Time after Time # 1

The Whirled and Little Stabs At Happiness featuring Jack Smith are breakouts, formally innovative rarely seen true to life pictures of life on earth. For Blonde Cobra, Jacobs transforms an unfinished Lower East Side monster comedy into a ragged collage starring Jack Smith. These groundbreaking early films that accurately “tell the time” are complemented by Perfect Film that presents rushes from TV news footage following the assassination of Malcolm X and The Doctor’s Dream, a bland 1950s TV drama that is reedited to reveal an unexpected subtext lurking between gaps in the narrative.

Sat, 16 Oct 2004
20:15 - 22:08

The Whirled

16 mm. | 00:20:00 | col. & b&w
non spoken

The first two shorts were shot around Jack’s loft on Reade Street on two 100’ rolls. Sunday morning following Saturday’s sacrifice, I saw there was another 50’ left, which I shot with no rehearsal or discussion of Jack dancing. Seeing the results turned me away from my initial fastidious art-film approach. In 1963 a snatch of Saturday Afternoon.... was shown on TV when I was paid twenty dollars to participate in a TV quiz program called Hunch Your Back. (Back Your Hunch?)After years of shooting (when I could afford the raw stocks) my epic STAR SPANGLED TO DEATH starring Jack as The Spirit Not of Life But of Living, and after a few months of being on the outs with each other, we got together for one last stab at friendship and at another film in Provincetown, Summer ‘61.

Perfect Film

16 mm. | 00:22:00 | b&w
non spoken

T.V. newscast discards from 1965 relating to the assassination of Malcolm X; reprinted as found (with the exception of boosting audio volume) in a Canal Street bin. A lot of film is perfect left alone, perfectly revealing in its un- or semi- conscious form. I wish more camera footage was available in its raw state, as primary source material for anyone to consider, and to leave for others in just that way, the evidence uncontaminated by compulsive proprietary misapplied artistry; ‘editing’, the purposeful ‘pointing things out’ that cuts a road straight and narrow through the cine-jungle; we barrel through thinking we’re going somewhere and miss it all. Better sometimes to only be pointed to the territory, to put in time exploring, roughing it, on our own as viewer-discoverers. For the straight scoop we need the whole scoop, or no less than the clues entire and without re-arrangement.O, for a Museum of Found Footage, or cable channel, library, a shit-museum of telling discards accessible to all talented viewers/auditors. A wilderness haven salvaged from Entertainment.

Little Stabs at Happiness

16 mm. | 00:15:00 | col.
non spoken

Featuring Jack Smith.Material was cut in as it came out of the camera, embarrassing moments intact. 100’ rolls timed well with music on old 78’s. I was interested in immediacy, a sense of ease, and an art where suffering was acknowledged but not trivialized with dramatics. Whimsy was our achievement, as well as breaking out of step.

The Doctor’s Dream

16 mm. | 00:23:00 | b&w
non spoken

Reconstructed found-film.The painting the movie is based on is called ‘The Doctor’; it’s in the Tate Gallery in London and it has an interesting subliminal image appropriate to my discovery, via this reconstruction, of the hidden story within the surface story of this obscure throw-away-made-for-tv movie. A powerful sexual event was hidden within the movie’s banality. Perhaps without intention, but it is what was gripping in the movie, if ever the movie was gripping. Similarly in the painting, seen from a little distance, the doctor contemplates the sleeping girl with, you don’t have to agree with me, his curled fist doubling as a penis entering his mouth (I’m sad to find myself so constrained in my speech). I suspect this has been a traditional method of smuggling illicit information, hot stuff, through customs from one "innocent" mind to another.

