Rock My Religion

Dan Graham
,
US
,
1984
,
video
,
55'

Cinema without talking about cinema. A non-cinephilia. From an artist who’s used music to inspire everything from video to theater to essays to glass pavillions. Patti Smith, Jerry Lee Lewis, Eddie Cochran, etc. And the Shakers. A coming together of voice-over, singing and shouting, jarring sounds, and overlaid texts that propose a genealogy of rock music and an ambitious, needn’t-be-quite-so thesis about the origins of North America's popular culture. Largely due to its ardent embrace of aggressive music, lo-fi aesthetics, political interest, and free-wheeling historiography, the video has become a landmark work of artists' moving image. But it has remained, possibly for the same reasons, one of Graham's least written about works —underappreciated and possibly misunderstood by the critics who otherwise celebrate him.   

Looking for Mushrooms

Bruce Conner
,
US
,
1996
,
35mm
,
14'

1959-67 (1996 version)
Film print courtesy of The Conner Family Trust

A mulligan film. A re-do of Conner’s first color movie. From footage shot while living in Mexico in 1961-‘62. As well as some earlier shots of him and his wife, Jean, in San Francisco. Before the hippies. A psychedelic travelogue of rural Mexican nature, towns, and religious iconography. A document of a search for psilocybin mushrooms. Occasionally with Timothy Leary. Gone is The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” that we heard in the original version. In this re-do, each frame is repeated 5 times. And Terry Riley takes over the score assignment providing “Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band”.

Sunset to Sunrise

Dan Graham
,
US
,
1969
,
16mm
,
4'

Partially inspired by James J. Gibson's The Perception of the Visual World (Boston, 1950). Made by aiming a 16mm camera in a slow spiral across the sky. Unlike the aesthetic overfitting we find in much putatively hallucinatory art, Graham here reduces things to a usefully predictive basement reality: the alteration of one’s sense of time. A quote from Diedrich Diederichsen on Tony Conrad’s Yellow Movies might also be apt here: “In the early psychedelic avant-garde, if one wishes to save this word for once from its present reduction to a few formal motifs in pop music and poster design, there existed thus a very specific alliance between the critique of capitalism and mysticism that had to do, among other things, with an evocation of a different temporality.” Here, in one simple gesture.

Arnulf Rainer

Peter Kubelka
,
AT
,
1960
,
35mm
,
7'

24 years before Hanatarsh. 21 years before Incapacitants. 19 before Merzbow. 17 before Theoretical Girls. 15 before NON. 12 before Tony Conrad’s Yellow Movies. 6 before The Flicker. A few years before the early black plus white experiments by Conrad, Mario Montez, and Jack Smith. And unknowingly concurrent with Takehisa Kosugi and Yasunao Tone’s Group Ongaku (1960). Along came this bolt of lightning. What we have here is something like a data compression of Luigi Russolo/Kazimir Malevich/Lászlo Moholy-Nagy/Yves Klein. Behold.