The Intimacy of Intervention - An Evening With Ken Jacobs

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Perfect Film
The Intimacy of Intervention - An Evening With Ken Jacobs
Curated by: Mark Toscano

611 N. Fairfax Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
August 23rd, 2011 8:00 PM - 10:00 PM

(323) 655-2510
experimental film
$12 general; Free to Filmforum Members (available at the door) Tickets at:


Ken Jacobs continues his visit to Los Angeles as Los Angeles Filmforum and Cinefamily present several of his classic films, and a conversation moderated by his son, filmmaker Azazel Jacobs! Ken Jacobs is one of the leading practitioners of film and video art in the world.  Screening curated by Mark Toscano.

The Doctor's Dream (1978, 16mm, b/w, sound, 23m)
….. the painting the movie is based on... It's called 'The Doctor;' it's in the Tate Gallery in London... and it has an interesting subliminal image appropriate to my discovery, via this reconstruction, of the real story of the film. A powerful sexual event was hidden within its banality. Maybe without intention, but it's what was gripping in the movie, if ever the movie was gripping. And now in the painting, seen from a little distance, the doctor contemplates the sleeping girl with, you don't have to agree with me, his curled fist doubling as a penis entering his mouth (I'm sad to find myself so constrained in my speech)... Maybe this is the traditional method of smuggling forbidden information, hot stuff, through customs from unadmitting mind to unadmitting mind. --K. J.

Keaton's Cops (1991, 16mm, 18 min., b/w, silent)
Some films are a joy to look at repeatedly, and also separately in their various parts. This is the bottom quarter, or fifth of Cops

Perfect Film (1986, 16mm, 22 min., b/w, sound)
TV newscast discard 1965; printed as found (in a Canal St. bin) with exception of boosting volume second half. A lot of film is perfect left alone, perfectly revealing in its un- or semi-conscious form. I wish more stuff was available in its raw state, as primary source material for anyone to consider, and to leave for others in just that way, the evidence uncontaminated by compulsive proprietary misapplied artistry, 'editing', the purposeful 'pointing things out' that cuts a road straight and narrow through the cine-jungle; we barrel through thinking we're going somewhere and miss it all. Better to just be pointed to the territory, to put in time exploring, roughing it, on our own. For the straight scoop we need the whole scoop, or no less than the clues entire and without rearrangement. O, for a Museum of Found Footage, or cable channel, library, a shit-museum of telling discards accessible to all talented viewers/auditors. A wilderness haven salvaged from Entertainment. --K. J.

The Georgetown Loop (1996, 35mm, 11 min, b&w, silent)
First screened as part of Jacobs' "Nervous System" film performance, The Georgetown Loop is based on an archival film from 1903, which Jacobs pairs with its mirror double to produce a kaleidoscopic two-screen projection. The original film depicts a journey shot from the cab of a train passing through the Colorado Rockies, and, in this hypnotic new form, comes to suggest the movement of consciousness itself. Writes Jacobs: "I've called it the first landscape film deserving of an X-rating, and that it is, yet its secret subtitle is — I must whisper — (Celestial Railway)."

A Tom Tom Chaser (2002, 10 min., digital, b/w, silent)
I do an electronic riff on the MOMA print in A TOM TOM CHASER, concluding the NTSC edition. I'd been supervising a new digitizing of TOM, TOM at 15 frames per second (as against the 16fps 'standard' silent-speed of the PAL transfer; in truth there was no standard fps back then) because 15 fits neatly into NTSC's 60 fields/30 picture frames per second, thus minimizing compression 'artifacts', a form of visual 'noise' I wasn't welcoming. The riff was inspired watching Scott Olive, Tape House master technician, zip forward and back on their million dollar optical film-scanner. I asked Scott if we could record some of the discarded visual phenomena incidental to film-to-digital transfer. Sure, he said. I stood cheering him on to wilder aberrations and what we got is pretty much what you have, less some judicious excisions. -K. J.

Ken Jacobs has been making experimental and “underground” films in New York City for over fifty years.  With over thirty film and video works, Jacobs has also created 3D shadow plays, stereoscopic  magic lantern performances, art installations and sound pieces that deal with film, cinema history and the nature of the moving image.  Jacobs’ works have been canonized in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) and the Whitney Museum of American Art, which included him on its list of “100 Greatest Artist of the 20th Century.”  
    In later films such as Perfect Film (1986) and Opening the Nineteenth Century: 1896 (1990), Jacobs continued to explore his pioneering appropriation strategies. His interest in performance has never waned, however, as evidenced by Nervous System, a live show incorporating two film projectors, a propeller, and individual filters through which audience members view the double image. Writes Jacobs: "The throbbing flickering is necessary to create 'eternalisms': unfrozen slices of time, sustained movements going nowhere and unlike anything in life." Jacobs' video work, such as Flo Rounds A Corner (1999), have successfully transferred the "eternalisms" effect to the digital realm.
    Jacobs' insistence on cinema as a "development of mind" can be seen, despite his protestations to the contrary, as a conceptual approach to art-making practice, one that has yielded groundbreaking work across media. In his activism, film, performance, and video, he has consistently expanded the practice of the avant-garde moving image. Whether undertaking archaeological journeys to the birth of cinema, or scrutinizing the interstices of new digital technologies, Jacobs' work investigates, provokes, and draws power from the mysteries of the nature of human vision.
OPTIC ANTICS The Cinema Of Ken Jacobs, Edited by Michele Pierson, David E. James, and Paul Arthur; published by Oxford University Press, is a newly released collection of essays on the work of Ken Jacobs.
A long bio is at:

Azazel Jacobs, son of avant-garde filmmaker Ken Jacobs, was born in 1972 and raised in New York’s lower Manhattan surrounded by important and innovative artists. He went to undergraduate school at the film department of SUNY Purchase and received his Masters from the American Film Institute in 2002.
    During his study, he made the experimental piece “Nobody Needs To Know.” Two years later he teemed up with fellow filmmaker Gerardo Naranjo to make the micro budget feature “The GoodTimesKid”, which found a small but loyal following and was released by Benten Films in 2009.
    Azazel’s award winning “Momma’s Man” premiered in Sundance 2008, and quickly became one of the most lauded films of the year, winding up on many “best of” lists. Also released in many countries, it was distributed domestically by Kino International. Manohla Dargis in the NY Times declared it “Independent film defined.”
    “Terri”, a coming of age comedy/drama, starring an ensemble cast that includes John C. Reilly, was written by Patrick deWitt and directed by Azazel. It premiered in competition at the 2011 Sundance film festival and is currently playing in theaters.
There will be a second different screening with Ken Jacobs, co-presented by Filmforum at the Downtown Independent Theater on Sunday, August 21st.  

This screening series is supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission; the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles; and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Special support provided by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.   Additional support generously provided by American Cinematheque.

Los Angeles Filmforum is the city's longest-running organization screening experimental and avant-garde film and video art, documentaries, and experimental animation.  2010 is our 34th year.
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