CFA is a winner of the 2016 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions
dontate now

Contact
Join Email List

Facebook  Become a Fan on Facebook
twitter  Follow Us on Twitter

329 West 18th Street Suite #610
Chicago, Illinois 60616
(312) 243-1808
info@chicagofilmarchives.org

June 27, 2016

CFA Media Mixer 2016 (in review)

We had a lot of fun on June 9th at the 5th annual Media Mixer and are extremely thrilled with the videos produced by this year’s line-up! Thanks to all who came and participated, but if you couldn’t make it (or if you just want to watch them again), we now have two of the videos available to stream below.

And if you’re new to the Media Mixer in general, the premise of the annual event is simple: three filmmakers, paired with three audio artists, have the full run of CFA’s vault to create new video art with the archival footage.

2016′s talented lineup included (filmmakers listed first):

Melika Bass AND Coppice
Jon Cates AND Jeff Kolar
Andrew Mausert-Mooney AND Bobby Conn

(more on this year’s artists here)

Turn the Garden
Filmmaker: Melika Bass
Composer: Coppice

 

The Engine’s Near is Unconstructed
Filmmaker: jonCates
Composer: Jeff Kolar

June 7, 2016

CFA Media Mixer 2015 (in review)

A couple of weeks ago we shared the video collaborations from 2014′s MEDIA MIXER event on the blog, and now we’re excited to bring you some of 2015′s videos, available to stream for the first time! Check ‘em out below and also see 2012, 2013, and 2014 for more MEDIA MIXER greatness. And don’t forget to come to the Hideout on June 9 for this year’s event!

2015′s talented lineup included (filmmakers listed first):

Amir George AND The O’My’s
Jesse Malmed AND ONO 
Fern Silva AND Phil Cohran 

(more on that year’s artists here)

 

WHIRRED, WHIRLED
Filmmaker: Jesse Malmed
Composer: ONO

Scales in the Spectrum of Space
Filmmaker: Fern Silva
Composer: Phil Cohran

Thanks to all of the artists who participated in the 2015 Media Mixer! We’re very impressed with the work that was produced with our footage and glad to finally have the space to showcase them all together.

The CFA MEDIA MIXER returns this year on June 9 at the Hideout with a new lineup of incredible filmmakers, musicians, video premieres, raffle prizes, and more. For more information, check out this year’s event page and learn about this year’s artists here.

May 19, 2016

CFA Media Mixer 2014 (in review)

We’re getting so excited about the upcoming CFA MEDIA MIXER that we started looking back at past years’ projects and realized there are TWO years of amazing collaborations that we never assembled in one place to stream. In this post we’re proud to present the videos produced by our 2014 Media Mixer participants (you can view 2012 and 2013 here and here, respectively).

2014′s talented lineup included (filmmakers listed first):

Lori Felker AND Cheer-Accident
Deborah Stratman AND Olivia Block 
Latham Zearfoss AND Bastardgeist 

(more on that year’s artists here)

1. A TURN ON THE HILL
Filmmaker: Lori Felker
Composer: Cheer-Accident

2. SECOND SIGHTED
Filmmaker: Deborah Stratman
Composer: Olivia Block

3. SOMETHING TO MOVE IN
Filmmaker: Latham Zearfoss
Composer: Bastardgeist

Thanks to all of the artists who participated in the 2014 Media Mixer! We are very impressed with the work that was produced with our footage and glad to finally have the space to showcase them all together.

The CFA MEDIA MIXER returns this year on June 9 at the Hideout with a new lineup of incredible filmmakers, musicians, video premieres, raffle prizes, and more. For more information, check out this year’s event page and learn about this year’s artists here.

May 3, 2016

CFA Out of the Office at Midwest Archives Conference & Nitrate Picture Show

Amy here. I have recently returned to the CFA office after attending the 2016 Midwest Archives Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Midwest Archives Conference, or MAC, is a regional professional association with over 800 individual and institutional members that represent all types of archives in the 13 heartland states and beyond. The association’s annual conference rotates its location yearly, and as Milwaukee is a quick train ride north, I took the opportunity to attend. I was looking to get an idea of the current state of archives in the region that CFA represents, it would allow CFA to be represented at the conference, and it would also be my first trip to Milwaukee!

FullSizeRender

CFA’s offical MAC credentials

During the conference I attended panels led by a variety of different archival professionals, all sharing perspectives on both their triumphs and failures in their workplaces. A few themes surfaced for me, the first of which was diversity and inclusion. A panel on promoting women in archival collections, a panel of archiving Midwestern immigration history, and the conference’s plenary session (with keynote speech from current Society of American Archivists President Dennis Meissner!) were amongst the settings where diversity and inclusion were explored. I appreciated the opportunity to hear attendees discuss this theme, as women and social justice are very present subjects in CFA’s collections.

Another theme that came through in the conference’s panels, an extremely relevant theme to all, was access. In listening to archival practitioners from organizations big and small, it was clear that all recognized the need for putting significant effort into making their collections relevant and available to their patrons. Also recognized were the challenges that came along with providing proper access. One panel titled “Playing Outside: Opportunities for Community Engagement Beyond the Archives” discussed the obstacles of rights, institutional permissions, and even rainy weather, in relation to getting patrons interacting with archival collections. A panel on oral history collections discussed making digitized and born-digital interviews searchable and accessible online with the very cool Oral History Metadata Synchronizer tool. As community events and online access are two crucial elements of CFA’s current operations, I was also grateful to get a perspective on access in the context of other workplaces and in the context of non-film collections.

The final theme I saw is a theme that has taken over the archives and film world: digital. A panel titled “I Jumped In, Now What? Keeping your Head about Water with Born-Digital Materials” discussed working through the discomfort of acclimating to a digital workflow for the first time. Another panel broke itself into discussion groups where the discussion leaders encouraged attendees to share their concerns, questions, and personal discoveries regarding digital initiatives and their archival work environment. CFA could definitely relate to this topic, especially in the wake of acclimating to the Kinetta Archival Film Scanner.

Plenty of other topics were covered in panels and happy hours over the course of the few days at the conference. Attendees also took advantage of museum visits, Milwaukee tourist sights, and meeting new friends in the archival community. It was exciting to learn about other collections, and it was invaluable to be able to share professional experiences with other Midwestern archivists.

Taking advantage of Milwaukee’s sights

 


 

While Amy was in Milwaukee, I (Brian) traveled to the land of our photographic founding father, Rochester, NY, to attend the George Eastman Museum’s Nitrate Picture Show film festival. The weekend-long event was a celebration of films produced on cellulose nitrate stock (the highly flammable material that was industry standard until about 1951), complete with ten screenings of original nitrate prints culled from archives around the world.

I stayed with former CFA staffer Lauren Alberque, whose cat Callie immediately took a liking to my NPS things.

One thing unique about the Nitrate Picture Show is that they don’t advertise the films they’re going to screen in advance. You don’t know what you’re going to see until you check in the first morning and get handed the program book with the schedule. This means you have to place a lot of trust in the programmers and archivists to pick films and prints that are worth traveling for and committing to. Now, the whole schedule is online, and you can see the impressive array of films, including Laura, Bicycle Thieves, The Tales of Hoffman, Road House, and more. The last screening, known as “Blind Date with Nitrate,” was kept secret until the curtain rose to gasps in response to Ramona, a gorgeous tinted silent film on loan from the Gosfilmofond of Russia.

