A four-day cinema featuring the films of Stefan & Franciszka Themerson, Chris Marker, Jean Pierre Gorin, Eric Van Zuylen, Hollis Frampton, and others. Curated by Angie Keefer and Robert Snowden. Screenings introduced by short talks leading up garden paths.
Monday, November 28 at 6 pm
The Eye and The Ear (1944/45) was Stefan and Franciszka Themerson’s last and most ambitious film. Four songs by Polish composer Karol Szymanowski are interpreted visually with voice-over narration. 10 minutes.
Stefan Themerson and Language (1976) is a documentary by Dutch filmmaker Erik Van Zuylen in which Stefan Themerson plays himself, or a version of himself, in a staged dialog with Van Zuylen both madcap and serious. 46 minutes.
Tuesday, November 29 at 6 pm
Poto and Cabengo (1979) were the self-given names of identical 6-year-old twins Grace and Virginia Kennedy, who were thought to have invented a language unknown to anyone else. The French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Gorin traveled to Southern California in pursuit of their story, but found quite another. 77 minutes.
Wednesday, November 30 at 6 pm
Modern Times (1936) stars Charlie Chaplin as the Little Tramp, making his way in an industrialized America in the midst of the Great Depression. The film is primarily silent, though Chaplin’s voice is heard at one point, singing a song in gibberish. 87 minutes.
Thursday, December 1 at 6 pm
Nostalgia (1971) by American writer and filmmaker Hollis Frampton with voice narration by Michael Snow, is a complex meditation on the exchange between words and images. In Frampton’s own, words, “Try to remember the story that fits the image, try to remember the image that fits the story.” 38 minutes.
Stefan (1910–1988) and Franciszka (1907–1988) Themerson were artists who made films, images, texts and books. In 1948, they founded the Gaberbocchus Press, which published over sixty titles between 1948 and 1979, with the purported aim of producing “best lookers rather than best sellers.” Their stable included Alfred Jarry, Raymond Queneau, Kurt Schwitters, Bertrand Russell, Barbara Wright, and the Themersons, themselves. In the late 1950s, the basement of the Gaberbocchus press became Common Room, a weekly meeting place where the likes of these convened for talks, recitals, screenings and performances. The Themersons’ work wears a complex anti-categorical truth. It is mostly lacking in that requisite dose of the-world-as-represented-by-anybody-else. Above all, they were committed to an ethic. They privileged decency of means over grandiosity of aims. For more information on the Themersons please visit their archive.
Angie Keefer is a writer, editor, amateur librarian and occasional engineer. Along with Dexter Sinister, she is co-founder of The Serving Library, a nonprofit artists’ organization dedicated to publishing and archiving in a continuous loop; and co-editor of The Bulletins, The Serving Library’s bi-annual publication.
Robert Snowden is a writer and curator. Having recently closed The Chrysler Series, he is currently itinerant, with exhibitions in Amsterdam, London, and Los Angeles, and is writing an essay about his grandmother.
Life is Beautiful… is part of a year-long project dedicated to Stefan & Franciszka Themerson, taking place at the CAC, the ICA London, The Los Angeles Public Library, and the Banff Centre, Canada. The title of the programme is a telegram that sent to Franciszka Themerson by Stefan Themerson.
Images: Still frames from Modern Times, Nostalgie, publicity image of Poto and Kabengo and a still frame from the documentary Themerson & Themerson by Wiktoria Szymanska.