2.12.13

Ken & Flo Jacobs

---


---

 GENERAL INTRODUCTION:

"Not only has Ken Jacobs been a productive filmmaker for forty years, but he has fought doggedly for independent cinema. In 1963, he and his wife, Florence, and Jonas Mekas were arrested for showing Jack Smith's Flaming Creatures [1963] in a case that helped to topple New York State's censorship regulations.  In 1966 he established the Millennium Film Workshop in New York City, at St. Marks Church in Washington Square, where, as Howard Guttenplan remembers, Jacobs hosted open screenings on Friday nights: "Ken was a brilliant teacher and a very perceptive and provocative person when talking about films and related matters" (Millennium Film Journal, nos. 16-18, 1986- 87, p. 9: this special Twentieth Anniversary issue includes a wealth of information about the history of the Millennium Film Workshop). In 1969, Larry Gottheim brought Jacobs to the State University of New York at Binghamton to teach, and for a time they made Binghamton a center for avant-garde filmmaking that inspired a generation of students, several of whom have had substantial impact on the field, including Steve Anker, Alan Berliner, Dan Eisenberg, Amy Halpern, Richard Herskowitz, Jim Hoberman, Ken Ross, Rene Shafransky, and Phi1 Solomon.

As a filmmaker, Jacobs has made substantial contributions to at least three major critical film trends. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, often in collaboration with Jack Smith, he developed what would later be called "trash film": with no money but plenty of chutzpah, Jacobs would film Smith, dressed up in makeshift costumes as he performed anarchic, gender-bending melodramas on lower Manhattan streets, sometimes with neighborhood children. The resulting films- Saturday Afternoon Blood Sacrifice (filmed in 1957; sound added, prints made 1964), Star Spangled to Death (shown in various "incomplete" versions from 1958 to 1960), Blonde Cobra (shown in various versions 1958-1963)-confronted both the commercial cinema and those approaches to critical filmmaking current in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Looking back, they seem prescient of some of Andy Warhol's films and of John Waters's trash melodramas of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

With Soft Rain (1968) and in particular, with Tom, Tom, the Pipers Son (presented in various versions, 1969-71), Jacobs reestablished himself, as one of the most influential "structural filmmakers." (Since the publication of Visionary Film in 1974, P. Adams Sitney's problematic but widely used term has been much debated; its relevance for Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son has always been limited.) In the films of this period, Jacobs turned his full attention to an exploration of the mechanical/chemical, and spatio-temporal bases of the film experience, and of the viewers ' ways of seeing and understanding film imagery.  In Tom, Tom, the Pipers Son Jacobs provides a rigorous and extensive exploration of the original Biograph one-reeler, Tom, Tom, the Pipers Son (1905), revealing a wide range of visual territories within the early short's narrative action.  

Finally, in Tom, Tom, the Pipers Son and in other, more recent films and film performances, Jacobs has been a major contributor to "recycled cinema," the tradition of using earlier films as the raw material for new works of film art, a tradition that begins with Esther Shub and Joseph Cornell (for whom Jacob's worked, briefly, in the 1950s)- and, in recent years, has become a, if not the, dominant critical procedure in independent film and videomaking. Except for Tom, Tom, the Pipers Son Jacobs's most noteworthy contributions to "recycled cinema" have come in the long series of cine-performance works that have dominated Jacobs's creative activities since the early I970s. Jacobs has devised several ways of creating new spaces and times from filmstrips he has accumulated over the years, but the most important of these is what he calls "the Nervous System," a set-up of two analytic I 6mm projectors (the analytic projectors Jacobs has worked with can be run, forward or backward at 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 12, 16, and 24 frames per second) mediated by a propeller that spins in front of' the two lenses, and allows Jacobs to create a wide variety of visual effects, including 3-D, which are usually accompanied by one or another form of recycled sound..."

(Scott MacDonald in A Critical Cinema 3)

---

"From the first days of our friendship, I was aware that Flo functioned as the 'reality principle' in relation to Ken, who often envisions and desires the impossible. She is also the most trusted other pair of eyes for his work, bringing to this task an aesthetic that is highly compatible with his own, but-and this is important-which was formed before she met him. It was not, however, until I transcribed this interview that I realized that Flo Jacobs is nothing less than the producer of Ken Jacobs' cinema.

In the world of avant-garde cinema, the 'producer' credit is almost nonexistent. Avant-garde filmmakers associate producers with a Hollywood tradition of division of labor in which the art of the director/auteur is compromised and corrupted by commerce. In fact, there are good producers and bad producers. A good producer nurtures and supports the director's vision and does the practical work of raising money, organizing the production and postproduction, and making the deals that get the film into the world. Flo does all these things, albeit in the particular way that they are done in a nonprofit, experimental film context. In addition, she has taken on the formidable task of cataloguing and archiving 50 years of Ken Jacobs' cinema. This demand on her time comes at the expense of the art she makes independently of Ken, but it cannot be otherwise because, in ways that are both quantifiable and not, Ken's oeuvre is also her own."


