Film as a Subversive Art

Said Cocteau: “What one should do with the young is to give them a portable cam­era and for­bid them to observe any rules except those they invent for them­selves as they go along. Let them write with­out being afraid of mak­ing spelling mistakes.”

The doc­u­men­tary “Film as a Sub­ver­sive Art” tells the story of Austrian-born film his­to­rian and cura­tor Amos Vogel, who in 1947 estab­lished Cin­ema 16, America’s most impor­tant film club, and later the New York Film Fes­ti­val, as well as pub­lish­ing in 1974 one of the most leg­endary books on cin­ema ever, FILM AS A SUBVERSIVE ART, which Nor­man Mailer called “the most excit­ing and com­pre­hen­sive book I’ve seen on avant-garde, under­ground and excep­tional com­mer­cial film.”

The film has been screened on PBS and at many archives and fes­ti­vals world­wide, includ­ing Inter­na­tional House (Philadel­phia), Ciné­math­èque française in Paris, the Den­ver Film Fes­ti­val – where Vogel was awarded the Stan Brakhage Award for Poetic Film – and fes­ti­vals in Berlin, Tribeca, Jerusalem, PiFan (South Korea), San Fran­cisco, Van­cou­ver and Vienna, where Vogel‘s life and work was the sub­ject of a major retrospective.

Pub­lished in 1973, FILM AS A SUBVERSIVE ART is an oft-referenced, hugely influ­en­tial, land­mark text in the his­tory of film lit­er­a­ture. A book with no dis­cernible begin­ning, mid­dle, or end, it’s as ener­giz­ing, enter­tain­ing, and impor­tant a work of film crit­i­cism as any that has ever been writ­ten – a labyrinthine trek through world cin­ema via one man’s vision­ary cosmology.

That man was Cin­ema 16 and New York Film Fes­ti­val founder Amos Vogel (1922–2012), who ded­i­cated his life to sup­port­ing the pio­neer­ing efforts of inde­pen­dent artists and aes­thetic rebels. In its rad­i­cal, impas­sioned polemics and dialectically-placed film frames, FILM AS A SUBVERSIVE ART is the ful­crum of Vogel’s years as a film pro­gram­mer, fes­ti­val juror, lec­turer, and critic.

Cit­ing numer­ous films that have become increas­ingly dif­fi­cult to see due to the vagaries of dis­tri­b­u­tion, his book remains a Pandora’s box of cin­e­matic trea­sures and an astute elu­ci­da­tion of the artist’s role in con­tem­po­rary society.

Will we ever break out of the mold of Profit Motive, Com­mer­cial Imper­a­tive, Bot­tom Line, Prod­uct? Will the awe­some free spirit of humans ever be allowed to offer us splen­dif­er­ous visions instead of the cal­cu­lated spu­ri­ous anti-fantasies gen­er­ated by the cur­rent crop of Hol­ly­wood direc­tors and pro­duc­ers? What­ever the answers, I am con­tent know­ing that I con­tributed to the dis­sem­i­na­tion of such visions, pas­sion­ate cre­ativ­ity, and rad­i­cal chal­lenges. To ques­tion what exists and to rad­i­cally trans­form it remain our most com­pelling imperatives.”

– Amos Vogel, 1984

Europe In 8 Bits


A film about reusing out­dated tech­nol­ogy in cre­ative ways to revamp the music scene.

Europe in 8 bits is a doc­u­men­tary that explores the world of chip music, a  musi­cal trend that is grow­ing expo­nen­tially through­out Europe. The stars of this musi­cal move­ment reveal to us how to reuse old videogames hard­ware like Nintendo’s Game­Boy, NES, Atari ST, Amiga and the Com­modore 64 to turn them into a tool capa­ble of cre­at­ing a new sound, a mod­ern tempo and an inno­v­a­tive musi­cal style.

This is a new way of inter­pret­ing music per­formed by a great many artists who show their skills in turn­ing these “lim­ited” machines designed for leisure in the 80’s into sur­pris­ing musi­cal instru­ments and graph­i­cal tools.


Everything is a Remix


Every­thing is a Remix is a video series pro­duced by Kirby Fer­gu­son, a New York-based filmmaker.

