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"Underground cinema will soon invade the Beautiful American Home”: The 8mm Reduction Print as P

"Underground cinema will soon invade the Beautiful American Home”: The 8mm Reduction Print as Poor Image of the 1960s

Erika Balsom (King's College London)

March 2, 12pm

GEM lab (FB 630.15), Concordia University

Historically, American avant-garde cinema has overwhelmingly adopted a rental model of distribution: filmmakers deposit prints with an organization which rents them for a per screening fee. The emphasis was on experience over object, something that may be understood in a broader way as a form of opposition to the commodity fetishism of culture in general and the art market in particular. And yet, in the late 1960s many prominent filmmakers such as Stan Brakhage, Bruce Conner, and Jonas Mekas advocated for 8mm reduction prints to be sold to private individuals for home viewing. Based on extensive archival research, this presentation will trace the rise and fall of the largely unrealized dream of selling 8mm reduction prints. Though this model failed to achieve widespread market viability and is virtually forgotten today, in the mid-1960s it represented a hopeful avenue for the dissemination of films in the fledgling American experimental cinema, in part because it offered a solution to two problems, both of which are a matter of access: the ephemerality of theatrical presentation and the problem of censorship.

Erika Balsom is a senior lecturer in Film Studies at King’s College London, focusing on the history of the moving image in art and experimental documentary practices. Her most recent book, After Uniqueness: A History of Film and Video Art in Circulation, was published by Columbia University Press in 2017. She is author of Exhibiting Cinema in Contemporary Art (2013), the co-editor of Documentary Across Disciplines (2016), and a frequent contributor to Artforum and Sight and Sound. Her work has appeared in publications such as Grey Room, e-flux, Cinema Journal, and numerous exhibition catalogues. In summer 2017, she was international film curator in residency at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre in New Zealand.

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