Anthology Film Archives


May 24 – May 26

Given his limitless energy and youthful spirit, it seems impossible that Ken Jacobs is turning 80 this month. A recipient of multiple awards from the National Society of Film Critics, numerous grants (Rockefeller, Guggenheim, Creative Capital), and festival prizes, Jacobs has been called “one of the most extraordinary unknown personalities in the history of American movies” by critic J. Hoberman. Jacobs, a native New Yorker, began his artistic career as a painting student of abstract-expressionist Hans Hoffman but quickly progressed to a more flexible canvas, cinema. His decades worth of restless activity includes more than 40 films, live performances (shadow plays and other staged productions), countless film performances (often with his self-invented double 16mm projection “Nervous System”), magnificent 3D slide and “Nervous Magic Lantern” shows, and, since the late 1990s, digital video. It is Jacobs’s total dedication to the multiple possibilities and mutations of the moving image that binds all his seemingly disparate modes into a brilliantly cohesive whole.

Far from being a complete retrospective, this robust six-program tribute includes films and videos from every decade of Jacobs’s voluminous back catalog. With so many works to choose from (and with some of Jacobs’s best-known films screening annually at Anthology as part of our Essential Cinema series), we opted for pieces that have either been long neglected (including works originally made on 8mm in the early-to-mid 1960s) or never more than irregularly screened. This includes a number of older 3D 16mm films as well as more recent pieces that use digital means to scramble our perception of space and time. Whether radically reworking found imagery, documenting his friends and family, or constructing works of astute political commentary, Jacobs is a tireless innovator whose sizable influence on several generations of film and video artists is undeniable.

The Museum of Modern Art will also be celebrating Ken Jacobs's 80th birthday with a series entitled "Carte Blanche: Ken Jacobs", taking place from May 2-5; for more info visit:

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