Resonanz von Exil, Ausstellungsansicht, Museum der Moderne Salzburg, 2018 © Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Foto: Rainer Iglar
AMOS VOGEL
"I have devoted my whole life to disturbing people."
Amos Vogel was born on 18 April 1921 in Vienna as Amos Vogelbaum. In 1938 he emigrated via Cuba to the USA, where he lived in New York and Philadelphia until his death on 24 April 2012. Amos Vogel was one of the most important personalities of international film culture.
 
He was founder and curator of Cinema 16 (1947–1963), the largest film club in the U.S. focusing on independent cinema; founding director of the New York Film Festival (1963–1968) focusing on contemporary avant-garde; essayist and author of the standard film theoretical work Film as a Subversive Art (1974); professor of film studies at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania; lecturer, critic, and consultant at numerous international film festivals.
 

 

Life


1921
18. April
Born as Amos Vogelbaum in Vienna
May
Sigmund Freud: "Group Psychology and
27. July
Marcia Diener
1923
21. September
Red Vienna: Beginning of
1924
21. January
Lenin Dies
1927
Alfred Adler: "Knowledge of Human Nature"
15. July
July Revolt in Vienna
1928
Vogel's Magic Lantern
1929
24. October
Stock Market Crash in New York
1930
Sigmund Freud: "Civilization and
12. October
Karl-Marx-Hof
1931
Wilhelm Reich leaves Vienna
1933
Member of the Urania film club
Wilhelm Reich: "The Mass Psychology of
30. January
Hitler seizes Power
07. March
Censorship in Austria
1934
Song of Ceylon
12. February
February Uprising
18. April
Forbidden Books
August
Exclusion of Wilhelm Reich
1935
Member of Brith Bilu
1936
Moscow Show Trials
Night Mail
1938
12. March
"Annexation" of Austria
13. March
Exclusion from Schools
14. March
Assaults and Humiliations
April
Youth Alijah
September
Emigration and Exile
October
Crossing Hamburg – Havana
November
Arrival in Cuba
1939
April
Agricultural School, Georgia/USA
May
Racial Segregation
01. September
Second World War
23. September
Sigmund Freud Dies
1940
21. August
Assassination of Trotsky
December
Choosing the USA
1941
March
New School for Social Research
April
New York Times
May
Odd Jobs
08. December
USA enters World War II
1942
March
Lectures by Meyer Schapiro
1943
19. March
Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
1944
September
US Citizenship
1945
27. January
Liberation of Auschwitz
05. May
End of the war in Europe
06. August
Atomic bomb on Hiroshima
06. August
Marriage with Marcia Diener
1946
February
Maya Deren
1947
15. August
Independence of India
November
Cinema 16
December
Against Censorship
1948
30. January
Assassination of Ghandi
March
Cinema 16 Film Distribution
14. May
Independence of Israel
1949
June
Cinema 16 grows
1952
January
Pamphlet One
1954
January
François Truffaut
21. February
Birth of Steven Vogel
27. June
Military coup in Guatemala
1955
May
Film Culture
05. December
Civil Rights Movement
1956
Allan Ginsberg
Alfred Hitchcock
Weegee's New York
23. October
Revolt in Hungary
1957
Rudolf Arnheim
03. November
Wilhelm Reich Dies
1958
03. May
Birth of Loring Vogel
1959
01. January
Revolution in Cuba
February
Short Film Festival Oberhausen
11. November
Shadows & Pull My Daisy
1961
08. January
German Shorts in Cinema 16
13. August
Construction of the Berlin Wall
14. December
The Village Voice
1962
February
New German Film
05. July
Independence of Algeria
September
Cinema 16 in Trouble
1963
How Little Lori Visited Times Square
April
End of Cinema 16
28. August
"I Have a Dream"
September
First New York Film Festival
22. November
Assassination of John F. Kennedy
1964
February
Austrian Film Museum
06. August
US Intervention in Vietnam
1965
21. February
Assassination of Malcolm X
07. March
Bloody Sunday
1966
Black Wave
Black Panther
1967
Philharmonic Hall Magazine
Thirteen Confusions
05. June
Six-Day War
September
Conference for Film Education
October
Czechoslovak Film Festival
1968
16. March
Massacre of My Lai
04. April
Assassination of Martin Luther King
03. May
Paris May
21. August
End of the Prague Spring
September
Advice to the Moviegoers
02. October
Massacre of Tlatelolco
December
Withdrawal from the New York Film Festival
1969
Film consultant for Grove Press
1970
International Press Film Festival
Brief Story Outline for a Film
1971
Mysteries of the Organism
1973
Annenberg Cinematheque
11. September
Assessination of Salvador Allende
06. October
Yom Kippur War
1974
Film as a Subversive Art
09. August
Watergate Scandal
September
Professor at the Annenberg School
1979
19. July
Revolution in Nicaragua
October
Civil War in El Salvador
1980
08. December
Assessination of John Lennon
1981
Fields of Rain
1982
Lincoln Center
Werner Herzog
1983
01. April
Memory and Prevention
1987
04. March
Iran-Contra Scandal
December
First Intifada
1989
09. November
Fall of the Berlin Wall
1990
Professor Emeritus
1991
16. January
Gulf War
1993
October
Departure into Uncertainty
1994
01. January
Zapatista Uprising
April
You have to survive…
10. May
Nelson Mandela
1995
Emigration N.Y.
06. February
Oral History Interview
March
Purpose of avant-garde cinema
1996
29. December
Peace treaty in Guatemala
1997
Film as a Subversive Art in German
2000
Second Intifada
2001
11. September
9/11
07. October
War in Afghanistan
2003
20. March
Second Iraq War
2008
14. March
Cinema against Taboos
2009
01. February
Marcia Vogel Dies
2010
December
Arab Spring
2011
15. March
War in Syria
18. April
An Evening for Amos Vogel
2012
24. April
Amos Vogel Dies


