The 50th Ann Arbor Film Festival was grand (2012).
Here's the essay I wrote for the program booklet unedited.
I welcome your input.
Bio - http://www.laughtears.com/bio.html
Lectures - http://www.laughtears.com/workshops4.html
IMAGINE THAT by Gerry Fialka (this is the unedited version, a shorter version was published in the program booklet for the 50th AAFF)
Flash ! AAFF incites collective potential for new perception.
The AAFF community of filmmakers and viewers are social engineers of perpetual motion machinery who have musicalized a symphony of cinema, needling somnambulism and actualizing the "abnihilization of the etym" (James Joyce's words for making something out of nothing). The AAFF is a way of seeing the paradoxical exuberance of being through community. Founder George nurtured growth via love, which I felt so deeply at a party to design program graphics as he sang Marlene Dietrich's Falling In Love Again.
I've interviewed many filmmakers for my AAFF history book. When I asked Jay Rosenblatt about Chris Marker's influence, he said that what really inspired him was how he imagined how Marker made Sans Soleil.
Craig Baldwin imagined that when he first got to Ann Arbor for the Festival the MC5 would be kickin' out the jams on the streets in raucous righteous revolution.
I imagined that the screening of Willard Small's controversial Disco Dog would cause riots in the lobby of the Michigan Theater. Small radically combined Un Chien Andalou and bloody Vietnam execution footage. It had previously flipped viewers out at the 8mm Festival, so I encouraged him to blow it up to 16mm.
Who could imagine?...
Maverick No Nothinger Dean Snider as an AAFF judge giving out one buck to everyone who entered.
Dental hygiene films causing dilemmas.
Seeing a filmmaker shoot his foot on screen to get out of the draft (Selective Service).
Fish hooks taped onto celluloid.
Iconic hippie stripper Pat Olesko blending performance art, costume design and live interaction with her filmic self.
The Velvet Underground, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, Blue Gene Tyranny, Friends Roadshow, Arwulf, and my wife Suzy Williams tearing the roof off the pre-show suckers.
Rubber stamping body parts as graphic design for the program, next to listings supporting the anti-war movement and the Black Panthers.
Learning from Frank Mouris that Marshall McLuhan's pard Tony Schwartz played a big role in the success of Frank Film.
Pat O'Neill's films consistently recalling "the memory of image," and asking the question "Is the screen an illusion or an object?"
Former teen sports writer Craig Baldwin reading one too many copies of Covert Action Bulletin to Bruce Connerize and invent a new genre, the fake-fake documentary Tribulation 99 (and winning).
Coleman Miller fusing Tex Avery and Ernie Kovacs to create Bruce Conner's favorite fake experimental film Uso Justo (and winning). Both Craig and Coleman were pulled from the "time permits" list (the kind way of saying the reject pile).
Now Hollywood pro Gus Van Sant getting zero out of eight votes in the 70's when I was a pre-screening committee member.
Sally Cruikshank's Quasi at the Quackadero phantasmagorically hybridizing Betty Boop and psychedelicness evoking Jordan Belson's "Early in life I experimented with peyote, LSD and so on. But in many ways my films are ahead of my own experience. The new art and other forms of expression reveal the influence of mind-expansion. And finally we reach the point where there virtually is no separation between science, observation and philosophy." Sally duly exemplifies that combining kaleidoscopic control and "that never happened to me" chaos is one of the keys to the Ann Arbor zeitgeist.
Peter Wilde spawning Tom Bray's dedication to accurate aspect ratio occupation.
Curt MacDowell & George Kuchar being the darlings of the Fest for years, then having their epic wall-to-wall K-Y gel masterpiece Thundercrack rejected.
Seeing the crane shots of the Porno Oscars in Las Vegas at the documentary on censorship pioneer Larry Flynt and wondering why this just did not seem to fit at AAFF?
Zooming through Paris in Claude Lelouch's Rendezvous.
Loving and lodging in the AAFF parallel universe of Robert Smithson's: "What I would like to do is build a cinema in a cave or an abandoned mine, and film the process of its construction. That film would be the only film shown in the cave. The projection booth would be made of crude timbers, the screen carved out of a rock wall and painted white, the seats could be boulders. It would be truly 'underground' cinema."
George Manupelli, who is still active as a filmmaker, poet, collagist and political/environmental activist who says "Anything worth doing well isn't' worth doing at all," making Film For Hooded Projector and evoking the cosmic giggle ala the Duchampian inquiry of making art that is not art.
