Ken Jacobs

Ken Jacobs

Ken Jacobs

Ken Jacobs is a pioneer of American avant-garde cinema. Beginning in the 1950’s, from his first films until his most recent experiments with digital video, his extremely innovative work has been influential on many filmmakers and artists.
Ken Jacobs was born in New York and studied painting under Hans Hofmann, although film-making soon came to dominate his artmaking activity. Friendship with New York’s (later-legendary) underground figure Jack Smith pushed him towards an extremely irreverent type of cinema where there were no professional actors and improvisation and freedom reigned, producing work such as the seminal underground films “Star Spangled To Death” and “Blonde Cobra”.
In 1966 with his wife Florence he started the Millennium Film Workshop, a “street-school” providing film-studies together with film-making opportunities to both established and beginning filmmakers, including the young Ernie Gehr.
Between 1969 and 1971, with the making of “Tom, Tom the Piper’s Son”, Jacobs took his first steps in film appropriation. Found footage would take on a special meaning both in his own work and in some of the most innovative trends in experimental film. His amusing work with actors would be gradually replaced by what he spoke of as “the pleasures of delving in the cinematic unconscious”. His research and experiments in the field of appropriation, especially with images from cinema’s early days, made Jacobs one of the most relevant names in Structuralism, in which story and character made way for deep questioning of the means of cinema itself.
Jacobs also developed an interest in the performance possibilities of cinema, staging 2D and 3D shadow-plays and developing a technique he calls The Nervous System. For this, he uses two stop-motion film-projectors and two prints of a film to combine adjacent frames onscreen, conjuring up uncanny spaces and impossible motions. Renditions of some of these pieces have begun to be available as digital interpretations. He later developed The Nervous Magic Lantern, a single lightsource throwing depth-images onscreen from other than film-sources.
Over the last decade, Ken Jacobs has become a serious researcher of the experimental capabilities of digital cinema. His activism, his films, his performances and his most recent experiments in digital images confirm Jacobs’ inexorable interest in exploring the moving image, bolstering his reputation as an explorer of cinematic art.
His work has won him a series of international awards as well as exhibitions in leading art institutions such as New York’s MoMA and the Whitney Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition at Solar gives us the opportunity to see Jacob’s work in a consistent and multifaceted perspective. By exhibiting in our gallery a considerable amount of Jacobs’ experiments with moving images we will be able to grasp some of the central issues of his work. By way of images from the early days of cinema juxtaposed with material from his own personal archives of photos and home movies, in which he revisits his circle of friends, Jonas Mekas, Peter Kubelka, Stan Brakhage and many others, we are invited to join him in an examination of the “cinematic unconscious”.
Within the scope of this exhibition there will be a set of activities that are included 18th Curtas Vila do Conde – International Film Festival.

Nuno Rodrigues

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