Big As Life: An American History of 8mm Films


October-December 1999

Time Warner Screening Room

Fifth Floor, The Museum of Modern Art

All programs subject to change. Please call 212/708-9480 to confirm.

Big As Life: An American History of 8mm Films
October 7, 14, 21, 28; November 4, 11, 18; December 2, 9,16; ongoing through December 2000
One of the most exciting artistic developments in American cinema of the last fifty years has been the growing vitality of a moving-image-making movement parallel to but far removed from all other kinds of films and videos. Unnamed, critically unrecognized, and generally unassuming in intent, this often miraculously inventive movement comprises the countless films and videotapes made with modest 8mm (regular 8mm film, Super 8mm film, and Video 8) technical facilities.

Big As Life 1999: Moving Out
With this second year of the Museum's large-scale retrospective, focus shifts from films that explore the private, intimate worlds of 8mm filmmakers to works that use small-gauge filmmaking to interact with the world. Big as Life's fourth season begins with three group programs which highlight short films by several of the key filmmakers from the retrospective's first year-and-a-half, in addition to introducing films by a number of makers whose work will figure prominently in the months to come. With few exceptions, the works selected are screened in their original formats.

Big As Life: An American History of 8mm Films was co-organized by Jytte Jensen, Associate Curator, Department of Film and Video, The Museum of Modern Art, and Steve Anker, Director, San Francisco Cinematheque. The program is accompanied by a catalogue, edited by Albert Kilchesty, that includes original essays by and source materials from artists, critics, and other professionals, and complete filmographies of the artists included in this two-year retrospective. Please note: Program screenings are held in The Time Warner Screening Room; seating is limited to fifty. Tickets are available at the Lobby Information Desk on a first-come, first-served basis, and are included in the price of Museum admission. After 5:30 p.m., tickets are free.

Thursday, October 7, 6:00:
Mysterious Barricades. 1987. USA. Peter Herwitz. 8 min.
Desert. 1976. USA. Stan Brakhage. 11 min.
Looking for Mushrooms. 1965. USA. Bruce Conner. 11 min.
Lyrics. 1983. USA. Marjorie Keller. 9 min
Last Gasp. 1981. USA. Jacalyn White. 18 min.
don't walk. 1991. USA. Karine Albano. 5 min.
Recuerdos de flores muertas. 1982. USA. Willie Varela. 5 min.
Herwitz's Mysterious Barricades suggests the ephemeral memory, as fleeting glimpses of the world struggle to be seen through physical effects created by the filmmaker directly on the film. Brakhage's Desert is a miragelike evocation of this immaterial, wide-open space in the American Southwest. Conner's Looking For Mushrooms is a somnambulistic, outsider view of a lush foreign culture; Keller's Lyrics offers wistful reminders of past experiences while traveling in San Francisco. White's Last Gasp is a wonderfully ironic reflection of the humanizing limits of Super-8 technology, as she desperately attempts to document San Francisco's Telegraph Hill. Albano's don't walk makes the simple journey across a city street a palpable psychodrama. Varela's Recuerdos de las flores muertes is a haunted synch-sound portrait of an El Paso desert cemetery.
Total running time 67 min. TWR

Thursday, October 14, 6:00:
Prayer Wheel. 1987. USA. Jerry Orr. 3 min.
Pond. 1984. USA. Jerry Orr. 10 min.
Aristotle. 1976. USA. Storm de Hirsh. 4 min.
Mount Sopris and the Cattle Creek Anticline. 1992. USA. James Otis. 6 min.
Red in Blue Letters. 1983. USA. Gail Currey. 12 min.
1st Window. 1964. USA. Ken Jacobs. 3 min.
MoMA. 1950s. USA. (Mr. E). 5 min.
Acceleration. 1993. USA. Scott Stark. 10 min.
Ode to Communism. 1980. USA. Greg Sharits. 16 min.
Orr's near-static Pond and Prayer Wheel present rural landscapes as nuance fields for contemplation; Jacobs's First Window is a dazzling balletic breaking-up of the cinematic frame; Mr. E's MoMA creates new sculptural spaces originally experienced in this Museum's hallowed galleries; Otis's Mount Sopris and the Cattle Creek Anticline is a hyperreal vision of the dramatic alterations of mountain light and atmosphere; Currey's Red in Blue Letters weaves images recorded by the filmmaker from contrasting settings into a delightful and mysterious conundrum of rhyming forms and colors; De Hirsch's Aristotle is a succinctly percussive appreciation of the visual rhythms of a country stream; Stark's Acceleration uses the Super8 cartridge in unorthodox ways to create a flow of activity on a subway platform; and Sharits's Ode to Communism uses the single-frame potentials of his camera to portray city streets with lightning speed. Total running time 63 min. TWR