---

Jacobs’ biographies

---

Star Spangled to Death

---


---

FILMOGRAPHY, VIDEOS, PERFORMANCES, ETC:

FILMS:
 
Orchard Street (1955), 16mm, color, silent, 12 min.
The Whirled [aka Four Shorts With Jack Smith: Saturday Afternoon Blood
Sacrifice (1956); Little Cobra Dance (1956); TV Plug (1963); The Death Of P'town (1961)]
(1956-63, compiled under this tide in the early 1990s with additional intertitles)
Star Spangled To Death (1956-60 on 16mm, 2001-4 on digital video)
Little Stabs At Happiness (1958-60)
Blonde Cobra (1959-63)
Artie And Marty Rosenblatt's Baby Pictures (1963)
Baud'larian Capers (A Musical With Nazis and Jews) (1963)
Window (1964)
The Winter Footage (1964)
We Stole Away (1964)
Winter Sky (1964)
The Sky Socialist (1964-68)
Lisa And joey In Connecticut - January '65: "You've Come Back!" "You're Still Here!" (1965)
Naomi Is A Dream Of Loveliness (1965)
Airshaft (1967)
Soft Rain (1968)
Nissan Ariana Window (1968)
Tom, Tom, The Pipers Son (1969, revised 1971)
Globe [previously called Adjacent Perspectives and Excerpt From The Russian Revolution](1969)
Binghamton, My India (1969-70)
Changing Azazel (1973)
Urban Peasants (1975)
Jerry Takes A Back Seat, Then Passes Out Of The Picture (1975)
Spaghetti Aza (1976)
The Doctors Dream (1978)
Perfect Film (1985)
The Alps And The Jews (incomplete] (1986-present)
Opening The Nineteenth Century: 1896 (1990)
Keaton's Cops (1991)
Looting For Rodney (1994-5)
Make Light On Film (1995)
The Georgetown Loop (1996)
Disorient Express (1996)

---

DIGITAL VIDEOS: 

*Note: After 2009, the list of videos and Nervous Magic Lantern performances are incomplete.  Jacobs remains very productive within both realms, producing singular works that are as essential as any he has previously made.  Such vision, however, likely leaves little time for the maintenance of a current filmography.  Will Rose, a UK film curator and researcher (who compiled the catalogues for Optic Antics that are included below), is presently working on a book compiling Ken's writings, programme notes, articles, interviews, etc., which will also include an up-to-date filmography.  When a more thorough catalogue of the latter titles becomes available to me, it will be added. 

Flo Rounds A Corner ( 1999)
New York Street Trolleys 1900 (1999)
A Tom Tom Chaser (2002)
CIRCLING ZERO: Part One) We See Absence (2002)
Keeping An Eye On Stan (2003)
Celestial Subway Lines/Salvaging Noise (2004)
Mountaineer Spinning (2004)
Krypton Is Doomed (2005)
Insistent Clamor (2005)
Leeds Bridge 1888 (2005)
Spiral Nebula (2005)
Incendiary Cinema (2005)
Let There Be Whistleblowers (2005)
Ontic Antics Starring Laurel And Hardy; Bye Molly (2005)
New York Ghetto Fishmarket 1903 (2006)
Pushcarts Of Eternity Street (2006)
Two Wrenching Departures (2006)
Capitalism: Child Labor (2006)
Capitalism: Slavery (2006)
The Surging Sea Of Humanity (2006)
RAZZLE DAZZLE: The Lost World (2006-7)
Hanky Panky January 1902 (2007)
Nymph (2007)
GIFT OF FIRE: Nineteen (Obscure) Frames That Changed The World (2007)
Return To The Scene Of The Crime (2008)
Anaglyph Tom (Tom With Puffy Cheeks) (2008)
The Scenic Route (2008)
The Guests (2008)
Amorous Interludes [consists of: His Favorite Wife Improved (or The Virtue Of Bad Reception); Alone At Last; The Discovery; Love Story; We Are Charming (2008)]
Hot Dogs At The Met (2008)
What Happened On 23rd Street In 1901 (2009)
"Slow Is Beauty"-Rodin (2009)
Brook (2009)
Bob Fleischner Dying (2009)
The Day Was A Scorcher (2009)
Jonas Mekas In Kodachrome Days (2009)
Walkway (2009)
excerpt from THE SKY SOCIALIST stratified (2009)
BRAIN OPERATIOJVS (2009)
Ron Gonzalez, Sculptor (2009)
Gravity Is Tops (2009)
Berkeley To San Francisco (2009)
Fair And White, Parts I, II, III And Extra (2010)
SENSORIUMS AT SEA: Dr. Toothy 's New Entranceway (2010)
SENSORIUMS AT SEA: Toothy Two (2010)
The Near~ Collision (2010)
A Loft (2010)
A Train Arriving At A Station (51h Street) (2010)
The Pushcarts Depart The Scene (2010)
Seeking the Monkey King (2011)
The Green Wave (2011)
Street Vendor (2011)
CYCLOPEAN 3D: Life With a Beautiful Woman (2012)
Blankets for Indians (2012)
The Joys of Waiting for the Broadway Bus (2013)
A Primer in Sky Socialism (2013)
The Guests (2013)

