četvrtak, 28. lipnja 2012.

Jack Smith - Dokumentarac o njegovim filmovima

Filmska poliseksualna utopija Jacka Smitha utjecala je na suvremeni avangardni film više od esetike Andyja Warhola. On je jedan od onih autora koji nešto začmu a onda drugi to preuzmu i postignu uspjeh.

"Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis is a documentary film that premiered in the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival. It is a collection of interviews and clips by and about the revolutionary artist Jack Smith. It was directed by Mary Jordan and produced by Tongue Press Productions:

When Jack Smith moved from Ohio to New York in the '50s, he opened a portrait-photography studio, and between paying jobs, he brought friends, customers, and curious degenerates into his back room, where he dressed them in diaphanous costumes and created what can best be described as publicity stills for some fantastical quasi-pornographic version of Golden Age Hollywood. Inevitably, Smith migrated into filmmaking, and in 1961, just before Andy Warhol's Factory—and well before the full flowering of New York's gay community—Smith made Flaming Creatures, a trippy, decadent tableau of cross-dressing men and women molesting one another. The film was widely banned, securing Smith's reputation as a provocateur and an icon to outsider artists around the world.
But according to Mary Jordan's documentary Jack Smith And The Destruction Of Atlantis, infamy was the furthest thing from Smith's mind. In fact, he was so irritated by the way some colleagues turned him into a cause célèbre—while others just ripped off his ideas outright—that he never again completed a piece of art. But he didn't stop creating. Smith continued to shoot films, stage plays in his apartment, and organize street protests that were half theater and half political commentary. When he died of AIDS in 1989, he left behind a formidable archive of unfinished work—though Smith would've quibbled with that choice of words, since it implies that works of art have a concluding point. Nevertheless, if modern art-lovers want to understand what the Jack Smith experience was like, Jordan's documentary may be their best chance.
It's definitely worth grappling with Smith, whose images of the polysexual utopia he dubbed "Atlantis" were extraordinarily beautiful, even as his anti-establishment rhetoric came off like a line of excuses. Destruction Of Atlantis' one major flaw is that Jordan relies too much on the testimony of Smith disciples like John Waters, George Kuchar, and Ken Jacobs, who defend the purity of his methods, as though there were something noble—as opposed to cowardly—about making art that almost no one was allowed to see. In a way, the hero and villain of Jordan's film is the city of New York, which fosters the kind of artistic community that lets a man like Smith literally live out the American dream of personal liberty. Smith's is undoubtedly an inspiring example, and yet, his sister may put it best when she explains the toll his ideals took on his family, his career, and anyone who might've wanted to see more Jack Smith films. "Before he got to New York," she says, "He was okay."

