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Below are descriptions of two programs I presented in Naples, Italy, on October 21 and 22, 2002, as part of a six-program series sponsored by E-M Arts. I spoke in English and my remarks were expertly translated into Italian by Francesa Marretta, who also translated my writing in the catalogue. The catalogue contains more information on the films I showed and their filmmakers; similar information on films presented by other curators; general essays by Bruno Di Marino, Thomas Draschan, and Stefano Masi; an essay of my own, Cinema, Industry, and Nature, which is a fuller statement of my thoughts on these topics than I have made in print previously. The catalogue can be ordered for 15 Euros plus shipping from E-M Arts. Fred Camper


Designed as a companion program to "Cinema and Nature," this group of films explores the ways in which filmmakers have made reference to and engaged with industrial processes including the industrial process of cinema itself to express ambivalence toward, alienation from, or a critique of mechanization and dehumanization, as part of the reevaluation of our relationship to nature and technology that has occurred in recent decades. The films of Canadian Arthur Lipsett show mass culture as dehumanizing; the "Beat" writers and poets were one of his inspirations. John Smith's The Girl Chewing Gum is a humorous treatment of -- and critique of -- the film director's wish for total control over the world in front of his lens. Stan Brakhage's Murder Psalm uses footage from am educational film about epilepsy to show how mass culture over-simplifies consciousness, depicting the brain as if it were a household consumer object; others shots trap their imagery in hypnotic video flicker. Janie Geiser's The Fourth Watch superimposes silent-movie actors filmed off a video monitor on the interior of a dollhouse, offering a vision of the way media intrude on the magical "real" spaces of childhood. Thomas Comerford uses a pinhole camera in Figures in the Landscape to create images whose extraordinary delicacy offer an implied alternative to the more "perfect," sharp, and therefore controlling imagery of mainstream cinema. And Brian Frye's Mirror Manhattan uses Manhattan's skyline to suggest that the camera's perspective is inherently arbitrary -- by mixing rightside-up and upside-down shots.

The films (all 16mm):
Very Nice, Very Nice (1961, 7 mins.), by Arthur Lipsett
21-87 (1964, 9 mins.), by Arthur Lipsett
Murder Psalm (1981, 17 mins.), by Stan Brakhage
The Girl Chewing Gum (1976, 12 mins.), by John Smith
The Fourth Watch (2000, 11 mins.), by Janie Geiser
Figures in the Landscape (2002, 12 mins.), by Thomas Comerford
Mirror Manhattan (2001, 3 mins.), by Brian Frye

This program can be seen on Monday, October 21, at 8:00 PM, via Calabritto, 20, 80122 Napoli, Italia (Naples, Italy)
For further information, email me or email E-M Arts, the sponsoring organization, or phone or fax them at 39 0817643737.


In some ways cinema and nature are in opposition. Cinema is a product of the same industrial revolution that gave us steam engines and railroads, and that led to the increasing industrialization, specialization, and alienation from the natural world that characterize current life in the West. Yet many filmmakers have attempted to use the technology of cinema to see beyond technology, to use cinema as a window onto another realm. A few use natural materials directly, as in Stan Brakhage's Mothlight, in which he collaged moth wings and other bugs and plant materials between two strips of perforated tape, and was able to make a projectible film print of it. Filmmakers have also sought to find filmic metaphors such as exposure changes for the processes by which land and glaciers are formed, as Brakhage does in Creation. Others have surrendered some of the decisions traditionally left to the artist to natural processes: in Chris Welsby's Seven Days, the camera reverses filming angle to point in the opposite direction depending on whether the sun is shining or obscured by clouds. And Brian Frye's Lachrymae is a film poem in which the light of fireflies functions as a tiny miracle.

In 1966, anthropologist John Adair and filmmaker Sol Worth gave film and cameras to Navajo Indians in a small community on the Navajo reservation that had seen little film and television up to that time. They taught the Navajo participants only the basics of technique, leaving them complete control over subject-matter and editing, in the hope that their films would show evidence of different forms of visual thinking, since they came from a culture very different than the one that created the industrial revolution. The results were extraordinary. A Navajo Weaver presents the whole process of making blankets, and the film connects the finished products to the natural environment that produced the raw materials. In a somewhat similar project, residents of rural Kentucky ("hillbillies") were given cameras in the late 1960s, and some of the documentaries they produced, such as "Mountain Farmer," show a more intimate relationship to nature than is common in the urban West.

The films (all 16mm):
Mothlight (1963, 3 mins.), by Stan Brakhage
Creation (1979, 16 mins.), by Stan Brakhage
Seven Days (1974, 20 mins.), by Chris Welsby
Lachrymae (2000, 3 mins.), by Brian Frye
A Navajo Weaver (1966, 22 mins), by Susie Benally
Mountain Farmer (1973, 9 mins.), by Shelby Adams and Mimi Pickering

This program can be seen on Tuesday, October 22, at 8:00 PM, via Calabritto, 20, 80122 Napoli, Italia (Naples, Italy)
For further information, email me or email E-M Arts, the sponsoring organization, or phone or fax them at 39 0817643737.

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