Peggy Ahwesh, Nina Fonoroff, Marjorie Keller, Janis Crystal Lipzin, Julie Murray, Natalka Voslakov, Jacalyn White
Organized by Lumia and Michele Pierson
Cinema is a social experience. — L & MP
Microscope is very pleased to host a program of rare Super 8mm films by seven women artists, organized by Lumia and Michele Pierson, visiting from London. The works by Peggy Ahwesh, Nina Fonoroff, Marjorie Keller, Janis Crystal Lipzin, Julie Murray, Natalka Voslakov, and Jacalyn White span a period from 1974 to 1988.
From Lumia and Michele Pierson:
“The seeds for this event were planted at a screening of Storm de Hirsch’s films at Microscope Gallery last year. It is there that we met and got to talking in the way that you so often do on these occasions. Over the course of our chat we learned that we were both researching the history of women’s filmmaking. A lot of our discussion focused on films, which we have been very eager to see but have not had the opportunity to. This screening is the fruit of that discussion. In the spirit of a public research session we have chosen films that neither of us have seen. The artists themselves are connected in multiple ways: as student or teacher, as collaborator, colleague and friend. We also decided to focus on Super 8 films. Although many of the films we will be seeing circulated widely in the 1980s, most have not been seen in New York for decades, and some may never have been screened here at all. Screenings of Super 8 films are themselves rare these days, so we are particularly excited to be seeing most of these films in 8mm. In the spirit of shared discovery (or rediscovery) we would like to give each film its own space; pausing for discussion after the screening of each film.”
- Ode to the New Prehistory (Peggy Ahwesh, Super 8mm, 1984-87, 22 minutes)
A film about the socialization process and repression. My footage of family and friends intercut with Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and Pasolini’s Pig Pen. Trying to filter the mud of consciousness in the brain of the child, the doomsday prophet and the suburban art collector to extract the socio-political artifacts. I am interested in the working method of both Romero and Pasolini. Their use of non-professionals as actors, the regional dialect of a language, a populist critique of society and a gritty and vulgar realism.
- Some Phases of an Empire (Nina Fonoroff, Super 8mm, 1984, 9 minutes)
Using footage rephotographed from the Hollywood spectacle Quo Vadis, this film is a densely layered montage on the themes of power, sexuality and aggression. Rather than a ‘deconstruction’ of the film from which it is derived, its overall effect might better be described as decomposition’ or ‘derangement’ of the original elements. Culled from a variety of recordings of spoken texts (including Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm) and music (the Háry János Suite by Zoltan Kodaly), the soundtrack is edited in a manner that underscores the rhythm of the images, and alludes to the presence of unconscious associations with the story of the original film. The Emperor meets his demise through the agency (the voice) of a wicked Queen, whose lust for power is equalled only by her capacity for destruction.
- By 2’s and 3’s, Women (Marjorie Keller, Super 8mm, 1976, silent, 7 minutes)
This film puts together a perspective on the unhappy experience of traveling in cars—an activity aimless and unmemorable. The splicer makes a new trip of the footage, limited not to the represented geography but to the after-effect on the mind and heart of the first trip.
- Buffalofilm (Janis Crystal Lipzin, Super 8mm, 1974, silent, 11 minutes)
“Lipzin’s films have been a positive and often pervasive influence on her contemporaries. Her research into advanced film processes and technical invention grew from a distinctive personal vision of film. In these films a powerful visual coherence is developed through organizational elements of factoring, categorization, resemblance, and structural repetitions. Those forces of organization and energy patterns which seem to exist at the threshold of ordinary perception are explored in her films, which are formally rich, conceptually coherent and unexpectedly revealing of woven layers of kinetic and emotive intensity.”—Carolee Schneemann
BUFFALOFILM: Sequential elements shot in Buffalo, New York and in Manitoba, Canada, on the buffalo reserve at Riding Mountain National Park.
- Tr’Cheot’My P’y (Julie Murray, Super 8mm, 1988, 3 minutes 30 seconds)
TR’CHEOT’MY P’Y is a three-and-a-half minute hiccuping audio news segment to which footage from many sources is loosely choreographed. The film is intended as a portrait of the body and embodiment, systems of information and representations of the body itself.
As the creamy-voiced news announcer trips over news items in and out of sync with the background beat, the visuals are treated in such a way as to reduce the complexity of individual gesture and action to a simple and finite set of rather robotic movements. In this way, there is then little difference between the rhythm of the pornographic sexual encounter and that of the cartoon sports characters, implying a lack of difference in the potential meaning of these individual actions. This is further emphasized by the fragmented and repetitious voice of the announcer, which, while utilizing a small and specific range in modulation, conveys no sense of being conscious of the tragedy of the events recounted.