Of course, the main draw of the festival is just how rare it is to see nitrate prints projected at all. The Dryden Theatre at the Eastman Museum is one of three theaters in the country still licensed to project nitrate, meaning they comply with safety requirements to contain any bursts of flame that might occur. Nitrate prints have to be shipped and stored in very particular ways, and the staff at the Museum spends days working on a single print to make sure it can be projected safely, testing everything from splices to edge damage to shrinkage (since every screening was clearly going to be 35mm, the print information in the program book instead focused on shrinkage percentage). During the screening of Brighton Rock, the projectionists stopped the film mid-reel just because they felt something was wrong and wanted to change the threading, even though everything seemed fine from the audience. When The Verge ran a feature on last year’s Nitrate Picture Show, their headline called it “the world’s most dangerous film festival.”

So why nitrate, if it’s so dangerous? This was the issue facing archives in the switch to “safety” film stocks, and for most, the solution was to copy the nitrate prints onto safety prints and then destroy the nitrate. As a result, most original nitrate films are lost, and many of the screenings this weekend were introduced with stories of how the prints being screened were only saved due to mishandling or flat-out lying about their destruction.

Some say there’s a special quality to watching a nitrate print projected, that the material itself elevates the images beyond other film prints—and certainly beyond digital. Whether this is really true or not was a discussion of some debate over the weekend, but there is no denying that screening nitrate is special in that it’s the way these films were designed to be seen. Filmmakers creating them were shooting on nitrate, processing on nitrate, and then projecting nitrate to audiences whose only experience was nitrate. To see films at the Nitrate Picture Show was to walk back in time and become a filmgoer in 1950, seeing the bright Technicolor of Annie Get Your Gun, or in 1947, entering the tough black-and-white world of Brighton Rock. There’s no other way to get as pure a cinematic experience when it comes to these films.

Myself, I was particularly taken with the swirling cigarette smoke in Laura and Road House, which took on a ghostly quality I hadn’t quite seen before, and immediately understood why the effect became such a staple in the noir genre. Other highlights included Enamorada, a Mexican film with stunning close-ups, and two animated shorts by Oskar Fischinger—An Optical Poem and Allegretto—with beautiful color. And I don’t think I’ll ever forget the theater singing along to the end of The Golden State, an animated short about the glory of California (also my home state).

In a weekend already jammed with screenings, the Eastman Museum also set up a variety of events and workshops designed to inform and spread the word about nitrate film conservation. I signed up for the festival too late for most of the workshops, including tours of the Museum’s nitrate vaults and a demonstration of how to produce nitrate. However, I did still get to look at a few nitrate prints that were on display, including footage of President McKinley’s inauguration, and there were plenty of people from around the country to meet and talk about film with.

Matchbook given to all attendees

 

 

March 28, 2016

CFA Media Mixer 2016: Meet this Year’s Artists

Our annual video remix benefit is BACK this year with yet another amazing lineup of artists working together to create new video works out of digitized items in our vault. Right now, three extraordinary filmmakers are loading up with massive amounts of footage culled from the deepest corners of our collections – including some rare, little-seen gems and a few staff favorites – which they’ll edit, re-interpret, transform, and kick over to three of Chicago’s most imaginative musicians to score. Then, come June 9, you’re all invited to the Hideout to celebrate the world premiere of their collaborations, along with raffle prizes, auctions, and more. It’s CFA’s Media Mixer 2016!

This year’s artists (filmmakers listed first, followed by musician(s)) include:

Melika Bass + Coppice
jonCates + Jeff Kolar
Andrew Mausert-Mooney + Bobby Conn

More on this year’s artists…

THE FILMMAKERS:

Melika-Bass-©-Ray-Pride

Melika Bass is a filmmaker and installation artist currently living in Chicago. Bass is the recipient of an Artadia Award, two Media Arts Fellowships from the Illinois Arts Council, the Kodak/Filmcraft Imaging Award from the Ann Arbor Film Festival, and an Experimental Film Prize from the Athens International Film Festival. In 2013, Bass was appointed the Pick-Laudati Artist in Residence at the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, at Northwestern University. Screenings and exhibitions include the Film Society of Lincoln Center, New York; Kino der Kunst, Munich; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (solo exhibition, February 2011); Torino Film Festival, Italy; Anthology Film Archives, New York; Ann Arbor Film Festival; Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit; BFI London Film Festival; Athens International Film Festival; Segal Center for the Performing Arts, Montreal; Hamburg International Film Festival, Germany; and the Split Festival of New Film, Croatia. Her work has been profiled and reviewed in Filmmaker Magazine, Time Out Chicago, Bad at Sports, Art Daily, Rolling Stone Italy, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader, Pitchfork, and the Chicago Sun-Timeshttp://tenderarchive.com/

jonCates

jonCates works at the intersections of Noise and New Media. His projects are presented internationally in cities such as Aix-en-Provence, Austin, Berlin, Beijing, Boston, Cairo, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Linz, Los Angeles, Madrid, Mexico City, New York, Singapore, Vienna, Warsaw, Zagreb and widely available online via the Internet. His research and writings appear online in digital forms and physically in print publications from MIT Press, Gestalten, The Penn State University Press, Intellect and Unsorted Books. In 2005 he created the concept of Dirty New Media and is widely recognized as developing concepts, communities and discourses of the unstable arts now known as Glitch Art. http://systemsapproach.net

Andrew Mausert-Mooney

Andrew Mausert-Mooney is a Chicago-based artist working with 16mm film, video, performance and television. Andrew’s work has showed in festivals, galleries and exhibition series around the world including the American Film Institute, CineVegas, Chicago Underground, Gallery 400, Pleasure Dome and Other Cinema. He received his MFA from the University of Illinois-Chicago in the Spring of 2012. Currently Andrew is a co-director and station manager of ACRE TV, an artist-run livestream tele-vision network. https://vimeo.com/amm

 

THE MUSICIANS:

Coppice

Coppice is nexus. Since its foundation in 2009, Coppice has departed from bellows and electronics to create compositions, installations, discography, instruments, arrangements for performance, software, and sculptural objects. Drawing from its expanding glossary of study, they’re currently focused on expansions and emulations of their sonic foundations (in bellows and electronics) using a newly designed musical infrastructure that departs from physical modeled instruments and modular synthesis. Coppice is currently transitioning onto a new world of finer sonic illusions of digitally-seeded air, binary clocks, and impossible musical objects. Recordings of Coppice music have been made available by the following artist-run labels: Agxivatein (GR), caduc. (CA), Category of manifestation: (US), Close/Far (US), Consumer Waste (UK), Hideous Replica (UK), Notice Recordings (US), Pilgrim Talk (US), Quakebasket (US), Rhizome•s (FR), Senufo Editions (IT), and Triple Bath (GR). http://www.futurevessel.com/coppice

JeffKolar

Jeff Kolar is a sound artist, radio producer, and curator working in Chicago, USA. His work, described as “speaker-shredding” (Half Letter Press), “wonderfully strange” (John Corbett), and “characteristically curious” (Marc Weidenbaum), includes cross-platform collaboration, low-powered radio, and live performance. His work activates sound in unconventional, temporary, and ephemeral ways using appropriation and remix as a critical practice. His solo and collaborative projects, installations, and public performances often investigate the mundane sonic nuances of everyday electronic devices. Jeff is a free103point9 Transmission Artist and the Founder and Artistic Director of Radius, an experimental radio broadcast platform. His work has been comissioned by the Propeller Fund, a re-granting agency of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and free103point9, a re-granting agency of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Arts Council. He has given lectures, performed, and exhibited widely across the United States, and at international venues and festivals. http://jeffkolar.us

BobbyConn

Bobby Conn is an avant-garde, pop-rock musician and longtime staple of the Chicago scene. Since beginning his career in the late 1980s, Bobby has a developed a reputation for outlandish and exciting performances that emphasize the theatricality of musical art. Not content to work alone, he is also known for his extensive collaborations on stage and record that draw in musicians across all genres and stylings. (Another fun fact: Bobby played live at our second Media Mixer event in 2013, though this is the first time he’s created a piece for us!) https://facebook.com/thebobbyconn

More on Bobby Conn via AllMusic:

The once self-proclaimed antichrist Bobby Conn is in a league all his own when it comes to performing live as well as creating his tongue-in-cheek chameleon-like pop that genre-hops with a decadent flair. Conn got his start playing guitar in the Chicago prog rock trio Conducent in 1989; by 1994 the group called it quits and Conn went solo. Conn received attention quickly in the Windy City’s live circuit for his outlandish live shows that verged on performance art and theater. Whether dressed as a priest, wearing mud on his face, or just dishing out hugs and kisses to unsuspecting fans, Conn defiantly didn’t go unnoticed. His first lineup consisted of ex-Conducent member DJ Le Deuce on turntables, as well as Julie Pomerleau (aka Monica BouBou) on electric violin.

