četvrtak, 23. listopada 2014.

Spooky Black - Leaving + Black Silk (2014)

Lil Spook (Spooky Black)

Impresivno 16-godišnje internetsko čudovište s glasom anđela. 




Who is Spooky Black? Oh, just a motherfucking Internet monster with the voice of an angel.
From the looks of his Soundcloud, he hails from St. Paul, Minn. and is America’s answer to Yung Lean. But nevermind that. Back in February, he hit us in the head with the video for my wedding song, “Without You.” It’s a simp’s definition of simp muzik—and it’s an exercise in style and influence. Imagine singing this to your crush while rocking a turtle neck, a 14K First Communion chain, and either a white stocking cap or black durag even though you can’t get waves. All that equals waterworks, she won’t be able to resist. Trust. -

Like a hungover version of Swedish rapper Yung Lean who's desperately coping with a painful breakup, Minnesota crooner Spooky Black is very Internet (because that's become an adjective, now) -- but just a lot more gloomy. And while Lean rocks bucket hats like every other trendy hip-hopper, Black opts for durags like in his debut video, "Without You." 
After releasing his much-hyped eight-song EP Leaving earlier this week, the super young (and super mysterious) singer has followed it up with a music video for closing bonus track, "DJ Khaled is my Father." The lo-fi, VHS-style visuals capture the melancholy singer in the middle of a forest -- very Minnesota -- singing with a style that reminds us of a cross between King Krule and early Bon Iver. Check out the video above.- Justin Moran


Petra Glynt - Of This Land (2013)


Divlja, gorka opera za džunglu i hippie-orkestar.




Petra Glynt's new video is a hypnotizing and operatic hippie acid trip that has a longer list of credits than most short films. At every turn in this video you're treated to a rush of colored smoke, flowers, chains hanging from the ceiling while dudes in freaky costumes swing around sledgehammers, flowers on fire, more colored smoke, and crazy kaleidoscope lens effects. It's a bit too much to make sense of, in a good way, so we reached out to Petra aka Alexandra Mackenzie to have her describe the video in her own words.
The "Sour Paradise" video began when Blake Macfarlane messaged me out of the blue last January asking if I'd like to work together…we didn't know each other, but I checked out his work, thought it was dope, we met and I thought he was dope and we became good friends. Now we even live together…but backing up, the ideas for the video came together through a number of brain-storming sit-downs between Blake and myself but were ultimately inspired by the message of the song itself.
The song is open but also militant at the same time, militant in it's urgency to see change in the world. It tries to express the disconnect between our relationship to the land we live on and asks us to question the validity of the system our civilization has been built upon and where it's taking us. The song is meant to empower in circumstances that can be disempowering. We didn't want to come across as too preachy or confrontational while maintaining an artful/magical approach to video making. Amidst all the inequality in the world and damage that is being done to our planet, people need positivity. We need to celebrate our likeness and freedoms we all share, that no one can take away from us- that is the power of music, art, and dance. The video has something ominous, but it is intended to be a celebration of the power of community. We had a very small budget that we generated through a show/dance party fundraiser called "Paradise" at the Comfort Zone in Toronto back in September.

Director + Editor + VFX: Blake Macfarlane - Noisey Canada



Breakout Toronto Bands: Petra Glynt

Posted by Aubrey Jax 

Alexandra Mackenzie torontoAfter quitting Dentata to focus on her visual art, Alexandra Mackenzie did anything but disappear from Toronto's music scene. Amidst screen printing, drawing, and painting - and being featured as part of the New York exhibit in support of Sisters in Spirit, "Grimes: Visual works by Claire Boucher + Friends" - Mackenzie created a solo effort she's named Petra Glynt, drawing from over a decade of voice studies and the influence of Toronto's thriving DIY noise scene.
You might have seen Mackenzie's visual work around Toronto: she designed promotional materials for Autoshare, and her drawings are currently featured in the main lobby of the Drake Hotel as part of their Dream Chasers exhibit. Now rightly described her work as "fantasy pages from the greatest 70s sci-fi colouring book that never was," but there's much more to Mackenzie's work than fantasy: within her strange, fluid pictures is imagery tied to issues such as the environment, indigenous rights, and identity: themes she continues to investigate in her music.
Mackenzie's band Wet Nurse are a rare but impressive live project, and I myself first saw Mackenzie's huge murals and meticulous line drawings and paintings at live shows hosted in her old studio space: the artist is neck deep in her connections to music in Toronto. Still, I was caught off guard to hear Petra Glynt's Bandcamp demos: Mackenzie can not only craft danceable, interesting, lo-fi psych sounds, but she has a strong and soulful voice, and a fierce perspective lyrically.
Petra Glynt is beginning to pop up live more often in Toronto this year, as Mackenzie hones her sound and prepares a debut album. I caught up with Mackenzie to talk about how her musical projects and work as a visual artist connect.
petra glynt torontoHow would you describe Petra Glynt, and where did the project come from? How much does it tie in with your visual work?
Music has always been big in my life, but since deciding I couldn't commit to being in a full-on band while also trying to focus on visual work, I put together a solo-act. My music doesn't differ too greatly from my visual work, they are beginning to mesh together in concept and intent the more I give them equal time and focus.
The OCAD Student Gallery asked me to curate a music/art event at the Music Gallery back in September, so I took it as a chance to write some new music. I studied voice for 11 years as a kid and teenager, and have since played drums in bands and experimental projects. Somewhere along the way I've grown an interest in making danceable music with heavy beats and drums. With Petra Glynt, I wanted the option to really sing again, for real, or not. I also wanted to sing about meaningful things.
I'm sick of music that doesn't promote anything valuable, that prefers not to challenge things in music and also in the system/society we live in. Things like decolonization, deforestation, indigenous rights or workers rights but in the context of really celebratory, good vibes music. I feel that community gets lost in cities, and communities are groups that have the power to make change. There's too much hustling happening to get together sometimes, and sometimes music can be a very unifying thing.
alexandra mackenzie toronto The 4-track demos on your Bandcamp are rough, but full of feeling and technique. They remind me of some weirder Broadcast cuts, as well as Peaking Lights, but also feel new and unique which is pretty rare. Can you tell us about your song writing and recording process? What instruments are you using - I think I heard a horn or a sax at one point?
Thanks. I recently ordered that 4-track off Ebay, and those tracks are what's come out of it so far. Live, I use a floor tom, rack tom, sampler, and a mic through a loop pedal. That sax/horn sound you hear is a kazoo that I looped with reverb. I program the sampler with sounds I record by mic-ing drums, other percussion instruments, vocal loops, or misc. noise; there are also some keyboard and synth sounds in there. I jam with these things through effects, get real deep and lost, and collage the sounds I like into a composition. I drum to them and sing along, and they sort of come together this way.
I like having a simple live set up; it's important for me to not allow things to get too complicated in performance. Weird out-of body feelings and misc. technological blurps and hiccups can happen live, and I can become less tech-minded. I prefer to feel the music as opposed to handling too many objects. It also makes travelling with gear easier. Sound is the most infinite thing, so I'm open to learning and using different instruments as I go along.
alexandra mackenzie toronto 
Before I heard your Bandcamp demos, specifically "Sour Paradise," I had no idea you had such a strong voice. Its soul really caught me off guard. How did you first start singing, and who are some of your favorite vocalists?
I started when I was seven. I wanted to sing, so my parents found a teacher in Ottawa named Yoriko Tanno-Kimmons and I stayed with her until I was eighteen. I started out doing musical theatre and classical music, and ended up heavily studying operatic voice. That was my thing for a long time and Yoriko had a hard love approach that made me work hard. She challenged me to sing soprano, but I'm certain now that my range is strongest in the mid-tones. In terms of favourite vocalists, I have an appreciation for all kinds of singing. It doesn't need to be coated in velvet and silk, nor does it have to be technically good. I love the voices of the Baka pygmies in the African rainforest to Chloe from the no longer in circuit Montreal band, Aids Wolf. I like it when people make their voices their own. I'm also not one for favorites.
What does the name Petra Glynt mean?
Its derived from the the words Petro Glyph: rock carvings or drawings that go back thousands years, that often illustrate stories pertaining to the indigenous cultures at the time. They are all over Canada and the rest of the world. There is a Petroglyph park not too far away from here in Toronto. I went last summer and it was cool, but all the carvings were inside this big building that was erected over the site as a means to preserve it. I get why, but it wasn't the experience I was hoping for.
Petra Glynt is a spin on those words. Indigenous affairs are important to me and I feel that they should be for everyone. They lived here in harmony with the land for thousands of years before our colonial ancestors came, and we've managed to pollute and destroy an overwhelming number of land bases across North America and the world in a small fraction of that time. As civilization has grown, we've lost touch with the land, have become dependent on foreign resources and labour and don't know how to take care of ourselves if we had to - and we will have to at the rate we are going. I feel that we could learn a lot from the indigenous peoples and they deserve respect.
Petra Glynt then represents a way to illustrate and work through my thoughts around society and civilization as it changes, and disseminate resistance around some of the oppressive forces it's powered, while also promoting a respect for mother nature for her phenomenological beauty. Reality is really weird and psychedelic, let's not forget.
What musical projects are you focusing on right now - just Petra Glynt, or are there others too? Pachamama and Wet Nurse are two of my Toronto favourites.
Pachamama is another focus for sure - a duo project I do with my partner Brandon Valdivia. We just did some recording with Matt Smith at 6 Nassau in November, and have plans to go back into the studio and do a a couple more songs to hopefully complete a 10" for the summer. We also have a tape single coming out soon through Craft Singles, a DIY singles label from Halifax.
Wet Nurse was a music project between me and Rebecca Fin Simonetti, and it now more or less represents the instances where we come together and collaborate on anything, whether it's visual or music.
Your visual work would be a lot of musicians' dream cover artwork. Have you done many collaborations like this so far, and can you tell us about projects past and future related to art for music releases you've done?
I haven't done a whole lot of cover art to be honest, apart from my own music projects, but I'm totally down for these kind of collaborations with other artists. I started screenprinting for music reasons, though, making posters for gigs or shirts, and ended up majoring in printmaking at OCAD. Recently, I did give a drawing to my friend Airick of Doldrums for "She is the Wave" but there wasn't enough time to come up with anything new, so I grabbed one from a sketchbook. I also did a collage for Toronto's Healing Power Records: a tape for LA synth artist M. Geddes Gengras.
alexandra mackenzie toronto 
Let's get a bit personal: what led you to commit to being an artist? It's a hard life, and I know you've expressed a desire to be an environmental and human rights activist.
There's a lot about our society that's backwards. The whole thing is insane, which as an artist can be both alienating and inspiring at the same time. There are a few mighty money-bags out there that have the rest of us tethered to their needs. It's hard to find "work in your field" these days, as civilization grows beyond its boundaries of sustainability. It's easier for big companies and corporations to look to other parts of the world for cheap labour then look within their own communities.
This not only kills communities, but the workers are treated badly, the environment suffers from irresponsible manufacturing/whatever practices, the rich get richer, and now we live in a society of scarcity. I would rather fight as an artist, as myself, than fight to be apart of something I don't believe in.
alexandra mackenzie toronto
I saw your work for Autoshare: how did that come about? 
I was living with my bud Jeff Garcia and he recommended me for the gig. It was definitely one of the more fun design-type gigs I've done. Our job was to make art out of the parking signs, and we could be really open and free with them.
To me your work depicts mythology that seems to comment more on Western culture in general than on one nationality, but I think your work has a Canadian-ness: I see motifs of pine trees and mountains that feel very familiar, and you've used a Canadian bill as canvas. How does your work fit into your identity as a Canadian? 
I don't really identify with any sort of nationalism or pride, but for sure the landscape of Canada has shaped me. As a kid, I grew up around a lot of nature and spent a lot of my time in it, so naturally it comes out in my work at times. The bill you saw is a twenty, where I drew on the Queen's face. It was a show poster for Toronto's Not the Wind Not the Flag, Fleshtone Aura, Wet Nurse, and Jax Deluca at the Tranzac. Brandon and I later submitted it to a Monarchy vs. Anarchy show in the east end.
Alex Mackenzie petra glynt 

