Windows Become Theaters for Ken Jacobs’s Films

Watching a Ken Jacobs movie usually means stepping into the quasi-mystical realm of underground cinema.Safe there from the sun of commercial success, Jacobs is famous for inventing simple mechanical and digital tricks for squeezing depth out of flat photographs, with abstract and often disorienting results.

But by his 90th birthday on November 26th, his astounding visual experiments were added to the streets of Lower Manhattan. “Ken Jacobs: Up the Illusion” Street exhibition of the artist’s work The work is on display at the Broadway Windows Gallery, a storefront annex of the New York University 80WSE Gallery on the corner of Broadway and East 10th Avenue. In this work, nearly 70 of his more than 200 films and videos (MoMA owns 226 of his, and Jacobs continues to make more) are shown in a small window behind plate glass. projected on the screen tableau. The show will also premiere a selection of squiggly drawings on paper, the medium Jacobs started with. The brushed black and gray ring is an atmospheric mid-century fashion that underscores the expressiveness that runs through his austere work.

Supervised by multi-hyphenate writer and artist Andrew LampertThe program will change twice in July and September. (again, 80WSE.org.) And the festivities continue. light industry Brooklyn opens July 25th with Jacobs’ latest film. And a restoration of Jacobs’ first film, “Orchard Street,” will be shown in November at MoMA’s Collections Gallery.

The retrospectives that dot New York City are perfect for a filmmaker who has made even the most esoteric of his work center on the city. Jacobs was born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He and his wife and essential collaborator, Flo Jacobs, have lived in the same downtown loft for the past 50 years. “Orchard Street” (1955) captures the Lower East Side’s market-day crowds in his golden grainy 16 mm. Lenses linger on racks of patterned scarves blowing in the wind, chasing debris that oozes along workers’ broomsticks, from tenements long before chain stores and selfie-lovers redefined the neighborhood. view of the In the same window as ‘Orchard Street’ is a 21st century work ‘Barrow on Eternity Street’. From 2006 and “The Wheelbarrow Leaves the City of Eternity” 2011, he digitally manipulates found footage of a vegetable vendor on his side in the early 1900s to create his mesmerizing and unnerving 3D illusion. is producing

Jacobs is a unique innovator in structuralist cinema, emphasizing the formal nature of the medium to explore time and vision and the technology that seeks to control them. The windows include 1995’s “Diorient Express,” showing vintage footage of trains traveling forward, backward, mirroring and flipping, like a flowing Rorschach his test. Structuralists love railroads. The development of motion picture cameras parallels the development of steam engines. Remember the false story in the Lumiere brothers’ film about people fleeing an arriving train, perhaps fearing being run over.

Now you can stream Jacobs’ “Disorient Express” while you’re glued to your phone while you take the subway to 10th Avenue and Broadway. You can take a video of a fantastic image that appears in the window and shines like the screen itself, and send it to a filmmaker friend, who can be distracted by other videos and watch it. You can’t.

There’s something inherently engrossing about movies that keeps us glued to our screens, our little theaters. It’s the lure of an illusion that makes the rest of the world recede from the pulsing, halting, hallucinogenic animation of an ollie-challenging skateboarder. , the Manhattan skyline at night, now standing near a vintage car. “Up the Illusion” is a good reminder that traversing the constant picture-in-picture of the modern cityscape is not destined for distraction. I will keep an eye on it.

Jacobs, with a slight wink, might call it magic. Over the years, he has patented several methods of creating his shallow three-dimensional images. visible to the naked eyeIt is often done by strobing between two similar but discordant frames, like a kind of overlapping stereoscopy. One of his particularly attractive systems is “Nervous Magic Lantern” Jacobs (and Flo) perform in front of live audiences using painted plastic slides and lenses, and devices that twist and juke rotating shutters. (Reworked footage from these performances has been incorporated into the 2nd Annual Broadway Windows Program.) beam out. The shadows and glows projected on the flat screen look deep, as if the eyes were burrowing into the earth’s surface, exploring dust caves, or drifting through nebulae.

The artist’s embrace of digital editing around the turn of the 2000s has resulted in his long-running body of work. “Eternalism” A short video that creates the illusion of depth by blinking between normal and inverted frames. In Broadway’s window, one “eternalism” glimpses a multi-faceted landscape that seems to be constructed of crumpled aluminum foil. Jacobs delights in peeling back images and imbuing them with what he calls “time’s little reservoirs.”

Jacobs has devoted his career to fantasy, not delusion. In fact, the generation or enhancement of the illusion displayed in “Up the Illusion” is a fundamental kind of sincerity. Illusions work even if you know how they are made. That is the key insight of structuralist cinema. Instead of squeezing the magic out of the image, instead of destroying the illusion, think deeply about it.

Ken Jacobs: Up the Illusion

Until November 26th. Broadway Windows Gallery, 55 East 10th Street, Manhattan. 212-998-5747, 80wse.org.

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