Wednesday, March 31, 2010 at 7:30pm
The Hart of London
177 Livingston Street, Brooklyn - PLEASE NOTE NEW ADDRESS
The Hart of London
Jack Chambers, 16mm, 1970, 79 mins
Introduced by Carolee Schneemann
Perhaps it was ten years ago that the artists Arakawa and Madeleine Gins told me of a scientist researching optical physiology. He had determined that cats would be his living subjects. To this end he had constructed a three-story-high narrow cylinder. Along its interior vivid images were pasted, illuminated. Photographs within these cylinder walls depicted elements interesting to cats: brightly colored birds, bowls of food, shimmering fishes, wild animals, human faces. The experiment was contrived to photograph the last retinal image mirrored on the pupils of the cats immediately after their death--killed from the impact of being thrown down the narrow cylinder.
If there could be a retinal analysis of imprinted filmic imagery, expanded in time by description, compressed as memory, as an intensity of linked recognitions--this optical imprint on my inner vision would be inscribed with fragments from the films of Jack Chambers.
Perhaps, my first viewing of Jack Chambers' films occurred shortly after being told of the sadistic cat experiment. A few years later, I was able to teach his indelible works during a year as film faculty at the San Francisco Art Institute. Associations with the brutal cat experiment recurred, when I realized I would have to lock my students in the film viewing room if they were to see the complete projection of The Hart of London. Unlike the cats, whose volition was stolen from them, my students stood scratching at the locked door insisting. "We're not watching this!"
They could close their eyes, but could I shift their resistance to the gestural flinch and muscular reciprocity of Chambers' images: moist animal eyes, spurt of blood, birthing of a human infant, fire, shadow--this threshold of spectral literalizations that the mad scientist had intended to capture on the retina of the just-dead cats? Could I brand the students' vision with Chambers' fleeting forms, their flash and tumble, an energy which tosses us into an unconscious ecstatic terror? Because Chambers' images emerge as if structure in time is propelled, an eddying, oceanic force; edited so that we viewers are engulfed by the rhythms of an inspiration as challenging and unstable as the invisible sources of imagination itself.
So that suddenly we inhabit a ghost city constructed before our very eyes, a hundred years ago. Blacked swirl of smoke. Muscular gestures, men laboring. Darkening clouds. Rail tracks' horizontal spin into receding horizon, parried dissolve of vertical smokestacks ascending. Ascending. Incandescent shapes emerge, dissolved into grains, celluloid falling snow. Dissolve. Intercut to black.
Dissolve to whitened/greyed curly fur. Close-up sheep's eyes glistening terror: sacrificial ballerinas balanced on planks, facing the camera eye. Slaughterhouse blades gash. Lens eye splattered. Exploding blood. Indelible chaos. (Domestic food chain.) Intercut to black. - Carolee Schneemann
Jack Chambers is one of Canada's most famous and greatest living painters. Why then have his films been as neglected as they have been? I feel that it is because his films do not arise as an adjunct to his painting (as is true in the case of most other painter film-makers) but that, rather, Jack Chambers has realized the almost opposed aesthetics of paint and film and has created a body of moving pictures so crucially unique as to fright paint buffery: thus his films have inherited a social position kin to that of the films of Joseph Cornell in this country. The fact is that four films of Jack Chambers have changed the whole history of film, despite their neglect, in a way that isn't possible within the field of painting. There are no "masters" of film in any significant sense whatsoever. There are only "makers" of film in the original, or at least medieval, sense of the word. Jack Chambers is a true "maker" of films. He needs no stance, or standing, for he dances attendance upon the coming-into-being of something recognizably new: (and as all is new, always, one must question the veracity of all works, whatever medium, which beseem everything but that truth). - Stan Brakhage
Tickets - $7, available at door.