Anthology Film Archives

WINDOWED WORLDS: THE FILMS OF BARRY GERSON

May 31 – June 3

“I see myself more like a poet, but using film images. I like my work to be felt, to make you feel that you can almost touch it. Film is an ethereal thing, images float out in space, and I don’t concern myself too much with practical aspects. […] To me, the dream world knows everything. The dream world is the real world, and it is wise.” –Barry Gerson

An artist, filmmaker, poet, and composer, Barry Gerson’s body of work encompasses 16mm and digital moving-image works, paintings with photographic elements, sculpture, as well as performance (as an actor and a performer of throat music). He uses the formal qualities of film in the service of visual poetry, creating moving-image works that reflect his lyrical exploration of the nature of existence.

Though Gerson’s early films were screened alongside the major avant-garde filmmakers during the 1960s-70s, written about in the pages of Film Culture and other journals, and included in the distribution catalogues of the Film-Makers’ Cooperative, Canyon Cinema, and Castelli/Sonnabend Videotapes and Films, they have been more rarely screened in recent years. Though reminiscent in some ways of contemporaneous films by Stan Brakhage, Ernie Gehr, Larry Gottheim, and others, his films are ultimately highly distinctive, evincing a particularly sustained focus, on the one hand, on exploring the formal properties of the filmic image – the extent to which the “window” of the frame transforms and organizes the observed world into an interrelationship of shapes, lines, and qualities of light – and on the other hand, on using photography to draw out the spiritual or “magical” dimensions of his environment.

Following a two-decade hiatus from filmmaking, brought on by the rising costs of celluloid and a tendency by some to group his work with that of structuralists, Gerson revisited the medium in 2002. He soon turned to digital media, and since 2008 has steadily produced works in that format. To celebrate Gerson’s gifting of his films to Anthology, and the publication of his new book, “Elixir of Light: Intuition, LED Lights and Healing Oneself Through the Super Brain”, we’re thrilled to present the first sustained focus on his moving-image oeuvre for many years, with four programs devoted to his 16mm works from 1961-82, and a fifth program showcasing a selection of his more recent digital works.

“[Gerson’s fascination with light and framing allows him to build cubistic scenarios of lines and blocks of color, as displayed in the paintings of Mark Rothko, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and in Edward Hopper’s ‘Room by the Sea’ (1951). Gerson’s camera movements are never the result of apparatus technology. It is the filmmaker who moves, who approaches the world, feels and sees, transforms, reframes, and changes perspectives, creating new realities and paracinematic sculptures. […] The vibrant energy of the objects, sustained in time as ultimate force, exults us and moves us through space smoothly. The eyes are not merely witnessing – stimulated by the lack of objectivity, our vision readjusts preconceived impressions regarding shape, color, timing, and texture. Displacement here, as in life, is an opportunity for change and improvement.” –Mónica Savirón, LUMIÈRE

“Over the…years I have worked in various mediums, each having informed the other in a symbiotic relationship of images and ideas. My overriding concern has involved an ongoing investigation to illuminate the spiritual in the physical world – to make it perceptible, palpable. Since all matter in the Universe pulsates rhythmically, it is therefore, in constant motion. My films/videos become an activated metaphor to elucidate this phenomenon. I attempt to create psychically charged images that are in a constant state of flux – structured formally but with a poetic intent. Through the use of slow movements and small changes the images become felt, eliciting an almost tactile response.” –Barry Gerson

“Barry Gerson emerged in the late ’60s with a series of short films, each exploring a slightly different aspect of seeing. Each little film was centered around a limited, restricted theme, very rigorously structured and executed. As he progressed, his concerns grew in subtlety and complexity. […] His forms are varied, his style is clear and sure, his techniques are complex, his content is magic. These works are among the most interesting in the current American cinema.” –Jonas Mekas, VILLAGE VOICE

Gerson will be in person for all five programs!

Special thanks to Barry Gerson and Paul Smart.

Unless otherwise noted, all film descriptions are by Barry Gerson.

For more info about “Elixir of Light: Intuition, LED Lights and Healing Oneself Through the Super Brain” (Station Hill Press, Barrytown, NY) – a memoir of the artist’s explorations with color LED therapy lights to heal the various maladies that accompany aging, combined with a reiteration of his theories regarding the energy powers of light and intuition, featuring a foreword by former Whitney Museum and Smithsonian curator John Hanhardt and an introductory essay by French neurologist Pierre LeMarquis – visit: https://stationhill.org/

< Back to Series