 - www.blogto.com/music/2013/01/breakout_toronto_bands_petra_glynt/


Petra Glynt

Photography Josh Silver
Words Zarah Cheng

An artist of multiple disciplines, Alexandra Mackenzie has a powerful voice both literally and ideologically as she performs under her pseudonym, Petra Glynt.  Taking her experience as a visual artist, Petra Glynt’s shows are known to be an unforgettable sensory escape.  With lyrics that reflect her dedication to social justice topics surrounding indigenous issues, community, and the land, Mackenzie creates electronic music that not only makes you want to dance, but also to think deeper about the things you take for granted every day.  Looking forward to tour dates in October with Austra, Petra Glynt chats with us about her days in Toronto’s DIY punk scene and how she feels about being compared to Grimes.
Your EP is titled "Of This Land." What's the meaning behind it?

It’s about paying respect to where your roots are, and the importance of having a relationship between oneself and the land/history of the land where you come from.
The “Sour Paradise” video is hypnotic. What was the inspiration behind the art direction?
Blake Macfarlane and I deliberated over all sorts of ideas. Maybe the one that curated the aesthetic the most was inspired by anarchist, writer, and poet Hakim Bey's T.A.Z.: Temporary Autonomous Zone. It is an essay that undogmatically states that the best way to elude conventional systems of control and to create non-hierarchical spaces is to create temporary uprisings of short duration that can reappear and disappear before they can be discovered and penalized by the powers that be.
You have said in a past interview that you consider your various art practices to be distinct from each other. Do you ever express any common themes/subjects between your media though?
I have expressed this in the past, but my feelings have taken a different shape – I feel that my visual and music practices are becoming more interdependent. I intend to have an exhibition with the release of my new album, one that works deliberately with the vibe of the music.
People are often quick to visually compare you to Grimes. Does that ever bother you? 
Not a whole lot, but I suppose any artist would want to be recognized for his or her own voice and not for another's.
Katie Stelmanis (of Austra) is also from an operatic background. Do you think that there's a strong connection between classical music and electronic music?

Not necessarily, but electronic music does allow for any sort of instrumentation. It is a very open world, so classical music can hypothetically find a home in it pretty easily.
Social justice issues come up a lot in your lyrics. Which topics are most important to you?
All of the issues intertwine. To me they are obvious issues that are slowly getting more attention, but it's still not enough – number one being environmental defence. In Canada we have an abundance of land and natural resources but unfortunately, it is appreciated for its potential to be profitable and not for its sacred qualities, ones that need to be respected and left alone. As the economy and our systems of control are becoming less and less transparent, our land mass (and each other) is the only thing we can trust. It needs to be protected and it's terrifying to know that the oil sands are only getting bigger, that more and more remote areas are getting fracked and that Canadian fresh water is increasingly under threat. It is all getting closer to home. As the resources become scarce, the health of the land will no longer support us and we will have screwed ourselves. 
Number two is indigenous sovereignty. Respecting unceded indigenous land and responding to their calls for resistance against the extermination of their culture/peoples need to be on the forefront of the agenda. If it were, much of the land mass would still be thriving and the indigenous populations would not be on the decline. And seeing as they lived well without our intervention for thousands of years, we could be learning a thing or two from them. There is something to say about our quick decline.
Last is all about community and building strength in numbers. We've all felt screwed over by the system, but instead of continuing to support the capitalist mentality of competition – which divides us and makes rivals out of our friends, neighbours, and future collaborators – I want to see more of us banding together because I feel that our futures rely on our ability to realize our common interests and to work together with love and support of our differences.
What sort of experience are you trying to create for spectators when you put together visuals for your live shows, and how does it tie in to your music?
I try and make it a full experience. I am on my own up there so I like to fill the space. I tend to build worlds within my visual and musical work, places to be explored, and my combining the two makes it more of an extra-sensory/virtual experience. I also make art projects out of all the projects I do, ever since I was a kid in grade school. I'd neglect the research or writing portion of the project in order to make the most elaborate visual object out of it. It got me into some trouble but at least I've always known where my priorities were, which have gotten me to this point in my life.
You sometimes have other artists joining you on stage. How do you approach these collaborations - would you plan out the performance or is it more spontaneous?
Petra Glynt has so far been entirely solo when it comes to the stage and live performance but I am open to different collaborations, whether they be inviting dancers or different percussionists to join in. I am only at the starting blocks of figuring out how this might be incorporated into live performances. There are other projects besides Petra Glynt that have incorporated friends and their different talents. High World, curated by Lido Pimienta and Blake Macfarlane, is one that aspires to invite people from varying scenes, backgrounds, and orientations. We see the segregation in Toronto and want to challenge it. I love when I can be a part of it. Pachamama, a duo with my ex-partner, has also made a point to invite dancers, singers, and percussionists and we improvise together within the structure of our songs. But the era of Pachamama has likely come to pass.
Most of your previous projects have been part of the Toronto DIY punk scene. Why did you decide to delve into electronic music?
It came out of necessity. I have a soft spot for playing high-energy drums in punk bands but with Petra Glynt, using the electronic tools has allowed me to collage my own compositions and to perform them on my own. It is an infinite world for delving deep, where sound can be arranged and manipulated with as much or as little artful intention. I am in love.
Who would you like to collaborate with the most?
I would love to tour with a group of percussionists one day, preferably all female, but that's all I have in mind these days...a girl can dream.
Do you have any tour plans coming up?
I'm in the process of writing a full-length album, so I'm staying put for most of the summer, but I have plans to do a few dates in Montreal, Quebec City, Fredericton, and Halifax with Austra in October which I'm super stoked about. I want to eventually cover all of Canada. It is my home and I know very little about the landscape.
Who are your favourite bands/artists right now?
Right now, like this week, I have been listening to Spooky Black on repeat, a 15-year old kid out of Minnesota. His music is way too sexy for his years. And everyday I catch a listen of my friend Vic Cheong's (half of Healing Power Records) reggae covers mix tape: volume 2. It's the bomb.

Petra Glynt is tired of you calling her music “tribal”: “It means nothing”

Eric Jarosinski - NeinQuarterly: Compendium of Utopian Negation


Zvijezda twitter-nihilizma i tviterske estetike..


