Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 7:30pm
Leah Gilliam's Apeshit + Wesley Barry's The Creation of the Humanoids
155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn
Apeshit, Leah Gilliam, video, 1999, 7 mins
The Creation of the Humanoids, Wesley Barry, 16mm, 1962, 84 mins
No other effort from the golden age of spacesuit melodrama entranced the 60s avant-garde as deeply as Wesley Barry’s The Creation of the Humanoids, a deadpan talkie set after worldwide nuclear war, in which a shrinking population of radiation-infected humans rely on an army of android servants to maintain their idyllic lifestyle. Andy Warhol called it his favorite movie; Mike Kuchar parodied it in his robots-in-love featurette Sins of the Fleshapoids; Susan Sontag used it to explore the theme of dehumanization in her essay “The Imagination of Disaster;” and Robert Smithson dubbed it one of the “landmarks of Sci-fic,” an example of 42nd Street fare that “induces a kind of ‘low-budget’ mysticism,” keeping the viewer “in a perpetual trance.”
Attempting high style on the cheap, Creation employs barebones sets, stilted dramatics, and an unforgettably gaudy, Forbidden Planet inspired design. In the current issue of Artforum, J. Hoberman proposes that the film is “nearly as color-coded as Red Desert and more impoverished than Alphaville.” Despite these shoddy elements, the movie attempts to explore a host of real-world concerns. Barry’s film suggests Cold War nightmares early on, opening with a mushroom-cloud title sequence set to a soundtrack of electronic noodlings. The bulk of the picture, however, offers an allegory for civil rights and class struggle through growing tensions between the humans and the humanoids, the latter marked by their grayish “synthe-skin,” metallic eyes, and Nehru jumpsuits; humans disparagingly refer to their servants as “clickers,” and an extremist faction known as the Order of Flesh and Blood has begun a series of terrorist actions against the robots. The social hierarchy becomes threatened when scraggly-haired scientist Dr. Raven starts implanting the memories of dead humans into humanoid bodies—at which point Creation verges on an Atomic Age ancestor of Blade Runner, with a speculative politics churning beneath its flimsy facade of ray-gun camp.
Leah Gilliam’s retro-futuristic Apeshit jumps forward a decade from Humanoids to the era of Black Power and electronic utopianism, using antique analog image-processing to alter footage from a Super-8 reduction print of Battle for the Planet of the Apes. As Gilliam writes, “interspecies battle becomes a metaphor for xenophobia, homophobia, and white supremacy while signaling the inevitable outcome: Annihilation.”
Print of The Creation of the Humanoids courtesy of the Cosmic Hex Archive.
Tickets - $7, available at door.
Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.