Art(core): The Avant Garde and the Cinematic Body

  • Guest Curated by M.M. Serra (in Person)
  • Saturday, August 2, 9pm
  • 401 Richmond St. West Courtyard

Part of Summer 2008

M.M. Serra, legendary filmmaker, curator and director of the New York-based Film-makers’ Cooperative curates a gender- and sexuality-bending film programme of older and recent works drawn from the collection of the Coop.

“This two-hour programme explores the explicit body in the experimental film genre. Reflecting three major trends within the NYC scene, the programme starts in the mid-1960s with Classics of the Underground, which influenced the filmmakers of the Cinema of Transgression, which is followed by films of Alternative Queer culture. All of the works reflect the views of filmmakers who broke the taboos and censorship of the mainstream popular culture of the United States.

Opening the programme is Double Your Pleasure (2002) by M.M. Serra, an homage to Andy Warhol’s Kiss, followed by the rarely screened, double-screen projection “happening” of Barbara Rubin’s Christmas on Earth. Rubin’s 1963 film premiered at Warhol’s Factory, then titled Cocks and Cunts with the Velvet Underground performing live. Central to the programme is the recently restored Fuses (1967) by Carolee Schneemann, an exquisitely erotic portrait of love-making with Schneemann, James Tenney and their cat Kitch. A camp masterpiece by George Kuchar titled Hold Me While I’m Naked (1966) inspired the films of John Waters. Transgressive works by Tessa Hughes-Freeland and Scot-Free reflect the East Village club culture. Tessa Hughes-Freeland’s Baby Doll (1982) is a docu-portrait of dancers in The Baby Doll strippers club. Scot-Free’s Strange Love (1996) is a portrait of a jaded Lower East Side couple starring Nick Zedd, writer of the Transgressive Manifesto. Art(core) concludes with three short films embracing alternative sexualities: Peggy Ahwesh’s Color of Love (1994), James Fotopoulos’s Drowning (2000) and the fantastic animation of Martha Colburn’s Spiders in Love: An Arachnogasmic Musical (1999). All films on the programme are explicit and embrace an alternative perspective on gender and sexuality.” (M.M. Serra)

M.M.Serra, Double Your Pleasure, 2002, 2.5 minutes.
Sound by Jennifer Reeves. A homage to Andy Warhol’s Kiss (1963).

Barbara Rubin, Christmas On Earth, 1963, color filters, 30 minutes. with sound composition by Darren Copeland
A study in genital differentiation and psychic tumult.

Carolee Schneemann, Fuses, 1967, Silent, 30 minutes. Newly restored print!
Filmed and edited by Schneemann; with herself, James Tenney and their cat Kitch. “Pornography is an anti-emotional medium, in content and intent, and its lack of emotion renders it wholly ineffective for women. This absence of sensuality is so contrary to female eroticism that pornography becomes, in fact, anti-sexual. Schneemann’s film, by contrast, is devastatingly erotic, transcending the surfaces of sex to communicate its true spirit, its meaning as an activity for herself and, quite accurately, women in general….” B. Ruby Rich, Chicago Art Institute.

George Kuchar, Hold Me While I’m Naked, 1966, 15 minutes.
“A very direct and subtle, very sad and funny look at nothing more or less than sexual frustration and aloneness. In its economy and cogency of imaging, Hold Me surpasses any of Kuchar’s previous work. The odd blend of Hollywood glamour and drama with all-too-real life creates and inspires counterpoint of unattainable desire against unbearable actuality.” — Ken Kelman

Tessa Hughes-Freeland, Baby Doll, 1982, B&W, 5 minutes.
A docu-portrait of two GoGo dancers, revealing their experience of how it is on their side of the dollars. T. H.-F.

Scot-Free, Strange Love, 1996, 5 minutes.
Cinema of Transgression founder Nick Zedd stars in this sick little film as one half of a jaded Lower East Side couple that’s become bored of straight sex. Wanting to spice things up a bit they imitate some rough sex action they see on TV with gory consequences. S.F.

James Fotopolous, Drowning, 2000, 16mm, color, 3 minutes.
“An attempt to discover psychic energy in controlled sexuality” – J.F.

Peggy Ahwesh, Color of Love, 1994, 10 minutes.
“The last word in ready-mades, Peggy Ahwesh’s Color of Love… is a slightly slo-mo, optical reprint of an obviously ill-treated ’70s porn movie in which the chemical rot that’s already eaten away the edges of the image threaten to censor it entirely. … “– Amy Taubin, The Village Voice

Martha Colburn, Spiders In Love: An Arachnogasmic Musical, 1999, 3 minutes.
Spiders In Love: An Arachnogasmic Musical while containing stylistic affinities with older work, also presented more extended and inter-relational riffs, as well as a more nuanced pacing.

M.M. Serra is a filmmaker, educator, curator and director of The Film-Makers’ Cooperative. Her film Art Parade premiered in 2007 at the Womanizer Film programme at Deitch Projects in Soho. She is featured in “Profiles from the Edge” in Swoon Magazine (2007, Issue 3) and her own work, as well as her curated programmes, have been screened at the Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of the Moving Image in New York; Centre Georges Pompidou and the Cinémathèque Française in Paris; the London Film Festival and the Oberhausen International Short Film Festival. Serra teaches classes in Media Studies at New School University including a seminar titled “Sexual Personae” and has recently curated the programme “New York Experimental” for the Kulczyk Foundation and the Warszawa Kinolab in Poland.