J.J. Murphy: Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis

Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis, Mary Jordan’s absorbing documentary portrait of the legendary filmmaker and performer, certainly gives a strong flavor of this underground artist, whose importance never really has been disputed within avant-garde circles, even if he’s not a household name or nearly as famous as many of the other major artists he influenced, including Andy Warhol, John Waters, or the Italian director Federico Fellini.
Jack Smith (1932-1989) led a very troubled life. Smith was born in Columbus, Ohio. His mother, who married three times, moved to Galveston, Texas and then to Kenosha, Wisconsin. The film reveals that she left Jack and his sister, Sue Slater, alone for two weeks before the final relocation. It’s no wonder that Smith blamed his mother for sending him “crippled” out into the world. In a letter to her, which he recites in the film, he confesses, “I’m left with feelings of jealousy, mistrust of women, homosexuality, impotence.”
Jack Smith’s issues were not only with his mother, but with the world at large. A militant anarchist, the intensely political Smith railed against capitalism in the guise of “Landlordism” and “Lobsterism” – his own colorful vocabulary for “exploitation” – as the source of much of his own and society’s ills. A modern-day Proudhon, Smith couldn’t fathom either paying rent or art collecting – to him both were merely different forms of theft.
Smith vented against people and institutions for not supporting him in his artistic endeavors, believing that “real art” was destined to get “mutilated” within capitalist culture. He became famous for making one of the most notorious underground films of the 1960s, Flaming Creatures (1962) – a baroque, gender-bending orgy of naked and costumed bodies, which was busted and became a test case of censorship laws. The experience had a traumatic effect on both Jack Smith and his career. The reception of Flaming Creatures became a rationalization for his “never making any masterpieces again” or finishing any of his later films.
As a child, Smith became enthralled with the B-movie actress Maria Montez, who became a lifelong obsession. According to the composer John Zorn, Jack would cry whenever he watched her movies. The late playwright and Warhol screenwriter Ronald Tavel calls the actress a “diva,” while John Vaccaro refers to her as “the apotheosis of the drag queen.” Only filmmaker Nick Zedd counters that he couldn’t understand this adoration of Montez because she was such a “mediocre actress.” When Smith was dying in the hospital after deliberately contracting AIDS, Tavel suggests that rather than being bored, Jack was happy because it gave him more time to ruminate about Montez.
For Jack, Maria Montez represented the epitome of exotic glamour. To him, she became a fantastic imaginary world that replaced the ugly one in which he found himself. Smith turned the NYC loft where he lived for the last nine years of his life into a virtual fantasy land. The film provides a glimpse of Smith’s glorious inner life by tracking through what was in reality an elaborate and colorful stage set, which was dismantled and destroyed after his death.
Jack’s performances were notorious within the art world. He would announce that an event would begin at a certain prescribed time and then delay it for hours, causing many audience members to flee when nothing happened. Tavel suggests that Smith did this deliberately. He quotes Jack as saying, “I don’t want the scum of Baghdad. I want only the best.” The artist who insists that art should be made free to the masses turns out to be an elitist at heart. Jack Smith was full of contradictions, but his own response to the issue of audience was simply: “Something had to be done in order to keep them from becoming sofa-roosting cabbages.”
My only personal experience with Jack Smith was being invited to a small gathering at someone’s loft in the late 1970s where it was rumored that Jack was going to perform. Throughout the night, he made strange faces, glared at people suspiciously, periodically whispered in the host’s ear, and continually disappeared into a hall closet, where he seemed to rummage around for hours. Needless to say, Jack lived up to his reputation, and I finally left around midnight. Yet what he was actually doing could be construed as a weird performance of sorts.
Jack Smith’s personal animosity for Jonas Mekas became another major fixation. Smith despised Mekas for using Flaming Creatures as part of an anti-censorship crusade during the 1960s. Smith complains that Mekas could “be made to seem like a saint, to be in the position of defending something, when he’s really kicking it to death.” Ronald Tavel suggests that Mekas’s strategy was to make “as much money as possible from those films and give as little as possible to the filmmaker.”
Although Jonas appears in the film, it’s never clear that he’s ever responding to such charges, which is one of the unfortunate drawbacks of Jordan’s decision to make a heavily-edited compilation film. As far as information obtained from interviews, it’s simply not possible to understand either the questions or the context of the answers. In any event, I seriously doubt that there were buckets of money to be made from screening Flaming Creatures at the time, or that Jonas secretly was pocketing money that was owed to Smith.
Smith began to refer to Mekas by a variety of disparaging names, including “Uncle Fishhook.” Sylvère Lotringer helped to legitimize Jack’s personal attacks on Mekas in a 1978 issue of Semiotext(e). As Lotringer explains in Jordan’s film, Uncle Fishhook became a symbol of the system: “Uncle Fishhook became like this kind of embodiment of a myth that was so much bigger than Jonas Mekas could be.” Jack also had the bad habit of turning on people. Lotringer tells of hearing rumors that Jack was walking around the East Village with an ax and wanted to kill him.
