Bruce Checefsky: Remaking the Unseen
Bruce Checefsky is a photographer and Director of the Reinberger Galleries at the Cleveland Institute of Art. For the past 13 years he has also moonlighted as a maker of short, independent films that have shown widely around the world—from MoMA and the Anthology Film Archives to the Tate Modern and the Rotterdam Film Festival. Checefsky has carved out a unique niche for himself by reimagining and making abstract and avant-garde Eastern European shorts from the 1920s to the 1940s that were either lost, destroyed, or conceived/scripted but never filmed. Checefsky’s completion of a new movie, Witch’s Cradle (2014), affords us an opportunity to show all eight of his visually dazzling short films in one comprehensive program. Witch’s Cradle reimagines an unfinished, now lost 1943 short by pioneering experimental filmmaker Maya Deren (Meshes of the Afternoon). Deren shot her film with Marcel Duchamp in Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century Gallery in New York; it was intended to be an exploration of the magical qualities of objects in the space. Checefsky’s Cleveland-made remake stars CIA alum Margaret Stamm. Also showing: Pharmacy (2001), A Woman and Circles (2003), IN NI (Others) (2005), Moment Musical (2006), Béla (2010), and more.
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Tickets: $10 general, $6 students/seniors; free for Filmforum members. Available by credit card in advance from Brown Paper Tickets at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/761437 or at the door.
"History is inert until someone tells it. Overcoming that inertia is critical when recreating a historical document. Activating the archive surrounding the original is an attempt to activate the lost or destroyed. Using trace material or remnants of the past in recreating a work of art is a form of mapping one space onto another. A new paradigm results. Before a single frame of film is exposed in remaking these films, issues arise: remake the film as one might imagine or reconstruct the original? My short films require extensive, almost obsessive research to uncover the facts and materials surrounding the original film. More importantly, I carefully unravel a filmmaker’s life story. I am particularly interested in the social, political, economic, and personal conditions under which the lost film was made. Several of my films were made in the country of their origin and whenever possible I hire local talent to influence the cultural and contextual grain which plays a decisive role in the films ability to move beyond a stick-figure view of history. In making these films, nothing I produce is purely authentic. A claim of authenticity suggests an awareness of historical roots, finding meaning in tradition. But the limits on available artifacts in a remake, especially a lost film, can undermine the past, resulting in a radical shift in meaning. Whether an authentic reproduction or not, my films assert their own ideology. They are intended as an independent project where research and production, in the sense that the films are eventually made from an artist’s point of view, exist in contrast to the original version. They are curatorial in their process.
"On the other hand, the remake acquires new meaning by their intertextuality: each film is the product not simply of the original filmmaker, but of a relationship to other films and to the structures of film itself. I take allegorical strategies to a new level. While employing ‘ready-made’ ideas and aesthetics, repeating in a way the works of others, I allow the films to retain their original meaning, their entire historical and aesthetic context. I reserve the ‘opportunity’ to create meaning through the second allegorical layer of the work. The fact that these artists’ films no longer exist or were never produced provides considerable room for creativity, with an immeasurable degree of responsibility."
More on Checefsky at his site: http://seesawpictures.com/
Interview with Checefsky:
A WOMAN AND CIRCLES
IN NI (Others)
(2005/Digital color animation/Silent/3:00 min.) In the early 1910’s, painter, designer, and illustrator Leopold Survage sought to transcend the “immobility” of abstract painting by animating colorful forms through film. Survage, born Leopold Sturzwage, was a student at Moscow’s School of Fine Arts when he discovered French modernism, inspiring his move to Paris in 1908. Survage joined the city’s coterie of avant-garde artists, exhibited his work at the Salon des Independants, and attained the support of Guillaume Apollinaire. Contemporary developments in abstract painting propelled his experiments with rhythm-color “symphonies,” resulting in a series of hand-drawn colored abstractions (produced between 1912 and 1913), which he intended to transform into pulsating rhythmic forms using a team of animators and a three-color camera. Survage considered his Rhythm colore series an autonomous art form analogous to music. Survage considered his film analogous to music. Purely abstract colorful forms would kinetically interact creating in the viewers mind melodic and harmonic rhythm. His pioneering efforts to create the first abstract film were curtailed by the outbreak of World War I, and his color “plates” were never filmed. Survage continued to paint and produce designs and illustrations until his death.