Seeing Something Always Hidden: A Program of Films Selected by Denah Johnston — Canyon Cinema Salon, 10/27/14


Please join Canyon Cinema on the evening of October 27th, 2014 for the first presentation in our Salon series of the Fall season. This month, our own Denah Johnston has curated “Seeing Something Always Hidden,” a program that investigates a number of artists whose work is conversant with the mainstream. These films, which borrow from, parody, and reform material legible to a mainstream audience, helped Johnston to leap into the experimental theoretically, practically, and abstractly.

The Canyon Cinema Salon is a FREE public event at New Nothing Cinema (16 Sherman Street in SOMA). Doors open at 7pm for a brief reception and doors close promptly at 7:30pm to begin the show.

Program Notes:

All My Life (1966) | Bruce Baillie | 3 minutes | color | sound

Caspar, California, old fence with red roses. These few things, a gradual pan and the voice of Ella Fitzgerald make ALL MY LIFE, a major inspiration for Apichatpong Weerasethakul and numerous other filmmakers.

Puce Moment (1949) | Kenneth Anger | 6.5 minutes | color | sound

“PUCE MOMENT is a fragment from an abandoned film project entitled Puce Woman. The soundtrack used here is the second one; the first was the overture to Verdi’s I Villi. The film reflects Anger’s concerns with the myths and decline of Hollywood, as well as with the ritual of dressing, with the movement from the interior to the exterior, and with color and sound synchronization ….” – Marilyn Singer, The American Federation of Arts

Perils (1986) | Abigail Child | 5 minutes | B&W | sound

An homage to silent films: the clash of ambiguous innocence and unsophisticated villainy. Seduction, revenge, jealousy, combat. The isolation and dramatization of emotions through the isolation (camera) and dramatization (editing) of gesture. I had long conceived of a film composed only of reaction shots in which all causality was erased. What would be left would be the resonant voluptuous suggestions of history and the human face. PERILS is a first translation of these ideas.

Desistfilm (1954) | Stan Brakhage | 7 minutes | B&W | sound

Internationally acclaimed as the classic of its genre. The camera joins a drunken adolescent party and participates in the expression of desire and frustration.

Home Stories (1991) | Matthias Muller | 6 minutes | color | sound

“Framed by a tense, complex soundtrack of found sounds and musical snippets from those same postwar melodramas, the imagetrack gradually builds up a claustrophobic sensation of paranoid anxiety in these women’s actions. The film incorporates clips already pregnant with quiet hysteria, but their decontextualiztion and carefully edited repetition extenuate their excess as moments of cinema. Home Stories rises to a climax of collective hysteria as the women hurry down hallways and anxiously shut doors behind them. Ominously, the source of their apparent terror remains nowhere to be seen. While Home Stories undoubtedly elaborates a shrewd ideological critique of gender construction and the home, it moreover draws much poetic and affective power from the cinematic excess embedded in these narratively insignificant moments from popular cinema.” -Roger Hallas: Reframing Bodies – AIDS, Bearing Witness, and the Queer Moving Image. Durham/NC 2009

Outer Space (1999) | Peter Tscherkassky | 10 minutes | color | sound

A young woman, night, an American feature film. She enters a house, a dark corridor, a thriller. While she forces her way into an unknown space together with the viewer, the cinematographic image-producing processes go off the rails. The rooms telescope into each other, become blurred, while the crackling of the cuts and the background noise – the sound of the film material itself – becomes louder and more penetrating.

Notebook (1963) | Marie Menken | 10 minutes | color | sound

These are too tiny or too obvious for comment, but one or two are my dearest children. “It is a very personal film which she keeps adding to … a masterpiece of filmic fragments, only shown once, but wow!” – P. Adams Sitney

Hold Me While I’m Naked (1966) | George Kuchar | color | sound

“An independent director is faced with artistic difficulty when he asks his actresses to show nudity.”

*Special thanks to the Kuchar Estate and Anthology Film Archive for loan of this print!

About the Artist:

Denah Johnston is the Director of Operations at Canyon Cinema Foundation and teaches film studies and history classes in San Francisco. Moving to San Francisco to study film at the San Francisco Art Institute with Ernie Gehr, Craig Baldwin, Jay Rosenblatt, George Kuchar, Janis Crystal Lipzin, Steve Anker, Guy Sherwin, Jayne Parker, Barbara Meter and others helped shape a growing aesthetic that combines use of found footage, hand-made film and using the camera as an extension of the body as a painter would a paint brush. With access to SFAI’s print collection and working as a TA for Jay Rosenblatt, she sought out film in any and all forms. Tonight’s program and discussion aims to investigate the mutual influence between experimental and mainstream forms that have continued to inform and influence her work.