Magazine article Journal of Film Preservation

New York: Anthology Film Archives

Magazine article Journal of Film Preservation

New York: Anthology Film Archives

Article excerpt

From December 7 to 11, 1995, Anthology Film Archives and the Harvard Film Archive presented a 130 title retrospective of abstract films made between 1920 and 1995, supported by a catalog and lectures by six scholars, archivists, and filmmakers. Formally titled Articulated Light: The Emergence of Abstract Film in America, the series presented films variously described as "absolute," Non-Objective, graphic, and hand-made. With more than half of the films drawn from private or archival collections (especially Anthology, Harvard, Eastman House, MoMA, and Yale), the programs (which were not limited to America) presented to the public scores of films that have not been shown for decades, and demonstrated that early "abstract" cinema was much more sophisticated, and more of it had survived than most of us knew.

All of the speakers at the conference - Stan Brakhage, Robert Haller, William Moritz, Bruce Posner, Rani Singh, Cecile Starr, and Vlada Petric (Posner and Petric of Harvard were the organizers and curators of the event) - marveled at films they had never seen or heard of before. Among these were La Mer (1936) by Ovady Julber, Escape (1937) by Mary Ellen Bute, Mobicolor Projections (1961) by Charles Dockum, Impressions from the Upper Atmosphere (1989) by Jose Antonio Sistiaga, Night Music (1986) by Stan Brakhage, Pastoral (1950) by Bute, Variations on a Circle (1941-42) High Voltage (1957), Wu Ming (1977), and Kang Jing Ziang (1982) by James Whitney, Death and Transfiguration (1961) and Fathomless (1964) by James Davis, two different version of Ballet Mécanique (1924) by Fernand Léger / Dudley Murphy / Man Ray (from Anthology and from Moritz), Dream Displacement (1976) by Paul Sharits, La Couleur de la forme (1961) by Hy Hirsh, and what was apparently the earliest abstract film ever made, Opus No.1 (1921) by Walter Ruttmann - which was shown with a sound track prepared from the score for the live music originally presented with the film. Surprise appearances at the screenings included Elfried Fischinger and Roger Horrocks.

The conference was presented at Harvard in the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts in the Archive theater (with 16mm, 35mm, multiple projector, and video projection) to an audience that asked as many questions as the speakers, who wrestled with such topics as "The California School of Color Music," "Hilla Rebay and the Guggenheim Nexus," and "Can Language Describe Abstract Film? …

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