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Museum Of The Moving Image: Ken Jacobs: Recent Works

Exterior of the Museum of the Moving Image

March 30 — April 1
Various Times
Museum of the Moving Image
35 Avenue at 37 Street
Astoria, NY 11106

Hosted by: Museum of the Moving Image

Ken Jacobs is one of the few filmmakers from the ’60s underground film movement who has actively and enthusiastically embraced filmmaking in the modern digital age. Over the last several years, he has been extremely prolific in using digital technology to rework and manipulate films and photographs from the early 20th century, as well as create entirely original work. In addition, he has also worked extensively using pre-cinematic projection technology to create live performances.

The Museum of the Moving Image is hosting a retrospective of many of Jacobs’ recent works. The filmmaker will be present at all screenings to discuss his work and to perform one of his Nervous Magic Lantern projection pieces.

Some of the highlights of this event include Return to the Scene of the Crime, a digital re-manipulation of Jacobs’ classic 1969 underground film Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son, which itself was a manipulation of a film from 1905; Razzle Dazzle, a feature-length reworking of a Thomas Edison short film; Seeking the Monkey King, a film made out of what appears to be tinfoil; and Star Spangled to Death, Jacobs’ epic 440-minute film that was begun in 1956 and completed in 2004.

The full lineup of the retrospective is below. To reiterate: Jacobs will be present at all these screenings. (Film descriptions provided by the Museum of the Moving Image.)

March 30, 7:00 p.m.

Return to the Scene of the Crime (2008, 93 mins.)
To make his seminal 1969 film Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son, Ken Jacobs used an analytic 16mm projector to rephotograph and transform a 1905 Biograph film. Four decades later, Jacobs returns with a computer, which “allows for an unbounded freedom of study and playfulness.”

Seeking the Monkey King (2011, 40 mins.)
An immersive and dazzling work whose vivid gold-blue abstractions are seemingly made from photographed tinfoil, Jacobs’s masterful new work is also a scorching political diatribe about America today.

March 31, 2:00 p.m.

Nervous Magic Lantern Performance: Time Squared

As Ken Jacobs describes his marvelous invention, “A lightweight propeller steadily turns, interrupting a beam of light passing through a lens. I place things in the path of light, and now and again in the course of a performance I manipulate or replace them.” The result? “An uncanny illusion of things moving in depth in every possible direction without moving at all—potentially forever…”

March 31, 4:30 p.m.

Short Works by Ken Jacobs

Disorient Express (1996, 30 mins.) A 1906 film of a train ride is dramatically altered through repetition, mirroring, inversion, and directional reversal.

Flo Rounds a Corner (1999, 6 mins.) Jacobs’s first work using original video footage.

Surging Sea of Humanity (2006, 11 mins.) A stereograph from the 1893 U.S. Centennial Exposition is transformed into “an enormous rugged and craggy 3D landscape.”

The Day Was a Scorcher (2009, 8 mins.) Jacobs uses his own home movie footage from a family trip to Rome. “It’s a perfect day when nothing happens.”

Capitalism: Child Labor (2006, 14 mins.) Jacobs digitally animates a Victorian stereoscopic photograph of a nineteenth-century factory floor, crowded with machinery and child workers.

Seeking the Monkey King (2011, 40 mins.) An immersive and dazzling work whose vivid gold-blue abstractions are seemingly made from photographed tinfoil, Jacobs’s masterful new work is also a scorching political diatribe about America today.

March 31, 7:30 p.m.

Razzle Dazzle: The Lost World and A Loft

Razzle Dazzle (2006, 92 mins.) A feature-length embrace of digital editing and relatively low-tech special effects as a means of –among other things — examining, stretching, slowing, expanding, and otherwise playing with a 1903 Thomas Edison short film of people gazing into space (and time) as they spin on an amusement park ride.

A Loft (2010, 17 mins.) Jacobs applies exacting digital techniques to footage of his New York City working and living space. The loft, crowded with books and film equipment, is rendered in vivid digital colors, inverted, and broken into planes that flatten the space, while Jacobs’s signature stroboscopic effects give the illusion of three-dimensionality.

April 1, 1:30 p.m.

Star Spangled to Death (1956–60, 2003–04, 440 mins.) Presented with an hour-long break and a thirty-minute break. In Jacobs’s magnum opus, a history of 20th-century politics and culture is communicated through a crazy quilt of found film, combined with the filmmaker’s own filming. It pictures a stolen and dangerously sold-out America, allowing examples of popular culture to self-indict. Racial and religious insanity, monopolization of wealth, the purposeful dumbing down of citizens, and addiction to war are opposed by joyous scenes of Beat playfulness.


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