Radical Light: Alternative Film and Video in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945-2000

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The Lead Shoes © Courtesy of the Artist and Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
Radical Light: Alternative Film and Video in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945-2000

2155 Center Street
94720 Berkeley

September 17th, 2010 - March 31st, 2011

Other (outside areas listed)
Wednesday–Sunday, 11am–7pm
University of California Berkeley
film, video drawing


In conjunction with the publication of PFA’s first book, Radical Light: Alternative Film and Video in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945–2000, edited by Steve Anker, Kathy Geritz, and Steve Seid, the Pacific Film Archive is presenting a film and video series that explores the themes and movements, and traces the historic chronology of alternative film and video in the Bay Area. The history of avant-garde cinema in the region goes back to the 1940s, when surrealist-influenced films were created through San Francisco Art Institute workshops, in some of the country’s earliest filmmaking classes. Around the same time, artists such as Harry Smith and Jordan Belson began painting directly on celluloid or sculpting light on film. By the end of the fifties, the first film assembled entirely from already existing film footage would be made by Bruce Conner, and poet Christopher Maclaine would have completed his formative first film, a startling apocalyptic vision. Some artists, such as Stan Brakhage, Abigail Child, and Peter Hutton, made films during relatively brief stays around San Francisco, but others such as Lawrence Jordan, Gunvor Nelson, and George Kuchar developed long-term careers in the area. Many began as poets, painters, and sculptors, but as the sixties moved into the seventies more and more came to identify themselves primarily as film or videomakers. A parallel wave of artists adopted the emerging technology of video as their principal tool of expression, while Stephen Beck, Skip Sweeney, Warner Jepson, and others developed a language of image-processing that pulled psychedelia into an electronic realm.

Highlights of the series include artists in attendance at many shows, archival prints and recent preservations, and the rediscovery of long-forgotten works. An accompanying gallery exhibition further elucidates this history through photographs, posters, flyers and ephemera. Radical L@TE, a pair of L@TE: Friday Nights @ BAM/PFA programs, celebrates the publication of Radical Light on September 17 and October 15 at 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, September 19, 2010
6:30 p.m. Landscape as Expression
Ernie Gehr and Lawrence Jordan in person. The Bay Area’s astonishing natural and urban landscapes are the subject of these works by Ernie Gehr, Dion Vigne, Chris Marker, Lawrence Jordan, Michael Glawogger, and more. (93 mins)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010
7:30 p.m. 1946–53
Introduced by David Meltzer. Wilder Bentley II in person. Essential films by James Broughton, Sidney Peterson, Harry Smith, Sara Kathryn Arledge, Christopher Maclaine, and Frank Stauffacher help redefine and expand our history of postwar Bay Area culture. (81 mins)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010
7:30 p.m. 1953–60
Best known for the Beat Movement, the mid-to-late fifties in the Bay Area was a fertile time for all cultural and artistic scenes, as these films by Hy Hirsh, Stan Brakhage, Christopher Maclaine, Bruce Conner, and more attest. (62 mins)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010
7:30 p.m. 1961–71
Peter Hutton and other artists in person. Often brazenly anti-establishment and always joyfully self-expressive, the films from the Bay Area in the sixties channeled the zeitgeist and expanded the possibilities of film as art. With films by Bruce Baillie, Robert Nelson, Lenny Lipton, Peter Hutton, and more. (87 mins)

Saturday, October 16, 2010
6:00 p.m. Stories Untold
George Kuchar, Chip Lord, and Anne McGuire in person. It’s not just the tale, but how it’s told that’s investigated in this collection of satiric, sensual, and striking stories. Works by James Broughton, Curt McDowell, George Kuchar, Chip Lord, Anne McGuire, Max Almy, and Scott Stark. (95 mins)

Saturday, October 16, 2010
8:30 p.m. The Erotic Exotic
Introduced by Eric Schaefer. Alice Anne Parker in person. Post-Summer of Love, many experimental filmmakers turned to investigating the body as erotic object and to liberating sexuality—especially female sexuality—from taboo. Works by Alice Anne Parker Severson, Scott Bartlett, Karen Johnson, and more. (85 mins)

Sunday, October 17, 2010
6:30 p.m. Procession of the Image Processors
Artists in person. Live video synthesis performance with Skip Sweeney, Warner Jepson, and Robert Pacelli. Processors, video synthesizers, and television modulators fuel this program of image manipulators, syntho-sorcerers, and feedback fanatics. Works by Hy Hirsh, Skip Sweeney, Loren Sears, Stephen Beck, and more. (100 mins)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010
7:30 p.m. 1969–79
The experimental turns personal in this collection of vibrant, comic, and transgressive works from the seventies, including pieces by George Kuchar, Barbara Hammer, Freude, Bruce Conner, and others. (97 mins)

The series is curated by Steve Anker, Kathy Geritz, and Steve Seid.

The series is co-sponsored by San Francisco Cinematheque, which will present four programs in its fall schedule. For information on these, please go to Special thanks to Steve Polta for coordinating this part of the series, which includes a tribute to Canyon Cinema and programs on found footage curated by Craig Baldwin, women’s film from the 1970s curated by Janis Crystal Lipzin, and Bay Area landscape works curated by Steve Anker.

With thanks to Mona Nagai, Jon Shibata, and Pamela Jean Smith, PFA Film Collection; Garbiñe Ortega, PFA Curatorial Intern; Anuj Vaidya, PFA Library; Dominic Angerame at Canyon Cinema; and Jonathan Marlow and Vanessa O’Neill at San Francisco Cinematheque for their invaluable help.

Radical Light: Alternative Film and Video in the San Francisco Bay Area is made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the William H. Donner Foundation, The San Francisco Foundation, Owsley Brown III, and the continued support of the BAM/PFA Trustees.

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