Monday, September 19, 2016 at 7:30pm
An Evening with Douglas Crimp
155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn
Presented with Dancing Foxes Press
Light Industry hosts an evening with critic and art historian Douglas Crimp on the occasion of his newly-published memoir Before Pictures, a remarkable chronicle of New York in the 60s and 70s. Tonight he'll be reading from a chapter about downtown cinephilia and related pursuits, followed by a screening of Joseph Cornell's seminal collage film Rose Hobart and a conversation with Thomas Beard.
“I went once or twice a week to see the films shown at Peter Kubelka’s Invisible Cinema, the innovative movie theater built in Joseph Papp’s Public Theater on Lafayette Street for the newly founded Anthology Film Archives. There we saw a high percentage of Anthology’s Essential Cinema offerings, from Griffith, Eisenstein, and Murnau to Kenneth Anger, Stan Brakhage, and Maya Deren. We saw Carl Dreyer’s Gertrud in Danish with no subtitles; although Gertrud is a movie that is mostly talk, so thorough was Anthology’s purist aesthetic that something as intrusive as subtitles added to the original image was anathema. The Invisible Cinema was an architectural realization of that purism, designed in such a way as to keep your eyes glued to the screen. Each seat was enclosed in a cubical that prevented seeing or touching the person next to, in front of, or behind you. The only way to find an empty seat was to walk into a row and look into each cubical separately. God forbid you might need to get to a restroom during the film and then find your seat again. The Invisible Cinema’s effect on me was hypnotic, but not in the way Kubelka intended: Within five minutes of any film’s beginning, I began to fall asleep. Some might attribute this to the films themselves, which were hardly engaging in the way a Minnelli musical is. But I was excited by these films, sometimes literally so, such as when I first saw at Anthology Jean Genet’s Un chant d’amour and Kenneth Anger’s Fireworks. Still, in order to keep my eyes from closing in sleep, I had to hold my eyelids open with my thumb and index finger. It was absurd, but even so I went back again and again, so fascinated was I by the films you could see only at Anthology.
Among those films was Rose Hobart, Joseph Cornell’s early masterpiece. Rose Hobart shared characteristics with some of the haunting shadow boxes I’d seen at the Guggenheim a few years earlier, including a dark blue tint and the artist’s obsession with Hollywood beauties, but it also seemed a world apart, since the material Cornell used for his collage film is a piece of Hollywood Orientalism called East of Borneo (something of a rather different character than, say, a Medici portrait or a photograph of Tamara Toumanova). Moreover, he reinforced and further jumbled the original movie’s exoticism by adding a soundtrack of sambas from Nestor Amaral’s recording Holiday in Brazil to its jungle setting, complete with palm trees, crocodiles, and a solar eclipse; and its devious Eastern potentate, with “his own private volcano,” as Annette Michelson put it in her 1973 article on Cornell in Artforum. Probably owning to Michelson’s formulation, the moment of Rose Hobart that has stuck in my memory is when the Rajah of Marudu pulls back a curtain to reveal a fiery volcano that he, his cockatoo, and the Rose Hobart character appear to admire. Looking at the film now, I realize that Cornell only reinforces East of Borneo’s Orientalism through his fascination with Hobart’s delicate beauty. Excising plot and action, Cornell focuses obsessively on the actress, repeatedly cutting from her image in one scene to that in another and back again, such that Hobart’s costume changes—from trench coat to day dress to evening gown in no logical sequence—constitute the most visible differences among juxtaposed shots. Her chic attire, especially her evening wear, is markedly incongruous in the jungle terrain or the rajah’s tent—as incongruous as seeing an erupting volcano when the living-room drapes are drawn.
Going to movies everyday was both enjoyable and educational, but it didn’t leave much time for making a living…”
- from Before Pictures
Rose Hobart, Joseph Cornell, 1936, digital projection, 20 mins
Preserved by Anthology Film Archives, New York
Douglas Crimp is an art critic and the Fanny Knapp Professor of Art History at the University of Rochester. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including Pictures, AIDS: Cultural Analysis/Cultural Activism, On the Museum’s Ruins, and “Our Kind of Movie”: The Films of Andy Warhol.
Tickets - $8, available at door.
Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.