Underground America

Date: 23 October 1998 | Season: Underground America

23 October – 8 November 1998
London Barbican Centre & Lux Cinema

Throughout 1998 the Barbican Centre in London is presenting Inventing America, a huge celebration of American arts and culture. This yearlong project is the biggest festival of American music, theatre, art, literature and film ever seen in Europe. The Underground America series is the largest survey of American experimental and avant-garde film that has ever been staged in the UK. The season will be shown in two halves – at the Barbican Screen between 23-29 October and at the Lux Cinema between 1-8 November 1998.

Underground America particularly concentrates on the New York scene of the mid-1960’s which was a pivotal and defining moment for experimental cinema. It includes at least one work by all the major US film artists and a few important “honorary” Americans are also being represented. Acknowledged masters of avant-garde film such as Maya Deren, Stan Brakhage and Kenneth Anger will be shown alongside less well-known but equally important film-makers who will belatedly receive their British premieres. The Underground America programme is not intended as a complete guide to the most celebrated works of American experimental film but will be a wide-ranging survey of the New American Cinema and the choice of films is specifically geared to show works that have rarely – if ever – been shown in this country. Many of the films are being brought over from the New York Film-Makers’ Cooperative and other important collections around the world.

The 16 programmes in this season will display the innocence, decadence, beauty and vision of a group of film-makers who went on to inspire a new wave of independent American directors like David Lynch, Brian De Palma, Martin Scorsese and John Waters and without whom MTV, music videos and commercial television wouldn’t look at all the same. 99 films will receive rare screenings to present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for London cinema goers to experience the many aspects underground film scene. And please remember – these movies are not just for film students, they are wonderful entertainment and you will be amazed.

Curated by Mark Webber for the Barbican Centre.

Each programme is approximately two hours long. All programmes are subject to slight changes owing to print quality and availability.

UNDERGROUND AMERICA would not have been possible without the kind assistance of Robert Rider & Helen Johnson at the Barbican, Helen De Witt at the Lux, David Curtis & Gary Thomas at the Arts Council of England, MM Serra at New York Film-makers’ Cooperative, Jonas Mekas & John Mhiripiri at Anthology Film Archives, Dominic Angerame at Canyon Cinema, Beth Copley at London Film-makers’ Co-op, Jud Yalkut, Ken & Flo Jacobs, Tosh Berman, Victor Grauer, Ernie Gehr, Owen Land, Bruce Torpet, Gerard Malanga, Taylor Mead, Robert Beavers, Katerina Gregos at Deste Foundation, Miles McKane at Light Cone, Antonie Bergmeier at Cinedoc / Paris Films Coop, London Electronic Arts, BFI Distribution & Stills Department.



Date: 23 October 1998 | Season: Underground America

Friday 23 October 1998, at 8:30pm
London Barbican Cinema

Many of the early American personal films were directly influenced by the Surrealist and Expressionist works that came out of Europe in the preceding decades and this opening selection demonstrates how the American film-makers developed the ideas of the past into their own style. Maya Deren was possibly the most important early pioneer of the new cinema and her Meshes Of The Afternoon was a major statement. The poet James Broughton’s nostalgic comedy Mother’s Day takes a perverse look at a childhood dominated by mother. Sidney Peterson made sophisticated and witty films that were rooted in Surrealism. Bells Of Atlantis is a masterful assemblage featuring the writer Anais Nin. Joseph Cornell was an artist known for his enchanting box constructions and his rarely seen films are similarly magical. Womancock is a confusing assault of imagery and Our Lady Of The Spheres is a phantasmagorical animation of Surrealistic engravings.

Maya Deren, Meshes Of The Afternoon, 1943, 18 min
James Broughton, Mother’s Day, 1948, 23 min
Sidney Peterson, The Lead Shoes, 1949, 17 min
Ian Hugo, Bells Of Atlantis, 1952, 10 min
Joseph Cornell & Rudy Burckhardt, A Fable For Fountains, 1957, 7 min
Carl Linder, Womancock, 1966, 10 min
Larry Jordan, Our Lady Of The Sphere, 1969, 10 min


The Beats

Date: 24 October 1998 | Season: Underground America

Saturday 24 October 1998, at 3:30pm
London Barbican Cinema

This programme looks at the Beat movement’s influence on cinema. We begin with the UK premiere of the only film work by the often overlooked artist Wallace Berman. The writer Jack Kerouac wrote and narrated Pull My Daisy starring Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso and Larry Rivers. This film and John Cassavettes’ Shadows marked a turning point for the New American Cinema. Also included are two works by collagist Bruce Conner, an early appearance by one of the underground’s true stars – Taylor Mead in the Hollywood satire To L.A. With Lust – and Robert Nelson’s hilarious Oh! Dem Watermelons. Paperdolls includes photography by the legendary Jack Smith, and Warren Sonbert shows bohemian life in the New York of the 60s.

