THE POLYEXPRESSIVE SYMPHONY: FUTURISM ON FILM
Anthology Film Archives (NYC)
Presented by Performa, for Performa 09. Although very little remains of early Italian avant-garde cinema, this film program will showcase several groundbreaking films from the 1910s, 20s, and 30s indebted to the Futurist movement, which declared that film was ‘the expressive medium most adapted to the complex sensibility of a Futurist artist.’ Artists to be featured include Marcel Fabre (Italy), Henri Chomette (France), Willy Otto Zielke (Germany), Eugene Deslaw (Ukraine), and Corrado D’Errico (Italy). The program will also present poetic Italian shorts documenting the rise of the mechanical age; rare, early science-fiction films; and the US premiere of the only surviving full-length Futurist film, THAIS (1916), a melodramatic love story made by Anton Giulio Bragaglia. In addition, a special screening of MARCH OF THE MACHINES (1929) – on Wednesday, November 11 – will feature a live performance inspired by its original score, by Futurist composer Luigi Russolo, on a reconstructed intonaromuri, or Futurist noise-intoners.
Curated by Lana Wilson (Performa). Performa 09 (November 1-22, 2009, New York City) is the third edition of the internationally acclaimed biennial of new visual art performance presented by Performa, a non-profit multidisciplinary arts organization dedicated to exploring the critical role of live performance in the history of 20th-century art and to encouraging new directions in performance for the 21st century.
Program 1: The Futurist Canon
November 3rd + 9th | 7pm
Tina Cordero, Guido Martina & Pippo Oriani
SPEED / VELOCITA
Italy, 1930, 13 minutes, video, b&w, silent.
One of the only Futurist films still existing, SPEED captures the dynamics of the city, with rotating views, whistling machines, articulated mannequins, and homages to 20th-century artists such as Boccioni, Mondrian, L?ger, and Kandinsky, all rhythmically collaged together by Futurist painter Oriani in collaboration with Futurist writers Cordero and Martina.
Italy, 1929, 14 minutes, video, b&w, sound.
A vibrant ‘city symphony’ showing a day in the life of Milan, from factories to farmers’ markets, skyscrapers, nightclubs, and beyond, with sound effects of human voices and machines. Although not officially ‘Futurist’, this film is directly related to Futurist ideas and works, such as SPEED.
Anton Giulio Bragaglia
Italy, 1917, 54 minutes (incomplete), video, b&w, silent.
THAIS is considered to be the only surviving full-length Futurist film. In it, the title character plots to seduce her best friend’s crush, and the melodramatic chain of events that ensues leads to a Futuristic final sequence, shot against the visionary set designs of Futurist painter Enrico Prampolini.
Total running time: ca. 85 minutes.
Program 2: Futurist-Related Performance
November 3rd + 9th | 9pm
Italy, 1914, 23 minutes, 35mm, b&w, silent.
A grand 1881 ballet that celebrates technology and progress through tableaux saluting turn-of-the-century technological innovations – electricity, the telegraph, and the Brooklyn Bridge, among them – EXCELSIOR was made into a film over 30 years later, as the worldwide interest in Futurism was taking off.
LOVE AFOOT / AMOR PEDESTRE
Italy, 1914, 10 minutes, 35mm, b&w, silent.
The feet of three people act out an adulterous affair in LOVE AFOOT, the only filmed record of Futurist ‘reductionist performance’.
Jacques Feyder and Gaston Ravel
FEET AND HANDS / DES PIEDS ET DES MAINS
France, 1915, 18 minutes, video, b&w, silent.
A mechanical ballet of feet and hands influenced by Futurist ideas.
A COLLECTION OF FACTS / FAIT-DIVERS
France, 1923, 20 minutes, video, b&w, silent.
Surrealistic short made early in the career of Autant-Lara, who would later become one of the French ‘directors of quality’ attacked by the New Wave filmmakers, in which a trio of actors (including Antonin Artaud!) jealously confront one another, set to an avant-garde score by Arthur Honegger and others.
Total running time: ca. 75 minutes.
Program 3: Man and Machine
November 4 + 11 | 7pm
MARCH OF THE MACHINES / LA MARCHE DES MACHINES
France, 1929, 9 minutes, 16mm, b&w, silent. With live performance by Luciano Chessa on November 11!
An abstract mechanical symphony with a score originally written by Futurist artist Luigi Russolo and now lost, this film will be shown with a special live soundtrack by composer and Russolo expert Luciano Chessa (Nov. 11 screening only). Taking Deslaw’s notes about the process of synching music to images developed by Russolo for this film into consideration, Chessa’s original score will be performed with his reconstructions of the incredible intonaromuri, or Futurist noise-intoners.
Francesco Di Cocco
THE GUT OF THE CITY / IL VENTRE DELLA CITTÀ
Italy, 1932, 13 minutes, 35mm, b&w, sound.
A poetic, experimental, industrial documentary.
THE MECHANICAL MAN / L’UOMO MECCANICO
Italy, 1921, 46 minutes (incomplete), 35mm, b&w, silent.
A colossal robot runs wild in an unstoppable crime spree in this rare fantasy-horror epic by André Deed, protégé of George Méliès, that culminates in a wild showdown between the evil robot and another mechanical marvel.
