LA Film Forum Logo




Tuesday, August 2, 2016, 7:30pm

The Hammer Museum and Los Angeles Filmforum present

Ruins, with Jesse Lerner & Gala Porras-Kim

At the UCLA Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024

Jesse Lerner’s Ruins mixes real and fabricated archival footage to document the restoration of artifacts and monuments from Mexico’s precolonial era. Interrogating the problematic and often Eurocentric nature of historical conservation, Ruins resonates with themes explored in the work of Made in L.A. 2016 artist Gala Porras-Kim. After the screening, Lerner and Porras-Kim will discuss how the value of particular objects shapes the interpretation of culture. (1999, dir. Jesse Lerner, 16mm, black and white, 78 min.)

Location: Billy Wilder Theater
Ticketing: Tickets are required and available at the Box Office one hour before the program. General admission tickets are available one per person on a first come, first served basis following member ticketing. Early arrival is recommended.
Member Benefit: Members receive priority ticketing (until 15 minutes before the program) by skipping the general admission line and can choose their seats, subject to availability.
Parking: Under the museum, $6 flat rate after 6 p.m. Cash only. 

Food and drink may not be carried into the Billy Wilder Theater. Read our food, bag check, and photo policies.

Tickets: $10 general, $6 students/seniors; free for Filmforum members.  Available in advance from Brown Paper Tickets at or at the door.


Ruins.2.diorama smaller



By Jesse Lerner
(1999, B & W 16mm, 78 min)

Surveying representative moments from the history of Mesoamerican antiquarianism, this experimental documentary suggests how diplomacy and Pan-Americanism framed the recontexualization of archeological objects as art. Part faked newsreel, part diffusionist rant, Ruins uses appropriated sounds and images to contemplate a history of appropriated objects. The film visits with Brigido Lara, master forger, and suggests parallels between the documentary film and the fake.


With: Sylvanus Morley, Maria Elena Pat, Filiberto Sanchez Varela, Brigido Lara and Alice Dixon Le Plongeon.

“Counterfeiting is a practice with broad and devious implications, from the merest of fake objects to entire histories shaped as facsimile. Jesse Lerner's provocative Ruins takes the forger's art and applies it to the appropriation of culture, in this case, Mexican. The prologue to this wizardly jumble of newsreel snippets, travelogia, and stagy rants collates early colonial misconceptions of Mexico's populace, a stewpot of ethnographic and political distortions. From there, Lerner charts the rarefaction of this process that recontextualizes archeological objects as art. In this cultural valuation, Mayan and Aztec objects are severed from their origins and further rarefied within the confines of museums. At the center of Ruins is Brigido Lara, a master forger whose "Pre-Columbian" objects have been displayed in major (and unwitting) museums throughout the U.S. and Europe. Is this the final subterfuge of the colonial project----the real and the fake, indistinguishable?  Ruins builds a diverting argument from the (imitation) detritus of culture.”  --Steve Seid, Pacific Film Archives


Jesse Lerner is a filmmaker based in Los Angeles.  His short films Natives (1991, with Scott Sterling), T.S.H. (2004) and Magnavoz (2006) and the feature-length experimental documentaries Frontierland/Fronterilandia (1995, with Rubén Ortiz-Torres), Ruins (1999) The American Egypt (2001), Atomic Sublime (2010) and The Absent Stone (2013, with Sandra Rozental) have won numerous prizes at film festivals in the United States, Latin America and Japan, and have screened at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Washington’s National Gallery, and the Sundance, Rotterdam and Los Angeles Film Festivals.  His films were featured in mid-career surveys at New York’s Anthology Film Archives and Mexico’s Cineteca Nacional.  He has curated projects for the Mexico’s Palacio Nacional de Bellas Artes, the Guggenheim Museums in New York and Bilbao, and the Robert Flaherty Seminar.  His books include F is for Phony: Fake Documentary and Truth’s Undoing (with Alexandra Juhasz, 2000), The Shock of Modernity (2007), The Maya of Modernism (2011), and The Catherwood Project (with Leandro Katz, forthcoming).