It helps rein­force ideas about mash-ups, cut-ups, copy­right and con­tent cre­ation as exposed on pre­vi­ous posts; more specif­i­cally RiP: A remix man­i­festo and The Cut-Ups.

Fol­low this link to Kirby’s Vimeo page to watch the rest of the series.

I also rec­om­mend that you visit his web­site to see some inter­est­ing infor­ma­tion and check out his ref­er­ences.

Every­thing comes round again, so noth­ing is com­pletely new”. Pythagoras.

My Sto­ries are attempts at recep­tion, at lis­ten­ing to voices from another place far away. They only come late at night, when the back­ground din and gab­ble of our world have faded out. Then, faintly, I heard voices from another star.”

Philip K. Dick

The Art of Creative Coding

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Pro­gram­ming plays a huge role in the world that sur­rounds us, and though its uses are often purely func­tional, there is a grow­ing com­mu­nity of artists who use the lan­guage of code as their medium. Their work includes every­thing from com­puter gen­er­ated art to elab­o­rate inter­ac­tive instal­la­tions, all with the goal of expand­ing our sense of what is pos­si­ble with dig­i­tal tools.

To sim­plify the cod­ing process, sev­eral plat­forms and libraries have been assem­bled to allow coders to cut through the nitty-gritty of pro­gram­ming and focus on the cre­ative aspects of the project. These plat­forms all share a strong open source phi­los­o­phy that encour­ages growth and exper­i­men­ta­tion, cre­at­ing a rich com­mu­nity of artists that share their strate­gies and work with unprece­dented openness.

Rewind This!


Home video changed the way the world con­sumed films. The cul­tural and his­tor­i­cal impact of the VHS tape was enor­mous. Rewind This! is a doc­u­men­tary that traces the rip­ples of that impact by exam­in­ing the myr­iad aspects of art,technology, and soci­etal per­cep­tions that were altered by the cre­ation of videotape.


The film is the first fea­ture length effort from Austin, TX based IPF Pro­duc­tions, with shoot­ing loca­tions all over North Amer­ica and abroad, includ­ing a two week stint in Japan. The team has spo­ken to film­mak­ers, stu­dios, archivists, rental chain oper­a­tors, per­sonal col­lec­tors and media experts to cre­ate an overview of the video era that is both infor­ma­tive and cel­e­bra­tory. The film will pre­miere at SXSW Film Fes­ti­val in Austin March 2013.


The Punk Singer: The Kathleen Hanna Documentary


The first ques­tion that the men­tion of a doc­u­men­tary about Kath­leen Hanna prompts is usu­ally, Why hasn’t one already been made? Cred­ited as a founder of the third wave of fem­i­nism and Riot Grrrl – Hanna has been a sem­i­nal rad­i­cal activist, musi­cian, lead singer of the punk band Bikini Kill and dance-punk trio Le Tigre, and cul­tural icon for over twenty years. She’s also been a light­en­ing rod for con­tro­versy, and a famously pri­vate per­son. Five years ago, she dis­ap­peared from the pub­lic eye, and is only now re-emerging.


The Punk Singer com­bines twenty years of archival footage and an inti­mate look at four con­sec­u­tive sea­sons of Hanna’s present life, to tell the story of what hap­pened, and who she is now. Through archival footage and inti­mate inter­views with Hanna, “The Punk Singer” takes view­ers on a fas­ci­nat­ing tour of con­tem­po­rary music and offers a never-before-seen view into the life of this fear­less leader.

I Dream Of Wires


I Dream of Wires” (IDOW) is an upcom­ing, inde­pen­dent doc­u­men­tary film about the phe­nom­e­nal resur­gence of the mod­u­lar syn­the­sizer – explor­ing the pas­sions, obses­sions and dreams of peo­ple who have ded­i­cated part of their lives to this eso­teric elec­tronic music machine. Writ­ten and directed by Robert Fan­ti­natto, with Jason Amm (Ghostly Inter­na­tional record­ing artist Sol­vent) serv­ing as pro­ducer and co-writer, IDOW is set to receive it’s fes­ti­val pre­miere, May 2013.

If you’re a fan of music, you’ll want to keep this doc­u­men­tary on your radar as it talks about the his­tory of the elec­tronic syn­the­sizer in mod­ern music. Lots of old gear (that still works!) and tons of experts at cre­at­ing music and sounds with the synth.

