Surface Tension: Short films by Morgan Fisher, Hollis Frampton, Owen Land, and Robert Nelson

Federico Windhausen writes about experimental film and video and teaches film history at California College of the Arts.

This program features films that use text as image, sometimes as a component of a film and at other times as the only image. Interwoven and overlapping with these films are a selection of avant-garde comedies, occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, but more often with humor arising from visual punning or a ticklish concept. Robert Nelson's Bleu Shut, featuring “a boat game and entertainments,” invites audience participation while confounding expectations and playing with cinematic time. Hollis Frampton said of his Surface Tension, “I wanted to make a film out of a relatively small number of simple elements, which would be of a piece, to see how much resonance I could generate among those elements.” According to P. Adams Sitney, Owen Land has “found a place for his astonishing verbal wit in his cinema.” Land's Remedial Reading Comprehension and What's Wrong with This Picture explore connections between being a viewer and being socialized. Morgan Fisher's Projection Instructions is just that, while his deadpan Turning Over takes place during a suspenseful drive in San Francisco.

Bleu Shut (Robert Nelson, 1970, William T. Wiley, Diane Nelson, 33 mins, Color, PFA preservation print). Remedial Reading Comprehension (Owen Land, 1970, 5 mins, Color, From Canyon Cinema). What's Wrong with This Picture? (Owen Land, 1972, 11 mins, Color/B&W, From Canyon Cinema). Surface Tension (Hollis Frampton, 1968, 10 mins, Color, PFA print). Turning Over (Morgan Fisher, 1975, 13 mins, B&W, Video, From the artist). Projection Instructions (Morgan Fisher, 1976, 4 mins, B&W, From the artist).

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