Anthology Film Archives

CULTURE VULTURE: STEVE DALACHINSKY ON SCREEN

September 29 – October 31

When Steve Dalachinsky passed away last September, New York City lost not only a gifted poet and artist, but one of those too-often-unheralded figures who contributes to the cultural vitality of a city and a community in ways that can’t be quantified or easily explained. Dalachinsky’s boundless creativity was reflected in his own artistic output – his unending stream of poems, collages, record liner notes, and public performances – but he also fanned the flames of New York’s cultural life by channeling his super-powered energy into countless other people’s work. To say that Steve was a constant presence at music performances, poetry readings, film screenings, and every imaginable avant-garde cultural manifestation would be an understatement. He was a bona fide culture vulture if ever there was one! Through the sheer force of his enthusiasm and charisma, Steve did far more than his share in keeping the avant-garde alive in a changing city, bringing artists and fellow devotees together, forming numerous fertile collaborations, and sharing his (typically wide-ranging, cross-disciplinary) thoughts on the city’s cultural life through his monthly column in the Brooklyn Rail, “Outtakes”.

As his wife, poet and painter, frequent collaborator, and fellow traveler, Yuko Otomo says below, Steve’s devotion to the realms of poetry and experimental music are more widely acknowledged, but he was every bit as passionate about the cinema. He was a regular visitor to most of the city’s repertory cinemas, none more so than Anthology, where for decades he was one of the most beloved members of our community and a great friend of many of those who have worked at Anthology over the years.

And so it’s with great pleasure that – in collaboration with Yuko Otomo – we present this filmic tribute to Steve Dalachinsky, highlighting his all-too-rare but indelible appearances in film and video works by a wide range of filmmakers. Encompassing documentation of Steve’s own performances and readings, short works starring Steve, as well as his guest-appearances and cameos in fictional films and music videos, this series is intended to celebrate Steve’s life and spirit, and to thank him for his untiring dedication to the cinema and to the creative life of New York City and avant-garde culture everywhere.

“Time does fly. It is hard to believe more than a year has passed since our one & only poet Steve Dalachinsky departed this world. So much has happened since then & it seems almost impossible to summarize it. In the meantime, our love for him has grown deeper & we all miss him immensely. So, Anthology Film Archives & filmmaker friends of his got together & created a delightful mini-festival to celebrate his 74th birthday on September 29.

As you remember, Steve had a dynamic appetite for many things: love, friendship, food & CULTURE. In the field of culture, he is mostly known for his association with music, especially Free-Jazz & experimental music. But he was an all-around being with a massive curiosity for anything that inspired him. Intriguingly, like his love for visual art, his passion for cinema is least known although he was intensely involved in it. He was a serious cinephile in his own right since he was young. So, it was most natural that he had become a close friend of Anthology Film Archives. AFA friends embraced him (& me) & we embraced them. Becoming AFA family, we’d attended many public & private events they held, not just seeing the films in the theaters. Love & respect were totally mutual for the relationship & over the years, it grew in such a genuine way. Steve even graced their program note booklet with his collages on the January-March 2014 programming calendar as a token of his gratitude.

The amalgam of his love for cinema & the fact of him having many wonderful filmmaker friends naturally gave birth to the idea of a series highlighting the various appearances Steve made on screen over the years, which are mostly unknown to the general public. Interestingly, the idea itself was not a posthumous one. It had been our shared dream for a long time. Finally, we got together to make it happen! What a perfect beautiful birthday present it is for him! What a sweet gift for us as well to share it with you all who love & miss him! I am totally grateful for AFA friends who worked so lovingly to make this happen & all the filmmaker friends who joyfully participated in the project with so much love & genuine friendship.

Happy Birthday Steve! We Love You & We Miss You!”

–Yuko Otomo, September 2020

On Wednesday, October 14, we’re adding an additional sixth program to the series, showcasing “The Steve Circuit”, an episodic series of videos and digital artwork dedicated to Dalachinsky that was presented this summer by ISSUE Project Room and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Developed by Steve’s wife, painter and poet Yuko Otomo, and interdisciplinary artist Matt Mottel, the project was structured around the locations – arts venues, community gardens, the New York Public Library neighborhood branch, his Spring Street sidewalk store – that comprised Steve’s daily routine. Each of the events presented as part of the project focused on a specific site, and paired videos by Otomo & Mottel with Dalachinsky’s text, recordings, and artwork, with contributions from additional artistic collaborators who were part of the Dalachinsky orbit. The online cultural map and presentation provides a “virtual polaroid snapshot” of Downtown New York’s cultural history.

For the full lineup of Anthology’s series and other details, click here. Five of the six programs are available to stream for free on Anthology’s Vimeo page (through October 31), while the newly added Program 6 (“The Steve Circuit”) is available here. To go directly to particular programs or films, click on the links below.