Thursday, October 21, 6:00:
Chinese Family Home Movie. 1950s. USA. Unknown. 8 min.
Note One. 1968. USA. Saul Levine. 6 min.
Family Dinners. 1995. USA. James Otis. 5 min.
Antonia. 1967-69. USA. Bruce Conner. 10 min.
In the Company of Women. Part 1. 1985. USA. Jacalyn White. 10 min.
Mom. 1983. USA. George Kuchar. 15 min.
Peggy's Blue Skylight. 1973. USA. Joyce Wieland. 11 min.
Shadows of the Son. 1996. USA. silt. 7 min.
A program of transgressive "home movies," stretching the definition as well as consciously playing with the implications of the genre. These home movies serve as vehicles for personal stories and at the same time register, document, and comment on actions. Stylistically the program encompasses fast-motion, sound, and silent pieces; the works are similar only in (re)defining home-movie characteristics (such as jittery, disjointed, grainy imagery) in varying reflexive, self-conscious manners. Total running time 82 min. TWR

Thursday, October 28, 6:00:
Me and Ruby Fruit. 1989. USA. Sadie Benning. 4 min.
Jollies. 1990. USA. Sadie Benning. 11 min.
Living in the World (excerpt). 1985. USA. Joe Gibbons. 30 min.
Unauthorized Access. 1993. USA. Scott Stark. 30 min.
Benning's Hi8 videos are internalized meditations on the intersection of privacy and libido, whereas Gibbons's spontaneously shot diary Living in the World also plays with multiple personae and the perspective of an (un)reliable narrator. The claustrophobic feel of Gibbons's work is carried to an extreme in Stark's investigation of "Big Brother" paranoia, in which the physical closeness of a depersonalized, first-person camera frantically pursues its subjects. Total running time 75 min. TWR

Thursday, November 4, 6:00.
Films by Bob Branaman. 1960-63. USA. 25 min.
Diary Footage. 1993-94. USA. Greg Pierce. 15 min.
Diary (Part 1). USA. 1979. Robert Huot. 27 min.
Untitled No. 6. 1975. USA. Greg Sharitz. 13 min.
These four filmmakers use their regular and Super-8 cameras as notebooks, filming daily activities spontaneously while remaining sensitive to the intimate nature of the small-gauge aesthetic. Sharits and Branaman turn the streets of San Francisco and New York into labyrinths of formal investigation; Pierce and Huot convey the pulse of daily rural life through vignettes recording country routines and gatherings. Total running time 80 min. TWR

Thursday, November 11, 6:00:
Marjorie Keller Program:
The Web. 1977. USA. Marjorie Keller. 10 min.
Film Notebook, Part 1 (For Saul). 1975. USA. Marjorie Keller. 12 min.
Turtle. 1969. USA. Marjorie Keller. 2 min.
By 2's and 3's: Women. 1974. USA. Marjorie Keller. 8 min.
Misconception. 1973. USA. Marjorie Keller. 40 min.
Big As Life pays tribute to the late Marjorie Keller with a program of her lyrical regular 8mm films and her major Super-8mm sound essay Misconception. Keller's early regular 8mm films often crossed over into the notebook or diary mode and were marked by a remarkable delicacy of composition and editing that brought out the fragility of her subjects. Misconception is a raw and unsettling synch-sound portrait of a young couple's fantasies and reflections on the impending birth of their first child. Total running time 72 min. TWR

