Thursday, July 28, 2011

It's been more than a month since i last posted, and yet it has been a very eventful month in terms of viewings and events. Yet i haven't (quite) felt the urge to write anything....

Part of that stems from the feeling of isolation. One example: when Anthology had press screenings for the series on Ken Jacobs' work in 3D, i went. It was actually spread over two days, because there was about six hours worth of material being screened. On the first day, two other people showed up; on the second day, i was the only person. But then, a few weeks later, J. Hoberman wrote about the series in The Village Voice, and there was a long article in Artforum by P. Adams Sitney about Ken Jacobs' work in 3D. I mean, how did they see all of these pieces? Why did i show up for the press screenings? I would have liked to have seen other people i know.

It's the feeling that there no longer exists that community of interest.

Another big example of this lack of community: last week, on July 13th, there were obits for Roberts Blossom. The obit that William Grimes wrote for The New York Times was really disgraceful. It talked about Roberts Blossom's work as a character actor, and his roles in movies such as "Home Alone" and "Escape From Alcatraz"... but it didn't even mention his role in Jonathan Demme's "Citizens Band" (a.k.a. "Handle With Care"). But that's not important: what was important was that The New York Times chose to ignore the fact that, as a "performance artist" (what originally had been called Happenings), Roberts Blossom was one of the most significant artists of the late 1950s-early 1960s, an artist who influenced many people (including Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg, Carolee Schneemann, Yvonne Rainer and Meredith Monk) through his work with his then-wife Beverly Schmidt. At least The Los Angeles Times obit mentioned his work in the early 1960s with his own company, FilmStage. It might not seem such a big deal, but Roberts Blossom (in the late 1950s) got the idea to use film as part of the theatrical event. And as far as i know, he was one of the first, if not the first. (Robert Whitman started using film in 1960-61, but i think Blossom beat him by about two years.) He got the idea because his wife had been a dancer with the Alwin Nikolai Dance Company, and Nikolai was noted for all the lighting effects. And Roberts Blossom got the idea: if you can use lighting effects (strobe lighting, etc.), why can't you use a projected moving image? And so he started conceiving of theater pieces where live action was combined with film.

Now, we're so used to multimedia stage events, but where would this be if not for Roberts Blossom? And this man died, and his contribution to culture is not acknowledged. It's ignored. And it's ignored because Roberts Blossom didn't become a big artist in the visual arts; when he and Beverly Schmidt divorced in 1966, she continued to dance, and he stopped doing his own performance work, and simply went back to acting. (It's because people like Roberts Blossom continue to be ignored that i take issue with people like Klaus Biesenbach and Roselee Goldberg; i didn't get to see his early work, but i did see some of the work from the mid-1960s, and i also heard about Roberts Blossom from my friends, like Carolee Schneemann, Yvonne Rainer, Meredith Monk, George Macuinas and Jonas Mekas; if i'm not mistaken, George and Jonas included Roberts Blossom in some of the Expanded Cinema events that they programmed in 1964-65.)

And so what i expected to happen, happened: Roberts Blossom died, and his significance as an artist has been erased from public record.

And this is happening more and more.

And if that isn't enough to make a person feel isolated, i don't know what else would.