Wednesday, April 15, 2015

4/.15 Radical visions: 16mm Films of Barbara Rubin and Sara Driver

Please join us for this unique opportunity to see the these rare films by two exceptional yet seldom heralded women artists.

All films projected on celluloid!

 Christmas On Earth (1963) 29 minutes
2 Channel 16mm Projection with color slides.

An erotically charged classic of 1960s underground cinema. Originally titled "Cocks And Cunts", Christmas On Earth is a film of sexual tableaux vivants, gay and straight, where two separate reels of film are superimposed on each other, with additional light effects layered on these images, all accompanied by a contemporary rock radio soundtrack, as specified by Rubin. Christmas On Earth is considered to be one of the first legitimate works of multi-media art.

This double projection of overlapping images of nude men and women clowning around and making love is one of the first sexually explicit works produced by the American postwar avant-garde. Many consider it to be an essential document of queer and feminist cinema It is still largely unknown to art history. Christmas on Earth in fact deserves to be located within a larger esthetic discourse on contemporary art forms such as Happenings, expanded cinema and installation. Rubin "was one of the first people to get multimedia interest going around New York," Andy Warhol said. Rubin's filmmaking practices were a type of performance and sexual agitprop that foreshadowed the emergence of critical body art at the end of the 1960s. An investigation into the little-known history of Barbara Rubin and her singular work Christmas on Earth deepens our understanding of a period when artists pushed self-determined and guiltless sexuality into the public sphere to catalyze social revolution.

One weekend, she corralled five friends into the Ludlow Street crash pad rented by musicians John Cale and Tony Conrad and instigated a night of playful debauchery. "Barbara held us hostage for 24 hours, from early evening to the next day. It was very Cocteau-ish. We were locked in and hermeticized in this apartment, it was a very freewheeling situation," recalled Malanga, one of the performers in the film. A novice with a camera, Rubin filmed the quivering couplings and posturing bodies.

Barbara Rubin 
"Barbara was the moving force and coordinator between us all." – Lou Reed

Rubin (1945-1980) was a filmmaker and writer who started working for Jonas Mekas at the Filmmaker’s Cinematheque in 1963. This was the year she filmed Christmas On Earth in the Lower East Side apartment of Tony Conrad and John Cale at 56 Ludlow Street. Rubin's creativity and lively spirit brought her in contact with many of the key counter-cultural figures of the 1960s. She became an indispensable right hand to Mekas, helping to set up screenings around the country and in Europe. In a thwarted attempt to show Jack Smith's banned Flaming Creatures at the Third International Experimental Film Exposition in Knokke-Le-Zoute, Belgium, in December 1963, Mekas, Rubin and film critic P. Adams Sitney occupied the projection booth. Rubin sought out the greatest talents of her generation, befriending Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan. She traveled to London in June 1965 to help organize the landmark International Poetry Reading with Ginsberg at the Royal Albert Hall. In the art world, Rubin is perhaps best known for first bringing Warhol to hear the Velvet Underground at Cafe Bizarre in Greenwich Village in December 1965. A few months later Rubin helped organize "Up-Tight," the first Warhol and Velvet Underground evenings of abrasive music, strobe lights, lewd dancing and film projections (including Rubin's own Christmas on Earth), at the Film-Makers' Cinematheque in February 1966. The ensemble was later dubbed the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, and Rubin and her camera joined them on a legendary road trip in March. Rubin was one of the few people Warhol would listen to with rapt attention, according to Malanga, his former assistant and collaborator.

Rubin's involvement with the Exploding Plastic Inevitable was short-lived, however. There is no record of her participation in the group after its April 1966 run at the Dom nightclub on St. Mark's Place. Her next few years were consumed with new projects infused with '60s utopianism. She was most obsessed with her far-fetched 1965 script Christmas on Earth Continued, which called for the participation of all her heroes, including Walt Disney, the Beatles and Jean Genet, in the construction of a Fairy City set in Ireland.

Rubin left New York City in the late 60's and helped Ginsberg's Committee on Poetry purchase land to establish a 90-acre farm in Cherry Valley in upstate New York. A spiritual seeker already turned on to Kabbalah, Rubin discovered the nearby Hasidic community in Sharon Springs. Her visits introduced her to the baal tsuvah movement, a new brand of countercultural orthodoxy. She later stated her plan to burn Christmas on Earth, signing the missive with her new Yiddish name, Bashe Bruche. She married and moved to France with her partner and had 5 children, dying in childbirth in 1980 at the age of 35. -- Excerpted From Art in America, 12/1/05 by Daniel Belasco

YOU ARE NOT I (1981) 48 minutes, 16mm b&w with sound
Directed by SARA DRIVER
Cinematography by Jim Jarmusch

A haunting adaptation of a 1948 short story by Paul Bowles about a woman who escapes from an asylum, You Are Not I played widely in the international film festival circuit in the early Eighties. Then, a leak in a New Jersey warehouse destroyed the negative, leaving director Sara Driver with only a battered, unprojectable copy. Miraculously, a print was found among the holdings of Paul Bowles in 2009, and now the film has been restored and is available once again. Undoubtedly one of the most impressive works to emerge from the post-punk downtown scene, the film was beautifully shot by Jim Jarmusch (who also co-wrote the screenplay) and features Suzanne Fletcher, Nan Goldin and Luc Sante. - from Film Society at Lincoln Center

Sara Driver (born December 15, 1955) is an American independent filmmaker from Westfield, New Jersey. A participant in the independent film scene that flourished in lower Manhattan from the late 1970s through the 1990s, she gained initial recognition as producer of two early films by Jim Jarmusch,Permanent Vacation (1980) and Stranger Than Paradise (1984). Driver has directed two feature films,Sleepwalk (1986) and When Pigs Fly (1993), as well as a notable short film, You Are Not I (1981). She served on the juries of various film festivals throughout the 2000s.