A night of rarely seen films by David Wojnarowicz and Carl George.
David Wojnarowicz, Beautiful People, Super 8 on digital video, 34min, 1988
Carl George, 6 Feet, Dancers That I Know and Love, 16mm, 23min, 1991
A night of film, followed by a lively discussion with Esther Kaplan, Cynthia Carr, Rayya Elias, and Jack Waters. Filmmaker Carl George will also be in attendance.
Beautiful people, artists known and loved. The story of the downtown scene of 80s and early 90s New York is about more than a few select artists. It is the story of another city—fighting with grit gentrification and a heightening AIDS crisis—the story of a whole generation of friends, lovers, and collaborators, connecting and making art together at now legendary sites, from ABC No Rio to Danceteria, 8BC, or the Pyramid Club. On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Visual AIDS (part of the NOT OVER exhibition series) and in conjunction with the Gordon Kurtti Project, a retrospective exhibition of work by 80s East Village artist Gordon Stokes Kurtti.
About the Films:
Beautiful People is one of the last films David Wojnarowicz made, like his controversial film, Fire in My Belly, left uncompleted at his death. Nevertheless, the film, unusual among his work for its clear narrative, stands as one of his best films. Filming his 3 Teens Kill 4 bandmate, Jesse Hultberg, as he gets up in drag in his small East Village apartment before heading through the city and out into the wider world, in Beautiful People Wojnarowicz sees “drag queens as true revolutionaries who fuck with visual codes of gender,” bringing the queer, East Village revolution to the streets of the city and beyond. This screening features the rarely shown, full version of Beautiful People.
In 6 Feet, Dancers That I Know and Love by Carl George pays tribute to three friends and collaborators, who made up the collective POOL, the resident dance company of the legendary Pyramid Club in the 1980s—Brian Taylor, Jack Waters, and Peter Cramer—each given his own vignette to showcase his dance. Cramer, Waters, and Taylor, along with brother Brad Taylor, as well as Carl George, Kembra Pfahler, Tabboo!, Samoa, Gordon Kurtti, and many others, together formed a community of artists at ABC No Rio and in the East Village. Shot on location on the streets of the city, 6 Feet moves from its opening scenes in the East Village these artists called home, eventually bringing its queer, DIY sensibility to the rest of the city, culminating in a campy provocation in Central Park.
About the filmmakers:
Carl George is an artist, filmmaker, and curator. He is a founding member of art collective Allied Productions and has been actively involved with ABC No Rio, an experimental artist run exhibition and performance space, for more than twenty-five years. Many of his short experimental films have shown in festivals internationally, including at the Museum of Modern Art, the Cannes Film Festival Semaine de la Critique, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Guggenheim Museum, and are in the permanent collection of the New York Public Library. His 1986 film, The Lost 40 Days has recently been restored with the assistance of the National Film Preservation Foundation and is now in the permanent collections of the Library of Congress and Anthology Film Archives. His 1989 film DHPG Mon Amour, documenting the radical advances made by people with AIDS in developing their own health care, is a classic of AIDS activist filmmaking and was recently incorporated into the Oscar-nominated documentary How to Survive a Plague (2012).
David Wojnarowicz was an indelible presence in the New York City downtown art scene of the 1970s and 80s. Known for his writing, filmmaking, painting, drawing, photography, mixed media installations, performances, and activism, he often collaborated with other artists, including Peter Hujar and Richard Kern. Wojnarowicz used blunt symbology and graphic illustrations to expose what the mainstream repressed: poverty, abuses of power, blind nationalism, greed, gay sex, and the devastation of the AIDS epidemic. He began making Super 8 films in the late 70s, including Heroin and the later, unfinished films, A Fire in My Belly and Beautiful People. Wojnarowicz left his mark on the city in the form of street graffiti, his band 3 Teens Kill 4 and the flyers he designed for their performances, and shows at such legendary East Village venues as Civilian Warfare, Club 57, and Gracie Mansion Gallery. Published collections of his writing include Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration, The Waterfront Journals, and Memories That Smell Like Gasoline. Wojnarowicz died on July 22, 1992, of AIDS-related illnesses.
About the moderator and panelists:
Esther Kaplan is a radio and print journalist and editor of the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute. She has written for The Nation, The American Prospect, In These Times, The Village Voice, and other publications. She is the author of With God on Their Side: George W. Bush and the Christian Right, which Ms. magazine called “a frightening and necessary read.” She is co-host of Beyond the Pale, a weekly program covering Jewish culture and politics, on WBAI in New York City. She was formerly a senior editor at The Nation and features editor at Poz, the award-winning national AIDS magazine. She began her journalism career as an assistant editor at The Village Voice, where she became a regular contributor to the Female Trouble and Street Beat columns.
Cynthia Carr was a columnist and arts reporter for the Village Voice from 1984 to 2003. Writing under the byline C. Carr, she specialized in experimental and cutting-edge art, especially performance art. Some of these pieces are now collected in On Edge: Performance at the End of the Twentieth Century. She is also the author of Our Town: A Heartland Lynching, a Haunted Town, and the Hidden History of White America. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Artforum, Bookforum, Modern Painters, the Drama Review, and other publications. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2007. Carr recently published the critically acclaimed biography Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz. Carr lives in New York.
Rayya Elias was born in Aleppo, Syria, and moved to Warren, Michigan in 1968, when she was eight. Elias moved to New York in 1983, performing at clubs like Night Birds, Pyramid, Danceteria, and CBGB, as part of her band Ancient Beat. On the Lower East Side, Elias found a passion for the gritty, cross-section of counterculture on the streets and became lost to drugs, institutions, and jails, and spending some time homeless in Tent City at Tompkins Square Park. In 2004, Filmmaker magazine named her “one of 25 new faces to watch” and she has written, directed, and recorded soundtracks for two short films: Anonymous, about her eviction living on the Lower East Side, and The Lunchroom, which depicts the difficulties of being a young foreigner in the America. Elias has just published Harley Loco: A Memoir of Hard Living, Hair, and Post Punk, from the Middle East to the Lower East Side.
Jack Waters works in all forms of visual, performance, and media art. A BFA graduate in dance of the Juilliard School, his choreography credits include Personifications, staged for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center Repertory Workshop, and his works created as a founding member of the collective POOL, resident dance company of the legendary Pyramid Club in the 1980s. His films have shown on Sundance Channel and PBS, at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Berlin International Film Festival. Waters and partner Peter Cramer, former co-directors of ABC No Rio, are co-founders of Le Petit Versailles, a Green Thumb garden presenting screenings, music, performance, visual art exhibitions, and new media. Currently, Waters is working with Cramer on Pestilence, a musical theater cycle in three parts that melds science and art in a lyrical expression and considers the brain an organ of sensory stimulation.