Speakers in the Arts Ken Jacobs

November 18, 2011

Photos from the event

Distinguished Professor Emeritus and legendary avant-garde filmmaker Ken Jacobs will perform and screen recent films for two nights in Mississauga and Toronto.

All screenings and performances are FREE and open to the public. No reservations necessary.

The Blackwood Gallery and the e|gallery will remain open until 8pm on Friday November 18 for the current exhibition Lost Secrets of the Royal.

Screenings and Performances

Friday November 18
8 – 10pm
Instructional Centre, Room 245, UTM

*A FREE shuttle bus departs OCADU (100 McCaul St. Toronto) at 6:30pm, and returns for 10:30pm.
Click here for campus maps and directions. (Park in Lot #9.)

Ken Jacobs' legendary Nervous Magic Lantern is a performance of live cinema without film. The performance consists of a projector, crafted by Jacobs himself, that produces three-dimensional abstractions without the use of celluloid. Based on the magic lantern of the 19th century, the projector is manually operated and relies on the play of light, objects and transparencies to produce large scale abstractions in motion.


Saturday November 19
7 – 9pm
University College, Room 140, St. George Campus
Click here for campus maps

This screening will be followed by a reception at the University of Toronto Art Centre lounge from 9 – 11pm. All are welcome!

This is the Canadian premiere of the recently completed and already widely celebrated film, Seeking the Monkey King.

“Set to the music of J. G. Thirlwell, this digital video largely consists of valleys and hills of what look like crumpled foil that Mr. Jacobs, through his manipulations, has turned into landscapes that shift, undulate and seem to pop off the screen as if in 3D. Often tinted golden yellow and blue (colors used in the silent era usually to denote day and night), the images sometimes freeze and are amended by on-screen history lessons, political commentary, moments of sentiment and words of advice: “Read Marx. See René Clair’s 'Nous la Liberté.' To which I will add: See this movie.” - Manohla Dargis, New York Times.

“Be prepared for a cinema experience that takes a place between two and three dimensions, pushing time to take on substance and enveloping you into the a world beyond the surreal. This has been an epic undertaking, incomparable with any other avant-garde film you've ever seen.” - Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective.

The following short films will also be screened:

Capitalism: Slavery (2006)
The Surging Sea of Humanity (2006)
Capitalism: Child Labor (2006)
Another Occupation (2011)

About the Artist

Ken Jacobs is a legendary avant-garde filmmaker, whose work has screened across the world in venues such as the Louvre, the Museum of Modern Art, the Cinemathèque Française, and the New York Film Festival. In addition to his widely seen and deeply influential film and video works, Jacobs is a pioneer of projector-based art. His performances of the Nervous Magic Lantern, which are live film-less films push abstraction well past the limits of his painterly predecessors: Hans Hoffman, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, among others.

Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Ken Jacobs, was born in Brooklyn, NY, in 1933. He studied painting with one of the prime creators of Abstract Expressionism, Hans Hofmann, in the mid-fifties. It was then that he also began filmmaking (Star Spangled To Death). His personal star rose, to just about knee high, with the sixties advent of Underground Film. In 1967, with the involvement of his wife Florence and many others aspiring to a democratic -rather than demagogic- cinema, he created The Millennium Film Workshop in New York City. A nonprofit filmmaker's co-operative open to all, it made available film equipment, workspace, screenings and classes at little or no cost. Later he found himself teaching large classes of painfully docile students at St. John's University in Jamaica, Queens.

In 1969, after a week's guest seminar at Harpur College (now, Binghamton University), students petitioned the Administration to hire Ken Jacobs. Despite his lack of a high school diploma, the Administration -during that special period of anguish and possibility- decided that, as a teacher, he was "a natural." Together with Larry Gottheim he organized the SUNY system's first Department of Cinema, teaching thoughtful consideration of every kind of film but specializing in avant-garde cinema appreciation and production. (Department graduates are world-recognized as having an exceptional presence in this field.) His own early studies under Hofmann would increasingly figure in his filmwork, making for an Abstract Expressionist cinema, clearly evident in his avant-garde classic Tom, Tom, The Piper's Son (1969) and increasingly so in his subsequent devising of the unique Nervous System series of live film-projection performances. The American Museum Of The Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, hosted a full retrospective of his work in 1989, The New York Museum Of Modern Art held a partial retrospective in 1996, as did The American House in Paris in 1994 and the Arsenal Theater in Berlin in 1986 (during his 6 month stay as guest-recipient of Berlin's DAAD award). He has also performed in Japan, at the Louvre in Paris, the Getty Center in Los Angeles, etc. Honors include the Maya Deren Award of The American Film Institute, the Guggenheim Award and a special Rockefeller Foundation grant. A 1999 interview with Ken Jacobs can be seen on the Net as part of The University of California at Berkeley's series of Conversations With History.

Conference Images

Presented as part of UofT Arts Council's 2011 "Speakers in the Arts" series, in partnership with Blackwood Gallery, Department of Visual Studies (UTM), Justina M. Barnicke Gallery and the University of Toronto Art Centre.