Kunstmuseum Basel: Robert Beavers

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Robert Beavers (born 1949) is considered one of the most important representatives of American experimental film. The themes of his films crystallize from his study of literature, philosophy, visual arts, music and architecture; But they also come from spontaneous visual experiences or are inspired by ideas that occupy the filmmaker for long periods of time.

His first films were shot in the mid-1960s in the context of New American Cinema in New York. But already in 1967, Beavers left with his then partner, mentor and filmmaker Gregory J. Markopoulos (1928-1992) the United States, then for almost thirty years in various European countries (Italy, Greece, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland), to live a nomadic life dedicated to filmmaking. Since the mid-1970s, the entire film and material archive is located in Switzerland with film scripts, assembly notes, correspondence and the library of both filmmakers. Temenos - an ancient Greek term for "a secluded place" - is the name of this archive; he served the filmmakers as early as 1980 to designate film screenings in the hills of the Peloponnese in Greece; a place where until today regularly multi-day performances take place under the open sky. In its form, the conception of the Temenos is unique, because it bundles - without institutional connection - in one and the same place everything to the emergence of the individual films (archive), the preservation of this film for the future (restoration) and the presentation and distribution of the works of both filmmakers.

Beavers' filmic work has always been accompanied by a practice of writing and recording. The montage process is also accompanied by notes and noted considerations: (RB, 2007) Recently, the first publication on his cinematic work has also included a Selection of his own texts have been published in which Beavers' reflections on the procedures and poetics of his assembly process are gathered together (Robert Beavers, ed. Rebekah Rutkoff, Vienna 2017).

Robert Beavers' films are in the most important collections (including the Austrian Film Museum, Vienna, Harvard Film Archive, Cambridge, Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley). His film work is presented by influential institutions, including: Center Cultura Contemporania da Barcelona; The Metrograph Cinema, New York; Museum of the Moving Image, New York; Yale University, New Haven; L.A. Filmforum; Los Angeles; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Center Pompidou, Paris). In 2020, a retrospective will be held at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. Robert Beavers lives in Berlin and the USA.

Following the film presentation, Robert Beavers and Maja Naef will discuss the films shown, the significance of the archive for analogue film and the museum context as a venue for his films.


- Early Monthly Segments, 1968-70/2002 16mm, (CH/G/D), Color, 33min
«Between 1967 and 1970, I had made a series of six films, usually a half hour or longer in duration, and I had filmed monthly segments or exercises. In these segments I developed certain techniques which would then be used in the longer films or I filmed a portrait sometimes of myself or of Gregory Markopoulos. These were usually two or three minutes in length. Eventually, in the late 80s, I combined these monthly segments, in chronological order, with the longer films, re-editing both.» (Robert Beavers)

- Pitcher of Colored Light, 2007, 16mm, (USA/CH/D), Color, 23min
«The shadows play an essential part in the mixture of loneliness and peace that exists here. The seasons move from the garden into the house, projecting rich diagonals in the early morning or late afternoon light. Each shadow is a subtle balance of stillness and movement; it shows the vital instability of space. Its special quality opens a passage to the subjective; a voice within the film speaks to memory. The walls are screens through which I pass to the inhabited privacy. We experience a place through the perspective of where we come from and hear another’s voice through our own acoustic. The sense of place is never separate from the moment.» (Robert Beavers)

- The Suppliant, 2010, 16mm, (USA/CH/D), Color, 5min
«My filming for ‘The Suppliant’ was done in February 2003, while a guest in the apartment of Jacques Dehornois. When I recollect the impulse for this filming, I remember my desire to show a spiritual quality united to the sensual in my view of ths small Greek statue. I chose to reveal the figure solely through its blue early morning highlights and in the orange sunlight of late afternoon. After filming the statue, I walked down to the East River and continued to film near the Manhatten Bridge and the electrical works; then I returned to the apartment and filmed a few other details. I set this film material aside, while continuing to film and edit ‘Pitcher of Colored Light’; later I took it up twice to edit but could not find my way. Most of the editing was finally done in 2009; then I waited to see whether it was finished and found that it was not. In May 2010, I made several editing changes and created the sound track with thoughts of this friend’s recent death.» (Robert Beavers)

- «Der Klang, die Welt…», 2018, 16mm, (CH/D), Color, 4min
«(…) we hear Dieter Staehelin speaking about the place of music in his life, and we join him and Cécile Staehelin playing an Arabesque by Bohuslav Martinu. While they play, I turned the lens at certain moments to white, an open aperture.» (Robert Beavers)


Kunstmuseum Basel - Basel, Suiza


Wednesday, March 20, 2019 - 18:30



Wednesday, March 20, 2019 - 18:30
  • St. Alban-Graben 8
    CH-4010   Basel
    Phone: +41 61 206 62 62
    Fax: +41 61 206 62 62
    47° 33' 14.5152" N, 7° 35' 39.0948" E