Blonde Cobra

16 mm. | 00:30:00 | col. & b&w
non spoken

Featuring Jack Smith. Images gathered by Bob Fleischner, sound-film composed by Ken Jacobs."Jack says I made the film too heavy." I learned afterwards that it was his and Bob’s intention to create light monster-movie comedy. Two comedies, actually, two separate stories that were being shot simultaneously until Bob and Jack had a falling-out over who should pay for the raw stock destroyed in a fire started when Jack’s cat knocked over a candle (Con-Ed had turned off his electricity for failure to pay their bills); Jack claimed it was an act of God but Bob would not relent. A few months later, in winter of ‘59 Bob showed me the footage he had shot for the aborted projects. Having no idea of the original story plans I was able to view the material for what was there rather than what was missing. I told Bob there was a film there and he gave over the footage to me with the freedom to develop it as I saw fit.I think it was in late 1961 that Jack and I ignored our personal animosities long enough to record his words and songs for the sound track. The phrases he spoke into the tape recorder were mostly ones I’d heard him say at one time or another, especially pet phrases he loved to repeat. A very few I made up in his style, necessary to the story-logic I’d worked out. The procedure for recording his monologues and songs: I played him selections from my dozen or so 78 rpm records, music from the ‘20’s and ‘30’s, sometimes only the beginning of a record and if he liked it I would restart the record and commence recording. There were no notes and in only one instance was it necessary to go for a second take. Any lack of clarity is due to the very second-rate equipment, third-rate, fourth-rate, we were using. I play the piano-harp for the Madame Nescience monologue. Jack supplied the Arabic music, there’s also some SAFARI IN HIFI, a Villa-Lobos string quartet speeded up, a haunting section of a children’s 45... "Baby Wants To Sleep".A small amount of my own previous shooting was cut into the film, the short ‘drowning in nescience’ color sequence near the beginning.BLONDE COBRA is an erratic narrative –no, not really a narrative, it’s only stretched out in time for convenience of delivery. It’s a look in on an exploding life, on a man of imagination suffering pre-fashionable lower East Side deprivation and consumed with American 1950’s, 40’s, 30s disgust. Silly, self-pitying, guilt-strictured and yet triumphing–on one level–over the situation with style, because he’s unapologetically gifted, has a genius for courage, knows that a state of indignity can serve to show his character in sharpest relief. He carries on, states his presence for what it is. Does all he can to draw out our condemnation, testing our love for its limits,....enticing us into an absurd moral posture the better to dismiss us with a regal "screw-off".

Time after Time # 2
Star Spangled to Death - Part 1

Sun, 17 Oct 2004
15:00 - 17:00

Jacobs’ Magnum Opus clarifies an existential situation, in which self-mockery turns into a conductor for symbolism. Browsing through such topics as politics, war, religion and science, this work as a whole constitutes a social criticism of the United States today.

Star Spangled to Death

16 mm. | 06:45:00 | col. & b&w
non spoken

"Star Spangled to Death" erupts in a manic regurgitation of American self-mythologizing, mostly via obscure and forgotten popular movies and cartoons. Jack Smith (later of FLAMING CREATURES notoriety) weaves ecstatically through the cultural debris as The Spirit Not Of Life But Of Living (which includes dying), with poor luckless Jerry Sims personifying Suffering. 16mm transferred to video.

Time after Time # 2
Star Spangled to Death - Part 2

Sun, 17 Oct 2004
17:00 - 18:50

Time after Time # 2
Star Spangled to Death - Part 3

Sun, 17 Oct 2004
20:00 - 21:40

Time after Time # 2
Star Spangled to Death - Part 4

Sun, 17 Oct 2004
21:40 - 23:40

Time after Time # 3

Mon, 18 Oct 2004
22:00 - 23:45

This program exemplifies Jacobs’ interest in formal innovation, particularly as regards the unstable Cubist 2-D/3-D aesthetic passed on by his former teacher, the painter Hans Hofmann. Henry Hills’ Nervous Ken playfully exaggerates the experience of viewing one of Jacobs’ live Nervous System film performances, a unique double-analysis projector set-up, deriving 3-D from standard 2-D film, most often archival and other found footage.


16 mm. |  00:12:00  | col.

Regular 8mm. enlarged to 16mm.The moving camera shapes the screen image with great purposefulness, using the frame of a window as fulcrum upon which to wheel about the exterior scene. The zoom lens rips, pulling depth planes apart and slapping them together, contracting and expanding in concurrence with camera movements to impart a terrific apparent-motion to the complex of object-forms pictured on the horizontal-vertical screen, its axis steadied by the viewer’s own active experience of gravity. The camera’s movements, in being transferred to objects tend also to be greatly magnified (instead of the camera a pictured building turns within the stationary screen).Years of fascination with the window preceded the afternoon of actual shooting. The film is shown as it came out of the camera and back from the developer.

Flo Rounds a Corner

video | 00:06:00 | col.