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An Interview With @NeinQuarterly’s Dr. Eric Jarosinski

@NeinQuarterly (Photo by @oafbot)
Dr. Eric Jarosinski is assistant professor of German at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. His primary research interests include Weimar-era literature, culture and philosophy. Among his published work is the book “The Hand of the Interpreter: Essays on Meaning after Theory,” which he co-edited with Mena Mitrano and several essays that examine the intersections of language, politics, and aesthetics in the work of Walter Benjamin, Theodor W. Adorno, Siegfried Kracauer, Joseph Roth, and Vladimir Nabokov. He is currently at work on a book entitled “Cellophane Modernity,” which focuses on metaphors of transparency in modern German culture.
Recently, Dr. Jarosinski has also become an active presence on Twitter with the creation of @NeinQuarterly, which he refers to as “a compendium of utopian negation.” The wit and intelligence of the account captured our attention immediately and has clearly captured the attention of many others as well. We wanted to know more about both the man behind the account and the impetus for beginning @NeinQuarterly. We asked Dr. Jarosinski to answer some questions via email and he graciously accepted.
Little Utopia: Before we start discussing @NeinQuarterly, it might help our readers who might not be as familiar with you to have some background information on you and your profession. How did you first become interested in Germany and Germanic studies? What made you decide it was something you wanted to pursue at the graduate school level?
Dr. Eric Jarosinski: Well, I’d like to say it was Kafka, Brecht, and Thomas Mann who drew me to German. The truth, however, is a long story involving my humble origins in the American Hinterland, young love, and a strong desire to get out of the United States for a while and study abroad. From there it only gets more complicated, but I knew I wanted to continue with German in graduate school after becoming increasingly interested in the Frankfurt School and Modernism during a Fulbright year in Germany. Until that point I thought I was going to be a journalist and had spent a lot of time in college doing political reporting for a few newspapers and a magazine.
What did you enjoy most about your time living in Germany? Is there one particular story or moment that sticks out in your mind?
In a word: nein. I’ve studied in Bonn, Frankfurt, Freiburg, and Berlin — in many ways, those were my formative years, but it’s hard to say what I liked most. It wasn’t a particular experience, but simply the chance to observe and take part in everyday life from the position of an outsider. In short, what I learned most is how American I am, for better or worse. Probably worse. This has also been confirmed in my time living in the Netherlands and Italy but in different ways.
From what I’ve read about your research interests, you seem to take an interdisciplinary approach in your work. In my experience, most professors are so specialized (even those in the same department) that they can hardly understand each other’s work. What do you value about the interdisciplinary approach as opposed to, say, only focusing on Weimar-era literature?
I like to work thematically and explore a topic from numerous overlapping and at times contradictory perspectives. A goal of my work is to be able to connect with the non-specialist, and I’d like to think that my broad approach lends itself to speaking to a wider audience. The downside is that you run the risk of being a dilettante, so it’s important to do your homework and be reasonable about your claims. I usually manage to heed my own warnings about this but not always.
What are you currently working on and what classes are you teaching in the upcoming semester?
Recently I’ve been finishing a book on post-Wall state architecture in Berlin and working on another on the history of radio and the radio play in the Weimar Republic. I’m interested in how early writings on radio — primarily by Siegfried Kracauer, Bertolt Brecht, Joseph Roth and a few others — are about much more than the technology itself. Radio becomes the site for a much larger discussion about politics, aesthetics and society. My main interest is the way in which these Weimar-era thinkers are implicitly theorizing the production of space, as Lefebvre would say, in modernity.
As to teaching: In the coming semester, I have my undergraduate course on Marx and Marxism and a graduate seminar on Modernism — my two favorite courses, which is nice since this will be my last year in my current position (this is the basis for the #failedintellectual storyline of @NeinQuarterly, but I actually consider my work in the ivory tower to be a success, at least in the ways that matter to me). I’m still considering what I’ll do next, or if I’ll stay in academia at all, but I suspect that NQ will be a big part of whatever the future holds. As silly as this venture is, I’ve often been surprised to see NQ accomplish some important things. From the feedback I’ve received, I know it’s encouraged some people to learn German, study abroad, or simply to Google some of the words or concepts I’m playing with. I’ve also been really pleased to hear from a number of teachers and professors who use my material in class. Recently NQ has been receiving more media attention in Europe, so I’m happy to see there’s also interest there in my work.
Dr. Eric Jarosinski
The man behind @NeinQuarterly, Dr. Eric Jarosinski
OK, so let’s talk about NQ a little more. If I’m being honest, I was at first fooled by your Twitter account. I’m currently working on my thesis, which focuses on contemporary little magazines, and, in general, I’m a magazine nerd. So when I saw your account, I thought, “Oh! I can’t wait to see what this magazine is about.” Needless to say, I was surprised to learn there was no actual magazine. Why did you choose to position or format the account as a quarterly? Or is the joke simply meant to be taken literally, i.e., “No Quarterly?”
“No Quarterly?” Funny, I never thought of it that way, but maybe I should. The name was actually an attempt to make the account sound a tad more legit than its earlier incarnation — @ShitGermansSay — and meant to set the stage for a blog or website in the future. Incidentally, that time is now arriving — I hope to have neinquarterly.com off the ground this fall.
The persona you’ve created for NQ is loosely based on Theodor W. Adorno, the German sociologist and philosopher. What about his work or life drew you to him as a basis for a Twitter account?
I’ve always loved Adorno because I sense that when he’s at his “elitist” worst, he’s also at his humanitarian best. I respect his disgust with mediocrity, with the ways in which human potential is squandered. Such a loss should outrage and challenge us. That’s what his work is still teaching me a couple of decades since I was first introduced to it. In any case, the persona I’ve developed attempts to capture a tone that is both condescending and self-deprecating — this represents both the critical concepts I’m working with and my own particular reading of them.
Your tweets are a mix of literary and cultural theory, philosophy, and, sometimes, everyday mundane activities. Were you ever worried that the more abstract concepts might not translate to 140 characters?
Interesting. The mundane in NQ is perhaps the most literary or theoretical. But no, the limitations of a tweet have never been a concern. Constraints further creativity. In addition, working in an aphoristic vein is in keeping with how many of my favorite philosophers wrote. I’m hardly a Nietzsche or an Adorno, but I love the challenge of writing a somewhat clever aphorism or well-timed one-liner. Twitter is the perfect platform for it.
I might be generalizing a bit here, but it seems as if many Americans only associate Germany with certain stereotypes, e.g., drinking beer, lack of humor, speaking a harsh language, etc. From what I’ve seen and understood, NQ seems to be trying to bridge American and German cultures beyond simple stereotypes. Am I reaching here?
Nein! That’s precisely it. I’m most interested in poking fun at American clichés about Germany and vice versa. My persona has a love-hate relationship with most things, including national cultures, social media, and — not least — himself.
What have you noticed about your audience that surprised you the most? What do you want them to take away from following NQ?
I’ve been surprised most by how international my audience has become (I recently saw that NQ has followers in over 130 countries) and by how receptive and kind people have been. Though I’ve created a persona very different from myself, my own life and feelings often come through. Folks have picked me up when I’m down and been happy for me when things are going well. I have had to deal with many more hecklers as my following has grown, but that’s just part of the medium.
What I’d most like people to take away from my work is simply a bit of the joy that I’ve found in playing with words, taking apart clichés, and exploring a handful of writers and theorists who make frequent appearances in my tweets (Adorno, Kafka, Borges, Benjamin, Susan Sontag, etc.). I’m convinced that for most people, thinking is not antithetical to fun, but that it is the fun. That’s why I loathe Twitter’s tendency toward pedanticism. Correcting others’ spelling or punctuation, often incorrectly, is truly counter to the joy I’ve often found in Twitter — though my persona usually expresses this in terms of despair — and that I hope others find there as well.
I’ve noticed that some people have actually started subscribing to NQ as they would to a typical magazine. Is this a joke that I haven’t caught onto yet or have people actually given money to a non-existent magazine? If so (and you don’t mind telling us, of course), what are your plans for the subscription money? Might we see NQ t-shirts, coffee mugs or even an actual magazine?
It started as a joke, when someone suggested I ask my followers to pay off my student loan debt (like a lot of people, I’m still in quite deep and will be until the grave). Then some kind folks started to kick in a few bucks, and I went with it. Right now I’ve been using the subscription campaign as material more than anything (NQ’s surely ill-fated experiment with capitalism), but whatever I end up with will help me to finance neinquarterly.com. And, yes, merchandise is in the works. All the commodities. Truly: all the commodities.
Dr. Jarosinski, thank you for taking the time to talk with us. Best of luck with NQ and your research work.
Danke. My persona would prefer despair, of course, but I’ll take it.
- littleutopiamag.com/2013/08/06/an-interview-with-neinquarterlys-dr-eric-jarosinski/

The Construction of a Twitter Aesthetic


Like many of us, Eric Jarosinski first started tweeting as a way of avoiding work. It was January of 2012, and Jarosinski, an assistant professor of German at the University of Pennsylvania, was struggling to write a book. He liked his topic just fine: transparency as a metaphor in contemporary German culture. What he couldn’t stand was the language. His own sentences. They were long, complex, and dense with qualifiers: “somewhat,” “perhaps,” “not unlike.” A handful of fellow academics might read the final book, he figured, and it was hard to see them actually enjoying it. Each time Jarosinski sat down at his laptop to write, he started to sweat.