In 1995 and 1996 Conn released two EPs, then in 1997 he released his self-titled debut album on the Truck Stop label, but it was 1998′s Rise Up! LP that extended Conn’s musical palette and got music fans outside of Chicago to take notice. Then in 1999, Conn released the Llovessonngs EP (on Chicago independent label Thrill Jockey), which showcased the hilarious French disco tune “Virginia.” Into the millennium, Conn released The Golden Age and toured with the support of the Glass Gypsies, featuring Pomerleau/BouBou on organ as well as guitarist Sledd, keyboardist Pearly Sweets, bassist Nick Macri, and drummer Colby Starck. Released in 2004, Homeland cast a satirical gaze at America and the war in Iraq, while 2007′s King for a Day tackled fantasy, celebrity, and the media. Rise Up! was reissued just in time for Conn’s 2011 tour playing the album in its entirety. For his 2012 full length Macaroni, Conn formed backing band The Burglars from some of Chicago’s leading players. The Burglars included long time drummer Josh Johannpeter (also active in Lazer Crystal and Mahjongg) as well as keyboardist Jon Steinmeier and bassist Jim Cooper of The Detholz. 

Again, we hope to see you on Thursday, June 9 at the Hideout! Head on over to the event page for more information! http://www.chicagofilmarchives.org/current-events/5th-annual-cfa-media-mixer

March 11, 2016

The arrival of the Kinetta Archival Film Scanner

Amy here. I arrived at CFA two months ago to serve as Digital Collections Manager. One of the cardinal reasons I was brought onto the CFA team was to help guide a refining and expansion of the archive’s digital initiatives, with the Kinetta Archival Film Scanner being a big part of the initiative. As we awaited the arrival of the scanner, I took the time to familiarize myself with the digital collection and how it’s currently organized.

CFA’s current digital collection is largely comprised of standard definition video files that act as surrogates for access to films in the archive. Many of the files have been generated by digitizing our films with our Tobin telecine machines and processed using various video editing softwares; tools which have been integral to our client services and internal operations for years. The few high definition video files that exist in CFA’s digital collection have been acquired from vendors that have processed our preservation works, partly thanks to grants funded by the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF). CFA puts a huge emphasis on access, and although providing access to moving image film is the archive’s focus, providing access to films via digital media has been a crucial and realistic action for our operation. As I rifled through the archive’s various digital storage drives and digital metadata in the database, I got a clear impression that CFA was absolutely ready to formalize and intensify their digital collection holdings.

And then the Kinetta film scanner arrived. And we turned it on. And we ran a film through it that showed up so sharp on the monitor that it made us catch our breath. We were definitely not looking at a film anymore, but we were looking at a gorgeous interpretation of a film.

The Kinetta, a creation developed by Jeff Kreines, was made with an archival environment in mind. The scanner can accommodate the handling of a film in healthy condition, and it can handle a film that has been beaten up and shrunken. CFA has films that fall into both of those categories and every category in between. Jeff sat with the staff for a week to help us acclimate to the new equipment, new related softwares, and new file creation capabilities. Jeff knows film, and has made digital technology its true complement with the scanner.

jeff_scanner

Jeff at the controls

So, now that we have the Kinetta, what does this mean for CFA? This means new things in the face of preservation and access. In terms of preservation, CFA will absolutely continue photochemically preserving films in our collection whenever possible. In the event that we don’t have the financial support to preserve a film photochemically, we now have the capability to create a digital video file that can act as a preservation element. When we come up against a film in our collection that can no longer survive physical handling, we can scan it and preserve its contents via digital video file. In terms of access, we can now create digital elements that comply with a wider range of screening venues, especially venues that don’t support film projection. We also have gained the capability to capture a digital image from a film at a resolution that far surpasses the visual quality of the standard definition files that make up our current digital collection. Therefore, not only can we provide access to our films in more locations, but we can also provide access to details of our films that we could have never seen so clearly as we can now.

What does the Kinetta mean for our stock footage, transfer, and rental clients? More digital output options, crisper images, and the possibility to obtain preservation files of their own work. Essentially, new things in the face of preservation and access for them too.

What doesn’t the Kinetta mean? It does not mean that we will scan everything in our collection – obtaining digital storage to accommodate such a project is not within CFA’s reach, and we consider film a more stable format than digital files. It does not mean that our main focus will shift away from film – we will exhibit film when we can exhibit film, and we will preserve films photochemically when we can. The scanner is meant to support our films, not replace them.

The arrival of the scanner is the sort of the beacon of change for CFA. We are taking our time to learn the equipment and new software to ensure that our operators have a firm grip on it. We are developing a solid new workflow for digitizing our collection items. We are developing a realized set of scanner services for our stock, transfer, and film rental clients. We are taking time to fully understand and implement the expansion and security of our digital initiatives, which encompasses realistic and safe digital storage methods as well as a review of digital file organizational methods and metadata collection. We are brainstorming how the scanner will affect our future screenings and grant proposals. We are getting new furniture. It’s a lot. And it’s awesome.

People and entities who have helped us get to this point are Jeff Kreines and Tom Aschenbach, the DEW Foundation and the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. Many many thanks. We are so grateful. We would also like to thank the MacArthur Foundation for acknowledging this new milestone as one of the reasons to award CFA sustenance funds.

Because all this awesome stuff comes along with getting the scanner, we are aiming to offer client services for it by summertime. We want to be truly ready for you. So please sit tight for a little longer. We’ll keep you posted. We are excited.

February 18, 2016

The John D. and Catherine C. MacArthur Foundation Honors CFA

CFA_MacAward

Chicago Film Archives is so pleased to announce that we are a recipient of the 2016 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions.  It came as a surprise.  We are among several other cultural institutions in Chicago who have received this honor, and we are in great company.

These superbly imaginative organizations exemplify Chicagos thriving arts and culture community, which is vibrant and economically vital to the region,said MacArthur President Julia Stasch. Support for these diverse and leading organizations reflects our enduring commitment to Chicago and to its cultural life that enriches us all.

This honor is particularly sweet because of our grass roots beginnings and the huge amount of “back room labor” that is required to make any archive and its holdings accessible.  Since much of the work we do is invisible to the public, we are especially moved that the folks at MacArthur imagined the scope and nature of what we do in our office every day.

Another reason this award is so important lies in the fact that no other film preservation organization (or any media preservation organization for that matter) has ever won this award.  The critical nature of moving image preservation often goes unnoticed, giving way to other cultural pursuits, leaving history behind as something merely made of nostalgia.  The ability to recognize that moving image records offer a glimpse into our future as well as our past is something rare.  Moving images can offer a more visceral, dense and rich reflection of our collective past than either text or photographic images can provide. So we are doubly thankful that the MacArthur Foundation is throwing light on this often over-shadowed cultural endeavor.