8 BiT VoMiT’s 1° Birthday Party!



8 BiT VoMiT is a series of New Media art and music events founded by Graphic designer, DJ and artist Olya Lev­is­tova and Social Media and Pro­mo­tion enthu­si­ast Tanja Korobka. It has been cre­ated by Lon­don Chip Swarm with a mis­sion to grow chip­tune scene.

Lose your­self in explo­sive elec­tronic beats brought to you by Mind­pi­rates, 8bit Vomit, Chip swarm and DIY Church with a gath­er­ing of DJs and live acts from all over Europe. Dance your heart away and free your soul in a mix of indus­trial, noisy and loud sounds with visu­als by NZNZ, Gab­ifront, and Wario.

Meet the crea­tures of tomor­row to have a night of future fun with: COMPANY FUCK (AU / DE), MIDI MAN, Del_F64.0 & Zus­tand D. (DE), BEN BUTLER AND MOUSEPAD, SANTISIMA VIRGEN MARIA, DR. NEXUS and EYE, DJ OLIO (EE), DJ MICHAEL ANISER (noisekölln/epitaph). VIDEOGAMEZONE BY Qubodup (Joyride­labs).

Free mix­tapes, can­dyfloss, deco, and more. Sup­ported by and MINd­PI­rates


TV Party: The Sublimely Intolerable Show

Glenn O’Brien’s TV Party blew the dust out of New Yorker’s air ducts for four odd years from 1978 to 1982. The hour-long live, unscripted show took advan­tage of New York’s early-ish cable access world — a world man­dated by a deal that cable net­works could have their lit­tle monop­o­lies as long as the pub­lic was granted free access to a cer­tain per­cent­age of air­time. It’s a deal still going on all across Amer­ica today, and after watch­ing a lit­tle TV Party, you’d be a damn fool not to get involved. You see, TV can be fun, and you can make it! As for TV Party — essen­tially a show­case for what O’Brien and friends thought of as cool — it’s not for every­one. But those who like bizarro tele­vi­sion, the down­town New York scene of the day, or cult movies and TV with a cap­i­tal C (Liq­uid Sky or Robin Byrd’s porno talk-show, for instance) will get a seri­ous kick from this exper­i­ment in ‘social­ist TV’ — the TV show that’s a party, but it could also be a polit­i­cal party.

The Sub­limely Intol­er­a­ble Show aired Jan­u­ary 8th 1979, with O’Brien (writer, Warhol-ite and once New Wave gad­about) loosely hold­ing the reins — flog­ging the horse or let­ting it stum­ble down rocky inclines, how­ever he, his guests, audi­ence or callers saw fit. Aired in black and white, the night’s guests included Comp­ton Mad­dox and John Moses play­ing weird gui­tar tunes, Klaus Nomi singing opera, and Andy Sher­noff cov­er­ing the Beach Boys, (backed by Tish and Snooky of Manic Panic fame). Down­town direc­tor Eric Mitchell plays a clip of his movie Kid­napped while plug­ging the New Cin­ema The­ater, direc­tor David Sil­ver and Kate Simon do ‘White Peo­ple Talk About Reg­gae,’ and finally Deb­bie Harry, Chris Stein (also of Blondie and later offi­cial co-host of TV Party) and Richard Sohl help O’Brien with the viewer call-in seg­ment while pass­ing a joint.

Accord­ing to O’Brien’s TV Party web­site, David Let­ter­man once told Paul Scha­ef­fer on air that “TV Party is the great­est TV show any­where, ever,” and for those of us now corn-fed on the GMOs that are Two and a Half Men and their ilk, it’s hard to argue. The show thrives on O’Brien’s heart­felt dif­fi­dence (hard to man­age, true) and an anything-can-happen dan­ger­ous­ness that’s impos­si­ble to fake. It appears effort­less because in many ways it was, semi-professionals aided and abet­ted, and total ama­teurs did lit­tle things like; oper­ate cam­eras and run sound. In fact the first five or ten min­utes of Sub­limely Intol­er­a­ble have no sound at all, noth­ing but ran­dom pops (as peo­ple scurry to fix the prob­lem) and (also accord­ing to the TV Party web­site) Jean-Michel Basquiat typ­ing super-graphics like “Oh no! No sound! Fuck!” Top-notch scen­ester enter­tain­ment makes up for defi­cien­cies O’Brien encour­aged. Mad­dox and Moses’s pre-ironic ironic num­bers bub­ble dan­ger­ously, with O’Brien and Deb­bie Harry et al danc­ing in lab coats. Klaus Nomi’s unearthly soprano aria and equally alien demeanor are stun­ning and bizarre. Sher­noff is cool enough — while point­ing out how even the most insipid Beach Boys song comes with a super-sharp chord pro­gres­sion — and direc­tor Mitchell seems baf­fled and is baffling.