There are plenty of published sources on the ongoing feud between Mekas and Jack Smith, but we never do get to hear Jonas’s side. There is an explanation for why Mekas withheld the original film of Flaming Creatures from Jack Smith once it came into his possession. As an archivist, Mekas wanted to preserve Jack’s legacy, especially because Smith would project and edit his originals during screenings that he turned into theatrical events. Is trying to save the original of Flaming Creatures such a bad thing? For Smith, it became part of a larger paranoid conspiracy in which he cast himself in the role of victim.
Jordan’s film also glorifies Jack Smith at the expense of Andy Warhol. As Nayland Blake rightly states: “So many contemporary artists trace their practice back to Warhol at this point, and a lot of the important ideas in Warhol come from Jack.” Robert Wilson indicates that Warhol couldn’t have made the films he did without having known Jack. John Waters claims of Jack Smith: “He did it all first. He started something that other people took and became more successful with.”
Lawrence Rinder, the museum curator and director, along with noted composer and filmmaker Tony Conrad, point to Warhol’s Factory and the whole notion of superstars as deriving from Jack Smith. Artist Mike Kelly mentions the fact that Warhol used Smith’s actors for his own films. Yet none of this is really news. Warhol, who watched films at the Filmmakers’ Cinemateque prior to making them, was influenced by many experimental filmmakers, including Kenneth Anger, Ron Rice, and Jack Smith. Warhol never denied his admiration for Smith’s work. Instead he indicates that Smith was “the only person I would ever copy” and adds, “I just think he makes the best movies.”
Jack Smith appeared in a number of Warhol films, including the unfinished Batman/Dracula (1964), Camp (1965), and Hedy (1966). George Kuchar points out that in Batman/Dracula, Warhol failed to record all of Jack Smith’s performance because of bad framing. Henry Hills and others claim that Smith took over Camp, where he managed to get Warhol to move his camera. Mekas suggests that the two artists clashed because Smith wanted to have complete control. If Smith was all about control, Warhol was the exact opposite – he was interested in abdicating authorial control.
Mario Montez, Jack’s drag-queen incarnation of Maria Montez, appeared in a number of Warhol films as well, which Smith didn’t appreciate. Like an overly protective parent, Jack Smith criticizes how Mario Montez was being employed by Warhol. While Smith never specifies a title, he seems to have in mind Screen Test # 2 (1965) when he laments: “I just hate to see this happening to Mario. Slowly watching Mario’s brain being eaten away . . .”
The schism between Smith and Warhol was personal, but also represents the difference between a baroque and pop sensibility. Smith had a trash aesthetic. His art was about making something beautiful out of nothing. Warhol used techniques of mass production in his art, hence the whole idea of The Factory, which enabled him to become an incredibly prolific artist. Jack Smith takes a direct swipe at Warhol when he suggests that “manufacturing and making art” are  two different endeavors.  Warhol obviously didn’t think so. Smith insists, “I want to be uncommercial film personified.” Warhol, on the other hand, always had commercial aspirations and made the fact that art was a business only too evident.
While the film certainly sides with Smith over Warhol, the film’s compilation technique allows it to move, for instance, from John Waters saying, “He [Jack Smith] was a great personality and a great filmmaker who changed everything” to someone claiming that “Jack Smith was the real Warhol.” Frankly, I find that to be an incredible leap. There is no question that Jack Smith exerted an enormous influence on Warhol, but what does it mean to say he was “the real Warhol?” In different voices of various interviewees, Jordan also edits fragments of the interviews into the hyperbolic assertion that Jack Smith reinvented theater, photography, film, performance art, glitter, installation art, time, and music videos.
Many notable artists get a chance to discuss Jack Smith and the brilliance of his work, which alone makes this film worth viewing. Voice critic J. Hoberman, who has written extensively on the work of Jack Smith, is sorely missing as an interviewee for reasons that have to do with the making of Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis and issues related to Smith’s estate (For details, click here and here). And the inclusion of scholars, such as Callie Angell, might have provided the film with a more balanced perspective on Warhol.
Smith’s social critique extended to curators, museums, and foundations, whose real function he believed was “commercialization.” Only John Waters introduces a dose of reality into Jack Smith’s vilification of museums: “He bit every hand that could ever, ever feed him. And so, the problem is nobody knows his movies because of that. And he never finished them. And if he maybe had been a little less difficult, maybe we would have seen his movies more. They’re very obscure now. He bit the hand! Museums. . . who else is going to show them? It’s [sic] not going to play at Radio City Music Hall!”
Toward the end of the film, Smith makes a startling and rare admission about himself in terms of his artistic career: “It’s my fault. I haven’t been organized properly. . . I was never organized nearly enough. I didn’t know those things.” But, as Jack Smith insightfully points out, had he done all the things he should have done or that were expected of him, “I wouldn’t have been the same person.”

