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Metaphors on Vision: Films by Stan Brakhage

Metaphors on Vision: Films by Stan Brakhage

Mothlight, by Stan Brakhage, Courtesy of the Estate of Stan Brakhage and Fred Camper (

UCLA Film & Television Archive, Los Angeles Filmforum and Acropolis Cinema present

Metaphors on Vision: Films by Stan Brakhage

Friday, April 13, 2018, 7:30 pm

At the UCLA Film & Television Archive, Billy Wilder Theatre, Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd. (intersection of Wilshire and Westwood Blvds.), Los Angeles CA 90024

Thomas Beard & Steve Anker in person.

"Imagine an eye unruled by man-made laws of perspective, an eye unprejudiced by compositional logic, an eye which does not respond to the name of everything but which must know each object encountered in life through an adventure of perception."

So begins Stan Brakhage’s classic Metaphors on Vision.  First published in 1963 as a special issue of Film Culture, it stands as the major theoretical statement by one of avant-garde cinema’s most influential figures, a treatise on mythopoeia and the nature of visual experience written in a style as idiosyncratic as his art.  By turns lyrical, technical and philosophical, this is a collection to be shelved alongside the commentaries of Robert Bresson, Maya Deren, Sergei Eisenstein and Nagisa Oshima.  After being out of print for decades, the volume is now available again in a new edition from Anthology Film Archives and Light Industry, overseen by its original editor P. Adams Sitney.  To celebrate its republication, the UCLA Film & Television Archive presents a two-night program of key Brakhage films.

Tonight's program presents key early films that Stan Brakhage made while he was writing Metaphors on Vision, works that inaugurated a radically new form of first-person cinema.  The film program will be preceded by a talk by Thomas Beard.

Series curated by Steve Anker and Thomas Beard.

Thomas Beard is a founder and director of Light Industry, a venue for film and electronic art in Brooklyn, and a programmer at large for the Film Society of Lincoln Center. He was the co-curator for the cinema programs at the 2012 Whitney Biennial and Greater New York 2010 at MoMA PS1, and has organized screenings for Artists Space, BAMcinématek, the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive, the Centre Pompidou, Harvard Film Archive, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and Tate Modern.

Los Angeles Filmforum members receive free admission to this series at the Billy Wilder Theater box office!

Learn more about Acropolis Cinema at


Tickets: $10 general advance purchase, $9 general at door; $8 non-UCLA students/seniors/UCLA alumni; free for UCLA Students and Filmforum members.  Available in advance at or at the door.

Images courtesy of the Estate of Stan Brakhage and Fred Camper (

Stan Brakhage Anticipation

Anticipation of the Night, by Stan Brakhage. courtesy of the Estate of Stan Brakhage

Anticipation of the Night

(1958, 16mm, color, 40 min.)

"The protagonist, like the members of the audience, is a voyeur, and his eventual suicide is a result of his inability to participate in the 'untutored' seeing experience of a child.  Anticipation consists of a flow of colors and shapes which constantly intrigues us by placing the unknown object next to the known in a significant relationship, by metamorphosing one visual statement into another." —P. Adams Sitney

Preserved print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive. 


Sirius Remembered, courtesy of the Estate of Stan Brakhage

Sirius Remembered

(1959, 16mm, color, 12 min.)

“I was coming to terms with decay of a dead thing and the decay of the memories of a loved being that had died… I was taking song as my inspiration and for the rhythm structure, just as dogs dancing, prancing around a corpse, and howling in rhythm-structures or rhythm-intervals might be considered like the birth of some kind of son.” —Stan Brakhage

Preserved print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive.   

The Dead

The Dead, courtesy of the Estate of Stan Brakhage

The Dead

(1960, 16mm, color, 11 min. )

“Europe… I was always Tourist there; I couldn't live in it.  The graveyard could stand for all my view of Europe, for all the concerns with past art, for involvement with symbol.  The Dead became my first work in which things that might very easily be taken as symbols were so photographed as to destroy all their symbolic potential.” —Stan Brakhage

Preserved print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive.  

thigh line lyre grab002

Thigh Line Lyre Triangular, courtesy of the Estate of Stan Brakhage

Thigh Line Lyre Triangular

(1961, 16mm, color, 6 min.)

“Only at a crisis do I see both the sense as I've been trained to see it (that is, with Renaissance perspective, three-dimensional logic, colors as we've been trained to call a color a color, and so forth) and patterns that move straight out from the inside of the mind through the optic nerves … I wanted a childbirth film which expressed all of my seeing at such a time.” —Stan Brakhage

Print courtesy of Canyon Cinema.   

mothlight small 0

Mothlight, courtesy of the Estate of Stan Brakhage and Fred Camper


(1963, 16mm, color, 3 min.)

“A paradoxical preservation of pieces of dead moths in the eternal medium of light (which is life and draws the moth to death); so it flutters through its very disintegration.  This abstract of flight captures matter's struggle to assume its proper form; the death of the moth does not cancel its nature, which on the filmstrip asserts itself." —Ken Kelman

Preserved print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive.