Aldo Tambellini (b. 1930) was a vital part of the New York arts scene in the 1950s and 60s. He was a painter, sculptor, poet, photographer, film and video maker, multi-media artist, television pioneer, curator, organizer, and arts activist. During that period he produced the Black Film series, an extraordinary group of seven films (six of which are showing) that were well known at the time but have only recently begun to be “rediscovered” with screenings in Leeds, UK, in 2007 and in Boston earlier this year.
White Light Cinema is pleased to present these films in new digital transfers (prints in the U.S. are currently unavailable), along with one of only a few screenings thus far of Tambellini and Otto Piene’s pioneering television broadcast BLACK GATE COLOGNE, which only had its first public US screening in 2009.
We are also extremely pleased to have School of the Art Institute Professor Bruce Jenkins introducing the program.
"A central figure in the East Village art scene that thrived during the 1960s, poet, painter, sculptor and pioneering multi-media artist Aldo Tambellini (b. 1930) has only begun to be recognized for his prescient and innovative art. Throughout his long career, Tambellini has worked in a staggering range of media - from his early Arte Povera-style sculptures and abstract drawings done in Italy and America in the 1950s and 1960s, to his experimental work in early video and television art, which he pioneered alongside his close friend and occasional collaborator Nam Jun Paik, to the series of abstract films he made in the 1960s. Beginning in 1965 with Black Is, Tambellini launched a series of politically charged experimental films that explore the expressive possibilities of black as a dominant color and idea. For the most part Tambellini’s seven "black films" are made without the use of a camera but rather by carefully manipulating the film itself by scorching, scratching, painting and treating the film stock as a type of sculptural and painterly medium. Beautifully austere and hypnotically immersive, Tambellini’s films are also important expressions of an artist critically aware of the emergent Information Age and its possibilities. Often using found footage and filmed television, Tambellini’s films take a crucial pulse of the new moving image culture being formed in the Sixties." (Harvard Film Archives)
“As a key figure of the 1960s Lower East Side arts scene, Aldo Tambellini used a variety of media for social and political communication. In the age of Marshall McLuhan and Buckminster Fuller, Tambellini manipulated new technology in an exploration of the "psychological re-orientation of man in the space age." He presented immersive, multi-media environments and, having made his first experimental video as early as 1966, participated in early collaborations between artists and broadcast television. His dynamic Black Film Series (1965-69) extends from total abstraction to footage of the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, the Vietnam War, and black teenagers in Coney Island. Tambellini worked directly on the film strip with chemicals, paint and ink, scratching, scraping, and intercutting material from industrial films, newsreels and TV. Abrasive, provocative and turbulent, the series is a rapid-fire response to the beginning of the information age and a world in flux. "Black to me is like a beginning … Black is within totality, the oneness of all. Black is the expansion of consciousness in all directions.'" (Mark Webber, Evolution 2007
BLACK IS (1965, 4 mins., b/w)
"To the sound of a heartbeat and made entirely without the use of a camera, this film projects abstract forms and illuminations on a night-black background and suggests as Tambellini says, 'seed black, seed black, sperm black, sperm black.'" (Grove Press Film Catalog)
BLACK TRIP (1965, 5 mins, b/w)
BLACK PLUS X (1966, 9 mins., b/w)
"Tambellini here focuses on contemporary life in a black community. The extra, the “X” of Black Plus X, is a filmic device by which a black person is instantaneously turned white by the mere projection of the negative image. The time is summer, and the place is an oceanside amusement park where black children are playing in the surf and enjoying the rides, quite oblivious to Tambellini’s tongue-in-cheek 'solution' to the race problem." (Grove Press Film Catalog)
BLACK TRIP 2 (1967, 3 mins., b/w)
"An internal probing of the violence and mystery of the American psyche seen through the eye of a black man and the Russian revolution." (AT)
BLACKOUT (1965, 9 mins., b/w)
BLACK TV (1968, 10 mins., b/w)
"Through the uses of kinescope, video, multimedia, and direct painting on film, an impression is gained of the frantic action of protoplasm under a microscope where an imaginative viewer may see the genesis of it all." (Grove Press Film Catalog)
[All works above 16mm screening from digital video.]
BLACK GATE COLOGNE (1968, 47 mins., b/w, video) by Aldo Tambellini and Otto Piene
“Black Gate Cologne' is often cited as the first television programme made by artists. It was a live event involving films, light objects and the participation of the studio audience. A comparable event took place in New York in 1967, the inter-media piece ‘Black Gate Theater’, which was now expanded by the possibilities of the new ‘Electronic Studio’ of WDR television, whose electronic video mixing facilities could now be creatively deployed for the first time. The close co-operation between artists and TV crew created a synthesis of live atmosphere, Light Art, experimental film and electronic image aesthetics. Two consecutive 45-minute broadcasts with different audiences were recorded in the studio, and then in part copied one on top of the other to intensify the transmitted product. Since the length of the broadcast was criticized ‘despite, or indeed perhaps because of, its confusing wealth of material’, WDR finally cut it to 23 minutes.” (Media Art Net)
The original long version will be screening.