Extending this philosophy by recalling these:
Hollis Frampton wanted to lecture on film in the dark, since that is how we view cinema.
Owen Land making "fake" home movies.
Stellar programmer David DInnell including a quote from poet Gary Synder in the program booklet, thus inspiring me to deeply research poetry and experimental film connections. Then I found this Gary Synder sense-ratio-shifting observation on the resonating interval: "My task as a poet entails the work of seeing the world without language and then bringing that seeing into language."
The "Rooted Not Retro" panel at the 50th delving into issues like having all mixed genre shows again, returning the "time permits" list, the marginalizing of avant garde film and more.
Exploring Peter Greenaway's "Cinema is much too rich a medium to be left to storytellers" with many filmmakers in my interviews.
Revelatory Bill Brown, who combines semiotic smarts with nomadic long take contemplations, would be reading Finngeans Wake out loud at my AAFF workshop.
Then connecting: Narrative is born among the "animal necessities of the spirit" because we are "waiting to die." - Hollis Frampton ...with... La Poste writer reacts to Lumiere Cinematographe film screening Dec 30, 1895: "When these gadgets are in the hands of the public, when anyone can photograph the ones who are dear to them, not just in their motionless form, but with movement, action, familiar gestures and the words out of their mouths, then death will no longer be absolute, final."
Bruce Baille suggesting to Leslie Raymond to have naked roller skaters in the 40th parade.
Hearing Don Yannacito's lecture interconnecting Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and Stan Brakhage.
Asking Bruce Baille how he formed his framing aesthetics. He recalled that Jean Cocteau said he helped develop his by setting up the silver ware at the dinner table.
Who could imagine? WE COULD, WE CAN, WE WILL.
We can all imagine what director Woody Sempliner learned from George when they stood behind the screen at the Michigan Theater and saw second sight, projection of/on projection, a tetradic flip of Gaugin's questions: "Where have we come from? What are we? Where are we going?" into his own "Anything worth doing well isnt't worth doing at all?"
Who could imagine that George Manupelli's vision would inspire 50 years of community exploring the mysteries of art? His "The things you think you can do are the things you can do the best of all" lives. Thanks George !
These extra thoughts explore more about the influence of the festival on me.
ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT IS THE DISCUSSIONS IN THE LOBBY..."American Indians would go from tent to tent looking for others to ask them questions concerning their dreams from the night before in effort to recall them. Then when the right question was asked, that person would be a co-creator of the dream, the co-dreamer." -? Harry Smith, who claimed Giordano Bruno invented cinema, stated that the function of film viewing is to put people to sleep - dreaming awake. Jean Cocteau said "it is the filmmaker's privilege to allow a large number of people to dream the same dream together." Yoko Ono said "A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality."
How can we retool McLuhan's percept: "May I suggest art in the electronic age is not a form of self-expression, but a kind of research and probing. It is not a private need of expression that motivates the artist, but the need of involvement in the total audience. This is humanism in reverse, art in the electric age is the experience, not of the individual, but of a collectivity."
"The basic fact to keep in mind about the movie camera and projector is their resemblance to the process of human cognition." - Marshall McLuhan
"Every film is narrative simply by virtue of the fact that one frame must follow another in time. Our minds are such that we are obliged to make a story out of everything we experience, obliged to frame things to make them comprehensible. We constantly tell ourselves stories that allegedly interpret the play of light and shadow in the screen of the mind. Story is absolute basic essential of waking, we dream that we are awake, imagining past and future, telling ourselves elaborate stories about both. We invented cinema deliberately as a devise to allow us to dream while waking, and to give us access to areas of the mind that were previously only available in sleep. " - Andrew Noren in PA Sitney's Eyes Upside Down.
