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Radical Light: Alternative Film and Video in the San Francisco Bay Area

Wednesday, February 16, 2011
7:30 p.m. Abstraction in Film

Nathaniel Dorsky in Person

Film is often associated with its ability to represent the world, but there is also a rich history of films that attempt to see the world differently by using non-objective forms, painting directly on film, or fragmenting, distorting, and otherwise transforming reality. Tonight’s program, featuring Bay Area films that use abstraction, ranges from the 1950s to the 1990s and includes films that are minimal, psychedelic, and composed solely of unexposed film stock. Obmaru is animated from Patricia Marx’s paintings, while Dion Vigné’s Stroboscopic Images consists of pulsating abstract, geometric shapes. Jordan Belson describes his mesmerizing Allures as “a combination of molecular structures and astronomical events mixed with subconscious and subjective phenomena.” In the dream-like XFilm, by John Schofill, abstraction is found in the everyday. Barry Spinello’s elemental Soundtrack was made without a camera and without recording sound, instead painting directly on film. Vincent Grenier’s Light Shaft reveals his “obsessive attachment to cultivating visual ambiguities.” In Metal Cravings, Elise Hurwitz focuses on film’s emulsion, as does Nathaniel Dorksy in his Pneuma; both beautifully reveal the deterioration of film itself.

Obmaru (Patricia Marx, 1953, 4 mins, Color, From Academy Film Archives, permission Angeline Pike). Allures (Jordan Belson, 9 mins, Color, 1961, PFA Collection). Stroboscopic Images (Dion Vigné, 1964, 6 mins, PFA Collection). XFilm (John Schofill, 1968, 14 mins, Color, From Canyon Cinema). Soundtrack (Barry Spinello, 1969, 10 mins, B&W/Color, From Canyon Cinema). Light Shaft (Vincent Grenier, 1975, 8 mins, Silent, B&W, From Canyon Cinema). Metal Cravings (Elise Hurwitz, 1990–1997, 5 mins, Silent, B&W, From the artist). Pneuma (Nathaniel Dorsky, 1983, 29 mins @ 18fps, Silent, Color/B&W, From Canyon Cinema).

This program coincides with the opening of the gallery exhibition Abstract Now and Then, which features highlights from BAM/PFA’s extensive collection of abstract work from the 1940s to the present.

—Kathy Geritz

• Total running time: 85 mins, 16mm