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Paul Sharits: An Open Cinema

October 5, 2011 - October 13, 2011

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“The question ‘What is cinema?’ is rather open.” Paul Sharits

A pioneer of the flicker film, Paul Sharits (1943–93) trained in painting and graphic design before turning to film. This background is apparent throughout his work, which juxtaposes intense pulses of color with repeated words or sound tones, and often takes the form of multiprojector pieces or installations. A long-time teacher at SUNY Buffalo, Sharits sought to bring about “entirely new definitions of the film viewing and making enterprise.” His ultimate goal was to retrain viewers’ senses, which he saw as caught up in the overloading stimuli of the “electric age.”

Tracing the legacy of this pedagogical aim, this retrospective series, featuring many new preservation prints, surveys Sharits’s career as he continuously evolves what it means to “open up” the cinematic medium. He envisioned his films—with their equal parts abrasion and elegance—as a type of perceptual retuning or shock treatment that could reawaken viewers’ dulled capacities for feeling and cognition. In a vivid endorsement, Stan Brakhage characterized Sharits’s cinema as a “healing fever cycle” that could be felt flooding through the viewer’s veins.

A piece from Paul Sharits’s Frozen Film Frames (c. 1969), which consists of serial arrangements of colored filmstrips encased in suspended plastic, will be on display at BAM/PFA during this series.

Jennifer Pranolo, Guest Curator

Wednesday, October 5, 2011
7:30 p.m. Paul Sharits: Early Work
Paul Sharits (U.S., 1966–1971). Introduced by Federico Windhausen. Sharits’s early films make provocative reference to sexuality, violence, and self-destruction amidst striking formal experimentation. Includes Razor Blades, Word Movie/Flux Film, and T,O,U,C,H,I,N,G, and Inferential Current. (50 mins)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011
7:30 p.m. Paul Sharits: Midcareer Work
Paul Sharits (U.S., 1973–76). Introduced by Jennifer Pranolo. Sharits’s midcareer films were meant to push perceptual limits, “so that one cannot tell whether or not what one is experiencing is in the work or in oneself.” Includes Analytical Studies III, Shutter Interface, and Tails. (50 mins)

Thursday, October 13, 2011
7:30 p.m. Paul Sharits: Late Work
Paul Sharits (U.S., 1975–82). Introduced by Branden W. Joseph. Towards the end of his career, Sharits turned to visceral icons of pathology and decay, juxtaposing the disintegration of the body and the decomposition of the filmic material. Includes Epileptic Seizure Comparison, Apparent Motion, and 3rd Degree. (71 mins)

Jennifer Pranolo is a doctoral student in Rhetoric and Film and Media at UC Berkeley. Paul Sharits: An Open Cinema is a project of the UC Berkeley graduate course in film curating taught by BAM/PFA curators Kathy Geritz and Steve Seid. With thanks to Andrew Lampert and Matthew Cowan, Anthology Film Archives; Dominic Angerame, Canyon Cinema; M.M. Serra, Film-makers’ Co-op.