Total running time: ca. 70 minutes.
Program 4: Trains, Trains, Trains
November 4 + 11 | 8:30pm
IMPRESSIONS OF LIFE #1: RAILWAY STATION RHYTHMS / RITMI DI STAZIONE, IMPRESSIONI DI VITA N. 1
Italy, 1933, 10 minutes, video, b&w, silent.
Gorgeous documentary depicting a day in the ‘iron world’ – a railway station – by intermingling the repetitive motions of machines with the mechanisms of human behavior.
PLAY OF REFLECTIONS AND SPEED / JEUX DES REFLETS ET DE LA VITESSE
France, 1925, 6 minutes, 16mm, b&w, silent.
A beautiful montage of sped-up shots taken from moving trains and boats, highlighting the play of light and motion through superimpositions, upside-down camerawork, and other experimental techniques, made by Chomette, brother of René Clair and a leader of the French ‘pure cinema’ movement.
Willy Otto Zielke
THE STEEL BEAST / DAS STAHLTIER
Germany, 1935, 75 minutes, 16mm, b&w, sound.
Daring collage of rhythms, abstractions, superimpositions, and wild shots of the railroad and other machines, made by the great German photographer Zielke, that was originally commissioned to celebrate the centennial of the Nuremburg-Furth railroad line, and later banned by the Third Reich for “decadent aesthetics.”
Total running time: ca. 95 minutes.
Program 5: The Futurist Impulse After Futurism
November 12 | 7:30pm
Curated by Robert Haller (Anthology).
The Futurist movement celebrated the changes wrought by early-20th-century technology: the cyclical energy of the machine, the new city, speed in trains and the automobile, the radiotelegraph, the dematerialization of the body and the erotic, and the transformations of space and time. By the end of the 1920s the Italian Futurist movement faded, but its recognition that a new phase of experience had arrived in the “acceleration of life” (Marinetti) was widely assimilated. This program presents films that were not made from an overtly Futurist sensibility, but which nonetheless acknowledge the revolution announced in Italy in the first years of the 20th century. While most of the Futurist films of the teens and twenties were lost or destroyed in World War II, the Futurist impulse has thrived. -R.H.
PLAY OF REFLECTIONS AND SPEED / JEUX DES REFLETS ET DE LA VITESSE
(1925, 6 minutes, 16mm, b&w, silent)
Ralph Steiner MECHANICAL PRINCIPLES (1931, 11 minutes, 35mm, b&w, silent)
Wheaton Galentine TREADLE AND BOBBIN (1954, 8 minutes, 16mm, color, sound)
Francis Thompson N.Y., N.Y. (1957, 15 minutes, 35mm, color, sound)
Hilary Harris HIGHWAY (1958, 5 minutes, 16mm, b&w, sound)
Paul Sharits DECLARATIVE MODE (1976, 20 minutes, 16mm, color, silent)
Bruce Elder SWEET LOVE REMEMBERED (1980, 13 minutes, 16mm, color, sound)
Amy Greenfield WILDFIRE (2003, 11 minutes, 35mm, color, sound)
Total running time: ca. 95 minutes.
Program 5: Futurist Life Redux
November 16 | 8pm
Commissioned by Performa with SFMOMA.
Co-presented by Performa and Anthology Film Archives for Performa 09.
The only officially ‘Futurist’ film ever made, VITA FUTURISTA (FUTURIST LIFE) was devised in 1916 by a committee of Futurist artists including Arnaldo Ginna, Giacomo Balla, Remo Chiti, Bruno Corra, and F.T. Marinetti. Comprised of eleven independent segments conceived and written by different artists – with the whole film shot, edited, and generally overseen by Ginna – FUTURIST LIFE directly took up several ideas proposed in “The Futurist Cinema” manifesto written earlier in the same year, contrasting the spirit and lifestyle of the Futurist with that of the ordinary man in a series of humorous sketches, many of which used experimental techniques such as split screens and double exposures. The final, 40-minute FUTURIST LIFE premiered at the Niccolini Theatre in Florence in 1917, as part of a program with four sintesi (very short plays) by Emilio Settimelli and Corra, and live poetry readings by Settimelli and Chiti of the works of several Futurist writers. It was a failure with the audience, who threw stones and other objects at the screen, and was generally forgotten soon after it came out. The only known copy of this film was lost several decades ago, and now all that remain are written accounts by Ginna and the journal L’ITALIA FUTURISTA, as well as a few still images.
Now, for the Performa 09 biennial, Performa and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) have joined together to commission a diverse group of thirteen contemporary American film and video artists – Trisha Baga, Chamecki-Lerner, Martha Colburn, Ben Coonley, Lynn Hershman, George Kuchar, Shana Moulton, Shannon Plumb, Aida Ruilova, Matthew Silver & Shoval Zohar (The Future), and Michael Smith – to create their own, 3-5 minute versions of the eleven segments in VITA FUTURISTA, re-imagining this film in relation to our own future. These shorts will then be compiled into one, all-new version of FUTURIST LIFE for the 21st century, making its New York premiere at Anthology on this evening.
Curated by Lana Wilson (Performa) with Andrew Lampert (Anthology).
Special thanks to RoseLee Goldberg (Performa) and Frank Smigiel (SFMOMA).