The First Days of Disco

Those with an archaeological interest in the origin of the disco and other relics of the high '60s might avail themselves of the Jud Yalkut retro at the Whitney. The installation "Yin/Yang sine/pulse," a Mylar-wallpapered chamber designed by Yalkut as part of the multimedia collective USCO, in which movies of light patterns and entwined naked bodies are projected on three rotating weather balloons, is now down, but, this weekend only, the museum will be presenting Yalkut's 50-minute "film journal," Metamedia.

Faded beneath its multiple superimpositions, overly fond of zooms and single-frame pixelation, Yalkut's avant-garde home movie is a fascinating recording of various USCO-theques and other late-'60s multimedia environments. The craziest is a wonderfully mod-looking, celeb-and-fashionista-stocked opening party at the Jewish Museum, where USCO evidently concocted the multimedia aspect of the exhibit "Lower East Side: Past and Present." There are also Timothy Leary's appropriately tacky 1966 psychedelic celebration, "The Resurrection of Christ," staged in the then happening East Village; a 1968 projected laser show by E.A.T. (Experiments in Art and Technology); a more hands-on occurrence staged by Carolee Schneeman; the whirling bikini-clad chaos of the Living Theatre's BAM performance of Paradise Now; the sparsely attended American premiere of Hermann Nitsch's Orgy-Mystery Theatre at the Film-maker's Cinematheque; and a Yayoi Kusama event involving black light and fluorescent body paint.

A new sort of infectious happy cool: those incredible chaps
photo: Courtesy of Miramax Films
A new sort of infectious happy cool: those incredible chaps


A Hard Days Night
Directed by Richard Lester
Written by Alun Owen
A Miramax release
Film Forum
December 1 through 21

The Participating Camera: Film Journals and Diaries by Jud Yalkut
Whitney Museum
December 2 and 3

Andy Warhol and the Exploding Plastic Inevitable
American Museum of the Moving Image
December 3

Kusama was a particular Yalkut associate. His magnum opus, the 1967 Kusama's Self-Obliteration, will be showing Saturday only; it's less a movie than a chunk of the social moment. For those who miss this acid flashback, the Sunday program includes a three-minute commissioned film featuring the Lovin' Spoonful. The band was once imagined as the American Beatles; here they do their best to enact the Beatlesque by haphazardly rehearsing, clowning around Central Park, goofing on squares, and otherwise making like the denizens of a low-rent Hard Day's Night.

The pop culture of the '70s was, in good measure, a massification of the previous decade's populist avant-garde—Haight-Ashbury repackaged as the 2001 Disco in Saturday Night Fever. It's a matter of historical conjecture whether the first full-fledged, sensory-overload New York disco was the sockadelic strobe, moiré, and Mylar environment that USCO created in early 1966 for a Long Island club modestly called the World or if it was the more hysterical multimedia assault known as the "Exploding Plastic Inevitable" that Andy Warhol and associates launched the same season on St. Marks Place. In any case, it seems appropriate that the American Museum of the Moving Image would wind up "Visions of New York," its retrospective of the '60s underground, with a program devoted to the EPI that includes documentary recordings and a perverse Velvet Underground nonperformance film, as well as other underground movies that may (or may not) have been projected on the walls and ceilings of the cavernous former Polish National Home.

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