Just recently, CFA completed the preservation, digitization and cataloging of the massive Ruth Page dance collection funded by The National Endowment for the Arts and the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation.  The results can be found on CFA’s website where nearly 400 films are described and streaming in full with extensive notes about each of these works.  In addition, CFA has conserved twenty-eight films with support from the National Film Preservation Foundation including the Film Group’s Cicero March which was selected for the National Film Registry in 2013.

Particularly satisfying, though, was Davia Crutchfield’s note to CFA after we shared with her one of our obscure films that featured her great-uncle Doug Crutchfield.

Due to your generosity several generations of the Crutchfield family were able to revisit (or see for the first time) my great-uncle Doug as well as my great grandparents, Howard and Jean Crutchfield. I did not have the opportunity to meet my great-grandfather so to see him and my great-grandmother (who passed away a few years ago) interact was absolutely surreal.

My grandfather (who is nearing his 80s), as well as my great-aunt (who was recovering from bypass surgery) sat on the edge of their seats gleaning as they watched their parents and brother argue once again :)

Please spread the word and join us as we celebrate throughout the year with special programming and events with the goal of expanding our capacity to rescue films, creating new archival presentations and serving our constituents with new digital capabilities.

This award of $200,000 will be placed in reserve to ensure the stability, longevity and integrity of CFA’s operations and mission.

January 18, 2016

Ruth Page Collection Fully Catalogued

Guest poster here—it’s Pamela Krayenbuhl, announcing that I have completed the cataloguing process for the vast Ruth Page Collection of dance film and video. It has been a long journey, but now that I’ve earned the advantage of hindsight, I am pleased to provide a general overview of the collection and highlight a few gems of particular interest (out of hundreds!).

Ruth Page was a trailblazer in the field of American concert dance, and helped to establish Chicago as a center for American ballet even before George Balanchine founded the School of American Ballet in New York City in 1934. The films and videos of the collection here at CFA visually document her long career as a choreographer and company director, from the Page-Stone Ballet of the 1930s to the Chicago Opera Ballet in the 1950s and 60s, and the Chicago Ballet in the 70s—though there were also several interim company titles such as The Ballet Guild of Chicago, The Ruth Page Ballets, and Ruth Page’s International Ballet. Over the years, Page’s choreographic style and subject matter changed a great deal. Below, in a 1957 video from Series II of the collection, Page explains the arc of her early career to Ken Nordine for a Chicago television program.

Many of the works Page describes to Nordine—both the earlier, jazzier Americana ballets and the middle period of opera ballets—are represented in this collection. Series I in particular houses films of the more thoroughly documented older works, often in performance but sometimes in rehearsal as well. Series II shifts toward later works by virtue of its video format, though video conversions of the earlier films are present as well. Series III fills out the narrative with filmed interviews with Page and many of her collaborators over the years.

The archive suggests that, by the 1970s, Page shifted her focus from showcasing her own choreography toward curating works by other artists on the bodies of her company dancers. This decision seems to have been fueled at least in part by funding difficulties and the lack of a consistent ‘home stage’ for the company; Page (along with various co-directors and presidents such as Ben Stevenson and Geraldine Freund) tried to draw in audiences by importing both guest dancers and choreographers from around the world. This resulted in a wide variety of works being funneled through Chicago. One example of the company’s innovative approaches to its problems is the work Scat, which was choreographed for the Chicago Ballet by former New York City Ballet dancer Lois Bewley. Below is a video of a rehearsal of the work, which was choreographed specifically to be performed ‘in-the-round,’ and which the company then premiered in such a space at the Drury Lane Theater in Chicago’s Water Tower Place during early 1977.

Here are some additional examples indicating the fascinating range of Chicago Ballet rehearsals recorded during the 1970s:

  • Caliban (Act I; Acts II & III) – A full-length rock-n-roll ballet (inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest), choreographed by James Clouser and set to music by the band St. Elmo’s Fire. It was premiered by the Houston Ballet in May 1976; its Chicago premiere occurred on Thursday, October 13, 1977 at the Medinah Temple.
  • Façade – A ballet choreographed by prominent British choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton, to music composed by William Walton. Its one act of seven to ten divertissements is based on the 1923 avant-garde performance work Façade – An Entertainment by Walton and Edith Sitwell. This Chicago Ballet version was staged in 1975 by Richard Ellis and Christine Du Boulay.
  • Moonscape – A modern dance work choreographed by Jan Stockman Simonds, set to music by Michael Horvit and inspired by her husband’s work with NASA. It was premiered by the Houston Ballet in June 1975; this video represents either a dress rehearsal or performance of the piece on April 15, 1976 by the Chicago Ballet.
  • Rhythms – A modern dance work choreographed by company member Richard Arve for Ruth Page’s Chicago Ballet in the early 1970s.  It uses several tracks of popular music from the era, including “Embryo,” “Children of the Grave,” and “Into the Void” from Black Sabbath’s 1971 album Master of Reality and Morton Subotnick’s 1968 The Wild Bull (Part A).
  • Water Study– A canonical modern dance work choreographed by modern dance luminary Doris Humphrey in 1928, set not to music but natural human breathing and pulse rhythms. This video of a reconstruction of the work was recorded on January 26, 1978—perhaps for a 50th anniversary performance by the Chicago Ballet.

The Ruth Page Collection also includes not only rare performance recordings of such famous dancers as Talley Beatty and Marjorie Tallchief (in 1957 & 1959) in works by Page, but also a number of equally rare tapings from television that were of interest to Page…and any dance enthusiast. Two of my personal favorites are this 1978 copy of Twyla Tharp’s Making Television Dance and this segment of Paul Taylor choreography, beautifully (and hauntingly?) performed by Rudolph Nureyev and Bettie de Jong, from a 1971 CBS special entitled Singer Presents Burt Bacharach.

I will leave you with one final morsel, which most clearly encapsulates (for me) Page’s long-spanning, rich, and varied career. It also speaks to how fortunate we are that so much of it was recorded on film and video. This particular tape is divided into two parts: first, one of CFA’s four episodes of the 1960s television program Repertoire Workshop from Chicago, and second, a compilation of film excerpts in both color and black & white (mostly rehearsals or intimate home-studio performances) from the first half of Page’s career—some of them including Page herself as a dancer! The difference in style between Page’s televised choreography for Carmen and José during the first half, and then the pas de trois and her own outdoors solo from an earlier version of this same ballet during the second half, demonstrates a fascinating stylistic development over the 20+ year interim between the two.

It has been a privilege for me to spend so much time with the Ruth Page Collection. Now that the project is complete, I am rather sad to be leaving Page’s world. The research process of digging through old reviews from the Chicago Tribune, dancers’ bios from around the country, and choreographic records of all kinds really gave me a sense of how influential Page was, not only for Chicago dance audiences, but for artists and audiences all over the world. There is definitely something for everyone—costumers, set designers, choreographers, anthropologists, and beyond—in this collection. Tell your friends!

Pamela Krayenbuhl is a Mellon Interdisciplinary Fellow and PhD candidate in Screen Cultures at Northwestern University. Her dissertation examines the intersection of dance cultures with commercial film & television cultures in midcentury America, with a particular focus on race and masculinity. She also dances with and choreographs for the Chicago-based Modet Dance Collective, which she co-founded in 2013.

