Warren Sonbert Retrospective at the L'Age d'Or festival in Brussels October 4th to 9th, 2015

Gartenberg Media Enterprises is proud to announce the program lineup for the Warren Sonbert Retrospective taking place at the L'Age d'Or Film Festival in Brussels, Belgium from October 4th to 9th. Each program in this series will be introduced by Jon Gartenberg, a noted authority on Sonbert's oeuvre.

Warren Sonbert with his Bolex camera.

Warren Sonbert with his Bolex camera.


From the Festival Catalogue:

"Warren Sonbert was one of the most original and influential figures in American experimental cinema. He began making films in 1966 while studying at the University of New York. Sonbert himself has taught filmmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute, the Art Institute of Chicago and Bard College. He also wrote critical reviews on opera and film for San Francisco weeklies. His first films, in which he captured the spirit of his generation, were first inspired by academia, later by the figures of the Warhol scene.



In the late 1960s, when Sonbert began to take his Bolex camera with him on travels, his cinematic strategy changes and he begins to weave his travel images together with sequences of previous films. It’s a period during which his work shows the filmmaker’s capacity to turn his first experiences into more accomplished works, using his characteristic ‘polyvalent cutting’, a technique where each sequence ‘can be combined with ambient sequences with, potentially, many dimensions.’ Sonbert drew on his early experiences on camera movement, light and design to create brilliantly cut masterpieces that not only zoom in on his New York environment but also, more generally, on the sphere of human activity. These are films in which he comments on art and industry, news reporting and its effects on our lives, or the interaction between artistic disciplines. His last works culminate in symphonic (silent or sound) arrangements that unite the universal gestures of Men into unique combinations. Over the course of his career, Sonbert made 18 films. Before his death in 1995, he worked on WHIPLASH. This last film was completed by filmmaker Jeff Scher, following Sonberts precise instructions."





Copies of "Warren Sonbert: Selected Writings" (published by Framework: The Journal of Cinema and Media and guest edited by Jon Gartenberg) will be available for sale at the festival. For more information on the special issue of Framwork click here.

For further inquiries about Warren Sonbert’s films, please see:
GME Programming & Curating: Warren Sonbert Retrospective

"Where Did Our Love Go? Films of Warren Sonbert" – Program at Media City in Toronto

"Where Did Our Love Go? Films of Warren Sonbert" program at Media City in Toronto, Ontario that played last week. Program was curated by Jeremy Rossen and the films were introduced by Carla Harryman, one of the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets with whom Sonbert interacted in his artistic practice.


Framework 56.1 – Warren Sonbert: Selected Writings. Now Available from Framework: The Journal of Cinema and Media

Framework: The Journal of Cinema and Media has just released its latest issue devoted entirely to the writings of avant-garde artist Warren Sonbert. The journal features reproductions of Sonbert's original typed, handwritten and published documents. The issue is guest edited by Jon Gartenberg and is organized into sections related to Sonbert's interests in art, music, poetry, travel and film.

Below is an excerpt from Jon Gartenberg's introduction to the issue entitled A Delicate Balance: Warren Sonbert's Creative Legacy:

"For the very first time, a selection of writings by filmmaker Warren Sonbert is assembled together in this special edition of Framework. Although known primarily as an experimental filmmaker, Sonbert and his career extended deeply into other realms of the creative arts. He was an opera, music, and film critic; a kindred spirit to the Language poets; a screenplay author who adapted Strauss’s 1940–41 opera Capriccio; a collaborator on other filmmaker’s productions (Gerard Malanga’s In Search of the Miraculous [US, 1967] and Charles Henri Ford’s Johnny Minotaur [US, 1971]); an essayist on both the fine and performing arts; and a leading theoretician on cinematic montage. The objective of these collected writings, then, is to expand the narrow categorization of Sonbert as a now- deceased, marginalized experimental filmmaker into a broader reconsideration of his entire creative career. This endeavor should serve to reposition his legacy as a truly Renaissance thinker who articulated, in both profound and coherent fashion, how diverse forms of artistic expression can be so deeply connected to the human condition. 

