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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:
Adams Film (1963)
Agamemnon in New York (1964)
Life & Film (1965)
Hale House (1965)
Homage #5 (1970)
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
You may remember back in April when CFA announced the acquisition of three experimental films by Chicago-based filmmaker & designer Lawrence Janiak (in case you missed it, you can read about it here)….. well, we are THRILLED to announce that Larry has donated more of his films (and affiliated ephemera) to CFA!
New to the collection: 10 composite prints (5 with printing elements!), 1 8mm videocassette, 1 audiocassette and a packed box of ephemera that holds 2 Chicago International Film Festival Hugo awards, books on underground film & animation and Center Cinema Co-op catalogs designed by Larry (more on this ephemera filled box later). Here’s a sneak peek of the new 16mm films added to the collection:
Allegro, Lawrence Janiak, 1960, 16mm., Color, Sound, 3 min.
Like Larry’s previously donated films, Disintegration Line #1 (1960) and Disintegration Line #2 (1970), Allegro is a direct animation film. This time around, though, Larry hand painted and scratched the surface of the celluloid and set the dazzling results to a classical soundtrack. According to Larry, the film screened at the second annual International Design Conference at Aspen in 1961. After the screening Larry and fellow Chicagoans Wayne Boyer and Mort & Millie Goldsholl joined Canadian animator Norman McLaren for ice cream floats (!!). Here, McLaren told Larry that Allegro was “the best film I’ve seen drawn on 16mm.”
Glasshouse, Lawrence Janiak, 1964, 16mm., B&W, Sound, 7 min.
Through double exposures, stillness/movement and a handmade scratch soundtrack, Glasshouse introduces viewers to an unnamed illusive structure. (Side note: Larry compared the soundtrack to “tap dancing bugs clicking in nature.”)
Agamemnon in New York, Lawrence Janiak & Wayne Boyer, 1960s, 16mm., B&W, Sound, 4.5 min.
Made with fellow Institute of Design classmate and Goldsholl Associates colleague, Wayne Boyer, Agamemnon in New York tells a humorous tale of Agamemnon visiting a modern day New York City. Janiak delivers the story (outtakes and all), while Boyer films it.
Hale House, Lawrence Janiak, 1965, 16mm., B&W, Sound, 11 min.
Before we dive into this one, let’s first cover some local history: The Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago is a branch of the Hindu Ramakrishna Order whose motto is “For one’s own liberation and for the welfare of the world.” The historical roots of the society can be traced back to Swami Vivekananda’s visit to Chicago in the July 1893 to attend the World’s Parliament of Religions. During his 1893 visit, Mrs. and Mr. George Hale’s home on 120 E. Dearborn Ave served as Swamiji’s headquarters in the Midwest. Thirty years later, Swami Jnaneswarananda, a monk of the Ramakrishna Order arrived in Chicago to start a center in the city of Swami Vivekananda’s triumph, establishing the Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago and the Hale’s home as its official headquarters. With a devout interest in Eastern religions and as a member of the Society (now headquartered in the southwest suburb of Homer Glen), Larry went to the Hale House and filmed architectural details both inside and outside of the home. These images are paired with traditional Hindu music and prayers. The Hale home (located at 1415 North Dearborn Street) was demolished in the late 1960′s and a high rise apartment complex built on the site.
Life & Film, Lawrence Janiak, Robert Stiegler & Jeffrey Pasco, 1966, B&W, Sound, 4.5 min.
Chicago based designers and artists experiment (and have fun) with their cameras to the tune of “Tomorrow Never Knows” by the Beatles. This film about filmmaking was shot at the nearby Michigan dunes and Chicago’s Humboldt Park.
Vedanta Temple Dedication Ceremony, Lawrence Janiak & Steohen Rose, 1966, 16mm., B&W, Sound, 25 min.
A documentary film made by Larry Janiak and Stephen Rose for Swami Bhashyananda about a Vendata Temple Dedication in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood (5423 S Hyde Park Boulevard to be exact). Hindus, Christians, Unitarians, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists unite to celebrate the dedication of the Vivekanada Vedanta Society of Chicago’s new home.
Homage #5 [unfinished], Lawrence Janiak, 1970, 16mm., Color, Sound, 6 min.
An unfinished film or “preliminary sketch” by Larry that he describes as “an early experiment of collage image editing style with a slow pace spoken narration soundtrack, with a non-literal relationship between the two.” The images seen are those of a rural Wisconsin, while the audio was transferred from an audiocassette recording of a Baba Ram Dass lecture at the University of Illinois.
Although Larry hasn’t completed a new film in decades, he continues his conceptual art practice today through various mediums. My favorite example is the surprise I found inside his medicine cabinet :
Stay tuned for more news on this exciting new acquisition!
