Goings On

Filmmakers’ Arts

On Film / The Daily — Nov 7, 2018
Andy Warhol

Manny Farber, the immeasurably influential film critic—“the liveliest, smartest, most original film critic this country has ever produced,” according to Susan Sontag—was also a painter. Several of his paintings, many of them referencing the filmmakers he championed, are currently on view alongside more than a hundred works by around thirty artists through March 11 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. The exhibition is one of several at the moment spotlighting artists whose work moves freely between the worlds of art and cinema.

The title of the MOCA show, One Day at a Time: Manny Farber and Termite Art, is inspired by one of Farber’s most widely read essays, “White Elephant Art vs. Termite Art,” originally published by Adolfas and Jonas Mekas in Film Culture in 1962. Writing in the Village Voice in 1981, J. Hoberman called the piece “the snappiest jeremiad I’ve ever read. Its target is films that are inflated, over-wrought, precious, ‘tied to the realm of celebrity and affluence’—white elephant stuff”—against which Farber “raises the red flag of termite art, a mysterious form that flourishes in dark corners where ‘the spotlight of culture is nowhere in evidence.’ Farber’s termites include journalists, pulp writers, B-movie directors, and comic-strip artists.”

In a 1975 piece on Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Farber argued that the German filmmaker was one of the “true inheritors of early Warhol, the Warhol of Chelsea Girls and My Hustler.” Tomorrow, the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh will present the new digital transfer of The Chelsea Girls (1966) that New York’s Museum of Modern Art premiered in May. Warhol, wrote Farber, “proclaims the wondrousness of monotony, banality, machine-made art, expedience, and an easy mobility from one medium to another. He’s a great mover towards facetiousness and flexibility: it’s not that he doesn’t work like a bearcat at his dozen professions, but that he tries to imprint a not-that-taxing air into each new painting-print-film-interview.” Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again, a survey of what Blake Gopnik, writing for the New York Times, calls the “full cross-section of his epochal creations,” will open at the Whitney in New York on Monday. Through March 2019, this first major retrospective in the U.S. since 1989 will also feature screenings of 16 mm prints of thirty-five films that Warhol shot in the 1960s.


Chris Marker, too, shifted restlessly from medium to medium, and starting tomorrow, New York’s Metrograph will present The Owl’s Legacy (1990), a thirteen-episode television series in which Marker explored the impact of ancient Greece on the modern world. Reviewing the series for Film Comment, Nicholas Elliott finds that “the rapidity of associations is jaw-dropping, a testament to the extraordinary omnivorous mind of this defining film essayist.” At Hyperallergic, Tanner Tafelski notes that, following The Owl’s Legacy, “Marker would push further into different fields, such as more installation work (Zapping Zone, Silent Movie), CD-ROM (Immemory), and virtual reality (his Second Life museum, Ouvroir).” This range is on full view in Chris Marker: Memories of the Future, an exhibition and workshop taking place at the Bozar Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels through January 6.

The range of the late musician, filmmaker, painter, sculptor, and performance artist Tony Conrad may have been even broader. “You don’t know who I am,” he once declared, “but somehow, indirectly, you’ve been affected by things I did.” The film series Introducing Tony Conrad: A Retrospective is on at the Harvard Film Archive through November 30, accompanying the exhibition bearing the same title and open through January 6 at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts and the MIT List Visual Arts Center.


Other exhibitions of note include Company at the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art in Porto, Portugal, which brings together collaborations between filmmaker Pedro Costa with sculptor Rui Chafes and photographer Paulo Nozolino, among others, as well as works by artists that inform Costa’s films; It Is Here/This Will Last Forever, featuring “recent works that contend with concepts of utopia and dystopia through observation and sensation” by Ben Russell (Let Each One Go Where He May), is on at de Appel in Amsterdam; Hearsays, two moving image works and a photograph by artist and filmmaker James N. Kienitz Wilkins, is on view at Gasworks in London; and the Biennale de l’Image en Mouvement, a festival of screenings, solo shows, and performances, opens today in Geneva. This year’s theme: The Sound of Screens Imploding.

And finally for now, Spitzmaus Mummy in a Coffin and other Treasures, curated by Wes Anderson and his partner Juman Malouf, has just opened at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Anderson and Malouf were invited to sort through four and a half million objects from the museum’s collection, and what they’ve come up with after two and a half years of curatorial work is a selection of around 450 objects. Reviewing the show for the New York Times, Cody Delistraty finds that it’s “only when Mr. Anderson and Ms. Malouf give up any attempt of mood-making or meaning-finding that the exhibition becomes moving.”

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