A Feast of Astonishments: Charlotte Moorman and the Avant-Garde, 1960s-1980s

Date Film Time
1/14 Breaking the Frame FREE 7 pm
2/4 Paul Sharits 7 pm
2/5 Films by Paul Sharits FREE 7 pm
2/11 The Aesthetic Of Decay: Jack Smith & Dick Higgins’ New York 7 pm
2/12 Aldo Tambellini's Black Film series 7 pm
2/13 Andy Warhol's Chelsea Girls 12:30 pm

In conjunction with the Block Museum’s groundbreaking exhibition A Feast of Astonishments: Charlotte Moorman and the Avant-Garde, 1960s-1980s, Block Cinema highlights Charlotte Moorman’s critical role in promoting and championing nontraditional media. The fifteen avant-garde festivals she organized between 1963 and 1980 featured countless works by her peers that would go on to be recognized as classics in the history of experimental cinema. The series features documentaries on artists Carolee Schneemann and Paul Sharits, as well as short films by Sharits, Dick Higgins, Jack Smith, and Aldo Tambellini. The final screening, Andy Warhol’s underground epic The Chelsea Girls, captures the wild spirit and energy of downtown New York City in the mid-1960s.

Breaking the Frame

Thursday, January 14, 2016 7:00 PM FREE
(Marielle Nitoslawska, 2014, US, DCP, 100 min.)

Filmmaker Marielle Nitoslawska’s feature-length documentary Breaking the Frame is a sensitive and insightful profile of radical New York artist Carolee Schneemann. A pioneer of performance, body art, and avant-garde cinema, Schneemann has been challenging assumptions about feminism, gender, sexuality, and identity in the art world for five decades. The collaged and diaristic quality of Schneemann’s own, very personal, approach to cinema is mirrored in Nitoslawska’s intimate portrait of the artist.

In Person: Carolee Schneemann

Paul Sharits

Thursday, February 4, 2016 7:00 PM
(François Miron, 2015, Canada, DCP, 85 min.)

François Miron’s feature length documentary on experimental filmmaker Paul Sharits is a long-overdue examination of the profound and lasting impact of this legendary artist. Sharits was best known for his work with color and light and for his exploration of the film strip as a series of discrete images in his “flicker films” from the 1960s and 70s. Miron sketches the portrait of a tormented, deeply romantic artist, always courting disaster but also cursed by an inherited mental condition. The reconstruction of a tragic career is animated with ample illustrations combined with home movies and other rarely seen archival materials.

Films by Paul Sharits

Friday, February 5, 2016 7:00 PM FREE

Word Movie (Flux Film 29) (1966, US, digital, 4 min.); Episodic Generation (1978, US, 16mm single-screen version of four-screen installation piece, 30 min.); Razor Blades (1965-68, US, 16mm double projection, 25 min.)

Artist Paul Sharits’ interest in language and semiotics is often overlooked in favor of his masterful explorations of human perception and the materiality of film. Known for his groundbreaking work with film flicker, specifically color flicker, Sharits’ cinematic visual and sonic abstractions were designed to impact the viewer on multiple registers—intellectual, perceptual, and visceral. This program brings together one of Sharits’ early Fluxus films, Episodic Generation—a meditation on reproduction and optical sound technology—and his first, rarely seen double projection film Razor Blades. Approximately 75 minutes.

Episodic Generation preserved by Anthology Film Archives, New York

The Aesthetics of Decay: Jack Smith and Dick Higgins’ New York

Thursday, February 11, 2016 7:00 PM

Scotch Tape (Jack Smith, 1959-62, US, 16mm, 3 min.); The Flaming City (Dick Higgins, 1963, US, 16mm, 121 min.)

Jack Smith’s Scotch Tape and Dick Higgins’ rarely seen 1963 epic The Flaming City are experimental takes on the beauty and transformative potential of urban ruin and rubble. Both set in New York in the early 1960s, these playful and transgressive portraits of the city envision it as a metropolitan playground in which detritus and decay possess transformative potential. Higgins described The Flaming City as “an anti-semantic love story about a marvelous part of New York City and the people who lived there as the city is destroyed.”

Introduced by Professor Hannah Higgins, University of Illinois at Chicago.

Aldo Tambellini's Black Film Series

Friday, February 12, 2016 7:00 PM
(Aldo Tambellini, 1965-68, US, 16mm)

Artist and filmmaker Aldo Tambellini’s films and pioneering video work have been undergoing a welcome rediscovery in the past few years. This program features his stunning Black Film series, a group of films that riff on various formal, political, and social associations evoked by the idea of “black” (abstraction, Vietnam, Robert Kennedy’s assassination, African-American teenage life, among others). Film curator Mark Webber describes the films as “a rapid-fire response to the beginning of the information age and a world in flux.” Screening in new 16mm prints are his first film, Black Is, along with Black Trip 1, Black Trip 2, Black Plus X, Blackout, Moonblack, and the video work (newly preserved on film) Black TV.

Late addition: two recently restored silent works by Tambellini, Sun Black and Black '67 will screen after the Black film series.

Approximately 60 min.

The Chelsea Girls

Saturday, February 13, 2016 12:30 PM
(Andy Warhol, 1966, US, 16mm double projection, approx. 210 min.)

One of Andy Warhol’s most celebrated films, The Chelsea Girls is set in New York City’s famed Chelsea Hotel and features a host of Factory regulars and Warhol Superstars, including Velvet Underground collaborator Nico, actress Mary Woronov, and experimental filmmaker Marie Menken. The film comes roughly mid-point in Andy Warhol’s brief filmmaking career, and it functions both as a summation of the stylistic playfulness and formal investigations he’d been pursuing since 1963 and a mapping of the relatively more conventional (for Warhol) narrative focus his films would have through 1969.

Please note the 12:30pm start time. Print courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art