Jack Smith (1932-1989)

Flaming Creatures 1962-63
Normal Love 1963
Scotch Tape 1961

GARY MORRIS: Jack Smith in Retrospect
Not long ago, Fran Lebowitz invoked the sad-comic image of a sailor disembarking in New York, heading to Times Square, and experiencing total psychic dislocation at the replacement of the hookers, porn shops, and bars of yore by the Virgin MegaStore and Mickey Mouse. True, New York’s place at the head of the table of culture is now debatable, but t’was not always so. In the early ‘60s, the Big Apple wasn’t the least bit wormy. The visual arts were particularly blessed, with off-off-Broadway thriving, performance art and happenings starting to spring up, and cinematic renegades gaining increasing notoriety as American culture, prodded by a few brave souls, finally began to question itself.
Perhaps the most prodding of the pack was queer film artiste Jack Smith (1932-1989). The emphasis on film is misleading and limiting, however. Smith, who was raised in trailers in Ohio and Texas before landing in New York in 1950, was also a brilliant writer, wit, a pioneer in what came to be called performance art and in being an early proponent of using color in fine art photography. But the writings are gulaged in obscure small-press publications, the photographs are hard to find, and the performance pieces — with a couple of exceptions — were not recorded. (A pity since some observers of the time say his best work could be found there.)
Happily, though, his films, while rare, are extant in various states and are slowly reentering the cultural discourse through the efforts of friends and advocates. These efforts are paying off. Smith’s oeuvre has played at a variety of respectable venues lately (most recently, San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts), and a reassessment of at least his major works — Flaming Creatures and Normal Love — is now possible.
Flaming CreaturesFlaming Creatures (1963) was not his first film; that distinction belongs to The Buzzards of Baghdad (1951-56). But it is still his most notorious, not only because it convincingly broke a number of taboos but because it was banned practically everyplace it was shown. This included, of all places, the halls of Congress, where it was unleashed by the dessicated Strom Thurmond in an anti-porn tirade. (Technically, it’s still banned, but don’t expect the police, or Strom, to show up at screenings.)
By all accounts, Smith was difficult but charismatic, a magical trickster manically involved in all kinds of projects at all times. Never far from poverty in spite of a few grants here and there, he was gifted in seducing actors and friends to work for free and in "appropriating" materials he needed for his art. For Creatures and the films that followed, he used cheap, sometimes discarded, color reversal stock to immortalize the drag queens, mermaids, vampires, naked poets, and other "creatures" who populate his films. The effect is of a dream that stubbornly resists consciousness, the imagery sometimes subtle and painterly, sometimes stark and high-contrast in rendering the filmmaker’s ecstasy-drenched demimondes.
Smith was raised on Hollywood kitsch, and the imagery of 1940s movie monsters, and especially his patron saint Maria Montez — to whom he built an altar and prayed — inspired him. Always a good talker, he insisted on Montez’s importance as an actress to all who would listen (and there were many). He called her "the Holy One" and "the Miraculous One." After a screening of one of her films, he told a friend, "The Miraculous One was raging and flaming. Those are the standards for art."
Normal LoveSmith’s own standards for art let him refashion Montez and the whole ethos of tinny Orientalia, low-budget intrigues, and what he called Universal’s "cowhide thongs and cardboard sets" into Dionysian revels that were both wild camp and subtle polemic in upsetting an overflowing apple cart of norms: heterosexuality, narrative, social and sexual and aesthetic repressions. The world as seen in his films is a comic collage of fake history and fake culture, reduced to pathetic backdrops before which his "creatures" — vaguely gendered Frankenstein assemblages of makeup and rags — heroically writhe.
Much of his work is about the importance of style and, specifically, the pose; he practically rubs our noses in the idea that logic and progress and movement are always secondary to experience and stasis and the tableau, as long as it’s beautiful. His films are at once coy and brazen. Their much-vaunted orgies and nudity (which some courts called "hardcore" with nothing in the films to support that) appear sometimes in flashes, where you have to squint to see it; or there may be a dick or a breast wagging quietly in the corner of a frame chiefly occupied by a muscular drag queen dressed as an ungainly mermaid.
As serious as he was about his own work, Smith did not view it as inviolate. His view of an ideal world of constant change and pleasure no doubt accounted for his peculiar, perhaps unique, habit of re-editing some of his work while it was being projected. According to archivist/restorationist Jerry Tartaglia, Smith developed a lightning-fast technique of removing a take-up reel during projection and resplicing whole sections before they were sucked back onto the other reel and onto the theater screen.
Flaming Creatures was shot, appropriately enough, on top of a movie theater in the Lower East Side. Unable to corral the real Maria Montez, Smith settled for Francis Francine, the drag-queen sheriff of Warhol’s Lonesome Cowboys, as a stand-in. Miss Francine prances around in a brocaded turban, posing, applying lipstick, and eventually succumbing to the cruelties of a transvestite vampire who rises from an Ed Wood-style paper coffin. If this sounds like an afternoon at a particularly depraved carnival spook house, it definitely has that air. But Smith was more cunning than the cheesy dramatics, "Oriental" music, mock-orgies, and mindless make-up sessions would indicate. In reformulating his treasured favorites from the catacombs of Hollywood — in this case Maria Montez’s Ali Baba — he tosses out all manner of good sense and logic, paving the way for others to do likewise after him. As arbitrary and formless as the film appears, Smith is in firm control of the frame, creating ravishingly painterly images that lull the viewer into a near-hallucinatory state. He never uses per se the collage technique common to underground film of the time, but the effect is similar through his superimposition of portions of the Ali Baba soundtrack and cheaply alluring period music.
Flaming Creatures has elaborate, hilarious dance and orgy sequences and an unforgettable discussion of makeup and penises that ends with Francis Francine asking a question that so many have pondered: "Is there a lipstick that doesn’t come off when you suck cock?"
The influence of the Dietrich-Sternberg films on Smith is evident here in one major respect: nothing is quite what it seems. Even the sex of the players is indeterminate until the crucial evidence of an upraised skirt (or more likely, festooned gown) is given. The films are awash in androgyny. In Normal Love, Smith discovery and Warhol regular Mario Montez appears as a mermaid lying in repose like an odalisque, occasionally twitching, in a milk bath. She’s terrorized by a fake werewolf but remains typically unfazed, protected always by the pose.
The films also have elaborate cataclysms that mock those in films like Cobra Woman and Ali Baba. Flaming Creatures ends in an earthquake created in the simplest manner imaginable — by shaking the camera. In Smith’s world, even the apocalypse is just a tacky momentary diversion.
Smith’s unique conceits might have remained just another private mythology, relegated to occasional basement screenings for friends, but his theatrical personality assured a far wider reach. Warhol appropriated the concept of "superstar" and fake Hollywood studio from him, and Susan Sontag made a famous defense of Flaming Creatures. Nan Goldin, Laurie Anderson, Robert Wilson, and John Waters are among those who credit Smith’s singular vision with inspiring their own art.
Smith, who died in 1989 of pneumocystis, was a trickster second to none in whose remarks, even the impromptu ones — "O Maria Montez, give socialist answers to a rented world!" — lay treasures of wit and pleasure.

