In a moving video letter to curator John Hanhardt, LETTER TO JOHN FROM JONAS (1999), in which he stresses the need for Anthology Film Archives to resist the option of merging with the Guggenheim Museum, Jonas Mekas discusses the shift away from Anthology's role as the sole preservationist of experimental cinema, and, by example, the important work of Jon Gartenberg’s preservation of Warren Sonbert’s estate following Sonbert’s untimely death in 1995.Read More
Jeff Preiss was inspired by the diary films of Jonas Mekas and Warren Sonbert (who was his teacher at Bard College). He began in the early 1980s making silent, semi-narrative works born out of his practice of shooting with his Regular 8mm Bolex on a daily basis.Read More
Sonbert’s films consist of relentless montage. Scenes burst forth and quickly give way to the next. They inhabit the fringe of narrative, almost telling a story but never conveying character, conflict, or plot.Read More
GME Gem #12: The Fall Art Scene, But Where Did Our Love Go?
It’s that time of year again when the film and art scenes get serious. In 1966 a young Warren Sonbert captured it in his second film, WHERE DID OUR LOVE GO?Read More
Gartenberg Media Enterprises is proud to announce the program lineup for the Warren Sonbert Retrospective taking place at The Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio on January 20th & 27th.
"One of the most original and influential figures in American experimental cinema, Warren Sonbert began making films in 1966 as a precocious NYU student who found himself in the midst of Andy Warhol’s Factory. After graduating, he took his Bolex camera on his travels as he perfected a complex style of filming and editing that lyrically transforms mundane-yet-beautiful details into larger emotions, concepts, and visual splendors. Sonbert’s influences ranged from rock-and-roll to opera, from Douglas Sirk to Stan Brakhage. This vital retrospective featuring all newly restored prints cements his reputation as one of the most innovative and notable experimental filmmakers of the last half of the 20th century.
As a testament to his ongoing vitality, the spring 2015 issue of Framework: The Journal of Cinema and Media is devoted to Sonbert’s writing. Pick up your copy at the Wexner Center Store."
"Following the filmmaker’s death in 1995 of AIDS, Sonbert’s partner, Ascension Serrano, tasked Jon Gartenberg, through the Estate Project for Artists with AIDS, with the preservation of Sonbert’s work. Gartenberg first became associated with Sonbert’s films while Gartenberg was a curator at the Museum of Modern Art, during which time he acquired several of Sonbert’s films.
'[Sonbert's] idea was to engage the viewer in an accumulation of different shots that were not specifically narrative, but that were linear and poetic,' Gartenberg said. 'But more than any experimental filmmaker, his work was less about image abstraction and more about an experimental approach to narrative structure, through how he built a montage of images and scenes.'"
For further inquiries about Warren Sonbert’s films, please see:
GME Programming & Curating: Warren Sonbert Retrospective
All Photographs, © The Estate of Warren Sonbert
AMPHETAMINE, along with other films by Warren Sonbert, was recently featured in two presentations - one in New York and one in London - each focusing on the works of queer and underground filmmakers.
04/25/2012 •NEW YORK•DIRTY LOOKS
Dirty Looks is a Monthly Platform for
Queer Experimental Film and Video
Bradford Nordeen's April program featured works by
"two key figures in queer and underground film"
Warren Sonbert and Tom Chomont.
The program included Warren Sonbert's
AMPHETAMINE (1966, with Wendy Appel),
DIVIDED LOYALTIES (1975-78) and
HONOR AND OBEY (1987).
04/14/2012 •LONDON• THE LITTLE JOE CLUBHOUSE
The Little Joe Clubhouse is a unique
temporary film space from the creators of
a magazine about queers and cinema, mostly.
In a special program, as part of this year's
AMPHETAMINE (1966), was presented by Stuart Comer,
Film Curator at London's Tate Modern.
UNIONDOCS • 322 UNION AVE •BROOKLYN, NY 11211
Decasia by Bill Morrison
The Fragile Emulsion curated by Jon Gartenberg
Sunday, December 5th at 7:30pm $9 suggested donation.
Jon Gartenberg in attendance for discussion.
One of the most vital and richly textured art forms threatened with extinction centers around the practice of avant-garde filmmaking, particularly in 16mm format. These filmmakers treat the celluloid film emulsion as a living organism: it is an organic substance, a shimmering silver onto which they directly imprint the delicacy of their emotions. They work in relative isolation, creating their films with the hand of an artist, rather than as products for consumption by a mass audience. The style of their films most frequently challenges the conventions of linear narrative. These filmmakers recognize not only the ephemeral nature of the celluloid film stock, but also the perilous state of human existence in the modern world. They begin with their direct experiences of everyday reality and often move toward a process of abstraction in their films. They filter found objects from the world around them, and through a wide array of filmmaking techniques, including use of outdated film stock, over- and underexposure, scratching directly on the film emulsion, re-photography, and optical printing – articulate distinct, individually defined processes of creation. They evoke spiritual visions of the world in which their own livelihood is inextricably linked to the vibrancy of the film emulsion – both literally and figuratively – as a matter of life and death.
