Is Film Art?

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‘Is Film Art?’ in ‘Free Radicals: Cinema on the Wrong Side of the Tracks’

It’s a big day in the office with today’s opening of our latest suite of exhibitions. For me, this means celebrating three exhibitions: Pretty Good for the 21st Century, Free Radicals: Cinema on the Wrong Side of the Tracks and Glitch Envy: Experimental Films by Jodie Mack.

The Free Radicals exhibition is the larger exhibition here and features works by Rodney Charters, Bruce Conner, Steve Cossman, Oskar Fischinger, Richard Lomas, Len Lye, Jodie Mack, and the Parasitic Fantasy Band (Eve Gordon/Sam Hamilton). The title of the show is obviously via Len Lye, but the subtitle was taken from Pip Chodorov in his similarly titled documentary Free Radicals: A History of Experimental Film, speaking of ‘cinema on the wrong side of the tracks’. Throughout the exhibition, we’re screening Chodorov’s film alongside the exhibition as well as Brecht Debackere’s EXPRMNTL documentary which explores the EXPRMNTL film festival held in Belgium between the 1940s and 1970s. It was here that Lye’s 1958 film Free Radicals won a prestigious 2nd place. Lye’s 1959 essay ‘Is Film Art?’ lamented the neglect of experimental cinema in the United States and declared he would no longer make experimental films.

Oskar Fischinger @ 117

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Quite a flurry of interest today around Google’s interactive Doodle celebrating the 117th birthday of filmmaker and painter Oskar Fischinger. The Telegraph celebrated too, with a round up of films available online. Happily for us here in New Plymouth, New Zealand, the celebrations coincide with Fischinger’s wonderful Raumlichtkunst (c. 1926/2012) on display at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery / Len Lye Centre. If you enjoyed the Google game, have a look at a different (but better) game, Motion Phone, by Scott Snibbe, attributed by Snibbe to his love of both Lye and Fischinger’s filmmaking.

Check out this detailed list of materials and links on Fischinger and his work, or see the Centre for Visual Music to learn more about the films (including their great Vimeo channel for viewing  the films).