IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Brakhage Symposium celebrates film as an art form
Stan Brakhage saw the world differently. Although the filmmaker experienced problems with his eyesight, he saw clearly through the lens of his camera. Brakhage used this remarkable ability to transform the art of film.
With his unique vision, the former CU distinguished professor challenged cinematic conventions and advocated the sensibilities of film. His efforts critically influenced and nurtured American avant-garde cinema, a legacy that CU’s Film Studies program will celebrate this weekend.
Don Yannacito, a Film Studies senior instructor, calls Brakhage the Picasso of experimental filmmaking. “He was a phenomenal artist,” Yannacito said. “He was always looking for the new and the pure artistic expression.”
Brakhage’s abstract films largely abandoned cinema’s traditional narrative structure and elements, such as plot and character development. Often referring to his works as "moving visual thinking,” he completed more than 300 films of varying lengths before his death in March 2003.
The filmmaker employed a number of innovative techniques, including hand-held camera movements and rapid editing, pasting objects – like moth wings in the 1963 short “Mothlight” – and scratching on to film stock, and exploring light properties.
“Brakhage gave permission to a whole generation to not treat film as untouchable and pure, but to actually put your hands on it, to put chemicals on it, to play with it, to warp it and to see what comes out of it,” Yannacito said. “He invented and expressed a way of making films that had never been done before, and he championed others who did that kind of filmmaking.”
The Film Studies program honors and extends this tradition through the annual Stan Brakhage Symposium, which features various works and members of the experimental film and video community. This year’s free, two-day event takes place on March 14 and 15 in ATLAS 100. It will feature work from 31 artists, 10 of which will attend the event.
“This is the biggest event we’ve ever done, and it will include a lot of stuff that few people have seen before,” Yannacito said. “This is a tremendous opportunity for people interested in contemporary art.” Programming will feature a vast variety of experimental films, as well as presentations, panel discussions and performances, including a live hand-manipulation of a film projector.
Eric Coombs said the symposium – which he dubbed a “bombardment of the senses” – helps promote the evolution of film. “Art is based in community. It has to be, otherwise it doesn’t exist,” said the senior film student, who helped organize the event. “Considering this artistic view of cinema, you need to constantly reconvene the community of art filmmakers in order to keep it moving in a forward direction.”
The William H. Donner Foundation and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences both provided grants to fund this year’s Stan Brakhage Symposium.
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