I was recently awarded funding from the Art Fund’s Jonathan Ruffer Curatorial Grants Programme to travel to New York to spend four weeks researching portraiture in the moving image and investigating different institutional approaches to conserving film, video and digital works within museum collections. I worked at four organisations and visited commercial and public gallery spaces during my time in the United States.

The first place I visited was Electronic Arts Intermix where I saw a huge variety of artists’ film and video, ranging from newly digitised works by Carolee Schneeman from the 1960s to those by artists who may not be as familiar to the UK public, such as Ursula Hodel and Phyllis Baldino. Working primarily as distributors, EAI’s close contact with the artists means that they hold unique records relating to the conception and installation of these works.

Another organisation that began as a means to distribute experimental film was the New York Filmmakers’ Cooperative or the New American Cinema Group. Founded in 1962 by Jonas Mekas, the Coop is run by the artists whose works they circulate, headed by the Executive Director MM Serra. They have a rich historic collection of 16mm, 8mm and Super 8mm works and other archival ephemera.

I was able to view a number of works at Anthology Film Archives, whose collection includes some of the most important works in film history as well as lesser-known experimental works. I also interviewed Curator Andrew Lampert and Archivist John Klacsmann on their current approach to film preservation – a field that is constantly changing due to developments in new technology.

At the Department of Media and Performance at the Museum of Modern Art I viewed a variety of works that are stored digitally and others in their screening room. Through conversations with Assistant Curator Erica Papernik and her colleagues, I was able to discover new works and discuss some of the challenges that face institutions in relation to the conservation of fragile moving image and installation works.

In my final week I curated a programme of short films (by Marie Menken, Taka Iimura, Charles Henri Ford and Jud Yalkut and Stan Vanderbeek) that were shown at the Filmmakers’ Cooperative and presented a paper alongside the screening. It was a wonderful opportunity to show some rare and beautiful works from the late 1960s in their original 16mm format.

Image credits

Top right: Inga wearing a silk jacket that belonged to Maya Deren at the Film Coop!
Bottom left: Poster for my screening (image by Kim Coleman).
Bottom right: Archive programme from a Jud Yalkut expanded cinema event.

Photos courtesy of Inga Fraser.

Comments

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admin

13 September 2013, 12:58

Thank you Simon! I’d love to bring some of the works I saw to the National Portrait Gallery – and it is definitely something I will be looking into with other curators when discussing future programmes.

Simon

12 September 2013, 22:02

Fascinating account of how worthwhile this Art Fund Travel Grant has been. Are their plans to feature any of the American works in future National Portrait Gallery displays

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