Thursday, November 18, 6:00:
Richard Lerman Transducer Film Series:
# 10 Copper Strip Alone. 1984. USA. Richard Lerman. 3 min.
# 12 On Board the SS Edgerton w/ Brass Screen Tube, a Blue Ribbon Microphone and a Copper Screen. 1984. USA. Richard Lerman. 10 min.
# 20 Two Square Microphones in the Same Month. 1985. USA. Richard Lerman. 5 min.
# 25 St. Johns Harbor & Port Kerwin. 1986. USA. Richard Lerman. 11 min.
# 33 Sunrise at Yuraygir Nat'l Park. 1986. USA. Richard Lerman. 3 min.
# 48 A Red-Earth Microphone by Mona Higuchi. 1988. USA. Richard Lerman. 8 min.
# 56 Pisaq w/Amplified Thorns and Wind. 1988. USA. Richard Lerman. 4 min.
Dom. 1979. USA. Andrej Zdravic. 20 min.
The many-splendored relation between sound and image-and the struggle in the viewer's brain to connect them-are investigated by the use of the transducer, a device that records sounds far away from the image or picks up inherent sound qualities we can't normally hear. Lerman often works in one long take and creates astonishing, minimalistic mystery gems. Dom, which means home in Zdravic's native Slovenian, is an amalgam of rooms and buildings that have particular meaning for the filmmaker. The sense of dread and even horror lends an uncanny twist to the meaning of home. Total running time 64 min. TWR

Thursday, December 2:
O Places! O Trees!. 1997. James Otis. 12 min
Light Pharmacy. Parts I-III. 1987. Albert Gabriel Nigrin. 5 min
Colored Rain. 1974. Willie Varela. 3 min
Ghost Town. 1974. Willie Varela 3 min
Moondance II. 1974-79. Willie Varela 4 min
A Neon Crescent. 1974-76. Willie Varela 3 min
Reaching for the Moon 1974-79. Willie Varela 4 min
Curse. 1978. Renata Breth. 6 min
Epiphany. 1978. Renata Breth. 5 min
Citations. 1979. Renata Breth. 6 min
A program of films which weave images taken from the world into mysterious tapestries of movement and light. Some, as in the films by Willie Varela and Albert Gabriel Nigrin, revel in the rhythms that light--reflected from the moon, puddles, rainbows, or filtering through abandoned structures--can create with the 8mm lens. James Otis uses basic features of the Super-8 camera to magically animate natural landscapes with a throbbing sense of space unseeable with the naked eye. Renata Breth combines many kinds of imagery through subtle montage into intricate little puzzles contemplating social rituals and daily activities.

Thursday, Dec 9:
Three Adaptation Studies. 1970. Vito Acconci. . 9min.
Black Out. 1971. John Baldessari. 3min.
Ice Cubes Sliding. 1974. John Baldessari. 3min.
New York City Post Card Painting. 1971. John Baldessari. 3min.
Prowl. 1989. Albert Kilchesty. 3.5min.
Untitled. c.1975. Lee Krugman. 2.5min.
Near Site. 1977-78. Saul Levine. 1.75min.
Daffodils. 1979-81. Katrina Martin. 2.5min.
Piano Funnel. 1983. Micheal Snow. 3min.
Hair Brush. 1976. Gail Vachon. 10min.
Songs 17 & 18. 1965. Stan Brakhage. 8min.
Song 28. 1969. Stan Brakhage.. 4min.
Song 29. 1969. Stan Brakhage. 4min.
An American Poem. 1987. Andrea Kirsch. 4 min
Crazy. 1987. Scott Stark. 3 min
Malevitch at the Guggenheim. 1974-76. Storm De Hirsch. 5 min
Punching Flowers. 1976. Joe Gibbons. 3 min.
Portrait of Pamela. 1974. Diana Barrie. 3 min
Waterglass. 1984. Melanie Berry. 3 min
This collection of twenty films by fifteen filmmakers work within the boundaries of the given, manufactured length of unrecorded camera film (usually 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 minutes) to concentrate and contain improvised responses to what is in front of the camera's lens. Films range from performative actions by Vito Acconci and John Baldessari, portraits by Andrea Kirsch, Saul Levine and Lee Krugman, and image-sound conundrums by Michael Snow and Scott Stark, to simple portrayals of place by Katrina Martin and Gail Vachon. Included will be the first repeat screenings of films in the series by Diana Barrie and Melanie Berry.

Thursday, Dec 16:
The Sky Socialist. 1964-66. Ken Jacobs. 90 min
A rare screening, with music chosen by the filmmaker, of Ken Jacobs' lyrical and exquisite paean to the Brooklyn Bridge, its creator, and lower Manhattan's enchanting cobblestone streets as still seen during the early 1960s.



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