The sexually/surgically suggestive title has some of its vowels removed in reference to the idea of vowels being holes in the body of the word itself.
“I laugh with my mouth because that is the only way.” —Goofy
- Current Autobiography According to Bargain Basement Sinatra (Natalka Voslakov, Super 8mm, 1979, 21 minutes)
This segment of my real and reel life is more parody on the popular culture conditioning of the nature of Romance (Romantic Love) and of myself. In each segment of my autobiography (which I am continuously filming and being filmed by other film-makers) I use a soundtrack (the music sequences), which reflect my ‘mood’ (what I am experiencing at that point in my life). The use of music by Frank Sinatra is one of my personal favourites for my autobiographical films.
- In Mother’s Way (Jacalyn White, Super 8mm, 1981, 32 minutes)
I tell my side of the mother-daughter story which has changed dramatically since my father’s death. The emotion is raw, embarrassing and honest. The movie ends but “I think it will go on.” Jacalyn’s mother will be 100 years old on September 10 and is having a big party to celebrate.
Peggy Ahwesh is a media artist who got her start in the 1970’s with feminism, punk and amateur Super 8 filmmaking. Her works have recently exhibited at The Kitchen, New York; Foxy Production, New York; Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), Los Angeles; Maccarone, New York; Salon 94, New York; Murray Guy, New York; Chateau Shatto, Los Angeles, CA; Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival, Berwick-upon-Tweed, UK; Gasworks, London, UK; and Arts Santa Mònica, Barcelona, Spain; among others. Her films and videos have been shown worldwide including at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; New Museum, New York; Film at Lincoln Center, New York; MoMA PS1, Queens, NY; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA; The Tate Modern, London, UK; British Film Institute (BFI), London, UK; Guggenheim Museum, Bilboa, Spain; among many other institutions. Ahwesh has received grants and awards including from the Jerome Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, Creative Capital, NYSCA and the Alpert Award in the Arts. She was born in Pittsburgh, PA and currently lives and works between Brooklyn, NY and the Catskills.
Mainly a visual artist who “happened into” film, Nina Fonoroff considers her work a hybrid of collage, painting, musical composition from sampled sound and cinema. In her words: “Though I begin work on a film with a rough plan, the process remains fluid, indeterminate: partly a matter of calculation and planning, partly of serendipitous discovery. Through most phases of the process, I work to shape a story through constant revision of both sound and picture elements; so the films may be considered palimpsests that have been subjected to numerous revisions of thought and idea.” Fonoroff’s experimental films have been screened at numerous showcases, festivals, and museums in the US, Canada and Europe. Her 1989 film, A Knowledge They Cannot Lose, was shown on public television and on the Learning Channel. The Accursed Mazurka (1994), won Jurors’ Choice Award at the Black Maria Film and Video Festival and an Honorable Mention at the Ann Arbor Film Festival. Fonoroff was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for 1998-1999. She has had artists’ residencies at the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Since 1999, she has taught film and video making and film history and theory at the University of New Mexico, where she is currently Associate Professor.
“In her brief life, Marjorie Keller made nearly thirty films in her own distinctive cinematic voice. From her earliest efforts in the late 1960s, Marjorie was attracted to film’s potential to portray the complexity of private events and personal relationships, mostly in response to family life. Her gestural and vivid camerawork, along with an intricate approach to poetic editing, created a body of work that is unsurpassed in its intimacy and its conveyance of subtle feelings and complex responses to her personal interactions. Marjorie’s subjects included her old family house, young women friends, childhood fantasy figures, lovers, siblings, teenage girls, her parents, and her husband. Issues sprang naturally from sharing her life with the people and places she knew, and their range is astonishing: childbirth, sexuality, memory, the cultural roles women, political activism, the sensuality of daily objects, urban survival, rural pleasures and the values of classical tradition. While deeply influential on both feminist art and the culture of personal experimental filmmaking, Marjorie’s work exists beyond categorization or reductive explanation. It is alive with multiple, often-contradictory meanings and remains a personal experience. More than half of Marjorie Keller’s films were made with Regular 8mm or Super-8mm equipment, and these ‘small-gauge’ home-movie mediums provided an immediacy and fragility that were perfectly suited to her interests. While Marjorie made more ambitious, 16mm poetic film-essays later (Daughters of Chaos, The Answering Furrow, Herein), she returned to the relative simplicity of 8mm throughout her career.”—Steve Anker, CalArts Film/Video Faculty, Co-Curator, Film at REDCAT.
