This picture will be science fiction. You are astonished? But science fiction can be in the past as well as the future. This picture is a trip back to Nero’s time, and that means it is a trip into an unknown dimension. What do we know about the Romans? This has made problems for me. My other pictures have all been autobiographical to one degree or another… But now I must become detached, and that has been very hard work.
First I have to invent this world of Nero. Then I must see it from a very narrow point of view, so it will appear foreign and unknown. I am examining ancient Rome as if this were a documentary about the customs and habits of the Martians. To be detached from your own creation is unnatural—I must look on my son as a stranger…
Because the film is so detached, the sex in it will not be erotic. Everyone says Fellini is making a dirty movie. But everything will be abstract, detached. The sex in SATYRICON will be like those ancient Indian statues on the positions of love. Even as you see a woman kissing a monster, it means nothing, because it is so old, so far away, from another civilization…
If you see with innocent eyes, everything is divine… All artists are equal when they are themselves. — Federico Fellini
Federico Fellini, FelliniSatyricon (1969), from top: Hiram Keller; Keller and Martin Potter (right); Mario Romagnoli (right); Fellini with actor on set; Fellini Satyricon; Capucine; U.S. poster; Fellini Satyricon; Keller.
Paintings are everywhere on Instagram. They circulate freely outside the control of the market, though they endure the censorship of social networks. Instagram is the universal exhibition of today – the Painting Salon of the 2020s. This is where I see more new paintings than I see in the galleries. This is where I discover more new artists and insensibly follow them, without even thinking, and then get off so easily.
Now, the idea is to restore and translate something of my digital experience on Instagram in an art gallery format. It’s a different kind of exhibition experience. But I ask myself, is the gallery transference interesting? Will a group show of such works hold up? Can we exhibit artists without knowing who they are? Or without first seeing their work in the flesh? What can I even say about this recent mutation of taste in narrative, pictorial, eclecticism…a sense of taste that, for me, includes sexual, fetishistic and maybe neo-surrealistic tendencies?
A theoretical question also arises: What’s painting even doing on Instagram?
First, let me say that a painting on Instagram is just an image. It’s a simulacrum, an image of an image, even a non-image or anti-image. A painting does not reproduce reality, nor does it duplicate it, and the image of a painting does not reproduce or duplicate a painting’s physical reality. A painting is a world apart. A world of shadows and lights. A mystery of surface and depth. An enigmatic mixture of colored matter and sensation. A painting stands in opposition to the digital experience of images that can be consumed en masse. Yet the image of a painting on a phone screen slows down my typically speedy, one-after-another consumption of images. The image of a painting often intrigues and even surprises me. Some linger in my memory, and a few more works by the same artist can deepen what began as a fragile and vague emotion. Unlike endlessly scrolled images, the digital image of a painting makes me think. It can even block the flow of thousands of images even as it too is carried off in the digital current. It stays because another kind of desire is played through it.
The images that cross in front of us, that absorb and consume us, embody a new form of global forgetfulness and contemporary amnesia. In the end, it’s a sadomasochistic suffering that we inflict on ourselves in war with images. Love may reside in the social network on the side of paintings. A single painting, in the midst of the seemingly intimate torment, is like a new beginning: to paint is to love again.
My desire to make an exhibition of Instagram paintings begins with what Instagram does to paintings. Instagramreturns to a painting what belongs to it. This is neither its decorative value, market value nor spiritual value, but rather its symbolic exchange of value. Isn’t that basically what Instagram tries to actualize or make us dream about: reinventing symbolic exchange? In the social and digital arena, where images of the world can defeat the world, paintings actualize a real connection to and between us. — Olivier Zahm
Join Zahm this weekend for the opening party of TO PAINT IS TO LOVE AGAIN, the show he’s curated for Nino Mier.
I know a lot about alienation… I think all women filmmakers are aware of it. It was the subject of a lot of the conversations I had with Maya Deren. We agreed that we were always going to present a united front to the world…
I would not have been able to make THE COOL WORLD had I not been living with Carl Lee at that time. It took Carl three months of going up to Harlem all the time, gathering kids, and bringing them down for us to interview… The “good” kids in school weren’t giving us believable readings… I finally persuaded Carl to try to get to the gangs, [and] it was very exciting because the “real” kids started improvising the script we had written right back to us. — Shirley Clarke
As part of the UCLA Film and Television Archive series American Neorealism, Part One—1948–1984, Clarke’s THE COOL WORLD will screen at the Billy Wilder Theater, Hammer Museum this weekend on a double bill with Michael Roemer’s Nothing But a Man.
Frederick Wiseman produced THE COOL WORLD, and the jazz score is by Mal Waldron, with Dizzy Gillespie on the soundtrack.
Shirley Clarke, The Cool World (1964). Film stills and (above) photographs of Clarke on set and with composer Mal Waldron. Images courtesy the filmmaker’s estate, the actors, the producers, and the distributors.
As part part of LA Opera’s Eurydice Found program celebrating the world premiere of Matthew Aucoin and Sarah Ruhl’s opera Eurydice, the Hammer Museum will screen BLACK ORPHEUS, MarcelCamus’ bossa nova take on the myth. (The film’s score is by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Luis Bonfá.)