Juvenalia Amos Vogel Library © The Estate of Amos Vogel
Childhood & Youth
"I was born into a middle-class family, Jewish on both sides. At age seven or so, I got a laterna magica, complete with color slides. I was entranced. Later my father bought me a home movie projector, 9,5mm. I enjoyed running the films backward as well – the magic of transforming, subverting reality."
 
"Furthermore, there was a film society in Vienna. It's hard for me to believe, but I must have joined at around the age of twelve or thirteen. One film I remember specifically and very strongly is Night Mail. The whole notion of documentary became important to me because of that film. And simultaneously I realized that this was really a poetic film, and I was amazed that such a boring subject could be made interesting."
 
"On one of my birthdays my father took me to a bookstore. The bookstore owner took us into a locked back room that was full of that (forbidden left-wing) literature, and I was allowed to pick out and buy twelve books 'for twelve months'."
Amos Vogel © The Estate of Amos Vogel
Emigration & Exile
Amos Vogel was only able to leave Vienna in the autumn of 1938, six months after Hitler's "Annexation" of Austria: "I'll never forget what I experienced during those six months. I was very lucky to be able to leave. If I had waited, undoubtedly I would be dead by now. It was very traumatic and has stayed with me all my life."
 
"I was able to get a scholarship at an agricultural school in Georgia. A very strange introduction to America. I had left a country in which the park benches said, 'Jews and dogs should not sit here.' Here I saw drinking fountains that said, 'For whites only.' It was a very important lesson for me. I realized that this business of fascism and discrimination against other human beings is not limited simply to Germans, that they are not the only people who are capable of it."
 
"I was going to stay here and the first thing I did was to obtain a scholarship at the newly established New School for Social Research. That was a new college in New York consisting of refugee scholars. I entered their school of politics and, after working during the day, would go to school at night. I was one of their first graduates. I got a Bachelor of Arts in politics and economics. My modest intention was to make the world a better place."
Amos and Marcia Vogel at Cinema 16, 1955 © Peter Martin
Cinema 16
Inspired by the work of Maya Deren, Amos Vogel and his wife Marcia founded the Cinema 16 film club. They organized their screenings in close collaboration with Jack Goelman. Vogel, a pioneer in the presentation of what was to be known as independent film, embraced non-mainstream cinema. From 1947 to 1963, 16mm films, documentaries, educational, scientific and experimental films were shown weekly for thousands of people at various venues in New York City.
 