Tweeting felt different. He wrote his tweets on his smartphone, not on the laptop, where the book lurked. Over the next two years, tweeting almost thirty thousand times, Jarosinski developed a crisp, allusive, irreverent Twitter voice: “Signifying nothing is harder than it looks.” “At Starbucks I order under the name Godot. Then leave.” “First as tragedy. Then as farce. Then as tragedy-farce-banana smoothie.” “I love ü. And it’s just that simple.” His feed, @NeinQuarterly, carries the tagline “A Compendium of Utopian Negation.” For an avatar, he uses a cartoon of the German-Jewish philosopher Theodor W. Adorno. The cartoon depicts a dour-looking man with a monocle. A caption reads simply, “Nein.”
Jarosinski tweets in German, English, and a mix of the two. The effect depends heavily on the intimidating visage of Adorno. Sometimes Jarosinski goes along with the image, indulging a personal tendency toward despair, and sometimes he undercuts the image with bursts of silliness and romanticism. From time to time, he tweets about being in love with a woman who lives in New York. His fifty-two thousand seven hundred followers include frustrated graduate students, German-language learners, and the president of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves.
I met Jarosinski at a bar in Philadelphia to talk about Twitter. He is thin, with short, curly brown hair, and wore gray jeans, a black shirt buttoned all the way up, a black watch with no numbers, and black-framed glasses. “Right now, I wish I could speak a little more in tweet form, and a little more quotable,” he started off. “I’m not very good at that. I’ll try not to ramble. I get nervous when I start to talk.” But he went on to tell his story in thoughtful paragraphs. He had come here from teaching an evening graduate seminar at Penn on modern German drama. Jarosinski said that he enjoys teaching, but that this is his final semester at Penn. Last spring, he took himself out of consideration for tenure, after realizing that he simply hadn’t published enough research. He started calling himself a “#failedintellectual” on Twitter. “There is kind of an identity crisis that takes place when you’ve been part of a system for a very long time and then, all of a sudden, you see yourself without that,” he said.
The son of Catholic grade-school teachers, the third of six boys, he grew up in a small town in Wisconsin. He travelled to Germany for the first time in college, with a high-school girlfriend who had spent a year abroad there. He discovered a fondness for the language and went on to study in Bonn, Frankfurt, Freiburg, and Berlin. He got the job at Penn in 2007 and did work on the Frankfurt School of critical theory, analyzing the texts of Adorno, Walter Benjamin, and Siegfried Kracauer, as well as Marx, Nietzsche, and Kafka. But Jarosinski felt isolated in academia. He’d always been drawn to the radical, playful sides of German thinkers, but others tended to appraise their work with a heavy sobriety close to worship. Adopting the Twitter persona was “extremely liberating,” he said, because it helped him to remember what had attracted him to the Frankfurt School philosophers in the first place: their more literary works, especially their aphorisms. Adorno: “The splinter in your eye is the best magnifying glass.” Or, as one NeinQuarterly tweet has it: “ADORNO. German for YOLO.”
Jarosinski started talking about what makes a good tweet. “You’re trying to find a way to state contradiction. You’re writing a cartoon caption for a cartoon that doesn’t exist…. It’s the old Gary Larson trick,” he said, referring to the creator of “The Far Side.” “What you really need to do in a cartoon is set someone up for the moment that comes next, after that frame, but is not depicted.” Tweets, he has learned, work best in dialogue form, because dialogue helps readers imagine a scene. “An early tweet of mine would have said, ‘No bourgeois morality on the bus.’… The better tweet is, ‘Sorry, sir, no bourgeois morality on the bus.’”
A good day on Twitter for him is when he can discover “a new structure” that he can use over and over. “I guess I want to see myself as an aphorist,” Jarosinski said. “And not even a Twitter aphorist. I think we need to reestablish that as a profession.” He laughed. In his case, it’s not that farfetched. Two German publishers have asked him about writing a book of aphorisms, he said, and he’s putting together a proposal. Also, something interesting happened last summer. He had to do some research in Berlin, so he tweeted that he was embarking on a “#FailedIntellectualGoodwillTour.” He was joking, but “all of a sudden, all these German journalists were like, ‘Oh, you’re coming? Let’s do an interview.’ ” The prestigious weekly Die Zeit invited him to its office to participate in a staff critique of the paper. Normally, he would have panicked, but he tried to adopt some of the swagger of his Twitter persona. In front of the staff of Die Zeit, he opened a newspaper with a ceremonial flourish, frowned at it, looked up, and said, severely, in German, “Your articles. They are far too long.”
The meeting led to an offer for Jarosinski to write a weekly column of Twitter-length jokes on Die Zeit’s opinion page, the first of which will run on Thursday. He’ll also be writing longer pieces for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, as well as an article for Kursbuch, a cultural magazine founded by one of his favorite German writers, Hans Magnus Enzensberger. “I’m trying not to think about it too much, to be honest,” he said, grimacing. Despite his anxiety, Jarosinski said he’s finding that his Twitter style works beyond the hundred-forty-character limit. “You can build paragraphs with the sentences I’ve learned to write.” Having deconstructed his passions down to the size of a tweet, Jarosinski is building them back up again.
- www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-construction-of-a-twitter-aesthetic

Just say 'nein': Talking with Eric Jarosinski about NeinQuarterly

The very best piece of writing I’ve encountered on Twitter comes from a feed called NeinQuarterly.
Here it is: “At Starbucks I order under the name Godot. Then leave.”
That’s an almost perfect use of Twitter as a platform: Aphoristic, and yet hinting at a depth of knowledge underneath. It’s a joke, but one you have to know something to get. The same is true of much of what appears at NeinQuarterly, which bills itself as a “Compendium of Utopian Negation,” but is really more a labor of love.
NeinQuarterly is the brainchild of Eric Jarosinski, an assistant professor of German at the University of Pennsylvania. His specialty is Weimar literature and philosophy. Since he began posting in February 2012, he has attracted more than 44,000 followers, who come for his signature mix of disappointment and irony.
“It’s a beautiful day to discover your authentic self. And find it wanting,” reads one recent tweet. And: “You call it another wasted afternoon. I call it the power of social media.”
For Jarosinski, NeinQuarterly offers a way to foster a digital conversation, while pushing the narrow bounds of academia. “I try to keep it far away from my day job in most respects,” he explains, “and few of my students even know about it, but they are closely related. Aphorisms are my favorite thing to teach.”
Recently we corresponded via email about NeinQuarterly.
What is NeinQuarterly, and how did it start?
NeinQuartertly is a sometimes funny, sometimes melancholic, sometimes playful, sometimes bitter Twitter feed that explores the complexities and/or absurdities of everyday life and language. The idea came from my study of the philosophy of Nietzsche, Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin. I was primarily drawn to their development of the philosophical aphorism or “thought-image.”
NeinQuarterly’s avatar is based on Adorno, as is the general perspective of the feed, at least loosely. I’ve been developing the critical voice of a misanthrope, of an arrogant cultural pessimist, but one who’s also often sentimental, whimsical, self-aggrandizing, foolish, and in love. The persona is, in a way, the Adorno I’ve always somehow read between the lines. Or perhaps simply want to find there: an Adorno who is at his most humane when he is most critical of that which makes us less human.
Why Twitter?
When I first discovered Twitter I didn’t find it all appealing. It was just millions of people writing about the mundane details of everyday life. Then I started to follow some writers, poets and comedians and discovered ways in which you could experiment and do more interesting things with the form. The more I got to know it, the more I saw Twitter as the rebirth of a tradition of storytelling, jokes and the aphorism. And it made it possible to connect with other people, smart people, often with a sense of humor.
I discovered Twitter at a time when I found myself feeling quite isolated by my work as an academic. In writing about it, in poking fun of the Ivory Tower, I established a network among many others who felt the same way. I’m realistic about what topics can be explored on Twitter, but I also find that Twitter’s constraints fuel its originality. Rather than make a philosophical point, the challenge is to perform or enact one. Preferably two.
You call NeinQuarterly a “Compendium of Utopian Negation.” Aren’t those ideas opposed?
Yes, and the contradiction is very much intentional. To the extent that NeinQuarterly has a project, it is very much one of negation. In ridiculing, inverting or saying no to the clichés of politics and the catchphrases of pop culture, maybe it’s also somehow creating a space, however playful, to envision what else could take their place. Something we might prefer to say yes to. Or, well, not. If you’ll allow me to quote one of my own tweets: “Dialectics isn’t saying no just to say no. It’s saying no to say yes. And then saying no.”
This ironic sense of humor is one of the appeals of the feed. At the same time, many tweets are personal, as in the recent observation about students giving you hope that you wished you didn’t have to give back.
What I write is very much connected to what I’m thinking about at a given moment. I delete many of the tweets I write, often because I find them too personal after the fact.
The only real aesthetic governing what I’m doing, at least that I consciously think about, is a certain rhythm that I’m aiming for. My sentences have changed dramatically over my time on Twitter. I write much more in terms of sound than I did at the outset.
But on the whole, NeinQuarterly has been about developing a character, a voice and a perspective that can be applied to most anything. I’m often a rather depressed, anxious and pessimistic person, but fortunately I’ve always been able to laugh at myself. Eventually. It’s been my way out of my darkest times.
How did you get interested in German culture and philosophy?
I grew up in rural Wisconsin, a town called Park Falls. The population was roughly 2,500. If you look it up on Wikipedia, you’ll find this: “Park Falls has been called the most geographically isolated community in all of Wisconsin.” I doubt that’s true. But somehow, yes, it’s true.
Wisconsin was the main destination for many German immigrants who came to America in the mid-19th century. My town was full of Schmidts, Wagners, even a mean old man on my paper route named Fleischfresser. I don’t remember learning many German words apart from the sentence, “Mein Plattenspieler ist leider kaputt.” ("My turntable is unfortunately broken.") My small town’s local festivals were always accompanied by polka music, and I remember many meals of dumplings and sauerkraut visiting my friends’ families. In general, though, I wasn’t drawn to German at all. It was only when I got to college (University of Wisconsin-Madison) that I realized the wider world I could access through the language.
You’re planning to start a blog shortly. How will it be different from the Twitter feed?
After a few delays, I’m currently hoping to launch neinquarterly.com in January. My hope is that it will become an interesting forum featuring the work of many of the writers, poets, artists, political figures and academics I’ve met on Twitter over the last couple of years. I have established few guidelines so far and am letting their contributions shape what ultimately emerges.
What were your expectations when you started? How have they changed?
I really didn’t expect anything from NeinQuarterly at the outset. It was simply a way to write about the things that interest me in a mode very different from the academic prose that I was becoming less and less fond of. It helped me give voice to my frustrations and rediscover a sense of joy and playfulness in writing, even (or perhaps because) my themes are often quite dark. Over time I’ve expected more from myself in terms of the quality of my writing. I’m always trying to say more with less.
- www.latimes.com/books/jacketcopy/la-et-jc-eric-jarosinski-neinquarterly-20131120-story.html#axzz2ng4Z5vci&page=1

