The expanded consciousness of the 1960s and early ‘70s called for an expanded definition of art to express it. Avant-garde American cinema was swept up into the ferment, rejecting fiction, drama and realism. No longer were films mere illustrated stories where all the creative work had been done by the writer. Independent visionaries began taking their cues from abstract art, free jazz and Beat poetry.
The new Walker Art Center exhibition “The Renegades, American Avant-Garde Film 1960-1973” features six mavericks of that era: Bruce Baillie, Stan Brakhage, Bruce Connor, Hollis Frampton, Ernie Gehr and Gunvor Nelson. Short features from each run continuously in the gallery space, creating a multiplex anthology of radical filmmaking.
The breadth of invention on display runs from Brakhage’s 1963 “Mothlight,” consisting of leaves, moth wings and other organic matter sandwiched between projector strips of Mylar, to Nelson’s “My Name Is Oona,” a 1969 portrait of her seven-year-old daughter whose droning soundtrack and fragmented editing suggest the reveries of childhood.
The exhibit opens Thursday, Sept. 20, with a special screening from the museum’s film collection. Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul chose a program of nine key film shorts from the American experimental cinema movement.
On Oct. 18, Minneapolis visual artist Cameron Gainer presents a selection of films by Brakhage. Filmmaker Sally Dixon is the featured artist Nov. 29, with former Walker film curator Melinda Ward taking the reins Dec. 20 with her own selection of landmark featurettes.
The series runs through Jan. 6.