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P. Adams Sitney

A Half-Century of Showing Avant-garde Cinema

Since he brought the New American Cinema Exposition to Europe in 1963, P. Adams Sitney has curated hundreds of programmes on avant-garde American cinema, to the point that he has become one of the great prophets of independent experimental cinema. Many of the concepts, ideas and theories that now help us to understand the cinema of the second half of the 20th century, such as the definition of “structural cinema”, emerged from the work he has carried out as a scholar, critic and curator for more than 50 years. His book Visionary Film (Oxford University Press, 1974) was actually a visionary work in itself and today is still considered to be the standard text on American avant-garde cinema.

Elías Querejeta Zine Eskola has suggested that the specialist should choose an ideal programme that might illustrate his 50 years as a programmer, curator, critic and spectator. The result is, at the same time, a crash course in experimental cinema, and an autobiographical overview of the life of an essential figure in contemporary cinema and an anthology of the very best experimental cinema, with films from 1968 to 1998. His talk will range chronologically from the early period of program designed to entertain and titillate audiences to filmmaker specific programing and the foundation of a canon at Anthology Film Archives.

It will also cover the critical reaction to canon formation (especially by feminists), the arguments for celluloid projection (rather than digital screenings), and the internal history of the American avant-garde cinema by which filmmakers extend, reverse, and challenge their predecessors.


The program is the following*:

1. Bells of Atlantis, Ian Hugo (USA, 1952, 10 min.)

2. Eaux D’Artifice, Kenneth Anger (USA, 1953, 13 min.)

3. The Dead, Stan Brakhage (USA, 1960, 11 min.) 

4. Arabesque for Kenneth Anger, Marie Menken (USA, 1961, 4 min.)

5. The Riddle of Lumen, Stan Brakhage (USA, 1972, 13 min.) 

6. Shift, Ernie Gehr (USA, 1974, 9 min.)

7. Variations, Nathaniel Dorsky (USA, 1988, 24 min.) 

* Except for the first one, the films will be projected in 16 mm. prints.

This conference is organized with Tabakalera, Punto de Vista and Museo Reina Sofía.