For a famous nihilist, Eric Jarosinski cuts a rather unassuming figure: He’s a young-looking 42 with delicate features and a quick smile. He is exceedingly mild-mannered, and finds it unbecoming to talk and eat at the same time (as a result, the eggs he orders at the Upper West Side restaurant where we recently shared breakfast quickly grow cold). And yet for all Jarosinski’s Wisconsin politeness in person, just the other day he admonished me, and 66,000 of my best friends: “Hate yourself like nobody’s looking. They’re not.”
The one-man brain trust behind Nein Quarterly, the anti-journal that is really “just” a Twitter feed, Jarosinksi is both a study in, and a master of, pithy contradiction. He’s a gentle Midwesterner who’s feuded publicly with Joyce Carol Oates. He’s got multiple media outlets in multiple countries interested in hiring him, but he finds the very act of writing so excruciating that he composes only on his phone. He’s a self-described “#failedintellectual,” but he’s probably done more good for the discipline of German Studies than most of the professors he’s about to leave behind.
His “compendium of utopian negation,” whose imposing logo is a cartoon of the philosopher Theodor W. Adorno mid-scowl, began with the decidedly non-utopian negation of his soon-to-be-ex career. Last year, as his pre-tenure years as an Assistant Professor of German at the University of Pennsylvania crept to a close, Jarosinski admitted to himself that he simply couldn't stand his own academic writing—definitely not anymore, but maybe never in the first place. (Perhaps he learned that the average academic treatise has an audience of three.)
As a result, he wasn’t going to finish his book in time to make tenure, if ever. “I knew what was expected of me and I didn't deliver,” he tells me in a series of admirably terse follow-up emails. “I tried and failed. It’s that simple.” He could have allowed the case to proceed and then been rejected—which, though it happens fairly often, is every scholar’s worse nightmare. Instead, he submitted this one-sentence email: “I would like to withdraw from consideration for tenure.”
I follow academic “Quit Lit” religiously, but this story has got to be my favorite of the genre so far—especially given the impressive success Jarosinski has since had with single sentences. Granted, there are things about academia he will miss (in a word, teaching), but also things he will not. “The quiet desperation,” he writes to me, in character as Nein but also sincerely, employing the inimitable “double perspective” that makes German humor simultaneously brilliant and obtuse. “Possibly the impotent rage. But I'm sure I'll find adequate substitutes before long.”
Perhaps. At present, though, it appears that this “failed intellectual” is having actual success. Nein’s following will likely hit six figures by summer, and while Jarosinski only very briefly experimented with merchandising, sales of coffee mugs and T-shirts were surprisingly good. What is the appeal of Nein? “Nein is a misanthrope,” Jarosinski explains, “but a sometimes lovable misanthrope. Nein believes in nothing, but a nothing that represents some rather utopian ideals.” Jarosinski describes the persona as “someone who is deeply invested in an intellectual project, but who loses sight of most everything else along the way. His voice,” he explains, “is both authoritative and ridiculous.” And although Nein is a character, he’s closely connected to Jarosinski’s own life. “For whatever reason, I've needed a mask in order to be more authentic.”
Nein’s genius comes exactly in that authoritative-ridiculous tension, evident as he explains the hidden gems of Deutsch:
In a truly meta twist to the tale, Jarosinski has become Big in Germany, where they express whatever passes over there for “delight” at this foreigner, so adept at simultaneously evoking and mocking their culture. He now thumb-types cultural criticism for the Frankfurter Allgemeine, the Tageszeitung, and Die Zeit, and this week sold his first nonacademic book—Nein. A Manifesto.—in both Germany and the Netherlands. In the English-speaking world? For now, we’ll “have to wait. In darkness. For nothing.”
As for re-inventing himself, or at any rate overcoming his identity as a professor (which, as some less successful nihilists have written, can be downright wrenching)? “It’s been hard work, but a lot of fun. I’ve been lucky, and many folks have helped me along the way.” And then, as Nein, but also as himself: “When you feel like you have nothing to lose, you have a world to win. Then lose.”

Rebecca Schuman

Alison Nastasi - 50 Underground Filmmakers Everyone Should Know

50, pa onda 500, pa 5000.

50 Underground Filmmakers Everyone Should Know

We’re coming to the close of a great retrospective of Joe Sarno’s works at New York’s Anthology Film Archives, ending September 26. Sarno was one of the sexploitation genre’s key auteurs, and his films evoke the independent spirit of the underground film movement — movies popularized during the ‘60s that pushed the boundaries of technique and narrative with experimental artistry. These pictures produced outside the commercial moviemaking industry ranged from the subversive to the formless (at least where any story was concerned), delighting in explicit subjects and exploring radical in-camera editing. Crucial as he is, Sarno is just one of these 50 underground filmmakers you should know.