Even for students of film history who are familiar with Sonbert’s cinematic output, the texts assembled in this publication are sure to be a revelation. “Film Syntax,” Sonbert’s most renowned essay, which so lucidly articulates his unique theory of montage, has been printed numerous times in various publications. Aside from this text, however, the other articles authored by Sonbert and reproduced herein are from more obscure publications or now defunct journals, including Shiny, Motion Picture, Tikkun, CinemaNews, Spiral, and the NY Film Bulletin. In addition, numerous unpublished notes, reflections, and essays that were authored by Sonbert—both handwritten and typed—have been gathered together to be published for the first time in this journal…

…We have organized Sonbert’s writings into the following broad classifications: art, travel, music, poetry, and film. These are not designed to be rigid categoriza- tions, but rather as points of departure to demonstrate Sonbert’s facility in his dialogue between all the art forms. Our inclusion of the travel category represents the central role Sonbert’s own journeys across time and space—both physical and creative—played in the development of the artist’s own practice of his craft.9 Only in considering Sonbert’s entire creative output as a coherent entity—filmed, written, and spoken, as well as his lived experiences through travel—can we truly appreciate his genius both as an artist and humanist."


GME is the exclusive representative of the estate of Warren Sonbert. For more information on the Warren Sonbert project see our programming page.

Warren Sonbert Films Screening in Paris Tribute to the "New York Underground"

Warren Sonbert Films Screening in Paris Tribute to the New York Underground
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Warren Sonbert Films Screening in 
Paris Tribute to the New York Underground
Warren Sonbert
Warren Sonbert with his film camera


Two of Warren Sonbert's films, Amphetamine and Where Did Our Love Go? will be shown in the retrospective "New York Underground" organized by Documentaire sur grand écran, as part of a tribute to Bleecker Street Cinema.  Both films are screening in Paris at the Filmothèque du Quartier Latin on Saturday evening, November 23.






Beginning at age 15, Warren Sonbert, a Brooklyn native, regularly attended screenings at the Bleecker Street cinema.  He became friendly with the management, and, in 1965, at age 16 (!) he served as Editor-in-Chief of a special edition of New York Film Bulletin  on Jean-Luc Godard.  This magazine was regularly edited in the basement of the Bleecker Street Cinema, and this issue (number forty-six) already reveals Sonbert's precocious genius and deep appreciation of the voice of the cinematic auteur, as revealed in his one-on-one interview with Godard:



"WS:  In Truffaut's La Peau Douce various banal objects (telephones, lights, shoes) play a significant role.  Is there any similarity in the continual presence of spherical objects and motions in Bande a Part?


J-LG:  No, all that was accidental.  But you know, now that I think of it, what you said about round objects often seen in Bande a Part: the last shot is of the world which is round, you know - so maybe you're right."








In February 1966, as a filmmaking student at New York University, Sonbert shot his first film (with Wendy Appel), entitled Amphetamine, about which he wrote, "First film, heavily influenced by Godard and Warhol - designed to shock".  His next movie, Where Did Our Love Go?, is, according to film critic James Stoller, "both a valentine and a farewell to a generation".








Warren Sonbert subsequently showed his films at Bleecker Street cinema.  Where Did Our Love Go? contains the only known footage of the interior of this movie theater during the period that it was founded and owned by Lionel Rogosin. Before he turned 21, Sonbert also secured a complete retrospective showing of his films at The Film-Makers' Cinematheque; the film critic for Variety wrote: 


"Probably not since Andy Warhol's 'The Chelsea Girls' had its first showing at the Cinematheque...almost a year and a half ago has an 'underground' film event caused as much curiosity and interest in N.Y's non-underground world as did four days of showings of the complete films of Warren Sonbert at the Cinematheque's new location on Wooster St. last weekend (Thurs. - Sun. Jan 25-28).  And as before, the crowds (many turned away each night) were attributed to press reports."




