Jack Smith: Flaming Creature

Flaming Creatures, 1963, Jack Smith

November 16 to 29, 2012

 

During his lifetime, Jack Smith (1932-1989) epitomized the notion of the "underground” artist. Almost a quarter-century after his death, however, he can be considered one of the decisive figures in the history of post-war art: a "failure" according to the benchmarks of the art market and the culture industry, but endlessly influential if one considers the artistic practices, discourses and genealogies highlighted by his work – from 1960s New American Cinema to contemporary Queer Culture, from the transformation of the avant-garde through an aesthetic of "camp" and inverted glamour to the history of performance art. 
 
As part of the Vienna Art Week 2012 and with the collaboration of several guests, this series of 16 programs explores the cosmos of Jack Smith as a filmmaker and actor, as a performer and cinephile. In many film histories, Smith’s oeuvre has been reduced to a single film: Flaming Creatures (1962/1963), a key work of modern cinema and the focus of one of the great art scandals and censorship cases of the 1960s. Thanks to the extensive restorations undertaken by Jerry Tartaglia and the Plaster Foundation since the early 1990s, the full range of Smith’s “Secret Flix” can now be viewed in new and incredibly vibrant prints – Scotch Tape, Overstimulated, Reefers of the Technicolor Island, I Was A Male Yvonne de Carlo, to name only a few of the shorts, as well as the (almost-)features No President and Normal Love.
 
Many of these works remained in an unfinished state when Jack Smith passed away. But it is important to stress that his specific practice of “unfinishing” and constantly reediting footage is also at the core of his aesthetic. The films were often – and in multiple versions – used during Smith’s legendary theater and performance pieces which will be represented in this retrospective through lectures and rare documents. In addition, the show presents a number of his “star turns” in films by Andy Warhol, Ken Jacobs, Ron Rice and the Kuchar Brothers. Some of his "fetish films" (Rose Hobart by Joseph Cornell; Maria Montez in 1940s Technicolor; Marlene Dietrich directed by Josef von Sternberg), and films that demonstrate Smith's influence (from Fellini's Satyricon to early works by Werner Schroeter and John Waters) will also be shown. 
 
Guests and principal contributors to this program are film critic and historian J. Hoberman, on whose curatorial concept and research the show is based; Peter Kubelka, filmmaker and co-founder of the Austrian Film Museum who introduced Smith to Vienna audiences in the late 1960s; film scholar Marc Siegel, who in recent years has been responsible for several publications and events related to Jack Smith, and Diedrich Diedrichsen, professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna and author of numerous books and essays on post-war popular music and art.
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