Program Runtime 73 minutes.
by Bill Morrison USA, 2002, 13 minutes (excerpt), digital projection
In Bill Morrison’s found footage opus, Decasia, decomposition reaches into the farthest corners of the natural and manmade world, penetrating continents, military and religious powers, the entire animal kingdom, architectural constructions as well as the celluloid film stock itself onto which all these delicate images are imprinted.
SANCTUSby Barbara Hammer USA, 1990, 18 minutes, 16mm
In Sanctus, Barbara Hammer addresses in compelling fashion the co-fragility of both human existence and the film emulsion, the artist’s raw material onto which she creates images. The filmmaker transforms historic scientific x-ray films into a lyrical journey, reworking this found footage material into a celebration of the body as temple.
HER FRAGRANT EMULSIONby Lewis Klahr USA, 1987, 11 minutes, 16mm
In Her Fragrant Emulsion, images of 1960’s B-movie actress Mimsy Farmer float on the surface of the film emulsion, evoking erotic meditations on loves gained and lost. “The images I use are outmoded, and there’s a way that they’re dead. By working with them I’m kind of re-animating them, so I don’t really think of myself as an animator, as much as a re-animator that’s bringing these things back into some kind of life.” – Lewis Klahr
HALL OF MIRRORSby Warren Sonbert USA, 1966, 8 minutes, 16mm
Throughout Hall of Mirrors Sonbert underscores the materiality of film and the self-referential aspect of the filmmaking enterprise. Sonbert incorporates black and white outtakes from a Hollywood movie with new scenes that he photographs in color; the filmmaker works the exposed leader of the film rolls in the fabric of his movie, and captures his own reflected image while shooting one of his protagonists (Warhol superstar Gerard Malanga) in artist Lucas Samaras’ Mirrored Room. Hall of Mirrors begins and ends with the protagonists’ movements enmeshed within multiple reflecting mirrors. The film’s imagery, combined with the rock and roll soundtrack, underscores the sense of visual entrapment of the characters in their respective environments, in a manner that conveys both youthful longing and human vulnerability.
WARRENby Jeff Scher USA, 1995, 3 minutes, 16mm
Jeff Scher turns the table on his former teacher and mentor, Warren Sonbert (at a time when Sonbert was secretly afflicted with AIDS), creating an intimate dialogue between friends and colleagues, as well as a tense battle of directorial wills.
WHIPLASHby Warren Sonbert (restoration editor: Jeff Scher) USA, 1995/7, 20 minutes, 16mm
Whiplash is a compelling, multilayered portrayal of filmmaker Warren Sonbert’s struggle to maintain equilibrium in his physical self, his perceptual reality, and the world of friends and family around him, as his own mortality pressed upon his psyche. In it, Sonbert articulated the ideas and values by which he intended to be remembered. Most important among these is the theme of love between couples.
Jon Gartenberg is an archivist, distributor, and programmer. He began his career on the curatorial staff of The Museum of Modern Art, followed by jobs in the business sector both at Broadway Video and Golden Books. In 1998, he established Gartenberg Media Enterprises (www.gartenbergmedia.com), a company that is dedicated on the excavation, repurposing, and distribution of library assets in film, television, photographic, and print media.
In terms of experimental cinema, Gartenberg acquired avant-garde movies for the permanent collection of MOMA’s Film Department and restored the films of Andy Warhol. He also initiated a film preservation project with the Estate Project for Artists with AIDS, which culminated in the conservation of films by artists Warren Sonbert, David Wojnarowicz, Curt McDowell, and Jack Waters.
Currently, his company distributes avant-garde films on DVD and licenses them as well for documentary film productions. GME also advises and supports cutting edge filmmakers on the economics of experimental film production, distribution and exhibition. Gartenberg has programmed experimental films for the Tribeca Film Festival since 2003.
Warren Sonbert (1947 - 1955)
Director Warren Sonbert
Running Time: 60 mins
Sun 21st Nov, 2010 - 16:00 @ East Street Arts (ESA) - £5.00 / £4.00
A celebration of just a small part of the superb oeuvre of Warren Sonbert, one of the seminal figures of American wondermental film and rarely shown in the UK. He started making films in 1966 and was given a retrospective before he was 20! His early films feature denizens of the Warhol scene, with his late works culminating in astonishing symphonic montages, both silent and sound, uniting universal human gestures into singular works of moving image artistry. A prolific theorist and critic as well as filmmaker, his films display a deep love and understanding of cinema. The programme, curated by Jon Gartenberg, is entitled ‘Silent Rhythms / Sound Symphonies II’ and includes the films ‘The Cup and the Lip’ (1986, colour, silent) and ‘Short Fuse’ (1992, colour & b/w, sound), both on 16mm.
Harvard Film Archive (Cambridge, Massachusetts)
FELLOW TRAVELER: THE CINEMA OF WARREN SONBERT
The Harvard Film Archive has recently acquired the entire experimential film collection of Warren Sonbert (1947-1995), through a preservation project organized by Jon Gartenberg. For more information, go to: http://hcl.harvard.edu/hfa/