November 16, 2015

Collection Spotlight: Robert Stiegler

Capitulation, Robert Stiegler, 1965

We received the film work of Chicago photographer Robert Stiegler earlier this year, and while we already put a few of his major titles streaming online, I wanted to put a brief spotlight on him and his work, which includes some fantastic, experimental depictions of Chicago in the 1960s.

Robert Stiegler was born in Chicago in 1938 and received a bachelor’s degree in 1960 and a master’s in 1970 from the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He served in the army in Germany, worked for photographer-filmmaker Vince Maselli and the design firm Morton Goldsholl Associates, and in 1966, started teaching at the University of Illinois Chicago, where he would continue to work until he passed away in 1990. Robert was instrumental in the development of the school’s photography department and the New Works gallery, a vital part of the MFA photography program.

From 1967-1969, Robert and his friend Larry Janiak ran a film and photography workshop in a large loft space in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, which attracted a large variety of local and visiting artists—including Mike Kuchar, David Katzive, Jon Jost, Red Grooms, Ron Nameth, Kurt Heyl, Peter Kuttner, Peter Kubelka, Strom de Hirsch, Jonas Mekas, and the filmmakers of the Chicago Newsreel film group—who participated in numerous informal film screenings and discussions.

Today, Robert’s work resides in a variety of collections, both public and private, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the George Eastman House, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and the University of Illinois Chicago.

Of the total films donated to CFA by Robert’s wife, Anita David, we have four completed works available for streaming on our Robert Stiegler finding aid, listed below with notes from Robert himself.

Traffic (circa 1960)

“An investigation of what a motion picture camera can do in the hands of a good driver”

Capitulation (1965)

“A guided voyage through a negative world. A subjective view of the world and self”

Licht Spiel Nur I (circa 1967)

“Abstracted footage shot with a camera, each frame time-exposed to create different light qualities. Cutting was based on a musical form much like a Bach fugue. The film contains both real and synthesized color.”

Full Circle (1968)

“A contemporary Koan. A series of highs, encompassing people: waiting for the bus, laying tiles at Swami’s house, celebrating a Spring Be-in and children smiling.”

On display in these films is Robert’s interest in discovering alternate ways of looking at the world in motion through the specific medium of film. At the beginning of Capitulation, he inverts the black and white film into negative, transforming a snowy landscape into a strange and alien planet. Later in the film, Robert heads to downtown Chicago, filming the crowds walking by and editing them into a frenzy of shuffling, slight glances, and the occasional wave. Long exposures, time lapses, and superimpositions abound, as he experiments with disrupting the regular motion of our busy modern society in continually new and fascinating ways.

Chicago is again the subject at the beginning of Full Circle, as Robert films moving through the Loop with John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” on the soundtrack. But Robert is not content to remain there, and as the film progresses, it encompasses a variety of found footage (including cartoons and celebrity photographs) and audio, as well as documentary footage of a lakeside Be-in and housework. It ends with children playing and smiling to the tunes of the Beatles.

A personal favorite is Licht Spiel Nur I (literally “Light Play”), in which Robert combines still images of light in motion in rapid succession, creating an entangled mass of color and line that dances on screen. While it looks especially spectacular in motion, we were also struck by how dazzling the frames looked on the bench.

Licht Spiel Nur I_2Licht Spiel Nur I_1 Licht Spiel Nur I_4

Along with Robert’s films we also acquired his large collection of ¼” audio reels, and with a grant from Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC), we’ll be processing them in the coming months. Among the tantalizing titles include labels that say “Whitehouse Jazz Concert 1978,” “Studs Terkel,” and a series of readings from a PFC A.J. Osborne. We’re looking forward to seeing what insight they’ll provide to Robert’s art and life.

We still have many more of Robert’s films we’re still processing and working to get online, but their cans are already promising more great work to explore and share.

Can1 Can2

October 6, 2015

Now Streaming: The Larry Janiak Collection

Larry Janiak in 2004

Larry Janiak, 2004

We’ve been talking a lot about Chicago filmmaker/artist/designer, Larry Janiak, lately. We screened his films this past summer at Anthology Film Archives, and again this past week with Conversations at the Edge. We’re now excited to make his entire filmography publicly available (for the first time!) over on our Larry Janiak finding aid. We feel very fortunate to be the chosen caretakers of Larry’s collection, which includes experimental films and documentaries he made primarily from the years 1960 to 1970:

Allegro (1960)

DL #1 (Disintegration Line #1) (1960)

Adams Film (1963)

Glasshouse (1964)

Agamemnon in New York (1964)

Life & Film (1965)

Hale House (1965)

Vedanta Temple Dedication Day Ceremony (1966)

DL #2 (Disintegration Line #2) (1970)

Homage #5 (1970)

Animation Film Making: A Teaching Method at the Institute of Design in Chicago 1968 to 1980 (1999)

Filmmaking for Larry was a very spiritual exercise. It was a means to explore his own meditative practice…an exercise to control nature and be free. We realize a small Quicktime isn’t the most ideal format to view Larry’s work, but we are overjoyed (& overwhelmed!) by the opportunity to share his work beyond the theater. We invite you to discover and feel the films for your self.

+on a personal note, this will probably be my last blog post for CFA. I’m headed to the Southeast soon to do some of my own exploring. It’s been such a pleasure to work at CFA over the past eight years, and I’m super proud of all that we’ve accomplished in that time. I’m really going to miss CFA…especially Nancy, and the other wonderful people I’ve met along the way. CFA , Anne

 

Janiak_dontworrybehappy

detail of a birthday card made by Larry Janiak

 

September 14, 2015

Processing the Frank Koza Collection and “A Space to Grow” (1968)

Earlier this summer we started the project of processing and digitizing our Frank Koza Collection, which has provided the exciting opportunity to dig into and share some of what the collection has to offer. There’s still a lot more to work through, but we’ve already found some incredible gems!

You can read a lot more about Frank’s exciting life on our Frank Koza collection finding aid (including tales of working with Frank Lloyd Wright and an adventurous trip to Cuba to acquire photography equipment from Fidel Castro), but in brief: Frank was a veteran newsreel photographer who lived and worked in Chicago for over 54 years, from the early 1950s to his death in 2013. Born and raised in Cleveland, Frank started working in theatrical presentations before moving into filming in the late 1940s, with his first big assignment as a war correspondent in Korea. Throughout his career he shot politicians (becoming good friends with President Harry S Truman and Mayor Richard J. Daley), war, sports, and any and everything in between, establishing an impressive reputation as one of the best.

CFA acquired the full collection of Frank’s negatives, trims, and prints in 2012, at which time they were meticulously inventoried by past CFA intern Amelia Anderson. Since then, a few prints have been digitized here and there, but now is the first time we’ve undertaken a proper processing of the entire collection.

We recently shared on social media the delightful “Opening Day of School,” which showcases the first classes in the (at the time) still-under-construction Queen of All Saints School in 1940. As children enter the building amid rubble and construction, the line-up of schoolteacher nuns is introduced, followed by the school’s Halloween parade and an appearance from Monsignor Dolan, the guiding light of the Queen of All Saints Basilica (and dear friend of Frank).

OpeningDayOfSchool-1

OpeningDayOfSchool-2

Plus, a cute dog.

Then, thanks to a fortuitous phone call from the University of Chicago, we pulled the 1968 documentary short “A Space to Grow,” which features Upward Bound programs at universities around Chicago. This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the first Upward Bound programs, making this the perfect time to share this film that Frank worked on.

