The city’s longest-running organization dedicated to weekly screenings of experimental film, documentaries, animation and video art.

May 27 – Restoring the Los Angeles Avant-Garde: Thom Andersen and Morgan Fisher


Wednesday May 27, 2009, 7:30 pm

At the Billy Wilder Theater at the Hammer Museum, Wilshire at Westwood

Los Angeles Filmforum, UCLA Film & Television Archive, the Hammer Museum present
Restoring the Los Angeles Avant-Garde: Thom Andersen and Morgan Fisher
Thom Andersen, Morgan Fisher and Academy preservationist Mark Toscano in person!
FREE Admission!


--- ------- (1966-67)

Since its formal inception in 1992, the Academy Film Archive has been working diligently to preserve and restore independent and experimental films. However, over the last five years, the Academy Archive has trained an additional focus on the work of Los Angeles-based artists.

As more films have come to the Academy, and more have been preserved or restored, a fascinating portrait of the Los Angeles avant-garde scene has begun to emerge. While films produced by artists in New York and San Francisco have historically been given an inordinate precedence in accounts of such work, an astonishingly diverse and extensive world of vital avant-garde filmmaking was–and still is–going on right here.  Accordingly, the title of this special two-night screening series has a double meaning.

All of the films presented in this program are by Los Angeles artists featuring prints restored by the Academy and making their Los Angeles restoration premieres. But in addition to highlighting the important work of the Academy–and by this selection of film artists, in particular–this series aims to contribute to the growing recognition of Los Angeles, then and now, as a significant center of avant-garde production.

Phi Phenomenon (1968)

Thom Andersen and Morgan Fisher:

For the last 45 years, Morgan Fisher and Thom Andersen have been filmmakers, collaborators and friends.

In brilliantly lucid and conceptually rich films and media installations, Fisher has deeply and thoughtfully explored the many facets of the medium and the cinematic experience itself with great wit, intelligence and epiphany.

Andersen, perhaps best known for his most recent, internationally acclaimed film, Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003), also produced a vital body of short experimental work in the 1960s that exhibits a powerful combination of rigorous artistic clarity and profoundly felt humanism.

This evening’s program offers a very rare opportunity not only to see newly restored prints of Fisher and Andersen’s early film work, but to meet the artists in person for a discussion about their ideas, their films and their friendship and collaboration over the years.

Melting (1964-65, 6 min., 16mm, color, sound)
Directed by Thom Andersen
Melting is remarkable for its alluding to a forgotten history and its prescience of history to come. Thirty-odd years after Bataille announced the informe, and 32 years before Bois and Krauss brought the informe back from history, and before Bois characterized melting in this way, Thom made his film. What Thom calls the sundae’s passage from edibility to waste, perfectly embodies the entropic. What once could have been eaten now cannot. Waste is something that nothing more can be made of; it has no further use.” –Morgan Fisher

Olivia’s Place (1966/74, 6 min., 16mm, , color, sound,)
Directed by Thom Andersen
“Olivia may have felt no need to change, but the world around her was not bound by such an impractical sentiment. Olivia’s Place is gone. The site where it used to stand is now a sort of plaza between two large old wood frame houses that were moved to their present location from elsewhere in the city. One of these houses is occupied by a restaurant, the other is occupied by the California Heritage Museum.” –Morgan Fisher

--- ------- (1966-67)

— ——- (1966-67, 12 min., 16mm, color, sound)
Directed by Thom Andersen and Malcolm Brodwick
“I consider Thom and Malcolm’s film to be groundbreaking in its brilliant demonstration of the power of a rule to construct a film that unifies shots taken at different times and places. And it is also noteworthy for the new model of the documentary film that it proposes. The brilliance of — ——- is that it refuses the power of montage as that idea has been conventionally understood, only to rediscover its power in a different form, on a new plane. Somewhere Eisenstein describes montage as that mode of construction that goes beyond representing the appearance of an event to capture the feeling of it. — ——- operates in this way, but in a realm that is particularly resistant to representation by means of images, that of memory.” –Morgan Fisher

Documentary Footage (1968, 11 min., 16mm, color, sound)
Directed by Morgan Fisher
Naturalness willfully corrupted by inevitable self-consciousness, unwittingly corrupted by unavoidable naturalness, a role played with incredible nuance and complexity by Maurine Connor.

Production Footage (1971, 10 min., 16mm, color & B/W, silent)
Directed by Morgan Fisher
“The cinematic mechanism cannot be completely deconstructed without resort to other means of mechanical image reproduction; a double system of representation is required; the apparent naturalness of the cinematic sign must be put into question by other indexical signs.” –Thom Andersen

Phi Phenomenon (1968, 11 min., 16mm, B/W, silent)
Directed by Morgan Fisher
The phi phenomenon is a perceptual illusion (first described in 1912 by Max Wertheimer) in which a succession of still images produces a disembodied perception of motion. “Phi Phenomenon is astonishing precisely because its object is so familiar, and it fascinates me because it is a motion picture in which there is movement but no apparent movement.” –Thom Andersen

Turning Over (1975, 13 min., Video, B/W, sound)
Directed by Morgan Fisher
Documented live to tape in San Francisco, October 17, 1975.

Total running time of films: approx. 70 min.

Funding for this series was provided by the UCLA Arts Initiative.

Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024
Phone: 310.443.7000

ALL HAMMER PUBLIC PROGRAMS ARE FREE. Tickets are required, and are available at the Billy Wilder Theater Box Office one hour prior to start time. Limit one ticket per person on a first come, first served basis. Hammer members receive priority seating, subject to availability. Reservations not accepted, RSVPs not required.  Parking is available under the museum for $3 after 6:00.