Jack Smith
“The only person I would ever copy. He’s just so terrific, and I think he makes the best movies,” said Andy Warhol of underground filmmaking legend Jack Smith. The influential fringe director challenged gender and sexual norms, and introduced a controversial and delirious camp-trash aesthetic that has been copied by artists and filmmakers like Mike Kelley and John Waters, to name a few. Smith’s 1963 film Flaming Creatures was ruled to be “obscene” and confiscated by the police during its premiere at New York’s Bleecker Street Cinema. Susan Sontag described it as a “rare modern work of art; it is about joy and innocence.”
Birgit Hein
Women are too often presented as the less-important halves of filmmaking couples, but German writer-director Birgit Hein managed to establish a presence apart from her frequent collaborator, husband Wilhelm Hein. Several of her films broached the subject of collective female anxiety. “That’s what’s interesting in these trash films — the horror and prison films — they’re not reality,” Hein stated in a 1990 interview. “These films deal with dreams and somehow they are true in a psychic way. If women can act like this in a film, it means society also believes they can do that.”
The Kuchar brothers
Twin prodigies George and Mike Kuchar produced a slate of inventive 8mm films during the ‘60s and ‘70s that caught the eye of underground legends like Andy Warhol, Ken Jacobs, and Jonas Mekas. In an astute nod to Hollywood’s Golden Era, the Kuchars employed a heady blend of B-cinema, avant-garde narrative, queer-camp melodrama, and radical social critique. George later produced a series of verité Hi8 video diaries — a poignant record of his daily life. His best-known work, Hold Me While I’m Naked, is an autobiographical portrait of a frustrated artist.
Timothy Carey
“You can’t leave the film industry to the money people, they degrade it, they make people nothing,” said wild-eyed filmmaker Timothy Carey. Better known for his astounding roles in John Cassavetes’ Minnie and Moskowitz and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, and Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing and Paths of Glory, Carey cut his own path through ’60s cinema. Directing only a handful of features, Carey made an indelible impression on the underground with 1962’s The World’s Greatest Sinner (featuring a score from then unknown Frank Zappa), which he also wrote, starred in, and produced. “I was tired of seeing movies that were supposedly controversial. So I wanted to do something that was really controversial,” he said of Sinner — about an insurance salesman who grows tired of his mundane life, starts a cult, appoints himself God, and starts a band. A taboo critique of religion, politics, and middle-class America, Carey’s work was buried for years by the “money people,” but his audience knows better.
Bruce Conner
From LA Weekly‘s remembrance of the San Francisco found-footage pioneer:
A Kansas native who studied art at Wichita University and eventually settled on the West Coast, Conner first caused a stir in the gallery world in the late 1950s, with a series of controversial assemblages (one of which, now in MoMA’s permanent collection, featured a sculpture of a screaming child bound by nylon stockings to a highchair). But it’s Conner’s film work—the subject of a two-night retrospective co-presented by the UCLA Film & Television Archive, REDCAT and Los Angeles Filmforum—that has cast the longest shadow, spanning six decades, and stretching from Conner’s San Francisco studio to the foothills of Hollywood. While future YouTubers were in the womb (or not even a thought in their parents’ heads), Conner saw the potential of throwaway images—movie countdown leaders, industrial films, TV commercials, softcore porn—to be forged into dazzlingly associative montages, rhetorical loops or subliminal blurs designed to dance upon the audience’s subconscious. MTV, it has been said, might never have existed without him.
Sarah Jacobson
Jacobson’s underground splatter short I Was a Teenage Serial Killer was featured in our 50 Essential Feminist Films list:
To me, feminism means that I should have an equal opportunity to do what I want to do as a woman. I don’t want to be better than men, I don’t want to shut men up. It’s like, look, you’ve got your little thing over here, you’ve got your B-movie aesthetic, and I’ve got my interpretation of it that girls can enjoy, too, so you don’t always have to watch the bimbo get raped or slashed or stalked or whatever.
Author of the progressive S.T.I.G.M.A. Manifesto (Sisters Together in Girlie Movie-Making Action), Jacobson left behind a gender-busting DIY legacy that continues to empower independent filmmakers.
Kenneth Anger
Before David Lynch featured Bobby Vinton’s “Blue Velvet” in his 1986 movie, Kenneth Anger used it in the groundbreaking 1963 film Scorpio Rising — which toyed with notions of rebel worship and the Hollywood ideal through queer, occult imagery. “Scorpio Rising inaugurated innovative representations of same-sex desire through its cinematic juxtaposition of such mass-mediated images. Moreover, its montage often playfully foregrounds contradictory conceptions of same-sex desire that continue to influence our thinking about sexuality and identity today,” writes the journal Genders. Anger’s influence is incalculable. Provocative as ever, his website greeting encapsulates the spirit of his work:
Herschell Gordon Lewis
Known as the “Godfather of Gore,” Herschell Gordon Lewis’ assault on good taste pioneered the splatter subgenre and established him as an exploitation icon through a series of shocking, blood-soaked pictures. 1963’s Blood Feast is considered the first gore film. Capturing his images in lurid Eastmancolor, Lewis depicted gruesome acts with cringe-worthy realism (using real animal organs for flesh-ripping scenes). His work is also synonymous with various publicity stunts — such as the “vomit bag,” which was handed to moviegoers upon entering theaters.
William Castle
John Waters’ glowing praise for B-movie legend William Castle (House on Haunted Hill, The Tingler, 13 Ghosts) is fun reading:
Without a doubt, the greatest showman of our time was William Castle. King of the Gimmicks, William Castle was my idol. His films made me want to make films. I’m even jealous of his work. In fact, I wish I were William Castle. . . . William Castle was the best. William Castle was God.
Paul Morrissey
Bright Lights Film Journal founder Gary Morris wrote a must-read essay on the work of Andy Warhol collaborator Paul Morrissey — one of the driving forces behind the Factory’s film output:
Much of the myth, if we can call it that, surrounding Paul Morrissey comes out of his early relationship with Andy Warhol’s Factory and its glittering, damaged denizens. In a world of stylized weirdos, Morrissey was the straight businessman, always looking for the commercial possibilities inherent in a scene where few believed any existed. Viva called him “a real nine-to-fiver” and Warhol biographer Stephen Koch said he was “an anomaly at the Factory.” Morrissey’s drive and ambition made it possible for him to rework the Warhol aesthetic evident in conceptually rich but unbearably dull experiments like Sleep and Empire into more accessible, coherent, and committed works like Trash, Heat, Mixed Blood, Blood for Dracula, and Women in Revolt. The “great film achievements” of Warhol belong, for the most part, to Morrissey, who wrote, produced, and directed them while Warhol contributed no more than his name above the title.
Melvin Van Peebles
Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song gave us all the answers we needed. This was an example of how to make a film (a real movie), distribute it yourself, and most important, get paid. Without Sweetback who knows if there could have been a She’s Gotta Have It, Hollywood Shuffle, or House Party?” said Spike Lee of director Melvin Van Peebles, father of actor and New Jack City director Mario Van Peebles. The elder Peebles wrote, produced, scored, marketed, and starred in the groundbreaking 1971 film — which featured an all-black cast and unsimulated sex scenes, and heralded a wave of copycat movies, leading to the formation of the blaxploitation genre. Repeatedly rejected by the studio circuit, Peebles financed the film himself with help from Bill Cosby.
Storm De Hirsch
“I wanted badly to make an animated short and had no camera available. I did have some old, unused film stock and several roles of 16mm. sound tape. So I used that — plus a variety of discarded surgical instruments and the sharp edge of a screwdriver — by cutting, etching, and painting directly on both film and tape,” poet and New York avant-gardist Storm De Hirsch told Jonas Mekas of her film Divinations in a 1964 interview. Her written work and interest in Eastern esoterica informs her improvisational shorts.
Photo credit: Robert Carrithers
Photo credit: Robert Carrithers
Scott B and Beth B
East Village No Wave figures Scott B and Beth B (and their pun-tastic production company B Movies) achieved cult status through a series of raucous 8mm shorts — “savage satire on society’s distortions.” Their works caught the early attention of experimental film aficionados like J. Hoberman (who called them “space-age social realists” in 1979) and saw collaborations with a veritable who’s who of New York artists: Richard Prince, Lydia Lunch, and Bill Rice. Beth B. continued to make movies after parting ways with Scott (noise-noir Vortex is considered the last No Wave movie by many). She found modest mainstream success with the films Salvation! and Two Small Bodies.
Shûji Terayama
Shûji Terayama
Prolific anarchist Shûji Terayama was a key figure in radical filmmakers’ group the Art Theatre Guild and the founder of avant-garde theater troupe Tenjo Sajiki — for which he was praised by critic Akihiko Senda as being “the eternal avant garde.” 1971’s Emperor Tomato Ketchup and 1974’s Pastoral: Hide and Seek found Terayama championing a post-adult world populated and ruled by orgy-loving youths. Terayama also wrote the “runaway” movement’s unofficial manifesto in Throw Away Your Books, Rally in the Streets, a blistering adaptation of his own play.
Jonas Mekas
The Guardian on “godfather of the avant-garde” Jonas Mekas:
Mekas is an integral figure in the history of what used to be called underground cinema, not just as a film-maker, but as a writer, a curator and a catalyst. In 1969, he helped set up the Anthology Film Archives in New York, which houses the most extensive library of experimental films in existence, and he has since overseen the restoration of many classics of the form. His conversation is peppered with the names of the more famous people he worked with in the golden age of avant-garde film-making in the 1960s, from Yoko Ono to Jackie Kennedy, Allen Ginsberg and the Beats to the Warhol set. Many of these figures ended up in his films, which have in turn influenced the likes of Jim Jarmusch, Harmony Korine, John Waters and Mike Figgis.
Stan Brakhage
Robin Blaetz’s Avant-Garde Cinema of the Seventies essay is a nice primer on the time period for the uninitiated, with emphasis on the titan of experimental cinema, Stan Brakhage:
Stan Brakhage, who started making films in the 1950s and is the best known and most prolific filmmaker of the American avant-garde, continued his influential work throughout the 1970s. His signature first-person use of the camera, in which the movement of the apparatus defines consciousness itself, was expanded from documenting immediate perception to recording the filmmaker’s encounter with memory and the world at large. Brakhage himself best described his lifelong project in the opening lines of his often-reprinted manifesto of 1963, entitled Metaphors on Vision: “Imagine an eye unruled by man-made laws of perspective, an eye unprejudiced by compositional logic, an eye which does not respond to the name of everything but which must know each object encountered in life through an adventure of perception…. Imagine a world before the ‘beginning was the word.” This union of body and camera that records the very process of experiencing the world regardless of all established codes of visual language is inherently documentary. Brakhage’s work as an editor was to join and layer what he had discovered in the world, to suggest in a single work of art the endless correspondences in and the richness of perceptual experience. Since Brakhage’s films, which range in length from minutes to many hours, manifest neither thematic unity nor recognizable technique, they are virtually indescribable. However, they reflect the concerns of the seventies to the degree that they use the world as raw material, yet eliminate all recognizable imagery through abstraction.
Ian Hugo
Watch Ian Hugo’s film Bells of Atlantis, starring Hugo’s wife Anaïs Nin as the mythical narrator, reading from her dream-laden novella House of Incest. The short features a score by electronic musicians Louis and Bebe Barron (Forbidden Planet). Reminder: this was bloody weird stuff for 1952.
