Monday, January 23, 2023

Ed Emshwiller - Film With Three Dancers - 1970

"A cine-dance film featuring the dancers Carolyn Carlson, Emery Hermans and Bob Beswick. The trio, first in leotards, then in blue jeans, then naked, pass through rituals of movement. They are shown in stylized, "naturalistic" and abstract images accompanied by stylized, naturalistic and abstract sounds. A series of ways of seeing the dancers. "Best (underground) picture of the year."

- Camille J. Cook, Chicago Sunday Sun-Times

" ....Ed Emshwiller worked in his second-floor home studio, painting illustrations for the covers of sci-fi magazines, including Galaxy, Infinity, and Astounding Science Fiction, and cheap novels by Philip K. Dick, Leigh Brackett, and Samuel R. Delaney...  He won five Hugo Awards. He supported his growing family. Some months, his illustrations accounted for a third of all those published in the sci-fi pulps. He drew aliens on other planets, spacemen in cockpits zipping through the cosmos, and rats controlling men’s brains.... "By the 1960s, Emshwiller, like Andy Warhol, had turned from commercial illustration to 16-mm filmmaking, blacking out the windows in his studio so he could make movies, Factory style, in Levittown. His singular body of work experimented with form, dance, narrative, and social psychology; he mixed them together, sometimes uneasily... Self-taught, he first experimented by photographing close-ups of paint, rewinding the film in the camera, then filming dancers so they would move around the brushstrokes. He debuted Dance Chromatic in 1959 at Amos Vogel’s Cinema 16 in Manhattan and promptly won an award. Soon he was part of the New York avant-garde.... 

"Emshwiller was as prolific a filmmaker as he was an illustrator, working on more than seven dozen films and videos in his lifetime. He also became a cinematographer, shooting Jonas Mekas’s The Brig (1964) and several documentaries. He shot black-voter-registration drives in Mississippi, cinema vérité style, and Resnais-like hallways filled with banks of data-crunching computers for a PBS film on mind control. He worked for the United States Information Agency as a director-cinematographer and made Project Apollo in 1968, a stunningly original spaceflight film. Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick both came to visit him in Levittown. It seems like they were the only filmmakers he ever turned down. While he was a dean at CalArts in the 1970s, he worked on primitive computer animations with Alvy Ray Smith, one of the guys who would go on to start Pixar.

"“It’s Emshwiller’s body that is vomiting out its existential memories and suspicions,” Jonas Mekas wrote in the Village Voice in 1970. Emshwiller’s busyness, his constant Brownian motion, takes away from his most lasting achievement as a film artist. Post–Maya Deren and pre–Yvonne Rainer, he is the best director of dance films in experimental and expanded cinema. The two dozen or so he made, including Chrysalis (1973) and Film with Three Dancers (1970), surpass his earlier, knottier film work with an otherworldly beauty absent from death-haunted cascades of images like Thanatopsis (1962) and Relativity (1966).

"His dance films take place “in space”; Film with Three Dancers features Creation of the Humanoids–esque performers in monochrome leotards and silver bathing caps who are lit with colored lights similar to those in Italian space flicks and horror movies. Made with the Alwin Nikolais Dance Company and often featuring the choreographer-dancer Carolyn Carlson, three movement studies connect Emshwiller’s view of natural landscapes and space flight to the human body. In other videos, like Scape-Mates (1972) and Pilobolus and Joan (1973), which was written by Carol, Emshwiller took dance from his homemade stage into the laboratory, where the real world met a virtual one inside his computer.

"In the latter film, members of the dance troupe Pilobolus crawl in centipede-like formation against a chroma-key backdrop of the twin towers, serenaded at times by a folk singer. In the former, dance figures blip out of colorful grids and blocks. Both films are trippy, complex, and not a little nuts. A final work, Hungers (1988), an avant-garde space opera worthy of Sun Ra, with music by Morton Subotnick sung on-screen by Joan La Barbara, expresses the human soul flying free from corporeality, free from Levittown and any known planet. "

- A.S. Hamrah, Artforum

 "Throughout Emshwiller’s film and video work, illustrations, paintings, works on paper, and sculptures (painted neckties!), there is a sort of deeply compelling mania, as if he could not possibly record everything he felt compelled to in the mediums available to him and in the timespan of a life. In remarks that followed the opening screening of “Dream Dance,” Emshwiller’s daughter Susan recalled her father’s monomaniacal documentation of their shared everyday life, an object of her teenage frustration. When asked by an audience member what, of his sprawling body of work, Emshwiller was most proud of, Susan replied without hesitation, “Whatever he was working on at that moment.” ' -  Heather Holmes, Art in America

I think this Pulp video for "The Trees" owes something to  "Film with Three Dancers". 

More Emshwiller genius 

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