Artists' Television Access

see also: Speaking Directly Alley Cat

San Francisco Cinematheque’s new issue of their Cinematograph journal, Speaking Directly: Oral Histories of the Moving Image, is a collection of discussions and interviews with experimental film and video artists, and a treasure to be/hold. Its cover is a grand dot matrix image of someone holding a movie camera – the print dots are raised so that it feels like a smooth reptile and reflects the image as particles: a reminder of the physical landscape of a strip of film. It contains an interview with Narcisa Hirsch, the German/Argentine artist and filmmaker whose work will be presented at ATA by SF Cinematheque on February 19 at 7:30PM.

The conversation between Jim Jennings and Kathy Geritz provides an amusing and enlightening (p/un intended) glimpse not only of his process, but of his grappling with the necessary move to video when film processing got too far from reach. The journal is available for purchase from San Francisco Cinematheque’s website and at their screenings, and at Alley Cat Books, 3036 24th Street, San Francisco, 415-824-1761



Though I had a bad headache, I was compelled to go to the San Francisco Cinematheque Speaking Directly Book Launch and screening at Alley Cat Books down on 24th Street (near Treat). I’m so glad I did. I was very late, walked in and took in the last few minutes of the gorgeous, silent, back and white 16mm film, New York near Sleep (for Saskia) by Peter Hutton. I had a powerful melancholic, sweet reaction, partly from the content of the film images of dust specks floating in a white shaft of light on black background; partly my reaction was to memory of watching the same film in class at the San Francisco Art Institute 25 years ago. Mostly this feeling was caused by the nature of the film image itself: light from the projector passing through silver particles on the filmstrip, like the sunlight shining through the dust…

At first I felt a bit snippy about the set up – a projector screen on a floor stand, not quite high enough so I had to crane my neck, and it wasn’t really dark– just lights off in that back part of the store. But then even that softened the film image in a nice way… And the projector was in back of the rows of folding chairs; you could hear the sprockets turning.

There were all these people from the film community: Steve Polta at the projector, wavy genius Craig Baldwin, Kathy Geritz from the Pacific Film Archive, Kerry Laitala and Brian Darr, others who looked so familiar… This was a little like what I heard about the beginning of San Francisco Cinematheque: films projected on a sheet in a back yard in the town of Canyon, hence the original organization name of “Canyon Cinematheque,” which later split into the film distribution co-op Canyon Cinema, and exhibition venue San Francisco Cinematheque. Rows of chairs set up in the back of the bookstore in the Mission District– felt like the old days before tech buses blotted out the sun… Alleycat Books is owned by bookseller Kate Rosenberger, owner of Dog Eared Books on Valencia Street- years, decades, and still going strong, and Badger Books on Cortland up on Bernal Hill. She recently sold Phoenix books on 24th Street after 27 years. Like Cinematheque and Canyon Cinema, her bookstores are important features in San Francisco’s cultural landscape. Books and films: analog objects whose content is impressed directly on their surface, held in the hands and activated by light. Direct and un-mediated implementation like the film I saw Polta threading into the projector… Kathy Garrett introduced the Chinatown film, from 1978, by Jim Jennings. She explained how his process was linear, he “edited in camera”- meaning he consciously shot each sequence, keeping in mind what had been shot before and proceeding forward to compose the film. He then assembled the film in the order he shot, roll by roll, and only removed sequences or bits that didn’t fit, but did not change the order of the material. This creates a viewing experience that is more in tune to his original experience of shooting the film and imparts a particular rhythm. This five-minute silent black-and-white film was comprised completely of shadows on the sidewalk in New York’s Chinatown. People moving, passing, only their shadows and the concrete grain of the squares in the sidewalk visible. You could say it was iconic as film itself, just shadows on the sidewalk lines like a strip of film frames, but beyond that worn simile this beautiful piece was captivating and dynamic. I left a couple minutes into the following piece because just those few minutes of silent black-and-white film where all I could take in. I walked on 24th Street to Philz Coffee at 24th and Folsom, maybe another precursor of gentrification but nonetheless remaining funky Philz just like it was 10 years ago. I felt a little more at home even though the neighborhood has changed up(scale).


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