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VES Faculty Screening
An Evening with Ken Kobland

Since the 1970s, Ken Kobland has maintained a distinguished career as a commercial cinematographer, award-winning experimental and documentary director in film and video, and teacher. In addition to his personal oeuvre of works, he has collaborated on projects for theatrical presentation with such art-world notables as Spaulding Gray, Philip Glass, and the New York City–based experimental theater ensemble The Wooster Group. He has also directed the cinematography for a range of television and theatrical works on visual artists, including Joan Mitchell, Louise Bourgeois, and Chuck Close (for which he was nominated for an Emmy). Among his most recent projects is a series of artists’ portraits made for public television’s “ART 21.” Trained in art, architecture, and philosophy, Kobland brings an acute sense of space and its meanings to works of unusual lyricism that explore the urban environment. 


November 8 (Thursday) 7 pm

Vestibule in Three Episodes

Directed by Ken Kobland
US 1978, 16mm, color, 24 min.

In this early film, Kobland explores a familiar urban space: the humble tenement vestibule—“a beautiful abstract space that is saturated with memories, fantasies, and the terra incognito of the everyday.” A vintage recording of a Caruso aria marks the film’s concluding segment, which features the actor David Warrilow.

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Screens with Vestibule in Three Episodes and The Shanghaied Text (see above and below)

Arise! Walk Dog Eat Donut

Directed by Ken Kobland
US 1999, video, color, 30 min.
Russian with English subtitles

A tribute to the “transit riders of earth,” this film focuses on the unsettling, oddly humorous, haunting qualities of the urban daily routine. Shots from subway and commuter-train windows are underscored with verses from a Russian ballad chronicling the banality and underlying despair of everyday existence. 

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Screens with Vestibule and Arise! Walk Dog Eat Donut in Three Episodes (see above)

The Shanghaied Text

Directed by Ken Kobland
US 1996, video, color, 20 min.

A collage of appropriated images from Dziga Vertov’s 3 Songs of Lenin, Alexander Dovzhenko’s Earth, and Fred Zinnemann’s High Noon, together with a piece of erotica and Parisian newsreel footage from 1968, The Shanghaied Text is a frantically paced, highly visual dance macabre meant to challenge the expectations of the television-viewing audience. This manic anti-narrative encapsulates the civic and sexual passion of colonialization and revolution.

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Harvard Film Archive • Carpenter Center • 24 Quincy Street • Cambridge MA 02138 • 617-495-4700