by Jack Smith
Early that morning I could see that the day would be an ordeal. The Cretins were most excitable and openly masturbated, overstimulating the pinheads. Today they would put on their shepard and shepardess costumes and run across the fields with their sand pails to milk the cows. I rode shotgun on them in my floor length black leather jacket and needle-heeled opera hip boots made of wildebeest leather with the tufted tops.
I lingered over my toilette, admiring my enormous three foot long 9 inch thick cock; I posed before my glass, throwing my cock first over this shoulder, then the other. Finally, overstimulated, I fucked my tufted tops on my boots. However, I was unsatified so I lunged at my mirror my noble horsecock all tumescent. I smashed through the mirror and whirled about and stuffed my cock into the jagged hole and fucked and fucked. My cock got all bloody and torn up. Then, to get maximum sensation out of it I stomped my cock in my boots, flinging handfuls of meat tenderizing salts upon it.
Herding the freaks across the fields, a fly alighted upon my cheek and I became concupiscent again. I prodded a pretty young marshmallow cretin girl with my crop and made her sprawl on the ground. Her hoop skirt flung up exposing her dimpled pasties. In a second I was upon her nudging her between the buns with my lobolier. She squealed and rolled upon her back thrusting her pouting quim into my face. I whipped out my flaming organ. Her hoopskirt was up over her face and she couldn't see. I ran back a few paces, aimed my cock‑0 and charged her but my horse galloped in before me and impaled her on his raging rod. Slightly disappointed I charged my horse's asshole and jumping up I transfixed him in mid‑air as he was transfixing the cretin girl. My cock sank deliciously into his bowels, reaming them out straight and he reared and bolted causing me to spend even more deliciously. The little cretin shepardess was now ruined for normal love and she ran amok among the other freaks, inflaming them. Soon the whole hillside was one gigantic, seething, cretin, mongolian and pinhead orgy. Delighted, I ran to where my horse lay and snatched my elephant gun off the pack. I opened up on the churning carnival of freaky sex, firing point‑blank into its midst. Presently, I sank delirious to the ground, gasping and creaming and blazing away at the freaks.
God's plump buns rested serenely on the ziricorn & rhinestone throne & he frowned at us through his long gold beard. We were in heaven. He ordered us all to line up, turn around, drop our pants, and bend over. We meekly obeyed. God then walked up and down paddling us with a ping-pong paddle. He concentrated chiefly upon the plump pasties, I noticed. He began to emit giggles and rushed from pasty to pasty paddling shit out of them. The freaks became overstimulated and soon we were in the middle of a gang fuck which spread over all the heavens. Saints and cupids dicked each other with their wands, angels threw their legs open and the skies dripped come.
The End
(from The Floating Bear #28, 1963)


The most beautiful of all the images used on this page are from
The Beautiful Book, the impossibly rare tome mentioned in Cary's


Nema komentara:

Objavi komentar