Wallace Berman, Untitled, 1956-66, 7 min
Robert Frank & Alfred Leslie, Pull My Daisy, 1957, 27 min
Christopher Maclaine, Beat, 1958, 6 min
Bruce Conner, A Movie, 1958, 12 min
Vernon Zimmerman, To L.A. With Lust, 1961, 27 min
Bruce Conner, Cosmic Ray, 1961, 4 min
Richard Preston, Paperdolls, 1962, 5 min
Robert Nelson, Oh! Dem Watermelons, 1965, 12 min
Warren Sonbert, Amphetamine, 1966, 10 min


Flaming Creatures

Date: 24 October 1998 | Season: Underground America

Saturday 24 October 1998, at 8:45pm
London Barbican Cinema

Flaming Creatures was for many years the cause célèbre of the underground, being the subject of high profile busts and seizures, and its Baghdadian vision can still be shocking now. The authorities of the day often used this movie as proof that the underground films were all full of nudity and depravity. It’s maker, Jack Smith, was a key figure in the New York scene and starred in many of the best known films as well as his own unique theatre presentations. The monumental Flaming Creatures is shown here with some forgotten erotic escapades: Jerovi looks at the Narcissus myth, Avocada is a smouldering study of high art writhing, and Soul Freeze by Kuchar Brothers star Bob Cowan explores with shocking intensity the guilty fantasies of a Catholic priest.

Jack Smith, Flaming Creatures, 1962-63, 45 min
Jose Rodriguez-Soltero, Jerovi, 1965, 12 min
Bill Vehr, Avocada, 1966, 37 min
Bob Cowan, Soul Freeze, 1967, 25 min


Jonas Mekas

Date: 25 October 1998 | Season: Underground America

Sunday 25 October 1998, at 3:00pm
London Barbican Cinema

Without Jonas Mekas the history of experimental film would be a very different story. After arriving in America after the war Mekas devoted himself to film, founding the New York Film-Makers’ Cooperative, Anthology Film Archives and Film Culture magazine. His single-minded enthusiasm and motivation has brought much attention to the avant-garde film. Walden is his diary from 1964-1968, containing images from the most exciting time for experimental film and is an A-Z of the underground culture with Warhol, Ginsberg, Lennon, Leary and a cast of thousands. Watch it and see history unfold.

Jonas Mekas, Walden (Diaries, Notes and Sketches), 1964-69, 180 min


Around the Factory

Date: 25 October 1998 | Season: Underground America

Sunday 25 October 1998, at 8:45pm
London Barbican Cinema

When Andy Warhol decided to retire from fine art to concentrate on movies it was a major endorsement that increased awareness of the avant-garde film. He recreated the history of cinema from the kiss through the silents to the talkies before developing his own commercial features. By the time of Lupe he had formed his own style that now owed little to his early influences like Jack Smith and Ron Rice. Edie Sedgwick stars in this beautiful film which will be shown here in a double screen format. Marie Menken’s film is a portrait of Warhol in his studio, and her husband the poet Willard Maas shot the silver balloon show at Leo Castelli’s gallery. Super-Artist is a long lost documentary of the Warhol Factory shot in 1965. Andy made Screen Tests for inclusion in Match Girl – a neglected but beautiful work made in the Factory by Andrew Meyer. Taylor Mead’s fast paced film diary includes on location footage from the unreleased San Diego Surf.

Marie Menken, Andy Warhol, 1965, 22 min
Willard Maas, Andy Warhol’s Silver Flotations, 1966, 5 min
Andy Warhol, Hedy (double screen), 1965, 33 min
Andrew Meyer, Match Girl, 1966, 26 min
Bruce Torbet, Super-Artist Andy Warhol, 1967, 21 min
Taylor Mead, Home Movies: NYC to San Diego, 1968, 19 min


The Kuchar Brothers

Date: 26 October 1998 | Season: Underground America

Monday 26 October 1998, at 6:30pm
London Barbican Cinema

Mike and George Kuchar caused an uproar at the 8mm Motion Picture Club when they showed Pussy On A Hot Tin Roof to the society fuddy-duddies in the early 60s. The Kuchar’s home movies were low budget views of life in The Bronx seen through glorious Technicolor sunglasses. Their short films and stable of stars like Bob Cowan and Donna Kerness became a permanent fixture on the Underground scene, and were personal favourites of director John Waters. George’s Hold Me While I’m Naked is one of the classics of the genre, and is shown here alongside other astounding films of dimestore Hollywood.

