To Save and Project Fest: Long Live Cinema!

For a month at MOMA, digital is not the savior of cinema

A vulgar, provocatively slapdash corollary to assemblages by avant-garde film artists Bruce Conner and Ken Jacobs, The Movie Orgy’s appearance at MOMA enlarges received histories of avant-garde film practice. So too Uruguayan artist Lidia García Millán’s three-minute, jazz-scored poured-painted abstraction Color (1958), rediscovered by TSAP’s edgy analogue, the NYU Orphan Film Project, and painter Agnes Martin’s lone completed and largely forgotten film, Gabriel, preserved by MOMA in cooperation with the Pace Gallery. First shown in 1977, Martin’s unfashionably romantic, even simpleminded, feature-length study of a child navigating the mountains and streams of a sublime Western landscape—as accompanied by intermittent bursts of Bach—confounded partisans of the artist’s stringent, minimalist canvases, who naturally expected something closer to that aesthetic—perhaps something akin to the structural cinema of Hollis Frampton or Michael Snow.


To Save and Project: The Ninth MOMA International Festival of Film Preservation
October 14 through November 19
The Museum of Modern Art

The Movie Orgy might be artless, but it is scarcely naïve; Gabriel is its opposite, with a highly sophisticated visual artist making earnestly amateur, if not primitive, use of 16mm film. Martin’s acceptance of the medium’s intrinsic qualities and somewhat maddening emphasis on duration (if not her assertion that her subject is “happiness, innocence, and beauty”) brings her close to early Warhol. Indeed, with its shaky handheld camera, end flares, evident film grain, and occasional soft focus, Gabriel could not be anything other than 16mm. Good art or bad, its presence is essential to the TSAP worldview: Celluloid lives!

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