Werner Schroeter
Werner Schroeter
Film Comment on the queer German underground director (and nihilist fashionista!) Werner Schroeter:
Like his contemporaries Fassbinder, Herzog, and Wenders, the late Werner Schroeter was one of the New German Cinema’s seminal figures, if far more marginal in terms of recognition. He started out as an underground filmmaker in 1967 before making a critical impact on the international festival circuit and winning a devoted cult following. His films, shot through with a predilection for operatic excess and artifice, defy categorization, and are infuriatingly obscure for some and entrancingly poetic for others. His cinema occupies a transitional space between avant-garde and art cinema, neither quite narrative nor quite abstract. In the second half of the Eighties he became widely known as a theater and opera director, staging a range of hyperstylized productions in Germany and abroad that outstripped even his films in their ability to provoke both intense admiration and hostility. His flamboyance and reputation for refusing to compromise with the mainstream attracted outstanding talents willing to work for little or no money, some of whom became his regular collaborators. Foremost among the performers was Magdalena Montezuma, the splendid German underground star and Schroeter’s muse until her death in 1985. Subsequently French stars such as Bulle Ogier, Carole Bouquet, and Isabelle Huppert gave him an additional art-house aura. Throughout his career and thanks to major retrospectives, including events in London, Paris, and Rome, Schroeter’s films kept garnering new, if select, audiences.
Bette Gordon
Bette Gordon
“Christine (Sandy McLeod) takes a job selling tickets at a porno theater near Times Square. Instead of distancing herself from the dark and erotic nature of this milieu, she develops an obsession that begins to consume her life. Few films deal honestly with a female sexual point of view, controversial and highly personal, Variety does just this,” writes IMDb of Bette Gordon’s best-known feature (1983). Gordon’s work was born out of the downtown New York punk scene, and her contributions to the feminist film milieu have been under-appreciated. Here’s a nice little intro to Gordon, written by the director, that focuses on her not-so-underground 2009 film Handsome Harry.
Christopher Maclaine
I highly recommend reading these 1986 interview excerpts from thee Stan Brakhage on influential beat filmmaker Christopher Maclaine, whose fascinating career ended tragically after he was committed to an asylum:
Christopher was considered the Antonin Artaud of North Beach, which was a fiercer place, I’d fancy, than Paris was in Artaud’s time. North Beach was a place of great despair, World War II despair. So many veterans came back and found the nation they had gone to defend had eroded from their idealist viewpoints into the drive for the almighty dollar—(in) the “booming” postwar period … This was a great disillusionment. Many of them pitched into this despair — the driving back and forth across the country, the drinking, or if they had no money, just drinking and sitting in the gutter. Chris was one of the first to read his poetry, often to jazz music, in bars to get his drinks for the evening, or a meal. He had a few books of poetry in print, one of which I’m fortunate to still have a copy of… I don’t know how in the world he decided to make film because the lifestyle he led wouldn’t usually enable him to do so. It wasn’t that he was that much of an oddball — he was just the king of an accepted form of insanity… So Maclaine made these four films (THE END, THE MAN WHO INVENTED GOLD, BEAT, and SCOTCH HOP) in a burst of energy in the early ’50s, culminating in THE END, which had its world premiere at Frank Stauffacher’s Art in Cinema, where it precipitated a riot—not as violent as some of the French riots, but there were certainly chairs thrown, and people storming out or screaming for their money back.
Stan Vanderbeek
Vanderbeek’s surrealist collage film works (Terry Gilliam, eat your heart out) found him collaborating with an enviable group of artists, including Claes Oldenburg, Yvonne Rainer, Merce Cunningham, Allan Kaprow, and John Cage. “He called himself a technological fruit picker,” curator Joao Ribas said of the artist. Of his own aesthetic, Vanderbeek wrote:
The technological explosion of this last half-century, and the implied future are overwhelming, man is running the machines of his own invention… while the machine that is man… runs the risk of running wild. Technological research, development, and involvement of the world community has almost completely out-distanced the emotional-sociological (socio-“logical”) comprehension of this technology. The “technique-power” and “culture-over-reach” that is just beginning to explode in many parts of the earth, is happening so quickly that it has put the logical fulcrum of man’s intelligence so far outside himself that he cannot judge or estimate the results of his acts before he commits them.
Marie Menken
Marie Menken
“Willard and Marie were the last of the great bohemians. They wrote and filmed and drank — their friends called them ‘scholarly drunks’ — and were involved with all the modern poets,” Andy Warhol said of experimental filmmaking couple, the Menkens. The duo’s vital film group Gryphon (established in the 1940s) saw the couple producing and promoting experimental works, establishing an early foundation for independent cinema. “Marie was one of the first to do a film with stop-time. She filmed lots of short movies, some with Willard, and she even did one on a day in my life,” Warhol also declared. “There is no why for my making films. I just liked the twitters of the machine, and since it was an extension of painting for me, I tried it and loved it,” Menken said in 1966. “In painting I never liked the staid and static, always looked for what would change the source of light and stance, using glitters, glass beads, luminous paint, so the camera was a natural for me to try — but how expensive!”
Russ Meyer
Roger Ebert on friend and collaborator Russ Meyer (Ebert wrote the screenplay for 1970’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls) and what separated the sexploitation pioneer from his flesh-loving peers:
What Meyer’s films also have is an uncommonly high level of artistry. In professional filmmaking circles, Meyer is known as the one creative director in the sexploitation field. His competitors churn out slipshod low-budget films exploiting the nudity of their actresses (who usually look hideous enough to inspire cries of “put it on!”). But Meyer budgets his films at around $70,000—or 10 times the usual level—and rehearses his cast for a month before shooting. . . . His films are limited by their genre (familiarly known as the “skin flick”) and by their budgets, but a consistent artistic vision dominates them. They are fast-paced, usually well-acted, directed with a joyous zest, and they deliver the goods.
Ken Jacobs
In his ’70s, Ken Jacobs made a nearly seven-hour film he started in the late 1950s, Star Spangled to Death, composed of found footage. “It pictures a stolen and dangerously sold-out America, allowing examples of popular culture to self-indict. Racial and religious insanity, monopolization of wealth and the purposeful dumbing down of citizens and addiction to war oppose a Beat playfulness,” writes the filmmaker of his 2004 movie. One look at Jacobs’ filmography shows the tireless, now octogenarian director has made multiple films each year since then. J. Hoberman’s New York Times essay is a lovely introduction to Jacobs’ experimental contributions, which remain shockingly underrated.
Kôji Wakamatsu
Kôji Wakamatsu has over 100 directorial credits to his name and is best known for his confrontational and politically incendiary “pink” softcore films. “Rape was a recurrent trope, usually in a metaphorical role to represent patriarchal oppression and the US military’s involvement in neighbouring countries on the Asian mainland,” writes Jasper Sharp for the British Film Institute. In addition to directing violent “eroductions” with evocative titles like Go, Go Second Time Virgin and Sex-Jack, the filmmaker’s Wakamatsu Pro company produced films like 1976’s In the Realm of the Senses (1976) and 1971’s Red Army PFLP: Declaration of World War, a propagandistic pro-Palestinian documentary.
Gregory Markopoulos
Gregory Markopoulos
Not even a self-imposed exile during the ’60s kept the visionary works of Gregory Markopoulos under wraps. The Harvard Film Archive celebrates the films of the New American Cinema movement icon:
Gregory Markopoulos (1928-1992) was one of the true visionaries of the post-WWII American avant garde. Across his exquisitely stylized, oneiric early films and through his dazzling master works of the late Sixties and Seventies, Markopoulos defined a unique film language of incomparable formal rigor, visual beauty and haunting lyricism. A tireless perfectionist, Markopoulos crafted a unique mode of art cinema with an astonishingly minimum of funding and resources—often editing his negatives by hand with only razor blade and magnifying glass and perfecting in-camera editing techniques that brought a poetic density to his films. Evident throughout his first major films is a fascination with myth and ritual which would carry across Markopoulos’ later work and would, eventually, call him back to his ancestral Greece. The heady mythopoesis of key early films such as Swain and Twice a Man is also charged with a bold exploration of sexual and homosexual desire that was, in every way, far ahead of its time.
Damon Packard
Damon Packard
Los Angeles filmmaker Damon Packard has been experimenting with film since the ‘80s, but his underground opus, 2002’s Reflections of Evil (a film he blew an inheritance on to create and in which he plays the lead role), bridges a B-movie aesthetic with Hollywood formalism. From Casey McKinney:
His heroes are serious, and for the most part, mainstream filmmakers, people like Spielberg at his best moments. And while he may be interested in the look of say Night Gallery, it’s not for the kitsch value. Damon’s simulations of his favorite era are move of a stripped down refinement of the period’s best qualities—explorations of innovative camera techniques and analogue attempts at recreating altered states of consciousness. To mime this look, Damon employs the use of lens flares, slow motion, spot diffusion, mirror props, kaleidoscopic filters, superimposition, and the warping of film in order to produce a kind of fun house mirror effect. The achieved result is simultaneously psychedelic and formalist.
Diana Barrie
A student of Stan Brakhage (she often employed his hand-altered techniques) and important figure in the male-dominated underground, Diana Barrie’s clever, feminist reimaginings of mythical and religious narratives (My Version of the Fall) and boundary-pushing explorations of the female body (Night Movie) deserve a wider audience. Unfortunately, her films are hard to find online, but she is sometimes lauded at film festivals.
Aldo Tambellini
Aldo Tambellini
I implore you to see any and all Aldo Tambellini exhibits you can find. From James Cohan Gallery:
Iconoclastic and experimental artist Aldo Tambellini was among the first artists in the early 1960s to explore new technologies as an art medium. Tambellini combined slide projections, film, performance, and music into sensorial experiences that he aptly called “Electromedia.” Such work informed Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable and Woody and Steina Vasulka’s The Kitchen [a Chelsea neighborhood art space established in the '70s]. With the rediscovery of this material, Tambellini’s work has become the subject of great interest for early new media.
Kroger Babb
The most prominent member of the 40 Thieves, a circle of innovative and money-minded American exploitation film distributors (the name was well earned), Kroger Babb bridged the gap between art-house and grindhouse. In addition to roadshowing sex-ed films from the ’30s, Babb recut and distributed the titillating scenes in Ingmar Bergman’s Summer With Monika (retitled: Monika, The Story of a Bad Girl) — which got him sued (although he got away with screening the film for five more years). Babb also played mentor to sexploitation king David F. Friedman, producer of seminal works in exploitation subgenres like “roughies” (The Defilers) and Nazisploitation (Ilsa She-Wolf of the SS).
Jud Yalkut
Just when you thought the polka-dotted creations of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama couldn’t be more psychedelic…
“One of the most influential filmmakers making experimental cinema in New York in the 1960s was Jud Yalkut,” writes film scholar Wheeler Winston Dixon. “Since then, Yalkut has gone on to consolidate an enviable reputation as one of the most important metamedia artists in American independent cinema.”
Joe Sarno
