VFS 2015 PRESS
VFS 2014 PRESS
TUES. JULY 8 @ 7:15pm
VFS Screening Room
420 E. Santa Clara @ Oak
Sponsored by Latitudes Gallery & Stephen Schafer
Post-Screening Discussion hosted by John White
July 3, 2014
“FILM SOCIETY TO SCREEN DOCUMENTARY ABOUT PERFORMANCE ARTIST”
By Michel Miller
You know that New Age dictum about today being a gift, which is why it’s called the present? I can’t help but wonder if performance artist Marina Abramović was engaging in similar word play when she titled her Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) show “The Artist is Present.” Without going so far as to say Abramović is self-important, it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine that she regards herself as a gift to her fans. At the same time, much of her work requires exceptional physical discipline and stamina therefore displaying a type of generosity and a focused presence.
Famous in the relatively underpopulated subculture of performance art, Abramović who’s been a practicing provocateur since the 1960s, has morehttp://cdncache-a.akamaihd.net/items/it/img/arrow-10x10.png recently been thrust into the mainstream reference pool via her alliances with such high-profile attention whores as King of the Selfie James Franco, illusionist David Blaine (both of whom appear in the film) and Lady GaGa, who has studied the Abramović Method. Abramović is regarded by some, including herself, as the grandmother of the discipline and was named one of Time magazine’s most influential people of 2014. The film The Artist is Present serves as both a documentation of her MOMA show and a look back at her career.
At 68 years old, the Serbian-born Abramović has the kind of effortless, almost austere beauty and sex appeal that seem to elude American women but come naturally to Europeans. As one of her ex-beaux says in the film, “Marina seduces everyone she encounters.” For someone who has spent as much time naked in publichttp://cdncache-a.akamaihd.net/items/it/img/arrow-10x10.png as she has, she appears modest and almost shy on camera. Some of her more lauded performance pieces have included self-flagellation, carving a pentagram into her abdomen, repeatedly running into a wall, hanging nude on a wall with only a small bicycle seat for support and a three-month walk along the Great Wall of China. But with the MOMA piece, which also featured a massive retrospective of her work performed by her students, she set the bar extraordinarily high: To remain seated and mostly stoic while facing any person who chose to sit across from her — every day, every hour the museum was open for a total of 736 hours and 30 minutes. It was the biggest performance exhibition for both Abramović and MOMA with 750,000 in attendance.
Her body completely covered in a long-sleeved, high-necked, full-length solid-color dress, no doubt influenced by her time spent in monasteries, Abramović sat, day in and day out, intimately and silently communicating with her visitors — fans, friends, celebrities and the curious among them. During the short spaces in between, she kept her head bowed and eyes shut. At the close of each day, she’d ritualistically place a mark on an adjacent wall, much as prisoners do.
The exhibition attracted a surprisingly diverse crowd and many people stood in queue for entire days to commune with the artist and observe others doing the same. Visitors’ reactions to Abramović’s undivided attention ranged from laughter and joy to complete emotional release—there was no shortage of tears. Abramović remarked about the pain so many people seemed to carry.
So what’s the point of all this? That really is the $64,000 question when it comes to performance art. Much of Abramović’s body of work seems to carry a message of “presence” connection, suspension of time. Often there’s an implied rejection of the obstacles to authentic relationship that the technological age has ushered in. Her pieces are raw, naked, elegant exercises in concentration and engagement.
The MOMA piece — and by proxy the film — straddles the line between pretentious absurdity and transformative therapy. For some, it might be easy to dismiss the subject matter as over-hyped nonsense for gullible consumers of art (as I initially did) but if you can hang in to the end, you may (as I did) find yourself flipping that script. There is definitely something worthwhile to be gained from Abramović’s work and performance art in general, even if a temporary suspension of presumption and judgment is necessary. In the end, isn’t that what the artist, filmmaker, performer is asking of us? To step away from everything we “know” for a moment and experience something new? If there was a point to “The Artist is Present” maybe it was simply to find out if the audience was available to the intangible exchange, the magic between artist and audience, human and human when both are fully engaged.
The Ventura Film Society will present a screening of “Marina Abramović - The Artist is Present on Tuesday, July 8, 7 p.m. Artist John White, who has a longstanding career in performance art, will lead a discussion afterward. 420 E. Santa Clara St., Ventura. For morehttp://cdncache-a.akamaihd.net/items/it/img/arrow-10x10.png information, visit www.venturafilmsociety.com.