Mike & George Kuchar, Pussy On A Hot Tin Roof, 1961, 9 min
George Kuchar, Lust For Ecstacy, 1963, 35 min
George Kuchar, Lovers Of Eternity, 1963, 36 min
George Kuchar, Hold Me While I’m Naked, 1966, 16 min
Mike Kuchar, The Craven Sluck, 1967, 23 min

Please Note: Lovers of Eternity missed its flight in Memphis and was replaced by two George Kuchar epics – Eclipse of the Sun Virgin (1967) and Pagan Rhapsody (1970). The programme notes below reflect this change and list the correct running order for the films that were shown at the screening.


Female Underground

Date: 27 October 1998 | Season: Underground America

Tuesday 27 October 1998, at 6:30pm
London Barbican Cinema

The underground was not solely a male domain. Mary Ellen Bute was an early pioneer of abstract film. Marie Menken and Shirley Clarke were two of the most important new filmmakers to emerge in the late 1950s and remain respected film artists to this day. In the early 1960s the female filmmakers made some of the most erotic and personal films – Fuses and the double projection piece Christmas On Earth are unique expressions, and Naomi Levine’s Yes is a rare and beautiful pastorale. Joyce Wieland and Gunvor Nelson were both married to filmmakers but were artists of merit in their own right. In 1933 and Sailboat, Wieland shows she was one of the first people to make Structural films.

Mary Ellen Bute, Mood Contrasts, 1954, 7 min
Marie Menken, Hurry, Hurry, 1957, 3 min
Shirley Clarke, Bridges Go Round, 1958, 7 min
Naomi Levine, Yes, 1963, 24 min
Barbara Rubin, Christmas On Earth (double screen), 1963, 31 min
Carolee Schneemann, Fuses, 1964-68, 22 min
Joyce Wieland, 1933, 1967, 5 min
Joyce Wieland, Sailboat, 1967, 5 min
Gunvor Nelson, My Name Is Oona, 1969, 10 min


Magick & Shamanism

Date: 28 October 1998 | Season: Underground America

Wednesday 28 October 1998, at 8:45pm
London Barbican Cinema

An exhibition of two masters of cinema. Kenneth Anger made the legendary Scorpio Rising and several other films based around his theories of Magick. La Lune Des Lapins is shown here for the first time in its 15 minute version. Invocation Of My Demon Brother features a soundtrack by Mick Jagger. Lucifer Rising was Anger’s last completed film and features Marianne Faithfull and the director Donald Cammell. Harry Smith used his ideas about alchemy to make important animations from the 1940s on, and here we have the rare opportunity to see his later films incorporating live footage. Also, Marie Menken contributes an homage to Anger.

Kenneth Anger, La Lune Des Lapins (long version), 1950/72, 15 min
Harry Smith, Early Abstractions (No.7), 1951, 7 min
Marie Menken, Arabesque For Kenneth Anger, 1961, 5 min
Harry Smith, Mirror Animations (No.11), 1962-76, 11 min
Harry Smith, Late Superimpositions (No.14), 1964, 31 min
Kenneth Anger, Invocation Of My Demon Brother, 1969, 11 min
Kenneth Anger, Lucifer Rising, 1980, 31 min


Visual Alchemy

Date: 1 November 1998 | Season: Underground America

Sunday 1 November 1998, at 7:00pm
London Lux Centre

A programme to demonstrate the magical properties of colour as it was manipulated by expert film artists. The abstract film-makers developed techniques in order to represent their cosmic visions without the use of recognisable imagery. Early pioneers like the Whitney Brothers made unique innovations. La Couleur De La Forme is like a masterclass of editing and printing technique. Jordan Belson was visual director of the legendary Vortex Concerts and went on to make special effects sequences in Hollywood for films like The Right Stuff. He rarely shows his work today because time has faded the perfect colours. Stan Vanderbeek made animated collages before developing multi screen expanded cinema pieces. Diffraction Film presents a sea of colour and was used in USCO’s sound and light presentations. Pat O’Neill and Scott Bartlett were two of the first film-makers to utilise video in their work. The Tattooed Man is a major work of graphic invention and image manipulation by the poet and film-maker Storm De Hirsch. Tom Chomont’s Oblivion provides stereoscopic visions when viewed through 3D glasses.

James Whitney, Yantra, 1950-55, 10 min
Hy Hirsh, La Couleur De La Forme, 1952, 5 min
Jordan Belson, Allures, 1961, 9 min
Jordan Belson, Re-Entry, 1964, 6 min
Stan Vanderbeek, Breathdeath, 1964, 10 min
Jud Yalkut, Diffraction Film, 1965, 10 min
James Whitney, Lapis, 1963-66, 9 min
Pat O’Neill, 7362, 1965-67, 10 min
Scott Bartlett, Offon, 1968, 9 min
Storm De Hirsch, The Tattooed Man, 1969, 35 min
Tom Chomont, Oblivion, 1969, 5 min