"Joyce realized that technologies were the analogical mirrors of our biological process. So, perceptually interlocking Joyce to Haeckel’s insight, of ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny; microbiology recapitulates macrobiology. And he realized our human technology is re-created biology, like: the book is an extension of the eye, the radio is the ear, etc., and Joyce conceived the sensory analogues. Then, that technologies, which become environments, could be perceived as a symbolic map of the stages of that evolution; i.e., techni evolving. And the stages would have a biological reference point. For example, Joyce’s great line on 52 of ‘The Wake’: "Television kills telephony in Brothers’ broil". (You’re naming 2 technologies). "Our eyes demand their turn." (Now the object is switched to biological forms: eyes). "Let them be seen"! (Then, the question is what and who was to do the seeing). So, Joyce was always playing between art and science (man’s means for measuring her/himself and humanity, i.e., technological constructs), AND nature. But nature was still within the art and science constructs, as in the percepts of Bucky Fuller: That there was nature. So, Joyce showed: The ontogeny that was James Joyce’s life replayed (recapitulated) the history of the species; the technoid species! Thus, Joyce saw that he learned writing (in "The Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man"). Then, when he was older , he wanted to start a cinema, in Dublin. And he then got involved in radio. And, in all the technologies Joyce experienced in his 57 years - he saw, that the individuated cycle of techni he was involved in ontologically." - Robert Dobbs (=RD fivebodied.com). Essential reading: http://mycanvassesaresurrealist.blogspot.com/2008/07/bob-dobbs-explains-finnegans-wake-via.html
"You've got to understand part of the message of FINNEGANS WAKE is that it's a vast mirroring of nothing by nothing. Because the whole point of FINNEGANS WAKE is that the last word of perfect language, television and the modern electric environment, is the means to wake people up. McLuhan explained that point. The multiplicity-of-the-media experience we have today will alienate people from identifying with any medium. So people will finally get detached from the hypnotic effect of each medium. The multiplicity of mixed corporate-media as an artform is creating the collective consciousness of today. I don't have to get people to understand FINNEGANS WAKE. That is being done by the electric environment. The problem is they cannot see that. They can understand it in a non-visual way, but they don't know how to retrieve their visual sense. Joyce states this situation on page 54 - "Television kills telephony in brothers' broil. Our eyes demand their turn. Let them be seen!" FINNEGANS WAKE retrieves visual space and shows you how to see the electric Esperanto that has made everybody collectively conscious. ... "Telephony" is the telephone. "Brothers" evokes the theme of Cain and Abel. "Broil" means to fight. So Cain kills Abel in a fight between brothers. That's an anthropomorphic view of reality. A technological view, as extensions of us, is "television kills telephony in brothers' broil." It's like a newspaper headline. Then it says, "Our eyes demand their turn." So Joyce is pointing to the senses. He's pointing out that television is not an extension of the eye, and how the human organism, collectively and unconsciously when a new environment comes in, demands a rebalancing of the sensory structure. It's called "sensory closure", which is the eyes necessarily demanding all to be rebalanced within the tactile mesh of television, or to have a function within it. Different cultures express their particular biases in sensory closure in relation to the TV environment. Joyce then says, "Let them be seen." So the way to have the eyes "be seen" is to have the eye as an ear, which is what happens under TV conditions, and to express it via the visual medium - the book. The book consists of a soundtrack separate from a visual track. What you see/hear when you read it silently is different from what you hear when someone else reads it out loud to you when you are not looking at it. Joyce found a way to solve the geometric problem of "squaring the circle" by figuring out how to write a book with the "keys...given" (page 628). The keys to the book are given to you. He has learned how to revitalize the medium of the book itself. This is a solution to a 20th Century scientific problem in communication that post-Einsteinian scientists do not include in the Quantum Project. That is quite an amazing achievement. " -RD
Special Bonus: Excerpt from Bob Dobbs essay - McLuhan and Holeopathic Quadrophrenia: The Mouse-That-Roared Syndrome
I will now retrace what I have already said and define a few details and then elaborate on them. The first key to my understanding of McLuhan is grasping the emphasis he placed on the drama of cognition as an artifact, in contrast to Freud's study of the dream as an artifact. This drama is based on the doubleness of consciousness, the folding back on itself - the complementary process of "making" and "matching" that is necessary to create the resonance of coherent consciousness. An example of the "making" aspect of perception is the reversal of the rays of light that occurs in the retina as part of the process of creating the experience of sight. Another example is the fact that when food is ingested, what comes out at the other end is not the same as what went in. This sensory alteration, or closure, occurs with all sensory input. McLuhan used the transforming power of the movie camera and projector as a model of this drama of cognition. When the camera rolls up the external world on a spool by rapid still shots, it uncannily resembles the process of "making", or sensory closure. The movie projector unwinds this spool as a kind of magic carpet which conveys the enchanted spectator anywhere in the world in an instant - a resemblance of the human's attempt to externalize or utter the result of making sense in a natural effort to connect or "match" with the external environment. The external environment responds and the person is then forced to reply in kind and "make" again. This systole-diastole interplay is McLuhan's "drama of cognition" and it is parroted by the movie camera and projector. (Has it occurred to you yet of what the live pick-up in the television camera is a parrot?) This drama is the archetype for all creative activity produced by humanity, from ritual, myth, and legend to art, science, and technology. McLuhan understood that James Joyce was the first person to make explicit the fact that the cycle of Ritual, Art, Science, and Technology imitates, is an extension of, the stages of apprehension. And this is possible because the extensions have to approximate our faculties in order for us to pay attention to them.