White Peo­ple Talk About Reg­gae rides a dan­ger­ous edge; the audi­ence mocks, Simon and Sil­ver seem defen­sive talk­ing about the ‘music of uplift­ment,’ and then a joint starts mak­ing the rounds. The joint stays for the ‘viewer call-in’ seg­ment which always closed the show. It’s emblem­atic of the off-the-rails genius of the show. Sure, the tech­no­log­i­cal aspects are junk, and per­for­mances or inter­views hit-or-miss, but let­ting uncen­sored live callers on the air is pure gold. O’Brien and crew are unas­sum­ing in their great­ness — they’re the cool kids at school who’ll actu­ally accept you (even though you know you’re a total geek) just because they’re self-secure — shin­ing as they wade through call after call ques­tion­ing their sex­ual prac­tices and eth­nic­ity. This stuff is not for the eas­ily offended, but it’s a tes­ta­ment to the power of a slick hand will­ing to let the chips fall wherever.

The first 10% of this show sums up what we don’t get on TV any­more. Tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties. TV Party was live and impro­vised, and this meant casual dis­as­ter. This early episode gets off to an artis­ti­cally ago­niz­ing start–the sound per­son is late, over­dos­ing on drugs or both. Or it was the bro­ken down equip­ment. Once the sound kicks in the show gets lively. Comp­ton Mad­dux, a droll singer song­writer, is backed up by Deb­bie Harry and Glenn; the unique futur­ist soprano Klaus Nomi does one of his post-modern arias; Adny Sher­noff, of the Dic­ta­tors, plays the Beach Boys’ “Be True to Your School” backed up by pom pom girls Tish and Snooky, the Manic Panic design­ers. Down­town leg­end direc­tor Eric Mitchell announces the open­ing of the now famous New Cin­ema the­ater and shows a clip from his film “Kid­napped” with Arto Lind­say, Dun­can Smith and Anya Phillips. Brit direc­tor David Sil­ver and pho­tog­ra­pher Kate Simon do the “white peo­ple talk about reg­gae” seg­ment. Blondie’s Chris Stein and Deb­bie Harry and the Patti Smith Group’s Richard Sohl drop in to smoke a reefer and take calls from all the cra­zies in cable land. Chris explains all this isn’t chaos, it’s art.

Film Before Film

Opti­cal toys, shadow shows, ‘magic lanterns’ and visual tricks have existed for thou­sands of years. Many inven­tors, sci­en­tists, and man­u­fac­tur­ers have observed the visual phe­nom­e­non that a series of indi­vid­ual still pic­tures set into motion cre­ated the illu­sion of move­ment — a con­cept termed per­sis­tence of vision.

Film Before Film is an exhil­a­rat­ing and amus­ing ency­clo­pe­dic look at the “pre­his­tory” of cinema.

Werner Nekes charts the fas­ci­na­tion with mov­ing pic­tures which led to the birth of film, cov­er­ing shadow plays, peep shows, flip books, flicks, magic lanterns, lithopanes, panoramic, scrolls, col­or­ful forms of early ani­ma­tion, and numer­ous other his­tor­i­cal artiffices.

Work­ing with these for­mats, early “pro­duc­ers” cre­ated melo­dra­mas, come­dies, — as well as lots of pornog­ra­phy – antic­i­pat­ing most of the forms known today.

Nekes probes these col­or­ful toys and inven­tions in a rich and reward­ing opti­cal experience.

Film Before Film is a bewil­der­ing assault of exotic (and some­times erotic) images and illusions.