Upward Bound is a federally funded program that today is part of a loose cluster of programs known as the TRIO Programs, all of which serve to provide programs and services to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Upward Bound in particular was established in the summer of 1965 following the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 and the Higher Education Act of 1965. In that first year, Upward Bound served 2,061 participants at 17 different institutions. When the film premiered in 1968, this number had grown to 32,000 at 285 colleges. Today, there are about 76,000 students every year at more than 1,000 locations across the country. Wow!

Upward Bound’s main mission is to help students engage in learning and inspire them to complete high school and move on to graduate from a college or university. This was an integral part of the U.S. government’s “War on Poverty” in the 1960s and remains an important opportunity for students from a variety of backgrounds. Several notable alumni of Upward Bound programs include basketball star Patrick Ewing, political strategist Donna Brazile, and Queen of Chicago Oprah Winfrey. More about the Upward Bound program here.

A Space to Grow” premiered at a special event in September 1968 to commemorate four of the first college graduates from the program. For more about this event and to read some of the remarks from Senator Edward S. Muskie, see this series of articles from Setpember 6, 7, and 10, 1968. The film then went on to be shown around the country and nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.

Narrated by Henry Fonda, the film starts out sensationalist in its approach, establishing a world of impoverished students whose talents become lost to society. Luckily, it drops this and dives into a program in-progress at a “university campus in the Midwest,” where we see students discussing literature in a class outside. The students’ lives are revealed, showing where they live during the program, how they spend their time, and what kind of classes they take (including an excerpt from a Northwestern student film by Peter Kuttner that we have here at CFA!). From student-produced plays and sculpture to conflict resolution classes and deep philosophical discussion, the Upward Bound programs are presented as rich and engaging opportunities.

Koza-SpaceToGrow

One highlight of the film is a sequence in which the students role-play as significant orators discussing issues such as class and race relations. These speeches, impressive for their performativity, are also opportunities for the students to grapple with the issues themselves. To increase the challenge, several students are assigned characters that represent very different perspectives from their own. The resulting discussions are thought provoking and exceptionally captured on screen.

Koza-SpaceToGrow-student1

Koza-SpaceToGrow-student2

Koza-SpaceToGrow-student3

The credits identify the Chicago universities as Barat College, Loyola University, Mundelein College, Roosevelt University, University of Illinois, and Northwestern University. Although the film doesn’t make explicit which scenes occur where, keen eyes can spot at least one of each Northwestern and Loyola sweatshirts.

On display is Frank’s careful attention to composition and ability to record a unique take on a scene. Even across this short film, so much of the personalities of the students are conveyed in Frank’s images. For more information, check out the film’s full page in our catalog.

Koza-SpaceToGrow-credit

 

August 4, 2015

Let’s All Go to the Fair!

State & county fair season is in full swing and we thought it would be a fun exercise to gather some of our home movies (plus 1 short film) featuring…well, fairs! From amusement rides to paint by numbers to preserved fruits & vegetables, these films offer personal & pleasant glimpses into Midwest fair life of the ’60s and ’70s…enjoy!

1965 Minnesota State Fair via Louise Walker McCannel Collection

 

1967 Butler County Fair (Hamilton, Ohio) via Robert Dockum Collection

+

1968 Butler County Fair (Hamilton, Ohio) via Robert Dockum Collection

 

1969 Indiana State Fair via Stacy Maugans Collection

 

and last (but certainly not least!) a charming short film about the 1978 Wisconsin State Fair by Harry Mantel

 

 

July 13, 2015

Larry Janiak Films Head to NYC

Janiak_LifeFilm1

Larry Janiak in LIFE AND FILM (1965)

This week I’m headed to New York City to present a retrospective of Larry Janiak’s work at Anthology Film Archives (so E-X-C-I-T-E-D). Just in case, Anthology Film Archives is an archive and exhibitor of independent, experimental & avant-garde cinema…and in our opinion, the perfect place to present Larry’s films.

Larry created a stunning body of experimental work from the years 1960 to 1970 that mixes direct animation techniques and personal fragments of the everyday. His work is exciting, vibrant and vastly under acknowledged. Crazy enough, this screening at Anthology is the first time Larry’s entire filmography has been publicly presented…ever. It will also be the premiere of three newly restored Janiak titles, which were photochemically preserved thanks to a 2014 grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation and to the hard work of Colorlab. All films will be presented in their native format (16mm) in chronological order.

Larry is a Chicagoan through and through. He grew up on Chicago’s southwest and northwest sides, attended Lane Technical High School, studied with Aaron Siskind & Harry Callahan at Chicago’s Institute of Design and worked for Chicago-based design firm, Goldsholl Design & Film Associates. Larry also taught animation and filmmaking for many years at the Institute of Design (his tenure at the university is succinctly captured in a video documentary that Larry and his friends made in 1999, which you can stream here) and worked as a freelance graphic designer.

Outside of school and work life, Larry made experimental films, worked on DIY publications and helped cultivate Chicago’s underground film community in the ’60s and ’70s. From 1967 to 1969 Larry and his friend, Robert Stiegler, set up a film and photography workshop in a large loft space in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. The two’s workshop became a production facility for filmmakers in the Chicago area and host of numerous informal film screenings and discussions from local and visiting artists. Some of the filmmakers and artists who visited or participated in film screenings at the space included Mike Kuchar, David Katzive, Jon Jost, Red Grooms, Ron Nameth, Kurt Heyl, Peter Kuttner, Peter Kubelka, Strom de Hirsch, Jonas Mekas and the filmmakers of the Chicago Newsreel film group. Larry also played an active role in developing the Center for Cinema Film Co-op, an artist run film Co-op once located at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. In 1968 Larry was elected to the Co-op’s first board of directors along with Ron Nameth and Tom Palazzolo. The aim of the Co-op was to serve as a focus for independent film and filmmakers in the Midwest and to function as a distribution center for the rental of their films. It represented over 175 independent experimental filmmakers, with over 400 unique films in the Co-op’s distribution collection. The Co-op lasted for ten years and was legally disbanded in 1978.

Another crucial and defining element of Larry and his work is his spirituality. Since 1965 Larry has been a member of the Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago, a branch of the Hindu Ramakrishna Order with headquarters at Belur Math in Calcutta, India. From 1983 to 1990 Larry lived at the society’s temple and monastery in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood as a “spiritual resident,” joining a group of American swamis, young brahmacharis and other spiritual residents. During this time Larry gave himself a sabbatical from commercial film production, visual design work and university teaching. Larry still quietly resides in Hyde Park…and although he hasn’t completed a new film in decades, he continues his conceptual art practice today through various mediums, including lively medicine cabinet displays and pen pal exchanges (you can find a more complete bio of Larry over on our Larry Janiak Collection finding aid).

We first came to know Larry via the Goldsholl Associates, or more specifically, through our Mort & Millie Goldsholl Collection. In this collection we found not only industrial films Larry had worked on for the firm, but also a print of one his own experimental films – Disintegration Line #1 (DL1) from 1960. To say the very least, this amazing direct animation film sparked our interest in Larry’s work. We reached out to Larry after re-discovering DL1 and presenting it at our Meet Mort & Millie program back in April of 2013…and to our surprise and delight, Larry donated his collection of films to CFA in two parts, once in April of 2013 and again in October of 2013. His films now all reside safely in our temperature controlled vault. And as mentioned above, three of his films (DL1, Adams Film and DL2) have been preserved back onto film thanks to a grant from the NFPF.

Below is the full lineup for next Sunday’s screening in NYC, but before we get into that: infinite thanks to Anthology Film Archives for hosting this long overdue retrospective. And Chicagoans…we haven’t forgotten you! A Janiak heavy screening is headed our way this October (more news soon!).