The cast is in flux - the animate and the inanimate get double billed with that dynamic duo - Push and Pull. If matter has consciousness and has renounced movement as Henri Bergson suggests in order to conserve energy, then here we have a dramatic apostasy. A broken vow of stasis, a flood of energy. What beautiful instability and pulsation - a floating world off a hinge drawn through invisible bellows, exhaled, exultant. Figure and ground (such a quaint term for what we really see) do a slow motion see saw on shifting tectonic plates. Fold into Cezanne - like origami. If this dance weren’t so meticulous, so slow, so molecular, it would describe a calamity. But in fact this happens everyday, every moment in the blink of an eye. Tilts with perfect pitch. The eponymous Flo moves slanted and enchanted down a street in Taormina, Italy - as casual, momentous and as ‘on time’ as the ARRIVAL OF THE TRAIN AT CIOTAT that rounded the corner of another century. A landmark work.

Henry Hill’s NERVOUS KEN

video | 00:11:00 | col. & b&w
non spoken

"In NERVOUS KEN, experimental film legend Ken Jacobs is "interviewed" by an urbane 12-year old from the Upper West Side, Emma Bernstein. Envisioning an exploration of the nature of listening (of apprehending or not, remembering or not, & creating meaning) and of the repetitions & variations of verbal expression and its accompanying often-emphatic physical gesturing as a basis for making visual music, Henry Hills employs the full range of temporal manipulation available within the digital realm, exploiting the unique corners which differentiate DV from 16mm, though including frequent references to themes & techniques from Jacobs’ own work within the arcanum of film. The "musical score" is derived through permutations of the sync track. This is the first released section from the ongoing series, EMMA’S DILEMMA, which follows its protagonist through numerous encounters with a range of artists in a search for identity which spans her entire teen years."

New York Street Trolleys 1900

video | 00:11:00 | b&w
non spoken

Nervous System performance (a work for two projectors) recorded to video.The artist-projectionist’s mind exposed in spoken words, to be heard over the trolley-like motor-roar of his machines, describing his precision-moves and their visual results onscreen. A demo originally made as part of a grant request.

Opening the Nineteenth Century: 1896

16 mm. | 00:09:00 | b&w
non spoken

3-D utilizing Pulfrich Effect.Cinematographers: Eugene Promio, Felix Mesgusch, Francis Doublier. Cinematheque Francaise places original films from cameras themselves in motion, 1896.Shafting the screen: the projector beam maintains its angle as it meets the screen and keeps on going, introducing volume as well as light, just as the Paris, Cairo, and Venice of a century ago happen to pass.3-D Instructions to Viewer: Passing through the tunnel mid-film, a red flash will signal you to switch your single Pulfrich filter from before your right eye to before your left (keep both eyes open). Center-seating is best: depth deepens viewing further from the screen. Handle filter by edges to preserve clarity. Either side of filter may face screen. Filter can be held at any angle, there’s no "up" or "down" side. Also, two filters before an eye does not work better than one, and a filter in front of each eye only negates the effect.


16 mm. | 00:22:00 | col.
non spoken

3-D utilizing Pulfrich Effect.Previously titled EXCERPT FROM THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. Normal projection. Flat image of snowbound suburban housing tract in upstate New York, prize homes awarded to IBM executives of the region, blossoms into 3-D when viewer places the Pulfrich filter before right eye. (Keeping both eyes open, or course. As with all stereo experiences, center seats are best. Space will deepen as one views further from the screen.) The found-sound is X-ratable but is important to the film’s perfect balance (Globe is symmetrical) of divine and profane.


video | 00:25:00 | col. & b&w
non spoken

Magic Lantern performance (a work for one projector) recorded to video.Mesh of clockwork sounds by Harrison Birtwistle. "The movie projector’s a kind of clock", the artist Ed Bachelor said. Somewhere inside the machine beats a Piranesi space, shaped and given dimension by a string of exposures of a seated woman undulating gravity-free. Who is this alluring lady of this filmstrip-tease? I call her Dinah, because the name contains a d, an n, and an a. Dinah Ovum! She is waiting, she is confident, she is radioing for help. Her message: "Let us gestate, love."