CFA is happy to announce that the National Film Preservation Foundation has awarded CFA another grant to photo-chemically preserve four more films from the archives. FACES AND FORTUNES, DISINTEGRATIONS LINE #1, DISINTEGRATION LINE #2, and ADAM’S FILM all reflect the influence of the “American Bauhaus” movement introduced by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy during the late 30s/early 40s in Chicago. Designer and filmmaker team Morton and Millie Goldsholl were students at the School of Design in the 40s. The impact Moholy-Nagy had on them was immediate and concrete. The couple moved their already successful design studio to a larger space in Northfield, IL and added a film department that was headed up by Millie. Larry Janiak was one of their first employees at their film studio.
These four films are early and stellar expressions of the midcentury Bauhaus influence in Chicago.
FACES AND FORTUNES was created as a filmic treatise on “corporate identity” for Kimberly-Clark Corporation. This film explores the legacy and importance of “personality” or branding of industries, organizations and companies. As you can see in these stills, the remaining prints of FACES AND FORTUNES are extremely color-faded. This NFPF grant gives us the opportunity to color correct this 16mm film back to its original glory. By Morton and Millie Goldsholl
ADAM’S FILM isa visual film collage experiment. Live action images are combined with abstract images and textures that were chemically generated directly onto the 16mm film. By Lawrence Janiak
DISINTEGRATION LINE #1 (DL1) is chemically generated visual variations produced directly onto 16mm film. By Lawrence Janiak
DISINTEGRATION LINE #2 (DL2) is an optically printed full color randomly animated texture field image film. By Lawrence Janiak
We are so pleased to have this opportunity to preserve modernist titles in our collections. To date CFA has sheperded the photo-chemical and digital preservation of 91 Chicago and Midwest films with the support of the National Film Preservation Foundation, the Women’s Film Preservation Fund, The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. We plan to keep this number growing in order to create a complex and nuanced portrait of our region for generations to come.
More on Janiak’s films here.
For the past few months we have been gathering information about the Chicago-based design firm Goldsholl Design & Film Associates for our upcoming program MEET MORT & MILLIE (Sunday, April 7th at the Chicago Cultural Center). Former employess of the firm turned out to be some of our best sources – Susan Keig, Wayne Boyer and last but not least, Larry Janiak.
When speaking recently with Larry he decided CFA would be a good home for the prints and elements of three of his experimental films - DISINTEGRATION LINE #1 (DL1) (1960s), DISINTEGRATION LINE #2 (DL2) (1960s) and ADAM’S FILM (1963)…. And we couldn’t be more delighted!
A Chicago native, Larry studied at the Institute of Design at I.I.T. and the Art Institute of Chicago. He worked for the Richard Kliedon Animation Studio in Chicago from 1956 to 1959 and was employed by Morton Goldsholl Design & Film Associates before and after being drafted into the U.S. Army from 1962 to 1964. Here, Janiak was a creative force in the design firm’s film department.
His military service consisted of work as art director at the educational television station of the U.S. Army Signal Corps Signal School and Communication Research Center at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. Janiak taught design animation and experimental filmmaking at the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology from 1968 to 1980 and has belonged to the Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago since 1965. Janiak has created several films for the Vedanta Society including a 1965 documentary of Hale House. (bio courtesy of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Special Collections)
Now back to Janiak’s donated films: DL1 & DL2 are both direct animation films. DL1 (which is screening this Sunday at MEET MORT & MILLIE !!) is primarily black & white and silent, while DL2 is color with sound. Both films were made using the same technique- by applying lithographic blackout, or touche, to unprocessed black and white film stock and then shocking these strips of 16mm film into tanks of cold water, fixer, hot water, developer and then repeating the process. Janiak 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.” The back and forth chemical processing was repeated many times to build up an abstract and fully random pattern.
For DL2, Janiak went a step further and optically printed the film through various pieces of color gels, carefully labeling each color and repeating them at various speeds. Lastly, he added a Gamelan soundtrack to the piece. The result, according to Chicago filmmaker and writer Fred Camper, “creates dynamic and surprising clashes between percussive sounds and loops and circles.” Janiak’s strong connection with the Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago adds further dimension to these two particular films. In a recent interview with CFA, Janiak stated, “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. This full field abstract animation is produced by the Brownian motion effect.”
For ADAM’S FILM (1963) Janiak mixed the chemically generated visual variations seen in DL1 & DL2 with live action footage of an early Chicago Earth Day parade and a Janiak family gathering, resulting in what Fred Camper describes 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 this film as a “sketch” shot on a 16mm camera that he had recently purchased from downtown Chicago’s Central Camera.
CFA is delighted to add these three films to our collections at 329 West 18th Street. Along with the 2011 donation of JoAnn Elam’s films, Janiak’s films add to our growing collection of locally produced experimental films. AND, DON’T FORGET. . . be sure to check out DISINTEGRATION LINE #1 on the big screen at this Sunday’s MEET MORT & MILLIE program !!