LIFE & FILM: LARRY JANIAK
Sunday, July 19th, 7:30PM
Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue, New York, NY
http://anthologyfilmarchives.org/film_screenings/calendar?view=list&month=07&year=2015#showing-44484

 

Janiak_Allegro2

ALLEGRO 1960, 3 min, 16mm, color, sound
“Rhythmic colored linear patterns of abstract grids move in syncopation to the allegro from Brandenburg Concerto #3 in G Major by J.S. Bach.” – Larry Janiak

Fun anecdote and/or according to Larry: After Allegro screened at the 1961 International Design Conference at Aspen, Larry, and fellow Chicagoans, Wayne Boyer and Mort & Millie Goldsholl, joined Canadian animator Norman McLaren for ice cream floats (!). Here, McLaren (who worked primarily in 35mm) told Larry that Allegro was the best film he’d seen drawn on 16mm.

Janiak_DL1_2

DISINTEGRATION LINE #1 (DL1) 1960, 9 min, 16mm, b&w, silent. Preserved by Chicago Film Archives with support from the National Film Preservation Foundation.
“Black and White full frame field texture motion as opalescent as the dancing night sky. The abstract animation field textures subtly depict the infinitesimal nuclei of energy called Tanmatra, a moving field of aggregates of atoms and cosmic motion called the dance of Shiva.”- Larry Janiak

Larry made both DL1 and DL2 by applying lithographic tusche on unprocessed 16mm film stock and then shocking 10 foot strips of the stock into tanks of cold water, fixer, hot water, developer and then repeating the process. He then carefully washed the remaining chemical residue off of the strips, hung them up to dry on his mother’s clothes line (!) and then arranged them into what he called “interesting sequences.” For DL2, Larry went through an extra step of optically printing the shocked stock through various color gels, carefully labeling each color and repeating them at various speeds.

AdamsFilm_1

ADAMS FILM 1963, 9 min, 16mm., color, sound.  Preserved by Chicago Film Archives with support from the National Film Preservation Foundation.
A visual film collage experiment that combines live action footage with abstract images and textures drawn directly on 16mm film. The sound track is made from multiply-recorded tape loops of eclectic sounds, while the live action footage captures scenes from an early Chicago Earth Day parade and a Janiak family gathering. Inspired by musique concrète and the work and writings of John Cage and Gertrude Stein.

Fred Camper described the film as “an enigmatic combination of personal family images and dynamic shapes.” Cine-File Chicago‘s Doug McLaren goes further by stating, “Janiak displays an instinctive command of his techniques, an assuredness of process rivaled only by Pat O’Neill.” Larry just humbly refers to the film as a sketch shot on a 16mm camera that he had recently purchased from downtown Chicago’s Central Camera.

Glasshouse_3

GLASSHOUSE 1964, 7 min, 16mm, b&w, sound
“A documentary film on a large terrarium made out of wood and glass that Larry built using hand made wood joints, without nails or screws, during the summer of 1959. The structure’s design was inspired by a visit to Frank Lloyd Wright’s home Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin.”- Larry Janiak

For Glasshouse, Larry created a hand-drawn soundtrack (pictured above on the left-hand side) to “sound like crickets…tap dancing bugs clicking in nature.”

Janiak_Agamemnon3

AGAMEMNON IN NEW YORK 1964, 4.5 min, 16mm, b&w, sound. Made in collaboration with Wayne Boyer.
What started as a film test on new sync-sound film equipment quickly became a short film documenting the typical nuttiness behind the scenes at Goldsholl Design & Film Associates, a Chicago-based design firm that employed both Janiak and Wayne Boyer. Janiak ad libs alone, as no one else would come out from the behind the camera. Shot by Wayne Boyer and edited by Janiak, a home movie.

Janiak_LifeFilm3

LIFE & FILM 1965, 4.5 min, 16mm, b&w, sound. Made in collaboration with Robert Stiegler and Jeffrey Pasco.
“This collaborative film was conceived as a “picture postcard.” The picture side of the postcard is equivalent to the moving images recorded by the film camera, while the sound track is like the message written on the backside. A lyrical look at a few Chicago filmmakers going on their way to make a film in the Michigan sand dunes on a sunny day. The soundtrack includes “Tomorrow Never Knows” by John Lennon and the Beatles.”- Larry Janiak

Janiak_HaleHouse3

HALE HOUSE 1965, 11 min, 16mm, b&w, sound
A documentary film about Hale House, a Chicago home where Swami Vivekananda lived while a speaker at the 1893 Parliament of Religions at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The film lingers on architectural details of the home while a soundtrack of Indian raga sitar music and Vedic chanting fills the air. The film was made by Larry for Swami Bhashyananda, the former head of the Vivekanandra Vedanta Society of Chicago.

Janiak_Homage2

HOMAGE #5 1970, 6 min, 16mm, color, sound
An unfinished film, or preliminary sketch, that pairs live action film with a recorded lecture on reincarnation by Baba Ram Dass. “The footage deliberately resembles outtakes, a lot like those accidental moments in life that can throw a new light on our understanding. An exercise of the non-literal relationship between image and sound.”- Larry Janiak

DL2

DISINTEGRATION LINE #2 (DL2) 1970, 12 min, 16mm., color, sound. Preserved by Chicago Film Archives with support from the National Film Preservation Foundation.
“An optically printed full color randomly animated texture field image film set to Gamelan music. Full field colored animated abstract images progress in subtle visual sequences in discernible steps of intensity. DL2 is a film expressing the spirituality in art, a view of the cosmos as dancing atoms.”- Larry Janiak

Janiak_SixShortStatements

“Six Short Statements On My Film Sense” ~ found in a Center for Cinema Film Co-op catalog

 

June 1, 2015

CFA receives 2015 NFPF Grant

We’re super excited to announce that we’ve received a 2015 National Film Preservation Foundation grant to photo-chemically preserve three titles from our collections! The three films slated for preservation highlight innovative programs introduced within the Chicago Public School (CPS) system in the 1960’s and 70’s:

FROM A TO Z: THE STORY OF SPECIAL SUMMER SCHOOLS, Goldsholl Design & Film Associates for Chicago Board of Education [CPS General Superintendent of Schools, Benjamin C. Willis], 1964, B&W, Optical Sound, 27 min.

A SOIL FOR GROWTH: A STORY OF THE GIFTED CHILD PROGRAM, Goldsholl Design & Film Associates for Chicago Board of Education, circa 1966, B&W, Optical Sound, 20 min.

METRO!!!: A SCHOOL WITHOUT WALLS, Rod Nordberg, 1970, Color, Optical Sound, 18 min.

Each of these 16mm films introduces a distinct and newly implemented CPS program: summer school programs (From A to Z), gifted student programs (A Soil For Growth) and the radical Chicago Public High School for Metropolitan Studies (Metro!!!). Combined, these three films offer a valuable glimpse into the country’s third largest public education system during a time of great educational reform. They incorporate and reflect the Chicago Board of Education’s response to an era when major institutions and social structures were being regularly challenged on a national basis. While the CPS has since cut or altered many of these programs, the content and stories within these films still offer some food for thought for the reshaping and reevaluation of Chicago’s public school system today. The films also provide an inspiring slice of history of the often volatile and turbulent relationship among the City of Chicago, CPS teachers and Chicago parents & students.

