.tv offers a unique
opportunity for discussion with Ken Jacobs in an extended Q+A session.
Email your questions to the artist at <email suppressed>. A regularly
updated transcript of the dialogue will be online at www.tank.tv/askken
Friday 19 September 2008, at 7pm, Tate Modern, London
Return to the Scene of Crime (2008, 92 min)
An antique film print is probed, exploded and reconstituted in the
digital domain with radical ingenuity and infectious wit. Screening as
part of a weekend of tank.tv events at Tate. www.tate.org.uk/modern/film
Thursday 16 October 2008, at 9pm, BFI Southbank & Sunday 19 October
2008, at 5pm, ICA, London.
Momma’s Man (2008, 94 min). A feature film by Azazel Jacobs, starring
and shot in the loft of his parents, Ken and Flo Jacobs. www.mommasman.com
Screening in The Times BFI 52nd London Film Festival. www.bfi.org.uk/lff
October/November 2008, CASZ Zuidas, Amsterdam
Capitalism: Child Labor (2006, 14 min), an animated deconstruction of
a Victorian stereo photograph, will be regularly presented on the CASZ
Contemporary Art Screen Zuidas on the Zuidplein in Amsterdam. www.caszuidas.nl
Sunday 2 November 2008, from 2pm-10pm, Chisenhale Gallery, London
Star Spangled to Death (1957-59/2004, 375 min). Celebrate the end of
the Bush regime with a free screening of Ken Jacobs episodic
indictment of American politics, religion, war, racism and stupidity.
Starring Jack Smith, Richard Nixon, Nelson Rockefeller, Al Jolson and
a cast of thousands. Refreshments available. Presented by Whitechapel
at the Chisenhale. www.whitechapel.org/film
Saturday 29 November 2008, at 10:15pm, BFI IMAX, London
Ken Jacobs Nervous Magic Lantern live performance in collaboration
with Eric La Casa, using pre-cinematic techniques to conjure abstract
3D forms on the immense IMAX screen. Part of the Kill Your Timid
Notion tour (also performing in Bristol and Liverpool). www.arika.org.uk/kytn
Sunday 30 November 2008, at 12:30pm, BFI Southbank, London
Ken Jacobs in Conversation. Kill Your Timid Notion presents a
discussion with the artist to follow on from the previous night’s
Tank Magazine, 10th Anniversary Issue (onsale from mid-October 2008)
Ken Jacobs discusses Star Spangled to Death with Mark Webber, and
contributes “Failed State” an article on contemporary American
For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.