PROGRAM 1:

Andrew Lampert
JACKA SPADES (aka GET THIS PICTURE HERE)

2009, 34 min, Super-8mm-to-digital
Steve Dalachinsky, with the aid of Yuko Otomo and cinematographer Andrew Lampert, was given the chance to direct his dream film. This is not that, but rather the result of what they shot that day presented in real time as they filmed it. In the end, this is always what Lampert wanted the film to be; what Steve wanted is another story heard on the soundtrack of the images gathered within.

Owen Kline
FOWL PLAY

2013, 12 min, digital
Three low-rent cockfighting upstarts out of Flushing, Queens are duped into buying a hen they’re told to believe is a rooster by an animal-hoarding scumbag (Steve Dalachinsky).

“Set in Flushing, Queens, the story follows Sammy, Little Jimmy, and Ernie – three small time crooks trying to find a chicken to cockfight. FOWL PLAY amusingly turns real life characters, the filmmaker’s friends, into lousy hustlers, and takes us to cool locations on the outskirts of NYC – the ensemble offering us a slice of the city we rarely get a taste of.” –LE CINÉMA CLUB

Owen Kline & Andrew Lampert
JAZZY FOR JOE

2014, 14 min, digital
What happens when talk show pioneer Joe Franklin discovers an abandoned tot on his doorstep? A protégé is born! This is the almost true, could-have-happened tale of two talents so towering that the screen crumbles underneath their heft.

Owen Kline & Andrew Lampert
[Steve Dalachinsky video]

2016, 3 min, digital
Shot by Owen Kline in May 2016, this video documents a conversation between Steve and Andrew Lampert in which Steve is quizzed on why he needs to keep the hundreds too many items that clutter his small Spring Street apartment. He is not terribly open to reason…

Total running time: ca. 65 min.

PROGRAM 2:
This program brings together an eclectic selection of films and videos, including tributes to Dalachinsky by his friends, filmmaker Robert O’Haire and German media art scholar Norbert Nowotsch; an interview between Dalachinsky, his wife and fellow poet Yuko Otomo, and downtown cultural luminary Tuli Kupferberg, shot by Thelma Blitz; and three music videos featuring brief cameos from Steve: Marie Losier’s video for German musician Felix Kubin, and Tom Surgal’s videos for Sonic Youth and White Out with Jim O’Rourke and Thurston Moore.

Marie Losier with Felix Kubin
DOWNLOAD YOURSELF

2020, 3 min, 16mm-to-digital
“In 2018 PS1 invited me to make a performance with Felix Kubin, the composer and singer from Hamburg. I proposed to film a music video as a performance the way I usually do with all my NY friends! The shoot was a beautiful celebration of friendship, creativity, craziness, and filmmaking. And of course as always our dearest Steve Dalachinsky came to be part of the game – he is there if you find him in his costume and red eye makeup! Steve was young at heart forever and I miss him dearly.” –Marie Losier

Tom Surgal
SENSO [White Out with Jim O’Rourke and Thurston Moore]

2009, 2 min, digital
This film served as a promotional short for the album “Senso,” a collaboration between White Out (Tom Surgal & Lin Culbertson), Jim O’Rourke, and Thurston Moore (2009).

Tom Surgal
SACRED TRICKSTER [Sonic Youth]

2009, 2 min, digital
This music video was made for Sonic Youth’s last album “The Eternal” (2009).

Robert O’Haire & Jeff Burns (Straw2gold Pictures)
SPOTLIGHT ON STEVE DALACHINSKY

2013, 7 min, digital
Steve Dalachinsky holds court in his tiny New York City apartment, to consider what it means to be a poet, and his lifelong collaboration with musicians.

Thelma Blitz
TULI KUPFERBERG INTERVIEW WITH STEVE DALACHINSKY & YUKO OTOMO

2008, 28 min, digital
Revolting News May 8, 2008. Tuli interviews his Soho neighbors, poet/journalist Steve Dalachinsky and poet/painter Yuko Otomo in their Spring Street urban lair. This was to be Tuli’s last TV interview. Video and off-camera voice: Thelma Blitz

Norbert Nowotsch
[Steve Dalachinsky compilation]

2020, 13 min, digital
Media art scholar Norbert Nowotsch was among the first to create a media art department in Germany, focusing on electronic/digital media, and is responsible for important documentation on key German and American artists including Dan Graham, Jenny Holzer, Keith Haring, Scott Burton, Lily Fischer, and Rebecca Horn. He developed a friendship with Steve and Yuko in the 1980s and collaborated with them repeatedly. Over the years he has amassed a sizable archive of footage of Steve taken in NYC, Germany, and France. He has compiled a selection of the footage especially for this program.

Total running time: ca. 60 min.