Known as the “Ingmar Bergman of pornographic films,” Joe Sarno is currently the subject of a retrospective at Anthology Film Archives that will wrap up in mere days (run, don’t walk). “The writer and director of literally dozens of low-budget erotic features targeted at the 1960s ‘adults only’ film market, Sarno is one of the true pioneers of celluloid erotica and one of sexploitation’s most sincere and critically-celebrated stylists,” writes Anthology. Films like 1974’s Confessions of a Young American Housewife feature the typical swinger-style sexcapades from sexploitation features of the period, but Sarno disarms audiences with a surprising intimacy and emotion as a conservative homemaker explores her newfound sexual freedom.
They Eat Scum
Nick Zedd
“If it’s not transgressive, it’s not underground. It has to be threatening the status quo by doing something surprising, not just imitating what’s been done before.” —Nick Zedd
It will all make sense after reading the Cinema of Transgression Manifesto. Watch some of the films from the movement on UbuWeb.
Pierre Clémenti
Pierre Clémenti
You’ll recognize Pierre Clémenti as Catherine Deneuve’s gangster lover in Luis Buñuel’s Belle de jour, but he collaborated with a number of visionary directors from the ‘60s and ‘70s (Pasolini, Bertolucci, Visconti). An 18-month prison term and drug charges tarnished his career, but he found acceptance in the French underground film movement and made a movie with Warhol Superstar Viva.
Shirley Clarke
Shirley Clarke
A peer of indie icons Maya Deren, Stan Brakhage, and Jonas Mekas, Shirley Clarke’s provocative works dismantle the celluloid facade with off-camera interjections from the director (see: her 1967 film about gay, African-American performer Jason Holliday, Portrait of Jason) and other voyeuristic techniques.
Naomi Levine
Jonas Mekas championed the work of Warhol superstar Naomi Levine (Kiss, Batman Dracula), who eventually broke out on her own as a director with a 1964 film called Yes. “Naomi Levine has just finished her first movie. It is like no other movie you ever saw. The rich sensuousness of her poetry floods the screen. Nobody has ever photographed flowers and children as Naomi did,” wrote Mekas. “No man would be able to get her poetry, her movements, her dreams. These are Naomi’s dreams, and they reveal to us beauty which we men were not able to rip out of ourselves — Naomi’s own beauty.” From an interview Mekas conducted with the filmmaker:
JM: Why did you make Yes?
NL: Because I wanted to make something beautiful.
JM: Why ‘something’ beautiful? Why not something perceptive — or of social consequence — or sexy?
NL: Beauty is all of these things. You see, I went to Puerto Rico and made a demonstration at Rami Air Force Base — and fifteen people lost their jobs and were beaten up and their homes wrecked. So I realized that this was not the way. The way would be to make something, to give something tot my world more beautiful and of life than these armaments which are merely ugly and full of pain.
JM: Do you think you succeeded?
NL: That is impossible — maybe here and there — maybe a glimmer, an instant of what I would like to give, of all I experienced. So that I now know where to work from and toward, as a whole. I know — after working with five versions and many editing revisions, etc. — the world of Movie, the world of People, is the way for me to go.
JM: How do you make your movies?
NL: Anything that happens on a set happens — there is no ‘acting,’ no method to get what goes on. It’s real and it has gone on for me forever. When I kiss I am kissed and I have kissed.
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Sogo Ishii
The Japanese underground auteur, whose works like Burst City preceded the Japanese cyberpunk craze and have inspired Japanese filmmaking greats like Takashi Miike, was featured in our list “The 50 Weirdest Movies Ever Made.” “I’ve been making movies since I was 19 years old. My first film was shot on 8mm, it was called Panic in High School. At the time it was very difficult for young people to make films in Japan,” Ishii told Midnight Eye. “It still is, in fact. Most directors are over 40, and the normal process is to begin as an assistant director, then gradually move on to directing. I didn’t want to be an assistant director and I just started making films by myself. So yes, my way was different from the usual way.”
Lloyd Kaufman
All you need to know about the co-founder Troma Entertainment and director of The Toxic Avenger, Class of Nuke ‘Em High, and Terror Firmer can be found in his book, All I Need to Know about Filmmaking I Learned from the Toxic Avenger. The New York City filmmaker is also chatty on Twitter.
Robert Downey Sr.
From the man who brought us Robert Downey, Jr. comes cult classics such as Putney Swope (a scathing satire of the advertising industry) and underground parodies like 1966’s Chafed Elbows, starring the director’s former wife, Elsie Downey, in every female role. Downey captured most of the animated stills for the movie with a 35mm camera, the film of which he had processed at a drugstore. The elder Downey’s humor was avant-garde for his time, and even his bigger-budget projects, like Greaser’s Palace, an acid western with a Christlike pimp as the main character, bristled the mainstream.
Roger Corman
The King of the Bs. A legend. Half of Hollywood owes its career to Roger Corman (James Cameron, Jack Nicholson, and Martin Scorsese all got their start with him). Essential reading: How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime.
Radley Metzger
Adult cinema pioneer Radley Metzger injected an art-house aesthetic into his literary-inspired sexploitation productions:
Hoping to cash in on Europe’s sexploitation canon in 1960’s America, Metzger began importing and distributing erotica (The Fast Set, The Twilight Girls, I, a Woman), which led to his sexploitation directorial debut — 1965’s The Dirty Girls. Metzger’s take on the genre was slick, sexy, and glamorous — productions that felt closer to art films or high-fashion photo shoots than smut. The locations were exotic, the women seductive, and Metzger’s compositions striking—but the filmmaker never veered away from controversial subjects.
Hollis Frampton
Criterion’s 2012 Blu-ray release, A Hollis Frampton Odyssey, is a beautiful bible of the structuralist filmmaker’s work:
An icon of the American avant-garde, Hollis Frampton made rigorous, audacious, brainy, and downright thrilling films, leaving behind a body of work that remains unparalleled. In the 1960s, having already been a poet and a photographer, Frampton became fascinated with the possibilities of 16mm filmmaking. In such radically playful and visually and sonically arresting works as Surface Tension, Zorns Lemma, (nostalgia), Critical Mass, and the enormous, unfinished Magellan cycle (cut short by his death at age forty-eight), Frampton repurposes cinema itself, making it into something by turns literary, mathematical, sculptural, and simply beautiful—and always captivating.
Abel Ferrara
Abel Ferrara
Ferrara straddles two worlds. At his grittiest and goriest, he found a cult audience in the downtown underground (Driller Killer, Ms. 45). But Ferrara is also one of the rare underground filmmakers to find acceptance with mainstream audiences and critics (Bad Lieutenant). Ferrara has refuted the underground label. “I’m a college-educated white boy. I eat at Morton’s with the other guys,” he told New York Magazine in 1993. Ms. 45 star Zoë Lund called him a “junkie-voyeur,” observing: “He likes to surround himself with people from the criminal element because he wants to get a peek behind the curtain, and he doesn’t want to pay for it.” That dichotomy lends a fascinating tension to his work, but has also stigmatized his career.
The Vienna Actionists
The transgressive, violent, and political films of the experimental Viennese Actionists make the most daring of directors look like pussycats. The films acted as a documentation of the movement’s performative works, but are singular works of art in their own right. An article in Issue 84 of Frieze explains the group’s trajectory and how these challenging artists (Kurt Kren, Otto Mühl, and company) are perceived in their home country today.
Jörg Buttgereit
Jörg Buttgereit
Best known as “that guy who made those films about necrophilia,” maverick moviemaker Jörg Buttgereit’s experimental film career started in the 1970s with a series of satirical shorts. He became known for his radical avant-garde, nihilistic examinations of depravity and social consciousness (the Nekromantik series and Der Todesking).
Harry Everett Smith
Harry Everett Smith
New York City beat scenester, oddball collector, mystic, and former Hotel Chelsea resident Harry Everett Smith makes George Lucas look slightly less obsessed. His surreal animations, featuring hand-painted celluloid, made the editing rounds more times than Star Wars. Smith’s patchwork, improvisational approach to filmmaking resulted in wild experimentation. He was also a beautiful weirdo, as website Harry Smith PDX vouches for with this story: “He created elaborate customized equipment to project his last major film, Mahoganny, and then threw it out the window.”
Doris Wishman
Nudie-cutie” filmmaker Doris Wishman infiltrated a guy’s club of sexploitation cinema in the 1960s with her titillating nudist camp “documentaries” and low-budget softcore pictures. Wishman’s work can hardly be described as feminist, but she was an astute businesswoman and prolific filmmaker who wrote, shot, edited, and produced her own work.
Curtis Harrington
The Harvard Film Archive on actor, director (he even gave us psycho-biddy classics like Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? and What’s the Matter with Helen?), film critic, and new queer cinema pioneer Curtis Harrington:
Marginalized by film historians and largely overlooked during his lifetime, the late Curtis Harrington (1928-2007) was a key figure in the West Coast experimental film scene and among the most wholly original directors to work in the Hollywood studio system. An ardent cinephile since his earliest years, Harrington began his film career as an errand boy at Paramount and eventually became a successful A-list director at Universal in the 1960s. An early protégé of Maya Deren and a close friend of Kenneth Anger and Gregory Markopoulos, Harrington’s first works were poetic trance films that revealed his careful eye and distinctive style. During his youth Harrington also befriended two of his greatest idols, iconoclastic studio directors James Whale and Joseph Von Sternberg, uncompromising aesthetes whose refined—and at times, perverse— tastes and wicked sense of humor would remain major influences on all of Harrington’s major films. This series pays tribute to an artist who never lost sight of his youthful ideals and produced a dazzling body of work ripe for rediscovery.
Emperors Naked Army 01
Kazuo Hara
Japanese documentary director Kazuo Hara’s films were confrontational in ways that presaged the obsessive docs of Errol Morris and Werner Herzog. His guerrilla-style filmmaking and exploration of forbidden subjects was revolutionary, intuitive, and provocative. In The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On, he chronicled war crimes committed by Japanese soldiers in occupied New Guinea during World War II. The story is told through the impassioned investigation of a veteran who blamed the atrocities on Emperor Hirohito (a taboo accusation in Japanese society). His first feature, Goodbye CP (1972), is a challenging look at shunned Japanese men and women with cerebral palsy, while 1974’s Extreme Private Eros is a confessional, relentless documentary centered on Hara’s relationship with his feminist lover Takeda Miyuki.
José Rodriguez-Soltero
J. Hoberman on queer and Latino New York underground film icon José Rodriguez-Soltero, whose 1966 ode to Lupe Vélez, Lupe, is often neglected when mentioning the greats from the counterculture:
Rodriguez-Soltero was in his twenties, under the influence of Flaming Creatures and early Warhol, when he made these two exercises in super-saturated Kodachrome II thrift-shop glamour. Jerovi is a silent 10-minute study of a young dude who sheds his form-fitting brocade outfit—but not the red, red rose that he’s clutching—for some passionate al fresco onanism. This “sexual probe of the Narcissus myth,” per the filmmaker, was banned from the 1965 Ann Arbor Film Festival but wound up cited by Jonas Mekas as one the year’s best movies.
Thus encouraged, Rodriguez-Soltero embarked on a follow-up homage to Hollywood’s “Mexican Spitfire,” Lupe Vélez, whose suicide is graphically detailed in Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon. It was during the nine months that Lupe was in production that Rodriguez-Soltero staged his infamous LBJ at the Bridge Theater on St. Marks Place. Accompanied by the martial beat of America’s No. 1 song, “The Ballad of the Green Berets,” the filmmaker set fire to an American flag. (According to reporter Fred McDarrah, “The impact on the audience was sensational”: The event got a full-page spread in the next week’s Voice.)
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