Fialka's new book project - AVANT GARDE FILM & The ANN ARBOR FILM FESTIVAL HISTORY BOOK
Gerry Fialka is writing a history of the Festival via extensive research and interviews. The book (which will also be published as an e-book) covers the ONCE Group roots, creative motivations, philosophies, innovations, live performance art & music, lobby art, the early Old A&D location, Michigan Theater location, and much more. Delve deep into its inner workings and transformative longevity. Fialka's 50 plus interviews (and still growing) include founder George Manupelli, Chick Stand, Pat Oleszko, Jay Cassidy, Joe Wehrer, Harold Borkin, Frank Mouris, Bill Brown, Leslie Raymond, Jason Jay Stevens, Morgan Fisher, Ben Russell, Bryan Konefsky, Owen Land, Craig Baldwin, Blue Gene Tyranny, Hugh Cohen, Frank Beaver, Jeanne Liotta, Peter Rose, Fred Worden, Lynne Sachs, Mark Street, Jay Rosenblatt, Alfonzo Alvarez, Jesse Lerner, Steve DeJarnatt, Frank Pahl, Terri Sarris, Lisa Marr, Paolo Davanzo, Gary Schwartz, Chris McNamara, Oren Goldenberg, Jesse Drew, John Cannizzaro, Danny Plotnick, Scott Nyerges, Rebecca Barten, David Sherman, Joe Tiboni, Victor Fanucchi, Roger Beebe, William Farley, Jeremy Benstock, Georg Koszulinski, Erika Suderberg, James Gillespie, John Nelson, Pip Chorodov, P Adam Sitney, Fred Camper, Tom Gunning, Chris Felver, Bill Daniel, Kate Perotti, Simon Mercer and many more.
Most recent interview additions include: Bill Brand, Martha Colburn, Tony Gault, Alexandra Cuesta, Vera Brunner-Sung, Laura Bouza, Natasha Mendonca (top prize winner at Ann Arbor Film Fest 2011), Vincet Goudreau, Javier Martinez and Jessica Sarah Rinland. And at Experiments in Cinema (New Mexico): Scott Stark, Wago Kreider, Peter Snowdon, Julie Perini, and Anthony Buchanan. Also Jeanne Finley, Marc Olmstead, David Meltzer & ruth weiss in SF in Oct 2011, And LARRY JORDAN, ROBERT NELSON, NINA MENKES, BETZY BROMBERG, THOM ANDERSEN, KARL KROGSTAD in 2011. In 2012: Melinda Stone, Chris Metzler, Jon Jost, Woody Sempliner, Paul Echeverria & GEORGE MANUPELLI for the 4th time. ALSO: DJ Spooky, ruth weiss, MA Littler, Jesse Malmed, Nina Fonoroff, Gregorio Rocha, BILL MORRISON, MARK PAULINE, STEVEN CERIO, DAVID GATTEN, VERONIKA KRAUSAS, ROBERT BRANAMAN.many more.
Fialka has also interviewed the likes of Mike Kelley, Alexis Smith, Abraham Polonsky, Mary Woronov, Paul Krassner, Ann Magnuson, Heather Woodbury, Norman Klein, Chris Kraus, P. Adams Sitney, Hunter Drohojowska-Philp, Kristine McKenna, John Sinclair, Van Dyke Parks, Orson Bean, George Herms, Doug Harvey, Janet Fitch, Jon Rappoport, Brad Schreiber, Simon Forti, Rudy Perez, Barry Smolin, SA Griffin, Bruce Bickford, Stan Warnow, Rip Cronk, Marina Goldovskaya, Harry Northup, John French, Jon Alloway, Bill Daniel, Phil Proctor, Ed Holmes (aka Bishop Joey), Marcy Winograd, Greg Burk, Kirk Silsbee,.Grace Lee Boggs, Ondi Timoner, Timothy A. Carey, George Clinton, Colonel Bruce Hampton, Ben Watson, Tom Gunning, Mac Rebennack (aka Dr John), tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE, Richard Metzger, Tim Kirk (producer of Room 237), Jay Weidner, and many more.
