Lewis Klahr at Light Industry (6/3) - Tales of the Forgotten Future

From: Thomas Beard (email suppressed)
Date: Fri May 29 2009 - 06:44:01 PDT

Light Industry
220 36th Street, 5th Floor
Brooklyn, New York

Tales of the Forgotten Future
Lewis Klahr, 1988-1991, 131 mins
Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 7:30pm

Part 1: The Morning Films
Lost Camel Intentions, 1988, 10 mins
For the Rest of Your Natural Life, 1988, 9 mins
In the Month of Crickets, 1988, 14 mins

Part 2: Five O'Clock Worlds
The Organ Minder's Gronkey, 1990, 14 mins
Hi-Fi Cadets, 1989, 11 mins
Verdant Sonar, 1989, 2 mins

Part 3: Mood Opulence
Cartoon Far, 1990, 6 mins
Yesterdays Glue, 1989, 14 mins
Elevator Music, 1991, 14 mins

Part 4: Right Hand Shade
Station Dramam, 1990, 14 mins
Untitled, 1991, 21 mins
Untitled, 1991, 4 mins

Light Industry is excited to present a rare screening of Lewis Klahrıs Tales
of the Forgotten Future, to be introduced by the artist. An epic cycle
created on the tiny, domestic medium of Super-8, the film combines the
intimacy of its chosen gauge with the evocative sweep of Freudian dreamwork.
Itıs a moving collage clipped together out of photos and illustrations from
the Atomic Age, reconfigured into a private visual language that speaks of
both Klahrıs own childhood and a greater strangeness: how images from
another era stand as uncanny evidence for a very different stage of
development in the American psyche.

Though located in an avant-garde practice of cut-out appropriation that
stretches from Harry Smith, Stan VanDerBeek and Lawrence Jordan to later
artists like Martha Colburn and Jonathan Schwartz, Klahrıs work creates a
system of representation all its own, quivering between the present and the
past, reshuffling that potent deck of icons bequeathed to us by our former

"In the age of industrial sound and light, Lewis Klahr makes special-effects
movies that are almost insanely artisanal--one man, labor-intensive
cut-and-paste animations that are at once crude and poetic, blunt and
enigmatic, as funny as they are inventive.

Klahr is even more involved in the reworking of received images than
Hollywood is. For the past fifteen years, the 36-year-old New York-based
filmmaker has been collaging material foraged mainly from old magazines into
brief, evocative, eccentric movies. What sets him apart from underground
predecessors such as Stan Vanderbeek and Harry Smith...is his extreme
pragmatism. Not only does Klahr work in Super-8 without an animation stand
but when it suits his purposes, he employs the three-dimensional
world--using, for example, a dollop of grape jelly for blood.

For Klahr, the Super-8 format has strong associations with home movies and
childhood. Still, to create Her Fragrant Emulsion (1987), a homage to the
'60s movie star Mimsy Farmer, Klahr used a technique called 'strip collage,'
in which bits of cut-up film are glued or taped to clear leader. Some of his
other films employ a new form of the photo-comics the Italians call fumetti
(which Federico Fellini affectionately parodied in The White Sheik). In
addition to pillaging back issues of Life, Klahr photographs actors and
integrates their images into his pulpish quasi-narratives amid splashes of
color and hieroglyphic thought balloons. (His is a world where sounds are
often seen rather than heard.)

There's an obsessional quality to all animation, but Klahr compounds it with
a collector's fetishism. Diving into a sea of musty magazines, he dredges up
all manner of forgotten icons--fashion drawings, watercolor washes of
idealized housing tracts--and imbues them with a secret life. (His
child's-eye view seems to preclude simple nostalgia.) Klahr's 1988
break-through, In The Month of Crickets, is a masterpiece of populuxe
surrealism that, set in a mysterious hotel-cum-department store, manages to
coax a remarkable degree of eroticism out of a few suggestive maneuvers and
the escalating soundtrack buzz that gives the movie its title.

Klahr tends to cluster his films in cycles. His first series was called
Picture Books For Adults; he's recently completed the twelve-film Tales of
the Forgotten Future. Its title an apparent reference to that American
utopia prophesized by the ads of Klahr's childhood, the 'Tales' cycle is
redolent of fallout shelters, jet-ports, and the '64 New York World's Fair.
The Organ Minder's Gronkey (1990), which flashes the date '1957' on the
screen, is an economical evocation of nuclear paranoia that suggests both
the original D.O.A. and Godard's Alphaville. Hi-Fi Cadets (1990), a small
classic during which a TV is emblazoned '1960,' boldly appropriates John F.
Kennedy, providing his image with a strange form of afterlife. A cutout JFK
wanders into a neighborhood tavern and drinks Mr. Boston with the black
patrons until he passes out, alone at the bar. Klahr uses both photographs
and editorial cartoons of Kennedy and, at one point presents him as the
janitor of what seems to be an all-girl high school where the English class
is studying Henry IV. The film's ending is sweetly mysterious-accompanied by
celestial music, a young woman (student, teacher, Kennedy's date?) blasts
off in an outsized coffee cup into a cluttered, Disneyesque vision of the

Other 'Tales' are teenage celebrations of fast cars and hot romance. Cartoon
Far (1991) is a moodily psychedelic, flashback-and-moire-ridden noir set to
the Shangri-Las' 'Past, Present and Future,' a tormented reworking of
Beethoven's 'Moonlight Sonata.'

Klahr's 'Tales' suggests a brief history of the machine age produced at its
end. One of the last installments concerns a female aviator; another,
untitled, is a generic family history that collages scores of snapshots from
the '30s through the '60s: Babies are dandled in kitchens; children
celebrate birthdays; bald men and squat heavy-breasted women visit Mount
Rushmore or pose self-consciously on the beach. Universal memories
proliferate in postcard sites. Yesterday's Glue (1991) arranges fashion
models in some sort of space craft and subjects them to various kinds of
mechanical sex. (In one daringly organic bit, a viscous drop of fluid
appears on one of the photos.)

Elevator Music (1991) is Klahr's X-rated Who Framed Roger Rabbit, a suburban
fantasia that makes iconic use of thermostats, high heels, and an outsize
box of Jell-O, mixing a photograph with various cutouts and drawings to
effect a range of simulated sex acts. Some of the images come from soft-core
comix, but what's astonishing is the psychic energy with which Klahr is able
to invest them--I mean, after all, they're only pictures." - J. Hoberman

Followed by a conversation with Klahr.

Tickets - $7, available at door.

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