The Museums of the Moving Image

By Chin, Daryl | Art Journal, Fall 2002 | Go to article overview

The Museums of the Moving Image


Chin, Daryl, Art Journal


Sara Petty and Larry Cuba, catalogue design. Kinetics 3:Abstraction/ Animation/Music. Los Angeles: The iotaCenter, 2001. 20 pp., 44 b/w ills. Free through the iotaCenter (paper) and online at www.iotacenter.org/KINETICA / in pdf format.

Bruce Posner, ed. Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant-Garde Film, 1893-1941. NewYork: Anthology Film Archives, 2001. 160 pp., ills. $ 15.95 paper.

Albert Kilchesty, ed. Big as Life: An American History of 8mm Films. San Francisco: The Museum of Modern Art/San Francisco Cinematheque, 1998.

Includes essays by Jytte Jensen, Steve Anker, Kilchesty, Fred Camper, Peggy Ahwesh, Nina Fonoroff, Kathy Geritz, Ross Lipman, Donna Cameron, and Willie Varela, and over twodozen filmmaker interviews. 128 pp., ills. $15 paper.

Amaranta Arino, coordination, and Enrique Camacho, ed. Luis Bunuel: 100 Years, It Is Dangerous to Look Inside.

New York: Instituto Cervantes/The Museum of Modern Art/Abrams, 2000. 344 pp., 67 color ills., 97 duotone, 375 b/w. $35 paper.

Chrissie lies, with an essay by Thomas Zummer. Into the Light. The Projected Image in American Art, 1964-1977. New York: The Whitney Museum of American Art/Abrams, 200. 185 pp., 40 color ills., 70 duotone, 70 b/w. $45.

During the 1999-2000 art season, many museums had exhibitions that were intended to sum up the centennial epoch; perhaps a classic example would be the two-part American Century exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in NewYork. These centennial exhibitions were confronted with curatorial dilemmas, specifically related to the approaches taken to the presentation of art. Should the approach be sociological? Should the approach derive from cultural studies? Should the approach be art-historical? Thus these exhibitions faced the problem of placing the "popular" arts, specifically cinema and television, in surveys of the American arts of the twentieth century. And the problem of placement with such media was exacerbated by the instability of media ambition: in addition to the mass medium of the commercial industry, the model of Hollywood enterprise, there were those artists who had extended their aesthetics into the cinema, thus incorporating high-art ambition into cinematic form, the alternative enterprise of the avant-garde cinema. With the recent technology of flatscreen "liquid" television monitors and digital projection, there was the temptation to include film-clips-on-video as part of exhibition installation, if theatrical presentation of film wasn't a possibility But the dominance of cinematic production as the popular art form of the last century caused necessary fractures in any reflection on achievement on cultural, aesthetic, and sociological levels.

The five catalogues under discussion represent the variety of approaches, aesthetics, and aspirations attendant upon the presentation of "film" in the museum context.

The catalogues themselves are so incredibly diverse that they also tell us something about the particular circumstances of the exhibitions they accompanied.

Beginning with the most modest: Kinetics 3:Abstraction/Animation/Music is a small but immensely informative catalogue put out by The iotaCenter, a nonprofit organization devoted to the preservation, promotion, and exhibition of "the art of abstraction in the moving image" (j6).This catalogue accompanied a touring exhibition of two film programs, "Hy Hirsh and the Fifties: Jazz and Abstraction in Beat Era Films," and "Bardo and the Contemporary Program."

The catalogue consists of five essays (three by William Moritz, one each by Cindy Keefer and Larry Cuba), which are all succinct, evocative and informative. One point made in the essays is how closely the films in the program "Hy Hirsch and the Fifties" relate to the advanced arts of the time, especially Abstract Expressionist painting and Be-bop jazz. In fact, the case is made that these abstract films of the i95os, with their animated geometric forms, were just as much a statement of an American bohemian culture as the more "accepted" arts of painting and jazz. …

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