VFS 2013 PRESS
Nov 27, 2013
Back to the Source Ventura Film Society closes season with fascinating look at 1960s counterculture group
by Tim Pompey
The Source Family
Directed by Maria Demopoulos & Jodi Wille
Starring Father Yod, Isis Aquarian, Ahom Aquarian and many others 98 mins
Director Jodi Wille, along with author & Source family member Isis Aquarian, will participate in Q&A following the film.
It’s easy to forget how strange life was more than 40 years ago in Los Angeles. It was a generation torn apart by war and disillusioned by Nixonian politics. Under the influence of rock and roll, feminism and free love, many young people escaped to the Sunset Strip and chose to live under a new banner.
In the documentary The Source Family, the Ventura Film Society’s season-ending film, we get a glimpse into this left coast way of life. In 1969, Jim Baker, otherwise known as Father Yod or Ya Ho Wha, opened a health food establishment called The Source Restaurant on the Sunset Strip and for five years used it as a recruiting base. His followers (many of them underage girls) became known as the Source Family. Director Jodi Wille first learned about Baker from listening to a box set of his music in 1999. Then, she saw a student film that interviewed some of the actual Source Family members. “I was struck by how intelligent, charming and self-aware the family members seemed,” she said, “and at that point I felt I had to track them down.” In 2007, she helped edit a book written by former family members Isis Aquarian and Electricity Aquarian called The Source: The Untold Story of Father Yod, Ya Ho Wha 13 and the Source Family. Eventually, Wille and her friend and colleague Maria Demopoulos decided to direct a full-scale documentary.
Demopoulos elaborated on the charisma that drew people to Baker. “From the time he was a young boy, he was a heroic mythic figure,” she explained. “A war hero, a successful restaurateur, a martial arts expert, everything that he put his mind to, he succeeded at.” But Baker also had a dark past filled with violence and drug use. When he lost a partnership in his chain of restaurants in the mid 1960s, he decided to start over and focus on his spiritual development. Demopoulos believes the success of the Source Family reflected a crucial moment when a young generation flooded the Sunset Strip just as the power of rock stardom and New Age thinking converged. “I think it was sort of a perfect storm,” she said. “A lot of his followers were seekers, trying to find an alternative to what was being told to them by an older generation.” You can sense Baker’s charisma in the film’s opening frames. As the camera rests on his striking face, one member testifies how “his eyes burned into them.” Another swore that she saw “lightning bolts coming out of his ears.” Still another called the Source Family “the most interesting game in town.” No surprise then that, after Baker purchased a Beverly Hills mansion, filled it with beautiful women and declared marijuana to be spiritual, the family rapidly expanded. And with Baker free to make up his own rules, life in the family continued to grow stranger by the day.
For Ventura Film Society director Lorenzo DeStefano, The Source Family brought back some memories of his early days in the film industry. “When I first moved to L.A. in 1978 as a young filmmaker, I ate at The Source,” he said. “So when I heard about this film it sort of took me back to that time.” He believes that this particular closing night film represents exactly what the VFS strives to bring to the screen. “It was a good way to end the season,” he noted. “We opened with The Blue Lagoon and we’re closing with The Source Family. I like that.”
The Source Family will be shown on Sunday, Dec. 1, at 6:15 p.m. at the Century 10 Theater in downtown Ventura. Ticket information is available online at www.venturafilmsociety.com or by calling 805 641-3845.
This is an unrated documentary. Contains mature content and may not be appropriate for all audiences.
VFS 2013 CLOSING NIGHT FILM - Advance Tickets Advisable. Visit www.venturafilmsociety.com/tickets.html
@ CENTURY 10 DOWNTOWN VENTURA
Directors Jodi Wille & Maria Demopoulos will attend, along with very special guests.
VC STAR APRIL 24, 2013
“Ventura dance troupe's debut coincides with documentary screening”
by Amy Bentley
VFS 2012 PRESS
VC REPORTER – MAY 10, 2012
“They paint horses, don't they?” Ventura Film Society to screen Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams
by Matthew Singer
Eccentric director Werner Herzog (left) with an “experimental archaeologist” from his documentary film Cave of Forgotten Dreams.
VC REPORTER 2.16.12 - “Vengeance Is Sweet”
Chris Paine, filmmaker of Who Killed the Electric Car? and Revenge of the Electric Car, comes to the Ventura Film Society
by David Comden