Janis Crystal Lipzin has been making art in virtually every form of reproducible media for nearly forty years from her base in northern California. Utilizing such diverse media as 8mm and 16mm film, various kinds and formats of photographic prints and transparencies, video, audio, digital photography, artist books, multimedia installations and media performance, she has confronted an array of uncomfortable subjects such as pyromania, prehistoric murder, pesticide abuse, reproductive rights, and mortality. Another central foundation of her practice is a diverse approach to materials. In her hands light sensitive film becomes a medium to be worked, marked, chemically altered, affected by light both within and exterior to a camera. Lipzin’s work frequently has been at the forefront of an avant-garde art practice that seeks to push the limits of what is possible with the media arts while enriching their possibilities for personal expression. Lipzin’s films and photo work have been featured in numerous museum shows including the Venice Biennale, the Whitney Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the New Museum of Contemporary Art (NY), the Institute of Contemporary Art in London, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art, the Corcoran Gallery, the Film Society of Lincoln Center, and the Kunstmuseum in Berne, Switzerland. Her many awards include three Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. She taught at the San Francisco Art Institute for 31 years and has been active in critical writing and curatorial actions throughout her career. She also founded and directs eye music, the pioneering microcinema that produced media events at the Exploratorium and New Langton Arts in San Francisco and internationally.
Filmmaker Julie Murray was born in Ireland and has lived in the US for the past three decades. She began her art career in painting and mixed media, and, beginning with Super-8 format, gradually moved to filmmaking. She currently works in both film and video media, exploring the perceptual frictions between the two materials. Her work is held in a number of collections including The Museum of Modern Art’s Film Archives as well as the Whitney Museum of American Art and the New York Public Library’s Special Collections, at Lincoln Center, NYC. Her films regularly screen at festivals in the US and abroad. They have been included in The New York Film Festival, Images Festival, Rotterdam International Film Festival, Rencontres Paris/Berlin, and have exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art and in the 2004 Whitney Biennial. Murray has presented her films in retrospectives and special programs at Anthology Film Archives, NY, Filmforum in Los Angeles, Pacific Film Archives, San Francisco and more recently at The Irish Film Institute/ AEMI Dublin and, upcoming, at Ambulante Festival in Mexico. Murray’s early super-8 films, created in San Francisco in the late 1980’s among the endless unfolding of limitless potential when everything was fuel for the imagination and the city held its artists close, were selected for a National Film Preservation Foundation Award in 2014.
Natalka Voslakov (1952-2011) was a Pittsburgh filmmaker, poet and actor. She was on the Board of Directors of Pittsburgh Filmmakers Inc. and was a production assistant in the casting department for George A. Romero’s Creepshow (1982). Her films were included in a travelling program of Pittsburgh Super 8 films co-curated by Peggy Ahwesh and Margie Strosser, which toured Europe and the UK in 1983. Current Autobiography According to Bargain Basement Sinatra and the Loft Opera series were also shown in Big as Life: An American History of 8mm Films at the Museum of Modern Art (February 1998—December 1999). Films: Yes, We Deliver (1979); Grade B Delivery Boys (1979); Current Autobiography According to Bargain Basement Sinatra (1979), Loft Opera—Early One Evening…Louis Brando at Home (1980); Loft Opera—Early One Morning…Electrical Inspector Arrives, Renate Wants to Kill Herself, Carl/Paul Returns from the Sewers of Chinatown (1980); Teenage Love: or is There Life After Teenage Romance and/or Death in Pittsburgh? (1981); Time Capsule with True Bird in Flight (1982).
Jacalyn White has created hundreds of short independent and experimental films over forty years. She began working in Super 8 and loved the freedom it gave her to go off with a camera and create. She also loved the saturated colors that Kodachrome provided. Her most recent work, made for the 2019 Visible Poetry Project, is Those little plastic number puzzles. It was made in collaboration with Joell Hallowell, her long-time creative partner, and poet Lisa Gluskin Stonestreet. She reflects that the Harinezumi video camera used to shoot it most approaches the look and feel of Super 8. White and Hallowell have been collaborators since 1985. Their films and videos have been presented at numerous museums and festivals, including: Harvard Film Archives, Anthology Film Archives, the Museum of Modern Art (NY), London International Film Festival, Chicago Underground Film Festival, Madcat Women’s Film Festival, Fresno Film Festival, Marin Arts Council, and the San Francisco Arts Commission.
Michele Pierson is a film scholar based in London at King’s College London. Her research investigates many different aspects of the history of experimental filmmaking and its relationship to other experimental art practices. Particular interests include film exhibition (its social spaces, discursive practices, and programming); the film artist as curator; expanded cinema; feminist film and curatorial practice. She is the author of a book on special effects and co-editor, with David E. James and Paul Arthur, of a collection of essays on Ken Jacobs.