Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 7:30pm
Tales of the Forgotten Future
Tales of the Forgotten Future
Lewis Klahr, 1988-1991, 131 mins
Part 1: The Morning Films
Lost Camel Intentions, 1988, 10 mins
For the Rest of Your Natural Life, 1988, 9 mins
In the Month of Crickets, 1988, 14 mins
Part 2: Five O'Clock Worlds
The Organ Minder's Gronkey, 1990, 14 mins
Hi-Fi Cadets, 1989, 11 mins
Verdant Sonar, 1989, 2 mins
Part 3: Mood Opulence
Cartoon Far, 1990, 6 mins
Yesterdays Glue, 1989, 14 mins
Elevator Music, 1991, 14 mins
Part 4: Right Hand Shade
Station Dramam, 1990, 14 mins
Untitled, 1991, 21 mins
Untitled, 1991, 4 mins
Light Industry is excited to present a rare screening of Lewis Klahr’s Tales of the Forgotten Future, to be introduced by the artist. An epic cycle created on the tiny, domestic medium of Super-8, the film combines the intimacy of its chosen gauge with the evocative sweep of Freudian dreamwork. It’s a moving collage clipped together out of photos and illustrations from the Atomic Age, reconfigured into a private visual language that speaks of both Klahr’s own childhood and a greater strangeness: how images from another era stand as uncanny evidence for a very different stage of development in the American psyche.
Though located in an avant-garde practice of cut-out appropriation that stretches from Harry Smith, Stan VanDerBeek and Lawrence Jordan to later artists like Martha Colburn and Jonathan Schwartz, Klahr’s work creates a system of representation all its own, quivering between the present and the past, reshuffling that potent deck of icons bequeathed to us by our former selves.
"In the age of industrial sound and light, Lewis Klahr makes special-effects movies that are almost insanely artisanal--one man, labor-intensive cut-and-paste animations that are at once crude and poetic, blunt and enigmatic, as funny as they are inventive.
Klahr is even more involved in the reworking of received images than Hollywood is. For the past fifteen years, the 36-year-old New York-based filmmaker has been collaging material foraged mainly from old magazines into brief, evocative, eccentric movies. What sets him apart from underground predecessors such as Stan Vanderbeek and Harry Smith...is his extreme pragmatism. Not only does Klahr work in Super-8 without an animation stand but when it suits his purposes, he employs the three-dimensional world--using, for example, a dollop of grape jelly for blood.
For Klahr, the Super-8 format has strong associations with home movies and childhood. Still, to create Her Fragrant Emulsion (1987), a homage to the '60s movie star Mimsy Farmer, Klahr used a technique called 'strip collage,' in which bits of cut-up film are glued or taped to clear leader. Some of his other films employ a new form of the photo-comics the Italians call fumetti (which Federico Fellini affectionately parodied in The White Sheik). In addition to pillaging back issues of Life, Klahr photographs actors and integrates their images into his pulpish quasi-narratives amid splashes of color and hieroglyphic thought balloons. (His is a world where sounds are often seen rather than heard.)
There's an obsessional quality to all animation, but Klahr compounds it with a collector's fetishism. Diving into a sea of musty magazines, he dredges up all manner of forgotten icons--fashion drawings, watercolor washes of idealized housing tracts--and imbues them with a secret life. (His child's-eye view seems to preclude simple nostalgia.) Klahr's 1988 break-through, In The Month of Crickets, is a masterpiece of populuxe surrealism that, set in a mysterious hotel-cum-department store, manages to coax a remarkable degree of eroticism out of a few suggestive maneuvers and the escalating soundtrack buzz that gives the movie its title.
Klahr tends to cluster his films in cycles. His first series was called Picture Books For Adults; he's recently completed the twelve-film Tales of the Forgotten Future. Its title an apparent reference to that American utopia prophesized by the ads of Klahr's childhood, the 'Tales' cycle is redolent of fallout shelters, jet-ports, and the '64 New York World's Fair. The Organ Minder's Gronkey (1990), which flashes the date '1957' on the screen, is an economical evocation of nuclear paranoia that suggests both the original D.O.A. and Godard's Alphaville. Hi-Fi Cadets (1990), a small classic during which a TV is emblazoned '1960,' boldly appropriates John F. Kennedy, providing his image with a strange form of afterlife. A cutout JFK wanders into a neighborhood tavern and drinks Mr. Boston with the black patrons until he passes out, alone at the bar. Klahr uses both photographs and editorial cartoons of Kennedy and, at one point presents him as the janitor of what seems to be an all-girl high school where the English class is studying Henry IV. The film's ending is sweetly mysterious-accompanied by celestial music, a young woman (student, teacher, Kennedy's date?) blasts off in an outsized coffee cup into a cluttered, Disneyesque vision of the cosmos.
Other 'Tales' are teenage celebrations of fast cars and hot romance. Cartoon Far (1991) is a moodily psychedelic, flashback-and-moire-ridden noir set to the Shangri-Las' 'Past, Present and Future,' a tormented reworking of Beethoven's 'Moonlight Sonata.'
Klahr's 'Tales' suggests a brief history of the machine age produced at its end. One of the last installments concerns a female aviator; another, untitled, is a generic family history that collages scores of snapshots from the '30s through the '60s: Babies are dandled in kitchens; children celebrate birthdays; bald men and squat heavy-breasted women visit Mount Rushmore or pose self-consciously on the beach. Universal memories proliferate in postcard sites. Yesterday's Glue (1991) arranges fashion models in some sort of space craft and subjects them to various kinds of mechanical sex. (In one daringly organic bit, a viscous drop of fluid appears on one of the photos.)
Elevator Music (1991) is Klahr's X-rated Who Framed Roger Rabbit, a suburban fantasia that makes iconic use of thermostats, high heels, and an outsize box of Jell-O, mixing a photograph with various cutouts and drawings to effect a range of simulated sex acts. Some of the images come from soft-core comix, but what's astonishing is the psychic energy with which Klahr is able to invest them--I mean, after all, they're only pictures." - J. Hoberman (1992)
Followed by a conversation with Klahr.
Tickets - $7, available at door.