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April 16

Reverence: The Films of Owen Land

This touring exhibition celebrates the work of Owen Land (formerly known as George Landow), one of the most original and celebrated American filmmakers of the 60s and 70s. The films made during this period fuse an intellectual sense of reason with the irreverent wit that distances them from the supposedly ‘boring’ world of avant-garde cinema. Land’s early materialist works anticipated Structural Film—the definition of which provoked his rejection of film theory and convention—and include explorations into the physical qualities of the celluloid strip.  His attention soon turned to the spectator in a series of works that question the illusionary nature of cinema through the use of word play and optical ambiguity.  In several of these films Land constructs ‘facades’ of reality, often directly addressing the viewer using the language of television, advertising or educational films, and by featuring characters that are often the antithesis of those we might expect to see, such as podgy middle aged men and religious fanatics. Experimental film itself is also parodied, as Land mimics his contemporaries and mocks the solemn approach of theorists and scholars. Later works draw on the filmmaker’s experiences with Christianity but are far from evangelistic. Throughout, Land’s films contain numerous cross-references to the art and culture of our time, giving them a relevance and vitality beyond the hermetic avant-garde. Program notes adapted from text by Mark Webber, Lux Films. All prints courtesy of Lux Films.


April 16 (Monday) 7 pm

Program One

Remedial Reading Comprehension

Directed by Owen Land (formerly known as George Landow)
US 1970, 16mm, color, 5 min.

Landow rejects the dream imagery of the historical trance film for the self-referential present, using macrobiotics, the language of advertising, and a speed-reading test on the definition of hokum. The alienated filmmaker appears, running uphill to distance himself from the lyrical cinema, but remember, “This is a film about you, not about its maker.”

Fleming Faloon

Directed by Owen Land (formerly known as George Landow)
US 1963, 16mm, color, 7 min.

In his first 16mm film, Landow proposes that if we accept the reality offered to us by the illusion of depth on the flat plane of the screen, we can then assign reality to anything at will.  A cinematic equivalent of the illusionistic portraiture of the Flemish painters.

 

Film in Which There Appear Edge Lettering, Sprocket Holes, Dirt Particles, Etc.

Directed by Owen Land (formerly known as George Landow)
US 1965-66, 16mm, color, silent, 4 min.

The ‘imperfections’ of filmmaking, normally suppressed, are at the core of a work that uses a brief loop made from a Kodak color test. “The dirtiest film ever made” is one of the earliest examples of the film material dictating the film content.

Bardo Follies

Directed by Owen Land (formerly known as George Landow)
US 1967-76, 16mm, color, silent, 20 min.

A shot of a Southern Belle waving to a group of tourists on a pleasure boat ride is looped, multiplied and then melted, creating psychedelic abstract images. “A paraphrasing of certain sections of the Tibetan Book of the Dead in motion picture terms.”

What’s Wrong With This Picture? 1

Directed by Owen Land (formerly known as George Landow)
US 1971, 16mm, b/w & color, 5 min.

A found, utilitarian object, the overtly moralizing educational film “How to be a Good Citizen,” is elevated to the status of ‘art’. First presented unaltered and then in Landow’s color facsimile, the film is further modified by applying an opaque matte that creates a spatial paradox.

What’s Wrong With This Picture? 2

Directed by Owen Land (formerly known as George Landow)
US 1972, 16mm, b/w & color, 7 min.

As Landow and his students were testing a new video camera, an elderly man began to talk to them about new technology. This impromptu conversation forms the basis for a comparison of spoken and written language.

Institutional Quality

Directed by Owen Land (formerly known as George Landow)
US 1969, 16mm, color, 5 min.

Constructed around a found soundtrack in which a strict female voice delivers a test of perception and comprehension, Institutional Quality’s sound and image relationship become detached as the filmmakerloses interest in his subject.

 

On the Marriage Broker Joke as Cited by Sigmund Freud in Wit and its Relation to the Unconscious or Can the Avant-Garde Artist Be Wholed?

Directed by Owen Land (formerly known as George Landow)
US 1977-79, 16mm, color, 18 min.

One of Landow’s most complex films, On The Marriage Broker Joke
features a disparate cast of characters which include two pandas making and discussing an avant-garde film about the marketing of Japanese salted plums.

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Program Two

The Film that Rises to the Surface of Clarified Butter

Directed by Owen Land (formerly known as George Landow)
US 1968, 16mm, b/w, 9 min.

An illustrator drawing figures that resemble Tibetan deities can’t believe his eyes when they appear to come to life and dance on the paper; trapped between 2D and 3D space, the characters’ eerie limbo is amplified by the sinister loop of the soundtrack.

Diploteratology

Directed by Owen Land (formerly known as George Landow)
US 1967-78, 16mm, color, 7 min.

A revision of Bardo Follies, Diploteratology suggests that “death (destruction of the original image) is not an end but merely the next stage.”

“No Sir, Orison!”

Directed by Owen Land (formerly known as George Landow)
US 1975, 16mm, color, 3 min.

After singing a vivacious song of love in the aisle of a supermarket, a performer kneels down to ask forgiveness for those involved in the commercial food industry, which substitutes natural produce with non-nutritious commodities. Orison means prayer. The title of the film (a palindrome) is the answer to a question.

Wide Angle Saxon

Directed by Owen Land (formerly known as George Landow)
US 1975, 16mm, color, 22 min.

An interpretation of The Confessions of Saint Augustine featuring an
ordinary middle-aged man who undergoes a conversion experience whilst watching an experimental film.

 

 

Thank You Jesus for the Eternal Present

Directed by Owen Land (formerly known as George Landow)
US 1973, 16mm, color and b/w, 6 min.

A rapturous audio-visual mix that “deliberately seeks a hidden order in randomness.” The film combines the face of a woman in ecstatic, contemplative prayer with shots of an animal rights activist, and a scantily clad model advertising Russian cars at the International Auto Show, New York.

 

A Film of Their 1973 Spring Tour Commissioned by Christian World Liberation Front of Berkeley, California

Directed by Owen Land (formerly known as George Landow)
US 1974, 16mm, color, 12 min.

Cinema-verité style footage of a radical Christian group’s lecture tour of US colleges is dynamically collaged via stroboscopic editing that uses a rapid rhythm of three-frame units.

New Improved Institutional Quality: In the Environment of Liquids and Nasals a Parasitic Vowel Sometimes Develops

Directed by Owen Land (formerly known as George Landow)
US 1976, 16mm, color, 10 min.

The IQ test returns in an entirely new work concerned with the soundtrack’s effects on the examinee, who enters a Chinese box of impossible perspectives. He briefly escapes the oppressive environment only to pass into the imagination of the filmmaker, where he encounters images from previous films.

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