Fialka ran the infamous Ann Arbor Film Co-op from 1972 to 1980. He has curated film in LA since 1980, earning praise: "Gerry Fialka is Los Angeles' preeminent underground film curator." - Robin Menken, CinemaWithoutBorders.com
Fialka served on the AAFF Screening Committee from 1977 to 1980. He was the Ann Arbor 8mm Film Festival Director from 1977-80, and on the 8mm Screening Committee from 1975-80. Since 1971, Fialka has attended many AAFFs, and presented workshops:
· 2001 - "Best Of PXL THIS" workshop & screening of Pixelvision Fisher Price PXL2000 Toy Camera Festival, and produced the performance art piece "Moon Over Weeki Wachee" with Suzy Williams and the after party with Stormin' Norman & Suzy
· 2006 - Three different workshops on Documentaries, Culture Jamming and Experimental Film
· 2007 - AAFF Pioneers workshop
· 2008- Two different workshops: AAFF Innovators workshop & "Kick Out The Jams" on live music at the AAFF
· 2009 - AAFF Pioneers workshop
· 2010 - "Dream Awake" workshop on James Joyce & Experimental Film
-2012 - "Rooted Not Retro" Panel with Pat Oleszko, Leslie Raymond & Ruth Bradley
"I am inspired and excited that Gerry Fialka, who holds an affinity for the Ann Arbor Film Festival, is writing a history of it. Having attended several of Fialka's AAFF workshops, I can testify he is intimate with experimental cinema and media philosophy, and is deeply dedicated to the exploration of new knowledge. " - Leslie Raymond, Professor of Art & New Media, University of Texas.
"I have attended several of Gerry Fialka's workshops in Ann Arbor. He is willing to enter in new discussions even if they go against his current views. Fialka's multilayered delivery of ideas encourages the search for new questions and new paradigms that extend beyond. He is well-informed, off-beat and articulate - one of the most fascinating people I've met." - Keith Jeffries, Ascalon Films
"Fialka is a damn good interviewer. His questions are sometimes so precise that it tickles and sometimes so grand and thought provoking that one feels on the edge of a new spiritual awareness." - Lynne Sachs, past AAFF award-winning filmmaker and past AAFF judge
"Being interviewed by Gerry Fialka was a real high point in my film career. His questions are wacky, discursive, cosmic, probing, thought provoking and, yes, experimental and avant garde. I left brimming with a renewed passion for the wide world of film and ideas. Gerry's enthusiasm and restless intellect are contagious." - Mark Street, past AAFF award-winning filmmaker
"Gerry Fialka's interview with me at Experiments In Cinema 2011 Film Festival was a highlight. He is my new favorite person. He is writing a book on Avant Garde Film & The Ann Arbor Film Festival. He is such a trip! Totally brilliant and passionate about everything about human existence it seems, but in particular media theory, media art, media activism. He asked me all sorts of great questions." - Julie Perini, filmmaker, writer and teacher
"Gerry Fialka is Los Angeles' preeminent underground film curator." - CinemaWithoutBorders.com
Fialka's new book project - AVANT GARDE FILM & The ANN ARBOR FILM FESTIVAL HISTORY BOOK http://www.laughtears.com/Ann%20Arbor%20Film%20Festival.html
GERRY FIALKA's Otherzine articles-
Fall 2012 - Mike Kelley And Meme http://www.othercinema.com/otherzine/index.php?issueid=28&article_id=165
Spring 2012 - Occupy Awake:Conscious Mapmakers On World Wide Watch
Fall 2011 - McLuhan's City As Classroom Flips Into All-At-Onceness As Classroom
Spring 2011 - McLuhan & WikiLeaks: 'Hoedown' and 'Hendiadys'
Spring 2010 - Looking Glass - Review of Millennium Film Journal #51 http://www.othercinema.com/otherzine/?issueid=23&article_id=99
Spring 2009 - Dream Awake -HOW JOYCE INVENTED OTHER CINEMA & DISGUISED IT AS A BOOK http://www.othercinema.com/otherzine/index.php?issueid=21&article_id=85
Bio - http://www.laughtears.com/bio.html