October, 2008, Beyond the Frame, Dialogues with World Filmmakers

October, 2008, Beyond the Frame, Dialogues with World Filmmakers

Beyond the Frame:
Dialogues with World Filmmakers
Liza Béar


In the art world which existed during the era of Avalanche, choosing ones descendants had become a rather complicated affair. It no longer happened like it used to between the Master and his apprentice. Joseph Beuys’ 1978 performance, Every person is an artist - on the way to the libertarian form of the social organism,” made a statement about that. Who would have ever thought that there would someday grow up a connection between the real life characters in say, The Battle of Algiers (directed by Gillo Pontecorvo, produced by Yacef Sáadi, 1965) and the artists who commanded the conceptual art scene?

This is certainly the case with rock artist, Courtney Love (Mrs. Kurt Cobain), whose role in Milos Forman’s iconographic film, “The People vs. Larry Flynt” is a documentary within a docudrama about the dead-end, rancid choice for Flynt’s fourth wife, Althea Leasure of Ms. Love. Knowing that her other life as a legendary rock star (Hole) existed concurrently within the many layered story about Larry Flynt’s porn empire.

Excerpt from Liza Béar’s interview with Milos Forman on, “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” which tells the gruesome story of the owner of Hustler Magazine (played by Woody Harrelson) and his trials for obscenity, during which time he was shot and paralyzed, and his fourth wife, Althea Leasure who suffers from and eventually dies of AIDS. This all occurs while they are posturing as porn royalty:

LB: There’s a rumor that your friend, Vaclav Havel recommended Courtney Love for the role of Althea, Larry Flynt’s wife and partner.

MF: He didn’t recommend her, but I was really torn between three girls, and I had a screen test tape with me in Prague. They were all wonderful, each very, very different. That made choosing between them difficult, because if they’d all been similar.... After a while you figure out which one of them is the best. Havel and his wife enthusiastically picked Courtney.”

During the 1970's Avalanche published interviews with Carl Andre, Jan Dibbets, Robert Smithson, Michael Heizer, Dennis Oppenheim, Bruce Nauman, Fox, Le Va, Jackie Winsor, Lawrence Weiner, Gordon Matta-Clark, Philip Glass, Janis Kounellis, Yvonne Rainer, General Idea, Vito Acconci, William Wegman, Ed Rusha, Tina Girouard, Chris Burden, Meredith Monk and Daniel Buren. Liza Béar and Willoughby Sharp conducted all, but one or two. These artists were the forefathers of the new age.

The Film Society of Lincoln Center sponsors the New York Film Festival and cosponsors New Directors/New Films with the Museum of Modern Art. The Festival de Cannes, the Festival of New Latin American Cinema, Havana, the French Film Office who program Rendez-Vous du Cinema Français at Lincoln Center each Spring, the Montreal Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival, and the Venice Biennale aired these movies. Liza Béar’s longer interviews were published in Bomb. The shorter interviews appeared in The New York Times, Newsday, the Star Ledger, The Village Voice, Ms., Elle, Salon.com, Time Out New York, The Boston Globe, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, The Christian Science Monitor, indiewire.com and the New York Daily News.

Béar, in a way, also set the bar for the new art magazines. Avalanche had an original concept. It put the media into the hands of the artists of the period. Artists could be pro-active about their own portrayal in the media. What evolved were earthworks, conceptual art, performance art, video, Minimalist art, dance and music. It was published 13 times in 6 years.

This new media art also appropriated substance from embracing ancient, fundamental cultures in the same way Picasso did with Cubism, Van Gogh and Matisse did with Impressionism and the sculpture of Africa, the prints of Japan, calligraphy of China. High culture, including fashions of the times, music, architecture and design, was a revolution of color, shapes and patterns imported from far away cultures into our own. For example, Dia had mysteriously brought over the Whirling Dervishes during the 1970's.

Excerpt from Samira Makhmalbaf’s film, “Blackboards":

LB: While the historical context is important, Makhmalbaf says the image of the blackboard was central to her concept of the film and that she was more interested in its metaphorical references. She also explained that for the old men in the film, the burden was the memory of the Iran-Iraq war and of the homeland to which they wished to return.

SM: When we are wandering, we have to carry what we need with us. In our minds too, ignorance and pain are baggage. Desire, pain, and everything. Also, happiness.

As we became more global, we are still, many of us are still caught in the 1960's, in the
jaws of the Cold War's censorship. We aren't thrown yet by the experience of war, we haven't
experienced starvation. We are very superficial, cultivating new technology. We are in a tug-
of-war symbolically for stability, in many ways using any means. Michael Winterbottom's
"Welcome to Sarajevo” used Hollywood to enter into a war zone and educate us during a life
and death struggle of a city and even its innocent children.

Excerpt from Michael Winterbottom’s, “Welcome to Sarajevo” which combines a cast of Hollywood movie stars (Emily Lloyd, Kerry Fox, Woody Harrelson, Stephen Dillane and Marisa Tomai) with local people:

LB: How did the cast come together?

MW: What was interesting about the situation [in Sarajevo], was that the journalists come in from outside and they’re constantly meeting with the local people. The script calls for lots of children who had to be Bosnian and therefore, had no experience acting and no English in most cases, and a lot of them were refugees.”
whitehot gallery images, click a thumbnail.

Claudia Schwalb

Schwalb graduated from Pratt Institute in 1974.  She was an emerging artist during the Minimalist movement in the 1970's.  She was raised in New York City during the Abstract Expressionist era. Claudia was the youngest artist ever to have a solo exhibition at The Clocktower/P.S.1 in 1977.  Claudia went on to write for Barbara Rose's Journal of Art and was one of the Contributing Editors of Cover/Arts New York along with John Yau and Judd Tully (Editor-at-Large for Arts & Auction).  She was Curator of the Knitting Factory and a television news transcriber for Peter Jennings' World News Tonight.  Subsequently, Claudia transcribed two movies, "Refuge" and "Interview with the Dalai Lama" which played at the Quad last year.  claudschwa@aol.com

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