Česká centra, Czech Centres

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Mar 13, 2012 7:00 PM

Spark of Being & 657 Second

Film Club - Czech and Other Experimental Films Then and Now. Free Admission


Films: Spark of Being & 657 Second

Spark of Being, 2010, 68 min
Directed by Bill Morrison
 Original compositions by Dave Douglas, Commissioned by Stanford Lively Arts
In English
An adaptation of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" using found film footage, with an original soundtrack by Dave Douglas, performed by Keystone.

 657 Second, 2008, 12 min, Directed by Hana Zelezna
in Czech with English Subtitles
Two faces in a frame are swallowed up by a future image because film, as a process of permanent marking, can never change to an empty space and ceaselessly creates endless associations - titles: idea of abstraction, resounding space, technology of impression.

Czech and Other Experimental Films Now and Then

Yesterday’s experiments have often turned into today’s canons.  Avant-garde cinema of the 1920s and 1930s is a case in point. What was once an exciting discovery became part of everyday visual language.  And yet watching some historical experimental films, one can somehow feel their originality and freshness even today. Will today’s experiments also turn canonical?

To ponder this question it is intriguing to see today’s experimental films next to historical films of the same or similar genres.  For this purpose, the program of three film evenings comprises several experimental shorts in three different genres: abstract films, big city life films and narrative films. The program presents historical pictures by Czech filmmakers Alexander Hackenschmied, Otakar Vávra, František Pilát, Svatopluka Innemanna, Karel and Irena Dodals, while contemporary examples include shorts by Americans Amos Poe, Michael Joaquin Grey, Bill Morrison, British Isaac Julien, and two young Czechs Kryštof Pešek and Hana Železná.

The key Modernist concept of abstraction had a major impact on avant-garde filmmakers in Europe. As the films The Light Penetrates the Darkness by Vávra and Pilát and The Idea Seeking Light by Karel and Irena Dodals demonstrate, abstraction was often associated with technology and progress or with spiritual issues. This heritage can still be detected in the work of contemporary authors, though these interests have branched out into various directions. Here the issue of materiality of the film medium and its dramatic transformation through digital technology represents a major subject and concern.

Big city life was another key theme that attracted avant-garde artists and filmmakers.

Aimless Walk by Alexander Hackenschmied reconnects this genre to its origins by invoking the trope of flaneur. Hackenschmied’s Prague Castle provides a striking complement to Amos Poe’s Empire II, an impressive variation on Andy Warhol’s classic. The dominant architectural icons of Prague and New York emerge here as historical symbols of the European and the American city.

In narrative films, avant-garde filmmakers have come closest to the mainstream commercial cinema. Characteristically, erotic desire and fantasy occupy a major theme in this genre. Hence a juxtaposition of historical and contemporary examples reveals telling insights into changing mores and conventions of contemporary society.
~Jaroslav Andel



Bill Morrison
Over the past twenty years Bill Morrison has built a filmography of more than thirty projects that have been presented in theaters, museums, galleries and concert halls worldwide. His work often makes use of rare archival footage in which forgotten film imagery is reframed as part of our collective mythology.
Morrison's films are in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, The Nederlands Filmmuseum, and The Library of Congress. He is a Guggenheim fellow and has received the Alpert Award for the Arts, an NEA Creativity Grant, a Creative Capital grant, and a fellowship from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. His work with Ridge Theater has been recognized with two Bessie awards and an Obie Award.


Jaroslav Andel:
Ph.D. Jaroslav Anděl received his Ph.D. in Art History from Charles University and his M.F.A. in Photography from the Film and Television Faculty of the Academy of the Performing Arts in Prague. As a visual artist in the1970s he had several one-person exhibitions and participated in group exhibitions of photo-based and conceptual art in Europe, Asia and the United States. In 1982 he moved from Prague to New York City, and has since has produced numerous exhibitions and publications on modern and contemporary art both in the Czech Republic and abroad. He is the co-author of  Czech Modernism 1900-1945 (Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Houston, Texas, U.S.A. 1990) and co-editor of Cinema All the Time: An Anthology of Czech Film Theory and Criticism, 1908-1939 (Czech National Film Archive: 2008). He is the artistic director of the DOX Center for Contemporary Art in Prague. www.dox.cz

See also:
Czech and Other: Experimental Films Then and Now:
 March 20, 7PM, Erotica and Abstraction

March 27, 7pm, The City



Organized in collaboration with the National Film Archive in Prague and FAMU Center for Audiovisual Studies


321 East 73rd Street
NY 10021 New York
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Mar 13, 2012 7:00 PM


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