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Modesty: Cinematic Retreats from Grand Ambitions

Among the works of the pioneers of American avant-garde filmmaking Deren, Anger, Markopoulos, Brakhage among them are films that try to account for the totality of the world, or at least, of one individual's consciousness. Often inscribed within such works is an acknowledgment of the failure of such attempts, but the ambition to "imagine a world" remains.

More recently, filmmakers have emerged who critique such ambitions, seeking for the artist the more modest role of making work that presents itself as qualified, contingent, provisional. Such filmmakers seek not to account for the universe, but to present particular experiences; analogous trends in contemporary art will be mentioned in this lecture-screening.

The two-person collective Animal Charm comment on the grandiosity of car culture; S. Barber presents ocean exploration ironically. Thomas Comerford's pinhole camera produces images of great delicacy and fragility, while Brian Frye mimics aspects of the home movie. And much earlier, Arthur Lipsett had used found footage to both relish and criticize grand ambitions.

The program ends with three films by "outsiders" for whom grand ambition was never an issue. All three offer a refreshingly direct relationship between humans and nature.Documentaries, they owe little to the genre's conventions. Lee Banks: Mountain Farmer was made in rural Kentucky under the sponsorship of Appalshop, while Old Antelope Lake and A Navajo Weaver were made by Navajo who, having seen little of cinema or television, were given basic technical instruction in camera operation and splicing. The were seven "Navajo films" in all, and the book about the project that produced these films is called Through Navajo Eyes, by Sol Worth and John Adair.

Works to be screened, in the order in which they will be shown:
Target, by Animal Charm (video, 1999, 9 min.)
shipfilm, by S. Barber (1998, 4 min.)
ILLA CAMERA OBSCVRA, by Thomas Comerford (2001, 12 min.)
Lachrymae, by Brian Frye (2000, 3 min.)
A Trip Down Memory Lane, by Arthur Lipsett (1965, 12 min.)
Lee Banks: Mountain Farmer, by Shelby Adams (1973, 9 min.)
Old Antelope Lake, by Mike Anderson (1966, 11 min.)
A Navajo Weaver, by Susie K. Benally (1966, 22 min.)

This program took place on Monday, November 5th. at 7:30 PM, as part of the First Person Cinema series at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Fine Arts building, room N141. Admission was $2.00. Call 303-492-7574 for further information, or contact me.

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