Yasujirō Ozu, Nagisa Oshima, Alain Resnais, Jacques Rivette, Agnès Varda, Robert Bresson or Roman Polanski, as well as Kenneth Anger, Stan Brakhage, James Broughton, Bruce Conner and John Cassavetes were just some of the filmmakers who were shown for the first time in Cinema 16. In later years even mainstream directors like Alfred Hitchcock were guests at the Filmclub.
 
"So, at a certain point I said to Marcia, 'Listen. You know what I think maybe we could do? Why don't we rent this place for two nights. I'll go to various distributors and try to find some films I think might make up a good program, and we'll show a program of a selection of shorts.' This was the basic idea: if I'm interested in seeing such films, in a city of seven million people, there must be other people like that."
 
"It was a huge, smashing, immediate success. We had to repeat this first program for sixteen evenings! With two showings per evening! My naive, but logical supposition was immediately proven correct. I have no doubt that if I had chosen other films, I would have done just as well, so long as they made for a well- rounded program. This idea worked, not because of my excellence as a programmer or anything like that, but because historical circumstances allowed Cinema 16 to fulfill a real social need."
Amos Vogel, 1970s © The Estate of Amos Vogel
New York Film Festival
Amos Vogel launched the New York Film Festival in 1963 and until 1968 he programmed the carefully curated events in close cooperation with Richard Roud.
 
Vogel on the opening of the first Festival: "That was one of the daring things we did, our own private joke, and that was quite cute. We had deliberately chosen a film by Buñuel called The Exterminating Angel as the first film, the opening night of the first Festival. I don't know if you've seen that film, but that film has a lot to do with a bunch of bourgeoisie in a room where they find out that all the doors are blocked and they can't get out. The whole film is a critique of the bourgeoisie. They can't get out, etc., and you can imagine what Buñuel did with that situation ... What was very wonderful was that at the end of the film, when people were going to leave the theatre, there was an enormous backup. They couldn't get out. So it was very funny. It was a big success, the opening night."
 
The Unfulfilled Promise of Film at Lincoln Center: "The transfer of Festival ownership represented the American marriage of culture and corporation, here experienced on one's own body. These were signs of a growing commercialization of cultural life I was opposed to. My cinematic talents did not encompass coping with corporation heads. I resigned my post in 1968; a step I have always felt sad about and never regretted. The dream of a true film center at Lincoln Center, however, was aborted."
Amos Vogel (Courtesy Annenberg School of Communication)
Film Professor
Amos Vogel launched the Annenberg Cinematheque at the University of Pennsylvania in 1973. He taught there for 20 years, as well as at Harvard, the New School for Social Research, New York University and Columbia University.
 
"I also started the Annenberg Cinematheque. They had some very nice theaters there on campus, including a large one with 1.000 seats, and I began to show films all over again. I was very happy about that, and for the first time in my life, even though I stuck to the same formula of many shorts on one program, I did relational programming, by subject, by topic."
 
"I enjoyed very much the teaching experience where, suddenly, instead of addressing 60.000 people through a festival, just showing films, I would, on a micro-level, get to a few people, but on a deeper level then, because I was able to influence and interest them in what film was all about: the visuals, the editing, the sound track, the ideological and political agendas hidden in the narrative, etc."
 
"See, I've been very lucky in my life because (a) I've worked on things I loved and (b) I could believe in. That's not true of 95% of mankind, in my opinion. So, I was very lucky."

 
Library

The Amos Vogel Library contains more than 8.000 books, journals and Juvenilia. Despite some rare books with autographs, it is a work and research library. Its special feature lies in Vogel's numerous annotations, which bear witness to his intensive reading.
 
Amos Vogel in his New York apartment © Egon Humer
"I did not collect films – but I collected books. Not only that, I not only collected books, I actually read them!
 
You know, some people collect books and don't read them. So, there's a mystery here for me. You know, now for instance, I will hound bookstores. I will always try to be completely up-to-date, what's available, etc.
 
Well, my interest in the world remained very constant. I have a very active interest in what the world is, what it could or should be. I'm very involved with social issues, have been all my life. This comes more from books than films."
Steven Vogel 2015 in der Amos Vogel Library (Foto: ÖFM © Elisabeth Streit)
His sons Steven and Loring Vogel approached Alexander Horwath, the director of the Film Museum at the time, with a proposal to return the library to Vienna, the birthplace of its founder.
 
