The Harvard Film Archive Presents ERNIE GEHR, IN TWO PARTS on March 5 & March 22

March 5 – March 22, 2012

CAMBRIDGE, MA: The Harvard Film Archive is pleased to present ERNIE GEHR, IN TWO PARTS on MONDAY MARCH 5 & THURSDAY MARCH 22, 2012 featuring the filmmaker in person.
About the filmmaker:
A luminary member of the post-Brakhage generation of American avant-garde filmmakers, Ernie Gehr (b. 1943) is today among the most influential artists working within, yet always reaching far beyond, the structuralist tradition that reinvigorated experimental cinema in the late 1960s and 1970s. Gehr’s early career was driven by a profound interrogation of cinematic form that extends across a long series of revelatory 16mm masterpieces. Among them are now iconic works such as Serene Velocity (1970) and his lyrical debut film Morning (1968), deeply engaging abstract films that each transform interior space into a dynamic camera obscura, rhythmic light boxes carefully designed to challenge habitual perception. Other major films such as Shift (1972-74) and Side/Walk/Shuttle (1991) use remarkably simple, strategic camera placement – pointed out an apartment window and fixed within an exterior glass elevator, respectively – to complexly engage the world outside, turning the spatio-temporality of urban experience both inside out and upside down and resulting in exhilarating, at times dizzying, cine-portraits of New York City and San Francisco. Equally important to Gehr’s film work is his fascination with the earliest chapters of film history as the fount of a pure, primal mode of cinema unshackled by conventions. Eureka (1974), which lyrically re-photographs a 1902 travelogue shot from a San Francisco streetcar, offers the purest expression of Gehr’s deep love of early cinema as a source of a joyous formal inventiveness.
Beginning in 2001, Gehr completely shifted his production from film to video while applying the same playfully rigorous curiosity to the digital as the cinematic, seeking to harness the very essence, however ineluctable, of the “new” medium. Together with Ken Jacobs, Gehr counts among the very few artists who have proven to be equally inventive and expressive in video as film. In an attempt to keep up with Gehr’s remarkably prolific but still rarely discussed output, this two part program includes a major showcase of work made over the past few years, including three videos presented as world premieres. As a compliment, Gehr, who is a visiting professor in Spring 2011 in Harvard’s Visual and Environmental Studies Department, has curated a program of early cinema, drawing from his own extensive collection.
With open arms and with great excitement, the HFA welcomes back Ernie Gehr for two very special evenings.

Film schedule:
A Program of Early Cinema Selected by Ernie Gehr
Monday March 5 at 7pm
This program will include 16mm film prints I acquired from various sources since the early 1970’s. Most often my purchasing guide was early release dates – the earlier the better I kept telling myself – closer to the Big Bang! And then also films by Méliès as well as titles or descriptions that attracted my curiosity. Why early cinema? Early cinema was sometimes silly, crude, primitive, occasionally even wild, like the actions of an energetic impulsive child left to its own devices. Of course, in its youthful naivety it badly mimicked what older “kids” had been doing better… but it also took chances, was adventurous, and oblivious to danger. Here and there it would run amok, be a daredevil, and in the process discover some of its own potentials. What is there to lose? See where that takes you. Mélies? Yes, but there is much more to it. Additional titles may be added to this program at the last minute. Not to be missed. – Ernie Gehr
Seeing Boston
US 1906, 16mm, b/w, 7 min

Facial Expressions by Loney Haskell
US 1897, 16mm, b/w, 2 min

Little Tich
France 1907, 16mm, b/w, 6 min

Experimental Railroad
US 1903, 16mm, b/w, 46 sec

The Big Swallow
Directed by James Williamson
UK 1901, 16mm, b/w, 1 min

The Impossible Voyage (Le voyage à travers l’impossible)
Directed by George Méliès
France 1904, 16mm, hand-colored b/w, 24 min

Slippery Jim
France 1910, 16mm, b/w, 10 min

Italy 1906,16mm, b/w, 6 min

NYC 1898
USA 1898, 16mm, b/w, 4 min

The Land Beyond the Sunset
Directed by Harold M. Shaw
US 1912, 16mm, b/w 14 min
Thursday March 22 at 7pm
Work in Progress
In this fascinating exploration of the rich, elusive qualities of the video surface, Gehr layers transparent and translucent repetitions of a complex urban street scene to form a mesmerizing tableau.
2012, digital video, color, 32 min
A newly reedited version of Gehr’s celebrated triptych meditation on pre- and early cinema and the magical properties of the moving image.
2009, digital video, b/w & color, 29 min
Auto-Collidor XV
Auto-Collidor XVI
Gehr’s on-going but still unscreened Auto-Collidor series is an important extension of his long interest in the automobile as a privileged “vehicle” for his visual imagination. While Auto-Collidor XV embracing a pure painterly abstraction – Agnes Martin at 150 mph – Auto-Collidor XVI plays a mechanized origami game with the image, collapsing vehicles into hypnotic, accordion-like instruments.
2011, digital video, color, 9 min & 13 min

Related articles:

Harvard Film Archive
24 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 495-4700
General Admission Tickets $9, $7 Non-Harvard Students, Seniors, Harvard Faculty and Staff. Harvard students free

Special event tickets (for in-person appearances) are $12.
Tickets go on sale 45 minutes prior to show time. The HFA does not do advance ticket sales