Goldsholl_FromAtoZ

FROM A TO Z: THE STORY OF SPECIAL SUMMER SCHOOLS (1964, Goldsholl Associates)

A SOIL FOR GROWTH: A STORY OF THE GIFTED CHILD PROGRAM (c. 1966, Goldsholl Associates)

A SOIL FOR GROWTH: A STORY OF THE GIFTED CHILD PROGRAM (c. 1966, Goldsholl Associates)

Chicago-based Goldsholl Design & Film Associates produced two of the films for the Chicago Board of Education, while local filmmaker & editor, Vince Waldron, produced the third. The Goldsholl Associate’s sponsored films thoughtfully present the views of their client and subjects, while Rod Nordberg offers a unique on-the-ground perspective of the newly formed Chicago Public High School for Metropolitan Studies or “School Without Walls” – a bold experiment by the CPS that operated from 1970-1991.

The Goldsholls considered filmmaking a cerebral process that if allowed could thrive on serendipity. The firm’s two films made for the Chicago Board of Education are no exception, with the subjects at hand often mirroring the playfulness and experimentation of the firm’s own bustling design studio. The films introduce viewers to newly instated programs within the CPS from the early to mid 1960’s by simply presenting facts and quietly observing each program. Often the films present vérité-style footage of active classrooms as well as non-scripted voices of students, teachers and parents. The non-obtrusive camerawork and candid voices in these films give them a distinct humanist tone, a tone that is often absent from the sponsored film genre.

CPL_Metro

METRO!!!: A SCHOOL WITHOUT WALLS (1970, Rod Nordberg)

METRO!!!: A SCHOOL WITHOUT WALLS (1970, Rod Nordberg)

METRO!!!: A SCHOOL WITHOUT WALLS (1970, Rod Nordberg)

Similarly, Rod Nordberg’s Metro!!!: School Without Walls gives voice to the students and staff of the Chicago Public High School for Metropolitan Studies (aka Metro) and more broadly introduces viewers to this progressive “school without walls.” Metro was a four-year high school that was part of the CPS system from February 1970 to September 1991. For Metro students, the city was their classroom. Students took classes at Metro’s Loop headquarters but also at such varied locations as the Art Institute of Chicago, Lincoln Park Zoo, Shedd Aquarium and Second City. Unique in the CPS System, Metro sprung from the radical concept that students should take responsibility for their own education and that urban institutions and businesses represented countless and varied opportunities for educational enrichment. As former Metro history teacher, Paula Baron, states,“Metro was in the city, of the city and about the city.” Nordberg’s short film on the school gives us a rare glimpse into the early years of this ambitious program.

All three of these films are sorely at-risk due to uniqueness, and in the case of Metro!!!, severe color fading. To the best of our knowledge, CFA holds the only copies (16mm composite prints) of all three titles. The Goldsholl Associates films reside in CFA’s Mort & Millie Goldsholl Colleciton, while Metro!!! resides in CFA’s Chicago Public Library Collection. We were also very fortunate to receive several additional composite prints and printing elements of Metro!!! from filmmaker Rod Nordberg (thank you Rod!). Unfortunately, all existing composite prints of Metro!!! have color faded over time. This NFPF grant will provide the funds to create elements and strike new 16mm composite prints of all three titles.  It will also allow us to print Metro!!! on more color friendly 16mm film stock, giving us access to an accurate color version of the title for the first time in decades.

We’ll be sure to keep you posted on the restoration process, and last but not least: Thank you NFPF!

April 29, 2015

Game: a South Shore High School production

This Sunday our guest programmer series, CFA Crashers, returns with selections from Lavon Nicole Pettis. Lavon’s program consists entirely of Chicago-made films that reflect her strong interest in art and community. She chose the Black Cinema House to present her film selections, which include a documentary on acclaimed Chicago sculptor, Richard Hunt, as well as a documentary on inspiring poet, teacher, and Chicagoan, Gwendolyn Brooks. Filling out the program is Game -  a student film made by South Shore High School students in the early 1970′s and Super 8 home movies shot on the near-west side by Chicago artist & muralist, Don McIllvaine. The program will end with a trailer of the upcoming documentary Chronicles of Summer: Childhood in South Shore, which Lavon is producing with director Ife Olatunji.

BCH_TheGame1

Game (1972)

BCH_TheGame2

Game (1972)

I wanted to take some space in our blog to discuss one of these films – Game – in greater detail.  Game was made in 1972 by South Shore High School (aka South Shore International College Preparatory High School) students under the leadership of photography instructor, Jerry Aronson.  The film is an allegory on the wastefulness of war and the duplicity of those who wage it. Filmmaker Wayne Williams, who was 17 at the time, cuts back and forth between a chess game and a guerrilla theater war game to underscore the sense of importance of the fighters and the cynicism of those who control their lives and deaths. Jerry Aronson – mentor, instructor, filmmaker and subject of the best faculty yearbook photo I’ve ever seen (below)- encouraged and made the production possible. It was made with Aronson’s personal Bolex and lights and was shot in one afternoon at South Shore High School. This school is only a few blocks from the Black Cinema House, adding further significance to this Sunday’s venue.

JerryAronson

photo by Curtis Durham

Since 2004, CFA staff and volunteers have discovered rare prints and oddities (the good kind) within the Chicago Public Library collection, including many with local ties. These include children’s films, documentaries, industrial films and sixteen student-made films affiliated with the library’s short-lived Young Chicago Filmmakers competition. These sixteen student films, including Game, were found either individually in cans or compiled onto larger reels. Most are unique or one of kind and have therefore gained processing priority at CFA.  All have been carefully hand inspected, placed onto cores and into archival cans, digitized, cataloged and are available for streaming on CFA’s website.

Now back to the film festival for a bit: From 1971-1973, the Chicago Public Library sponsored the “Young Chicago Filmmakers Festival” – a film festival for “any amateur filmmaker, who is a resident or attending a Chicago high school, junior college or undergraduate college, as well as non-students, 25 years of age or younger.” Local teenagers and twenty-somethings picked up entry forms at their local library branch and submitted films that they made for class, community film workshops or just for the love of it. According to the CPL, the short-lived fest “encouraged film as an art and a means of communication by providing amateur filmmakers with a place to show their works, an audience to view them, and a jury to score them.”

So how exactly did these student film festival films enter the library collection? Unfortunately we are left to speculation. A Chicago Tribune article suggests winning films were accessioned into the library’s collection, while a recent interview with a former CPL Audiovisual Center librarian revealed that these films were just simply not retrieved by the filmmakers and never intended to be accessioned. The later account proves to be more likely, as no library catalog records exist for any of these films. It is also possible that these films were placed on reserve and only available for on-site viewing within the library.

Game

Seated (from left to right): Ronald Tyler, Kenneth Tucker; Standing (from left to right): Dr. Nicholas Kushna (Principal), Steven Boykin, Wayne Williams, Jerry Aronson (Instructor/Mentor)

We are genuinely so happy that Lavon has chosen to screen Game as part of her program, especially given the geographical significance or close proximity of production and exhibition sites. We’ll be screening our original print of Game along with other 16mm films and a handful of Super 8mm home movies from our Don McIllvaine Collection…hope to see you there!

Sunday, May 3, 2015 ,  4PM

Black Cinema House
7200 S. Kimbark Ave.
Chicago, IL 60619

Doors open at 3:30pm. Seating is limited, so we ask that attendees RSVP in advance here. Please note that we cannot guarantee seats for attendees who do not RSVP.
. . .

And while I have your attention…we’re also looking for any contact information for those involved with the production of The Game. We have recently learned from Jerry Aronson that  filmmaker, Wayne Williams, has unfortunately passed away. If any one has any leads for those involved (credits below), please don’t hesitate to get in touch –> anne [at] chicagofilmarchives.org …thanks!

 

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 12.44.27 PM

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 12.44.35 PM

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 12.50.30 PM

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 12.51.32 PM

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 12.44.50 PM

  • News Archive