PROGRAM 3:
Ted Joans / Teducation Films
SILENT POEM: YIELD (Part 2)

1990, 2.5 min, Super-8mm-to-digital. Copyright: Ted Joans Estate / Laura Corsiglia.
Ted Joans, poet and polymath, was a longstanding inspiration to Dalachinsky, and a close friend. Joans also made numerous Super-8mm films as silent poems, which are little-known and rarely-screened. SILENT POEM: YIELD (Part 2) features Steve and Yuko alongside Joans himself and others. The short film was shot in Paris in 1990 and has been newly digitized for this occasion!

Michel Dorbon
GIVERNY

2020, 6 min, digital
GIVERNY features Steve Dalachinsky traveling to and from the French village of Giverny (the location of Monet’s famous house and gardens), while on the soundtrack he reads his poem of the same name.

Nicole Peyrafitte
THINGS FALL WHERE THEY LIE

2018, 58 min, digital
Two artist couples (Yuko Otomo & Steve Dalachinsky, and Katalin Pataki & Eric Sarner), unknown to each other and with four different languages between them, are invited to spend a week in the French Pyrenees. They find themselves immersed in surprising sights and sites that weave together local small-town folklore, the filmmaker’s early years, a prehistoric cave, an excursion to Spain, and the town cemetery hiding famous and long forgotten personalities such as Michel Warlop, a swing era jazz violinist and Karl Marx’s grandson. THINGS FALL WHERE THEY LIE is an exercise in poetic drift through various temporalities.

Total running time: ca. 70 min.

PROGRAM 4:
Wesley Rickert
THE ROAD TO ELSINORE 
2016, 96 min, digital
A renegade post-beat road trip saga and absurdist adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, that roams a rural landscape in search of lost poets, art criminals, outcasts and ghosts. Part documentary, part music video and part stage play, this film champions iconoclastic irrationality and confronts the dazzle camouflage of popular entertainment. Poet Steve Dalachinsky plays himself as the post-beat poet who has left the island of Manhattan after seeing the ghost of Alan Ginsberg, who gives him a ride in the back of a pick-up truck. Performing poetry to the darkness, Steve confronts his mortality and place in history before abandoning himself to nature.

PROGRAM 5:
Billy Martin
ART DRUG test footage

2014, 4 min, digital
Screen test footage for ART DRUG, a fictional film about NYC’s late-1980s downtown scene written by Billy Martin and Mark Ferguson. “Art Drug” is a working title for a film project that has not gone into production yet.

Jeff Burns
THAT’S BEAUTIFUL FRANK

2012, 83 min, digital
Featuring a brief but memorable cameo from Dalachinsky, as well as an appearance by underground film luminary Bill Rice, THAT’S BEAUTIFUL FRANK is primarily a showcase for the inimitable performer and playwright Edgar Oliver. Oliver plays New York French Futurist performance artist Francis Carroll. Facing pressure from his manager to increase ticket sales at his Lower East Side venue, Francis decides to take matters into his own hands, committing a series of armed robberies targeting rent-controlled eccentrics across the Village. His first victim, beauty Diane Lakes (Jill Helene), quickly fixates on him after the robbery cures her of agoraphobia, but before long her intentions threaten to unwind his greatest performance. Frank’s biggest obstacle may be Detective Daniel Atkins (Michael Laurence), who finds himself on a case of enormous implications but struggles to determine the motives behind the ongoing “purification of the odd.” With the cast set for his swansong performance, Francis needs only to lose everything to stage his Futurist masterpiece.

 

PROGRAM 6:
ISSUE Project Room and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council present:
THE STEVE CIRCUIT: A TRIBUTE TO STEVE DALACHINSKY
 
This summer, ISSUE Project Room and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council presented “The Steve Circuit: A Tribute to Steve Dalachinsky,” an episodic series of videos and digital artwork dedicated to Dalachinsky. The project was developed by Steve’s wife, painter and poet Yuko Otomo, and interdisciplinary artist Matt Mottel, and was structured around the locations – arts venues, community gardens, the New York Public Library neighborhood branch, his Spring Street sidewalk store – that comprised Steve’s daily routine. Each of the events presented as part of the project focused on a specific site, and paired videos by Otomo & Mottel with Dalachinsky’s text, recordings, and artwork, with contributions from additional artistic collaborators who were part of the Dalachinsky orbit. The online cultural map and presentation provides a “virtual polaroid snapshot” of Downtown New York’s cultural history.

In addition to Otomo and Mottel, the series features contributions from Vito Ricci & Lise Vachon, Andrew Lampert, Jean Carla Rodea & Gerald Cleaver, Tom Surgal & Lin Culbertson, William Parker & Matthew Shipp, Lee Ranaldo & Leah Singer, and Loren Connors & Suzanne Langille. The contribution from Andrew Lampert, Anthology’s former Archivist, takes Anthology itself as its chosen site. The whole series remains available here.

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