Re: [Frameworks] Research into Experimental Film and Video

From: Chuck Kleinhans <>
Date: Tue, 19 Jul 2011 16:05:54 -0700

On Jul 19, 2011, at 3:09 PM, Kevin Timmins wrote:

> Hi frameworks
> I'm looking for some essential reading on experimental film, cinema and video etc... Lets say to start with 5 must have books that will help enlighten me!

In part this would depend on what films you have seen or could see again (even if only on Ubuweb, etc.) Here's a bunch of suggestions

Berger, John. "The Moment of Cubism," in Berger, The Moment of Cubism and Other Essays.
This is a useful key essay on modernism(s)

Rees, A. L., A History of Experimental Film and Video (London:British Film Institute, 1999) paperback
excellent brief history of US and UK, and both film and video art

Sitney, P. Adams. Visionary Film, Third edition (NY: Oxford UP, 2002) paperback
classic study on US New American Cinema avant garde, Deren on.

Kirby, Michael. "The Aesthetics of the Avant-Garde," in Kirby, The Art of Time. 1969
another useful reference point essay on modernism across the arts

It is especially useful to do some in-depth close studies (though you also need access to the films in some form)

Such as:

Roy Grundmann, Andy Warhol’s Blow Job, Temple U Press, 2002.
Outstanding close study, with terrific context
James Peterson, Dreams of Chaos, Visions of Order: Understanding the Ameican Avant-Garde Cinema (Wayne State)
careful and detailed close analysis of a small number of films

Wees, William C. Light Moving in Time: Studies in the Visual Aesthetics of Avant-garde Film (Berkeley: U of CA Press, 1992)
very careful studies of key films

For large alternatives to the above titles:

James, David E. Allegories Of Cinema: American Film in the Sixties. Princeton: Princeton U.P., 1989.
an important contrast to and corrective of Sitney

Tyler, Parker, Underground Film: A Critical History (DaCapo 1995)
Tyler is often forgotten nowadays, but excellent for the period he covers

Macdonald, Scott. A Critical Cinema: Interviews with Independent Filmmakers. Berkeley: U of California, 1988.
This is the first of a series of interview books he has done: Macdonald does outstanding preparation forthe interviews which produce very illuminating discussions in most cases. Many filmmakers find this kind of work the most illuminating thing to read. The whole series is great.

Robin Blaetz, ed. Women's Experimental Cinema Duke: 2007)
essential corrective to the usual boys club version of the avant garde

These aren't "also rans" but equal but different than the previous titles:
LeGrice, Malcolm. Abstract Film and Beyond. Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1977.
Macdonald, Scott. Avant-Garde Film: Motion Studies. Cambridge, Cambridge U.P. 1993.
Macdonald, Scott. The Garden in the Machine. U of California, 2003
Marks, Laura. The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses. (U of Minn?) 2000
Mekas, Jonas. Movie Journal: The Rise of a New American Cinema, 1959-1971. NY: Collier, 1972.
interesting collection of his weekly reviews, allows you to see historical progression week by week.
Russell, Catherine, Experimental Ethnography: The Work of Film in the Age of Video. 2000.
Sitney, P. Adams, ed. Film Culture Reader. NY: Praeger, 1970.
great collection of essays from the key magazine of the US experimental movement
Sitney, P. Adams, ed. The Essential Cinema: Essays on the Films in the Collection of Anthology Film Archives. Vol. 1. NY: New York U. P., 1975.
Sitney, P. Adams, ed. The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Criticism. NY: New York U. P., 1978.
Youngblood, Gene. Expanded Cinema. NY: Dutton, 1970.

You should be aware that experimental film and video are often clumsily nation bound for several reasons. If you are in the US, it's very enlightening to make an extra effort to find out about Canadian, UK, European, Japanese, and other national traditions in both film and video

And video is its own complicated case, with an older single channel history now being overwhelmed by gallery pieces from people who tend to see themselves as "artists" rather than "video makers."

I'm sure others on this list would have other suggestions and refer to their own work: e.g. Fred Camper's writings on his website (there's a lot there), Jackie Hatfield's anthology Experimental film and video, etc.
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Received on Tue Jul 19 2011 - 16:06:07 CDT