There's something so wonderfully curmudgeonly about The International Experimental Cinema Exposition's (TIE) dogged devotion to the art of celluloid. In a time when any old Johnny-come-lately can pick up a video camera and fancy himself or herself a Lars von Trier or Harmony Korine, devotees of experimental film (and exclusively film) are so post facto as to be entirely in the avant-garde of forgotten cultural nostalgia.
This Saturday's festival of experimental cinema's Dada forefather, Hans Richter, is the perfect example of why such cultural amnesia reclamation projects can make a place like Colorado Springs interesting: because almost no one else -- anywhere -- is doing it!
Titled "Dada Film: Hans Richter and the Early Avant-Garde," the screening will consist of selections from Richter's short works from the 1920s along with other short works by artists from the same period such as Dudley Murphy and Fernand Leger (known for his legendary Ballet Mcanique).
While no announcement has been made as to which Richter films will be screened on the Fine Art Center's 16mm projector (considered by many to be the best in the state), the evening will be hosted by the '60s experimental filmmaker and savant Standish Lawder, who also happens to be Richter's son-in-law. As such, Lawder will be bringing a number of prints of films that belonged to Richter himself. Lawder is also the author of a book about Ballet Mcanique and related cubist films called The Cubist Cinema.
While the anti-art iconoclasm of the Dada movement -- along with its namesakes like Marcel Duchamp, Kurt Schwitters, Tristan Tzara, Alfred Jarry and Man Ray -- has more or less permanently impressed itself on the pop-cultural imagination, the filmmakers of the period (with the notable exception surrealist Luis Buuel and his film Un Chien Andalou) are largely forgotten because their work is so unwieldy to display, and stills just don't translate well into books.
Known best for his book Dada: Art and Anti-Art, Richter was one of the early members of the Dada group active from 1916 to 1919. Influenced early on by the cubists, and then by the more political, anti-establishment aesthetics of Dada, Richter was a restless artist who experimented with everything from painting to graphic arts and writing. Such frenetic energies found their most pointed expression through film where Richter was able to translate the cubists' fascinations with relative perspective and movement (think of Duchamp's "Nude Descending a Staircase") with the actual rhythm and movement afforded by the nascent technology of film.
Though he began to use surrealist imagery in his later films (Ghost Before Breakfast being his most famous), most of Richter's early, post-Dada pieces were abstract in nature and concerned purely with color and form -- a trait that led him to some tertiary affiliations with the De Stijl movement. Rhythme 21, his first purely abstract film, is now considered a classic of avant-garde film.
Ultimately it was Richter's interest in film as a visual relative to painting that left its mark on the history of art and cinema in a time when celluloid was being exploited most often as a means of visual storytelling.
Included in Saturday's festivities will by a slide presentation by Standish Lawder and cocktails and appetizers catered by the Blue Star.
"Dada Film: Hans Richter and the Early Avant-Garde"
Presented by TIE and the FAC
Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St.
Saturday, Nov. 16, 6 p.m.
Tickets: $22. Call 634-5583.
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