Academic journal article Millennium Film Journal

In Memoriam: Owen Land A.K.A. George Landow (1944-2011)

Academic journal article Millennium Film Journal

In Memoriam: Owen Land A.K.A. George Landow (1944-2011)

Article excerpt

In September of 2011, I was surprised (in fact, shocked) when I received a press release from Anthology Film Archives, noting a series of memorial screenings to mark the recent passing of notable figures in the history of the avant-garde cinema: the producer and distributor David C. Stone, the filmmakers Adolfas Mekas and Robert Breer, and Owen Land (né George Landow). The shock was in seeing the name Owen Land: as with many of his friends, I had lost touch with him, but I had known he was still somewhere, and every so often, a new film would arrive, a reminder of his prodigious wit and exceptional filmmaking inventiveness, such as Undesirables (Condensed Version) in 1999. In the November issue of Artforum, P. Adams Sitney wrote a highly informative and emotionally resonant essay, "Passages: Owen Land (1944-2011)" which provided many biographical details previously unknown to most of us. (I had no idea that P. Adams Sitney and George Landow had been childhood friends in Connecticut.) I met George around 1969-70; because George Landow had been working since the early 1960s, I had assumed that, like Ken Jacobs and the Kuchar Brothers, George must have been a native New Yorker. But like many otliers (including Adolfas and Jonas Mekas, Warren Sonbert, and Andy Warhol), he was a transplant who helped to redefine New York City as a mecca for advanced artistic enterprise during the 1960s.

Though he changed his name to Owen Land by the late 1980s, the person I knew was George Landow, and I could never get my mind around to thinking of him under another name. The George Landow I knew was a skinny, intense person with bushy reddish-brown hair and beard, someone continually enthusiastic about film in all its various manifestations. Though George Landow had a great admiration for avant-garde cinema, he also felt an affinity with what might be considered the detritus of cinema: industrial films, educational films, instructional films. If Jack Smith found mythopoeic substance in the exotica of Hollywood, George Landow would subvert the aesthetic of the avant-garde cinema with a variety of strategies, beginning with found footage which he would loop-print, rephotograph, or extend (in early works such as Film in which there appear sprocket holes, edge Uttering, dirt particles, etc. …

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