"After my father's death, the Austrian Film Museum purchased his entire library and arranged to transport it back to the city in which he spent the first 17 years of his life until the Nazis and their Viennese supporters cruelly forced him and his family into exile. Their return meant, for the younger generation at the Film Museum and for me and my brother too, perhaps a kind of reconciliation."

Steven Vogel
The Austrian Film Museum is pleased to make the Amos Vogel Library accessible to the public, thus providing new insights into the ways of thinking and working of this significant and subversive pioneer of international film culture.
 
"Indexing the Amos Vogel Library" - Tutorial by Tom Waibel & Elisabeth Streit
Cover "Film as a Subversive Art"
Film as a Subversive Art
With his highly unconventional approach to film history, Amos Vogel analyses in 1974 the aesthetic, sexual and ideological subversion in cinema, the infiltration and displacement of the conscious and the unconscious, the demystification of visual taboos, the destruction of cinematic form and rebellion against values and institutions.
 
"This is a book about the subversion of existing values, institutions, mores, and taboos — East and West, Left and Right — by the potentially most powerful art of the century. It is a book that traffics in skepticism towards all received wisdom (including its own), towards eternal truths, rules of art, 'natural' and man-made laws, indeed whatever may be considered holy. It is an attempt to preserve for a fleeting moment in time — the life of this book — the works and achievements of the subversives of film.
 
Subversion in cinema starts when the theater darkens and the screen lights up. For the cinema is a place of magic where psychological and environmental factors combine to create an openness to wonder and suggestion, and unlocking of the unconscious. It is a shrine at which modern rituals rooted in atavistic memories and subconscious desires are acted out in darkness and seclusion from the outer world.
 
The power of the image, our fear of it, the thrill that pulls us toward it, is real. Short of closing one's eyes – in cinema, a difficult and unprecedented act – there is no defense against it."
"I think that it must be the most exciting and comprehensive book I've seen on avant- garde, underground, and exceptional commercial film. The still pictures are so well chosen that their effect is cumulative and powerful." (Norman Mailer)

 
Amos Vogel © The Estate of Amos Vogel
"I'm a total foe and enemy of censorship in all its forms and shapes, forever, today. Any kind of censorship."
 
"I have never worked on projects in my life that turned a profit, and I wouldn't want to. I wouldn't have wanted to, and I wouldn't want to now. I consider box office to be the enemy of art."
 
"I am a jew, but an atheist, a radical socialist but an enemy of Stalin. I was a left-wing zionist and now I am an anti-zionist. I am an American citizen but feel myself to be a citizen of the world".
 
"Philosophy resides in images. It doesn't only reside in what is written or spoken. In fact, images express a special kind of philosophy. It's very important to realize this, to welcome it, and to cherish it. That's what I've tried to do all my life."
 
"Hollywood and television are constantly giving us things that we've already seen. The most interesting films are precisely those that show things that have never been seen before or show things in a completely new way. This is something that upsets many people or prevents them from appreciating what is being shown to them. I, on the other hand, prefer to be upset and one of my main criteria, in fact, in looking at films and in writing about them is the unpredictability of what I am seeing."

From Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary (1980):
os-si-fi-ca-tion [...] 3: a tendency toward or state of being molded into a rigid, conventional, sterile, or unimaginative condition (a revolt against the ~s of institutions – Amos Vogel).
 
Resonanz von Exil, Ausstellungsansicht, Museum der Moderne Salzburg, 2018 © Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Foto: Rainer Iglar

The volume Be Sand, Not Oil. The Life and Work of Amos Vogel, published by Paul Cronin in 2014, collects selected essays and documents by Amos Vogel as well as essays about him and his mulitfarious lifework. The German language brochure Amos Vogel. A New York Cineaste from Vienna, focuses on Vogel's film columns and gives an insight into the wide range of his journalistic work.

The processing of the Amos Vogel Library was supported by the Austrian Federal Chancellery, the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victims of National Socialism and the Austrian Film Institute.
 
Contact:

Tom Waibel

Elisabeth Streit