For a trailer of the "New York Underground" retrospective,
featuring filmmaker Warren Sonbert, click here.
For full program information, click here.




For more information about Warren Sonbert &
an international touring retrospective of his films,
click here,
or contact: 




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Warren Sonbert Retrospective at Tate Modern

Warren Sonbert Retrospective at Tate Modern
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Warren Sonbert Retrospective at Tate Modern
Warren Sonbert
Warren Sonbert with his film camera

© The Estate of Warren Sonbert


Tate Modern, London
Thursday 24 October - Sunday 27 October

Warren Sonbert is one of the seminal figures in American experimental film. A precocious talent, he had his first career retrospective before he turned 21 years old, establishing his reputation early as a key innovator in New York's counter-culture during the 1960s. Encouraged to take up filmmaking by Gregory Markopolous, his early works were populated by denizens of Warhol's scene such as superstar René Ricard and Gerard Malanga, as well as art critic Henry Geldzhaler. Often characterised as diaristic, his films pay close attention to intimate details of his surroundings and relationships that evolved from his living in New York and San Francisco, but also developed a unique lyrical form that transcends their quotidian detail to explore our individual human position in the world at large.


Defined by many contrasting influences from rock-and-roll to opera, from Douglas Sirk's classic Hollywood melodramas to the montage theories of Dziga Vertov, his films constantly question the world around him and positions the minutiae of day-to-day experience in an epic, international framework. His complex editing style - cutting rapidly between time periods, cultures and continents - creates a polyphonic cinema embraced equally by film and by literary circles leading to his close association with the New York School and Language Poets from the San Francisco Bay Area (including Michael Brownstein, Larry Fagin and Anne Waldman as well as Carla Harryman and Charles Bernstein). The first complete retrospective of his work in the UK, this series will position newly restored works alongside films by his peers such as Stan Brakhage, Abigail Child, Nathaniel Dorsky, Gerard Malanga, Gregory Markopoulos, Jeff Scher, and Andy Warhol, as well as Douglas Sirk's feature film Tarnished Angels (1957).


A special panel discussion with archivist Jon Gartenberg, writer Lynne Tillman and historian James Boaden, follows the Warren Sonbert: Where Did Our Love Go? programme on Saturday 26 October.


Co-curated by Jon Gartenberg with Tate Film.
Individual screenings introduced by Jon Gartenberg


The films of Warren Sonbert were preserved through the efforts of the Estate Project for Artists with AIDS in cooperation with the Academy Film Archive. Archivist Jon Gartenberg developed this film preservation initiative with the support of Ascension Serrano (The Estate of Warren Sonbert) and John Hanhardt (former senior curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum). The prints of Warren Sonbert's films in this retrospective exhibition are made available through Light Cone (Paris), the European distributor of his films. Program notes for this series by Jon Gartenberg, with additional contributions by George Clark.


Tate Film is supported by Maja Hoffmann / LUMA Foundation

Events in this series

Thursday 24 October 2013, 19.00 - 21.00

Friday 25 October 2013, 19.00 - 20.30

Friday 25 October 2013, 21.00 - 22.30

Saturday 26 October 2013, 15.00 - 17.00

Saturday 26 October 2013, 17.00 - 18.30

Saturday 26 October 2013, 19.00 - 21.00

Sunday 27 October 2013, 15.00 - 17.00

Sunday 27 October 2013, 17.00 - 19.00

Sunday 27 October 2013, 19.00 - 21.00 


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Warren Sonbert's AMPHETAMINE and Other Works Featured in Recent Exhibitions in NYC & London

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. 




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 



    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.