---

NERVOUS MAGIC LANTERN PERFORMANCES:

Chronometer (1990)
Crystal Palace (Chandeliers For The People) (2000)
Local Hubble (For Marilyn And Stan Brakhage) (2003)
Polemics On Ice (2004)
Local Hubble 11: La Conference Des Oiseaux (2004)
Celestial Subway: Last Stop All Out (2004)
Celestial Subway Lines 2, 3, 4 (2004)
Seeing Is Believing (2004)
Salvaging Noise (2004)
Falling In Place (2004)
Interstellar Lower East Side Ramble (2005)
[Untitled] (2007)
The Transcendent Viewer (2007)
Dreams That Money Can't Buy (2007)
[Untitled] (2007)
Reverberant Silence (2008)
[Untitled] (2008)
Atmospheres (2008)
Deep Silence (2008)
[Untitled] (2008)
[Untitled] (2009)
Into The Depths Of The Even Greater Depression (2009)

Time Squared (2013)

---

APPARITION THEATER OF NEW YORK:

 
(from Optic Antics)

---

NERVOUS SYSTEM PERFORMANCES:

 (from Optic Antics)

---

INSTALLATIONS:

 (from Optic Antics)

---

"Jacobs is forever forging ontological marriages that lurk behind his image-sources: birth/death, mechanical/organic (he reminded me that film stock is composed of 'animal guts'), landscape/human, male/female, and, not least, performance in cinema versus performance of cinema."  

(Paul Arthur)
---


---

 WRITINGS BY/ON JACOBS:


ACONTECIMIENTOS 2012 by David Phelps

---

from Argos Festival 2004


---

excerpt from Film At Wit's End by Stan Brakhage


---

 from An Introduction to the American Underground Film by Sheldon Renon


---

excerpt from Optics Antics edited by Michele Pierson, David E. James & Paul Arthur


----

 from A Line of Sight by Paul Arthur


---

excerpts from Movie Journal by Jonas Mekas


---

excerpt from Shadows, Specters, Shards by Jeffrey Skoller


---

from Touch by Laura U. Marks


---

excerpts from Visionary Film by P. Adams Sitney


---

from Canadian Film Journal No. 3


---

excerpts from Cinematograph No. 5


---

from Afterimage 36.2


---

from Literature Film Quarterly 3 No. 4



---

from Film Culture No. 29


---

 from Film Culture No. 55-56


---

from Film Comment 33.2


---

from Film Comment 48.2



---

from Artforum 10.1

 
---

 from Artforum 46.10


---

from Performing Arts Journal 17 Nos. 2-3



---

from Film Is by Stephen Dwoskin


---

from Millennium Film Journal No. 6



---

from Millennium Film Journal No. 10-11


---

from Millennium Film Journal No. 55
 

---

from October 2011


---

the following are writings by Jacobs originally published on La Furia Umana:




---

"What I watched was beautiful, hypnotic, mysterious and as close to a representation of three-dimensional imagery as I’ve ever seen without wearing funny glasses. It was pure cinema. As it happens, it was so pure that no celluloid had threaded its way through a projector. I hadn’t been watching a film, after all, or digital images, only light and shadow."

(Manohla Dargis)

---


---

JACOBS ON FILM/VIDEO:

Tank TV Retrospective (from 2008, currently unavailable)

---
 
"He turned out to be a great model for my teaching.  His classes were very present tense; he didn’t do prepackaged lectures.  He thought and reacted on his feet.  He legitimized these difficult films for me through his enthusiasm and passion and his peculiar and uncanny nonacademic intelligence and wit." 

(Phil Solomon)
---
 

---

 INTERVIEWS:

---

 from Optic Antics: The Cinema of Ken Jacobs


---

from October 2002


---

from Film Culture No. 67-69


---

from Millennium Film Journal No. 1


---

from Millennium Film Journal No. 16-18


---

---

"No my work is experiential, not conceptual.  I want to work with experiences all the time.   I don't even understand most conceptual work.  I don't get it.  In that way I do relate to the movies that want to offer you some kind of visual experience. Except you're the protagonist.  You're entering the temple of doom; a new kind of growth.  You have to find out what is in this thing for yourself and I'm offering it."

(Ken Jacobs) 

--- 

"I'm almost afraid to say it, but I do. I'm indispensable because I've been working to help him, but I'm not raking credit for his work. I really value his work. And I've felt for a long time that if people don't, then it's their problem. We can't accept their rejection. It's up to us to make the work get out there. Right from the beginning, when Kenneth applied for grants, if he got rejected he'd say I'm never going to apply again. So I'd say, if you don't apply again, that means you've accepted being rejected. You have to absorb the depression that comes with being rejected and we just have co make things happen in terms of what we can do. I think the work is amazing, and it just has to be."
 
(Flo Jacobs)

--- 

My thanks to David Phelps, Ken and Flo Jacobs, and Will Rose for their assistance...

---

1 comments:

Thadicaran said...

This is just a great resource on all things Ken Jacobs. I just got introduced to him through this entry. Thanks.