Storm de Hirsch, Carolee Schneemann
16MM RUN is a one-year-long experimental film programme in collaboration with Villa Lontana where the physicality of film and cinema can be relived in the true sense of the word. A selection of feature and short films will be screened in their original 16mm format.
The 16MM RUN programme begins on December 17 with the screening of four short films of two essential female figures in the artistic and cinematographic panorama of the last century. These are Storm de Hirsch and Carolee Schneemann.
Storm de Hirsch (1912-2000) was an American poet and director, a key figure in the New York avant-garde film scene of the 1960s and a founding member of the Film-Makers’ Cooperative, founded in 1962 to distribute avant-garde, experimental and underground films as an alternative to the commercial films on view at the time. Her work has a strong abstract component and makes use of experimental and sophisticated composition techniques.
Carolee Schneemann (1939-2019) was an American artist active in the fields of performance, body art and video. Using the body as the prevalent material of her art, she situates women as both the creator and an active part of the creation itself, with a strong feminist imprint that refused the idea of body as an object, considering it instead as a primal, archaic force which could unify energies. Her work is direct, sexual, liberating and autobiographical. Through painting, filmmaking, video art and performance, Schneemann re-writes her personal history of art, refusing the idea of an “his-tory” narrated exclusively from the male point of view.
Below are the films scheduled for the first screening.
Storm de Hirsch, Divinations, 1964, 6’
Divinations is the first chapter of Storm de Hirsch’s 1960s trilogy, The Color of Ritual, the Color of Thought. In an interview with Jonas Mekas in which she reflects on the making of Divinations, Storm de Hirsch said: “I wanted badly to make an animated short and had no camera available. I did have some old, unused film stock and several rolls of 16mm sound tape. So I used that—plus a variety of discarded surgical instruments and the sharp edge of a screwdriver—by cutting, etching, and painting directly on both film and [sound] tape”. The result is a hallucinatory, dizzying, and meditative collage of image and sound which attests the artist’s interest in form, color, and process, as well as myth, ritual, and mysticism.
Storm de Hirsch, Peyote Queen, 1965, 9’
Peyote Queen is the second and best-known chapter of the trilogy The Color of Ritual, the Color of Thought. Conceived as a journey through the underworld of sensory derangement, the film’s imagery is abstract, consisting of both live action footage and animated sequences which de Hirsch created by painting and etching directly on the 16mm film stock. Split screens, kaleidoscopic lenses, and abstract animations are used to create a psychedelic effect. The soundtrack consists of African drumming and singing interspersed with American pop music.
Storm de Hirsch, Newsreel: Jonas in the Brig, 1964, 5’
In 1963 the US government imposed the legendary Living Theatre in New York to close after missed tax payments during the run of their controversial production The Brig. Jonas Mekas decided to make a film of the production to preserve its brilliance and in-depth dynamism. This took place one night when actors and the rest of the crew broke into the locked theatre which still had inside it all of its confiscated materials. It was on this occasion that Storm De Hirsch made this short newsreel: not only was she able to capture a study of Mekas while he was filming, but she also captured a tension and apprehension of the moment, as well as a sense of panic at the possibility of not being able to finish the film.
Carolee Schneemann, Fuses, 1967, 30’
This is a silent film of collaged and painted sequences of lovemaking between Schneemann and her then partner, composer James Tenney, from the point of view of her/their cat, Kitch. Her attempt was to reproduce the whole visual and tactile experience of sex as a subjective phenomenon: “I wanted to see if the experience of what I saw would have any correspondence to what I felt, the intimacy of the lovemaking… And I wanted to put into that materiality of film the energies of the body, so that the film itself dissolves and recombines and is transparent and dense, as one feels during lovemaking… It is different from any pornographic work that you’ve ever seen, that’s why people are still looking at it! And there’s no objectification or fetishization of the woman”.