Two Films by Warren Sonbert at LIGHT INDUSTRY


Wednesday, December 15, 2010 at 7pm

Light Industry at ISSUE Project Room: 

Two Films by Warren Sonbert

ISSUE Project Room

The Old American Can Factory

232 3rd Street

Brooklyn, New York


The Cup and the Lip, Warren Sonbert, 16mm, 1986, 20 mins

Friendly Witness, Warren Sonbert, 16mm, 1989, 32 mins

With readings by Charles Bernstein, Corrine Fitzpatrick, and Carla Harryman.

Though Warren Sonbert has frequently been described as a maker of diary films, the label fails to capture the emotional and formal intricacies at play in his work. In less than twenty films made from 1966 to the mid-90s—his career caught short by his death from AIDS at age 47—Sonbert’s primary method was indeed the creation of dense montages from 16mm shot in the course of daily life. The same images and ideas were often reused in different permutations for new films and, through this process, footage of his friends and colleagues attains an iconic status that transcends its documentary valence, becoming vibrant evocations of Sirkian melodrama. "I think the films I make are, hopefully, a series of arguments,” Sonbert said of his own work, “with each image, shot, a statement to be read and digested in turn." The rich use of color and delicately punctuated editing also point to the influence of his mentor, Gregory Markopoulos, and Sonbert’s love of Hitchcock, Kenneth Anger, and opera.

The Cup and the Lip and Friendly Witness both date from the late 1980s, when Sonbert was refining and deepening his use of montage. Amy Taubin noted that The Cup and the Lip “is so dense it's impossible to apprehend it at a single viewing,” calling it “Sonbert's darkest work." Precisely composed of 645 individual shots over 22 minutes, set to girl-group songs and the overture to Christoph Willibald von Gluck’s 18th-century opera Iphigeneia in AulisFriendly Witness was Sonbert’s return to sound after two decades of purely silent films. Tonight’s event pairs Sonbert with readings by three poets—Charles Bernstein, Corrine Fitzpatrick, and Carla Harryman—a testament to the fact that, though long-admired as a filmmaker’s filmmaker, he always worked in conversation with other forms, literary and otherwise.

Charles Bernstein is author of All the Whiskey in Heaven: Selected Poems (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2010), Blind Witness: Three American Operas (Factory School, 2008); Girly Man (University of Chicago Press, 2006), and My Way: Speeches and Poems (Chicago, 1999). From 1978-1981 he co-edited, with Bruce Andrews L=A=N=G=U=A=G=Emagazine. In the 1990s, he co-founded and directed the Poetics Program at the State University of New York Buffalo. He teaches at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is co-director of PennSound.

Corrine Fitzpatrick is a Brooklyn-based poet, and former Program Coordinator of the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church. She is the author of two chapbooks – On Melody Dispatch and Zamboangueña, and her poetry appears in numerous print and online journals. She recently completed the MFA program at Bard College.

Carla Harryman is a poet, essayist, and playwright. Recent books include Adorno's Noise (Essay Press, 2008), Open Box (Belladonna, 2007), Baby (2005), and Gardener of Stars (Atelos, 2001), an experimental novel dedicated to the memory of Warren Sonbert. Forthcoming books include The Wide Road, an erotic picaresque written in collaboration with Lyn Hejinian (Belladonna). She is co-contributor to The Grand Piano, a project that focuses on the emergence of Language Writing, art, politics, and culture of the San Francisco Bay area between 1975-1980. She lives in the Detroit Area and serves on the faculty of the Creative Writing Program at Eastern Michigan University.

Presented as part of Couchsurfing.

Tickets - $7, available at door.

THE FRAGILE EMULSION Curated by Jon Gartenberg at UnionDocs on Sunday, December 5th at 7:30




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. 

Purchase Tickets

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.                          

Presented with


24th Leeds International Film Festival Program Celebrates The Films of Warren Sonbert


Warren Sonbert (1947 - 1955) 

Director               Warren Sonbert

Country                USA

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.

Read more: http://www.leedsfilm.com/film/warren-sonbert-1947-1995/#ixzz15xneKLQd