Light Reading presents two important films in the trailblazing career of one of America's foremost avant-garde masters. Best known for the cycle Elective Affinities, a series of four feature-length films started in the early 1970s and completed in 1981, Gottheim has carried out an absorbing exploration of the relationship of images to sound and time, examined issues of racial, cultural and personal identity, and considered the theme of nature in art.
From his late-1960s series of sublime single-shot films, such as FOG LINE and BARN RUSHES to the dense sound/image constructs of the mid-1970s and after, Gottheimıs cinema is the cinema of presence, of observation, and of deep conscious engagement. While addressing genres of landscape, diary and assemblage filmmaking, Gottheimıs work properly stands alone in its intensive investigations of the paradoxes between direct, sensual experience in collision with complex structures of repetition, anticipation and memory.
"Gottheim's Cinema is a quest of origins. The films elaborate a response to the fictions of our world, the construction of images and sounds, the repeating cycles of life and nature. The profoundness of Gottheim's act is to elaborate a body of work outside of fashion and within a search for an authentic language of cinematic discourse." - John Handhardt, on the occasion of the presentation of the full "Elective Affinities" cycle at the Whitney Museum, 1981
Gottheim has shown work internationally for forty years including at MOMA, New York, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, Whitney Biennial, New York, Film Forum, LA, San Francisco Cinemateque, SF, and Manifesta 7, Trentino.
BLUES (1969, 12 min, silent, 16mm, 18fps.)
Part of Gottheim's early body of work that involved continuous or near-continuous filming operations that did not use conventional editing.
A bowl of blueberries in milk, changing light radiant on the berries and on the glazed bowl, the ever more radiant orb of milk transforming into glowing light itself, with a brief shadow coda answering the complex play of shadows. The regular pulses of light framing the looser rhythmus of the spoon, itself a frame. A charging of each of the frame's edges with its own particular energy. Within and without, whites and blues, lines and curves. The pulses of vision, the simple natural processes, lift the spirit.
TREE OF KNOWLEDGE (Elective Affinities IV) (1981) 16mm, color, sound, 57.75 min
The culmination of his 1970s-spanning Elective Affinities tetralogy. Gottheimıs ecstatic images of sere autumnal orchards are plaited with found footage of delusional paranoiacs asserting that Hitler was unjustly martyred. The film is a dense weave of juxtapositions that involve the viewer in a dance between the formal patterning of the highly complex editing structures and their repetition and permutation of elements.
It started with filming the tree. Something was released in that manner of filming seemingly farthest removed from the procedure of the early films. I first thought a simple ordering of this rich material might be enough, something related to BARN RUSHES. But the essential feelings and meanings of that filming held themselves back. So I pursued sounds of comparable texture and richness, from which material the 'deaf bar" (thanks to Roger Jacoby and Pittsburgh Filmmakers) and stockyard (thanks to Alan Berliner and U. of Oklahoma) sounds attached themselves to the work. But the film only came
into its form-life with the idea of linking this deep-rooted and far-outreaching tree material with that film on paranoia that had fascinated
me for many years. (...)--L. G.