Mario Schifano, Harry Smith
16MM RUN, the experimental cinema series produced in collaboration with Villa Lontana, continues on 13 October. At 7PM, the museum’s screening room will present a series of short films by Mario Schifano (1934-1998) and Harry Smith (1923-1991), in a face-off between two outstanding protagonists of the experimental art and film scenes of Rome and New York: Mirror Animations (1979), Late Superimpositions (1964) by Smith, and Reflex (1964), Ferreri (second half of the 1970s) and Souvenir (1967) by Schifano.
Mario Schifano was an artist, painter and filmmaker, best known as one of the fundamental figures of Pop Art in Italy. The boundaries between cinema and art were redefined by Schifano, where his use of the camera is at the same time operative tool and plastic subject. In his films there is no conception of time or narrative development, they are usually filmed diaries capturing the people, places, objects and paintings that gravitated around him, at the height of his artistic and existential creativity. “Cameras are things that have always served me to reproduce spaces and figures that I could stay with even when I was alone. […] It’s just that men are more like cinema than painting: in a film they walk, they eat, they make love, as it really happens; in painting they don’t” (Schifano).
Harry Smith was a visual artist, experimental filmmaker, record collector, bohemian, mystic, largely self-taught student of anthropology, and Neo-Gnostic bishop. Smith was an important figure in the Beat Generation scene in New York City. Besides his films, most notably his full length cutout animated film Heaven and Earth Magic (1962), Smith is also widely known for his influential Anthology of American Folk Music, drawn from his extensive collection of out-of-print commercial 78 rpm recordings, one of the most influential releases in the history of recorded sound.
Harry Smith, Mirror Animations, 1979, 11’
“If, (as many suppose), the unseen world is the real world and the world of our senses but the transient symbols of the eternal unseen, ad limiting ourselves to the aesthetic experience’s well-known predilection for the eyes and ears, we could logically propose that any one projection of a film is variant from any other. This is particularly true of Mirror Animations. Although studies for this film were made in the early 1960s, the non-existence of suitable printing equipment until recently, my inability to locate the original camera footage until 1979, and particularity, the lack of an audience ready to evaluate L. Wittgenstein’s “Ethics and Aesthetics Are One and the Same”, in the light of H.C. Agrippa’s earlier, “there is no form of madness more dangerous than that arrived at by rational means’ have all contributed to delaying until now the availability of a print in the full mirror-reverse from originally envisioned. I hope you like it.” (Harry Smith)
Harry Smith, Late Superimpositions, 1964, 31’
“Superimposed photographs of Mr. Fleischman’s butcher shop in New York, and the Kiowa around Anadarko, Oklahoma–with Cognate Material. The trip is dark at the beginning and end, light in the middle, and is structured 122333221. I honour it the most of my films, otherwise a not very popular one before 1972. If the exciter lamp blows, play Bert Brecht’s Mahogany”. (Harry Smith)
Mario Schifano, Reflex, 1964, 16′
Reflex is the first experimental short film shot in America by Schifano. It is focused on the figure of the fashion photographer Bob Richardson, while portraying some models in his studio during a photoshoot (a theme similar to the one of Blow up the famous film shot by Michelangelo Antonioni two years later, in 1966). Schifano himself is also present in this film, you can see his image reflected in a mirror, holding his camera, as signified that the real focus here is on the media itself, not on the models or on the photographer. At a certain point we see one of the models taking a swig from a bottle of Coca-cola, a recurring theme in Schfiano’s oeuvre.
Mario Schifano, Ferreri, 16′
Mario Schifano was a close friend of Italian film director, screenwriter and actor Marco Ferreri, filmed here in their meetings. The film shows private images of the two artists, also featuring Mimmo Rotella and Franco Brocani.
Mario Schifano, Souvenir, 1967, 11′
In Souvenir, Mario Schifano films Peter Hartman and Gerard Malanga during their visit at the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Schifano and his friends wade their way through the masses of visitors to the basilica. Their bodies and their unusual “performances” and dances form a sort of contrast to the new religion of mass tourism, which Schifano immortalizes in its most common, stereotypical – in a way pop – details. Although most of these first Schifano experimentations have no sound, in this case we can hear in the background a music and a voice (probably Malanga), reciting poems, in a sort of litany that accords well with the atmosphere of this new kind of “religion” that permeates the film. At the end of the film, the protagonist injects himself with an illicit substance on top of Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s famous colonnade. The director seems interested in drawing a parallel between the desecrating behavior of the protagonist in the holy place and the blasphemous speculation around the sale of sacred images.