Tuesday, March 17, 2009 at 7:30pm
Return to LH6
Curated by Ken Jacobs
"Binghamton, 1969 to 2002. I started in LH1, a much larger room than LH6, hundreds of students but most expected to see only popular movies and a reflection of their own casual and superior attitudes. They weren't the only defiantly stupid ones (seeing that nothing is more worth critical attention than the phenomena of cinema). Established teachers had railed against a Cinema Department before I arrived as a further appeasement of spoiled and rebellious students and a desecration of the discipline of teaching. They had gone off-campus to complain to the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, turds that supported the slaughter of Vietnamese and decried the influx of NewYorkCommieFagNiggerlovingJews, and allies in the protection of students from persons arrested for the screening of Flaming Creatures.
"I then believed that anyone could become a real student (wrong!), just as I was an anyone that had become a teacher. I had prepared by attending The Laff Movie on 42nd Street. It had first influenced my making of Star Spangled to Death and now my teaching. I can't recall the advertising of specific films on the marquee. It was a place for poor men to sleep off a drunk while old comedies were screened, sometimes entire films and sometimes comic sections of films. Film clips! This was indeed revolutionary thinking. One standard applied: whatever was selected had been thoroughly dismissed from public memory, certainly from the few film-history books that then existed. The great nameless and unthanked anti-snob curator of The Laff Movie, my mystery Professor! Thou scummy and dreary University, where hot dogs and candy bars and drinks were hawked up and down the aisles during screenings, only you, for a quarter, showed me the pre-code Thirties, introducing me to the real Eddy Cantor and Jimmy Durante and Busby Berkeley in their pre-code prime, when they were forces.
"I expanded on the Laff Movie selections so one never knew what to expect and I disapproved of introductions: students were expected to grapple, and then there'd be talk, lots of it. Assuming I still have something of my teaching chops, you're welcome to sit in on a re-creation of cinema studies in LH6. (I would sometimes screen some of my own stuff so there just might be samplings and discussion of recent Ken Jacobs work.)" - KJ
Followed by a conversation between Jacobs and Amy Taubin.
Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Ken Jacobs, was born in Brooklyn, NY, in 1933. He studied painting with one of the prime creators of Abstract Expressionism, Hans Hofmann, in the mid-fifties. It was then that he also began filmmaking (Star Spangled To Death). His personal star rose, to just about knee high, with the sixties advent of Underground Film. In 1967, with the involvement of his wife Florence and many others aspiring to a democratic -rather than demagogic- cinema, he created The Millennium Film Workshop in New York City. A nonprofit filmmaker's co-operative open to all, it made available film equipment, workspace, screenings and classes at little or no cost. Later he found himself teaching large classes of painfully docile students at St. John's University in Jamaica, Queens.
In 1969, after a week's guest seminar at Harpur College (now, Binghamton University), students petitioned the Administration to hire Ken Jacobs. Despite his lack of a high school diploma, the Administration -during that special period of anguish and possibility- decided that, as a teacher, he was "a natural." Together with Larry Gottheim he organized the SUNY system's first Department of Cinema, teaching thoughtful consideration of every kind of film but specializing in avant garde cinema appreciation and production. (Department graduates are world-recognized as having an exceptional presence in this field.) His own early studies under Hofmann would increasingly figure in his filmwork, making for an Abstract Expressionist cinema, clearly evident in his avant garde classic Tom, Tom, The Piper's Son (1969) and increasingly so in his subsequent devising of the unique Nervous System series of live film-projection performances. The American Museum Of The Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, hosted a full retrospective of his work in 1989, The New York Museum Of Modern Art held a partial retrospective in 1996, as did The American House in Paris in 1994 and the Arsenal Theater in Berlin in 1986 (during his 6 month stay as guest-recipient of Berlin's DAAD award). He has also performed in Japan, at the Louvre in Paris, the Getty Center in Los Angeles, etc. Honors include the Maya Deren Award of The American Film Institute, the Guggenheim Award and a special Rockefeller Foundation grant. A 1999 interview with Ken Jacobs can be seen on the Net as part of The University Of California at Berkeley's series of Conversations With History.
Tickets - $7, available at door.