On the Collective for Living Cinema

By O'Reilly, Sally | Art Monthly, October 2007 | Go to article overview

On the Collective for Living Cinema


O'Reilly, Sally, Art Monthly


On The Collective for Living Cinema Wilkinson London September 6 to October 7

The Collective for Living Cinema was founded in New York in 1973 by a group of students from the Harpur College Cinema Department. They acquired premises in White Street, Manhattan, which they used as a venue for screenings, as well as production and discussion, with the aim of disarming the commercial structures that tended to control production and distribution, while dissolving distinctions between film and video, cinema and art. The archival material shown here is presented in collaboration with Orchard in New York's Lower East Side, a space run by a dozen practioners--both producers and commentators--who formulate their shows along lines of historical enquiry rather than for the market. That Wilkinson should present such a project for the opening of their spanking new space (albeit in the small project space, alongside an exhibition of Thoralf Knobloch's tasty paintings) suggests a policy that one would not instantly associate with such a bold architectural statement. Although Wilkinson's new building is rather imposingly sleek in this ramshackle street with mounting Chelsea, NY, pretensions, it is heartening to see that the programme isn't entirely geared towards selling and that historical backwaters are not forfeited for the uber-current.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The vitrines that flank the somewhat imposing row of monitors further substantiate the show's authority as archive, although their contents--a letter from the New York Department of Buildings, an appeal against a padlock order, flyers for presentation of work by the likes of Carollee Schneeman, Nan Goldin and Anthony McCall and refusal letters from Frank Stella and Robert Redford--situate the collective in a historical context that, counter to their intention at the time, seems heroic and canonical. The film and video programme establishes a much more contingent atmosphere, however, with the tedious or obtuse nature of some pieces reminding us that history performs the ongoing and necessary function of editor--the point being, perhaps, to question how and by whom these decisions are made.

Among the hours of footage there are many sparks and slow burners worth trawling for. Bette Gordon's three-minute long An Erotic Film, 1976, is a hymn to love in the industrial landscape, with an unfeasibly long train flashing past, its various cargo liveries obliterating a couple languishing in long grass, engulfed by flowers. Two showreels of artists' films protesting against US intervention in Latin America in the 80s give an interesting overview of methods of dissent, from the oblique to the cringingly unsubtle; and the fortitude of Saul Levine's long-term protestation against government foreign policy in New Left Note, 1968-82, also the title of the newspaper he edited, is compressed into 26 minutes of silently blistering montage. …

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