Time after Time # 4

Tue, 19 Oct 2004
22:30 - 00:01

The Georgetown Loop and Disorient Express show fascination with early film and landscapes that trains make possible, projectors and trains being natural cousins for Jacobs. The Nervous Magic Lantern performance Celestial Subway creates a syneasthetic experience of celestial magnitude. The Magic Lantern, a single home-made projector consisting of little more than lightsource, lens and shutter, creates flight-paths through immense unstable 3-D vistas

The Georgetown Loop

35 mm. | 00:11:00 | b&w

The Georgetown Loop is my 11 minute riff on "The Scenic Wonder Of Colorado", a rail-line built in the 1870’s through daunting mountain terrain to serve the silver mining industry. I’ve called it the first landscape film deserving of an X-rating, and that it is, yet its secret subtitle is -I must whisper- (Celestial Railway).

Celestial Subway

video | 00:50:00 | b&w
non spoken

Nervous Magic Lantern live performance recorded to video; music by John Zorn, Ikue Mori.Spectacular spaces orbit through unthinkable transformations as seen from changing angles of view. A path of cinema never before traveled, deep 3-D without spectacles or special screens, available even to the one-eyed. Performed by way of a down-to-the-bones projection device, light-source and cooling fan, lens and spinning shutter, it is hands-on projection with the projectionist as main moving part. Toying with light, the result is a vast 3-D churning and morphing, the equivalent of a Jackson Pollock and then some, that could’ve been made to happen before the invention of film and film transport devices; that could’ve happened before Muybridge, had minds been ready.

Disorient Express

35 mm. | 00:30:00 | b&w

This is not formalist cinema; order interests me only to the extent that it can provide experience. Watch the flat screen give way to some kind of 3-D thrust, look for impossible depth inversions, for jeweled splendor, for CATscans of the brain. I’m banking on this film reviving a yen for expanded consciousness.

Time after Time # 5

Wed, 20 Oct 2004
22:15 - 00:15

Jacobs performs an electronic riff on the same MoMA-print submitting the historical material to a series of highly technological manipulations with an optical film scanner.

Tom, Tom, The Piper’s Son

16 mm. | 01:50:00 | col. & b&w

revised in 1971.Cinematography ass’t., Jordan Meyers. Negative-matching assistance by Judy Dauterman. Original 1905 film by G.W. ‘Billy’ Bitzer, rescued by Kemp Niver via a paper print filed for copyright purposes with the Library of Congress. As reverently examined here, a new movie almost incidentally comes into being.Ghosts! Cine-recordings of the vivacious doings of persons long dead. The preservation of their memory ceases at the edges of the frame (a 1905 hand happened to stick into the frame...it’s "preserved", recorded in a spray of emulsion grains). One face passes "behind" another on the two-dimensional screen.The staging and cutting is pre-Griffith. Seven infinitely complex cine-tapestries comprise the original film and the style is not primitive, not uncinematic, but an inspired indication of a path of cinematic development whose value has only recently been rediscovered. My camera closes in only to better ascertain the infinite richness (playing with fate, taking advantage of the loop-character of all movies, recalling and varying some visual complexes again and again for particular savoring), searching out incongruities in the story-telling (a person, confused, suddenly looks out of an actor’s face), delighting in the whole bizarre human phenomena of story-telling itself and this within the fantasy of reading any bygone time out of the visual crudities of film: dream within a dream!And then I wanted to show the actual present of film, just begin to indicate its energies. A train of images passes like enough and different enough to imply to the mind that its eyes are seeing an arm lift, or a door close; I wanted to "bring to the surface" that multi-rhythmic collision-contesting of dark and light two-dimensional force-areas struggling edge to edge for identity of shape...to get into the amoebic grain pattern itself–a chemical dispersion pattern unique to each frame, each cold "still"...stirred to life by a successive 16-24 f.p.s. pattering on our retinas, the teeming energies elicited (the grains! the grains!) then collaborating, unknowingly and ironically, to form the always-poignant-because-always-past illusion.

A Tom Tom Chaser

video | 00:10:00 | b&w

This digital riff was inspired watching the transfer from film to video, of T.T.P.S., observing the technician zip forward and back on a million dollar optical film-scanner. I asked could we record some of this discarded visual phenomena incidental to film-to-digital transfer. Sure, he said and I urged him on to ever-wilder aberrations and what we got is pretty much what you see, less some judicious excisions.

Time after Time # 6

Thu, 21 Oct 2004
18:15 - 20:09

As an experimental filmmaker with an impressive record of service Jacobs now returns to the uninhibited state of an amateur: with simple material he made some kind of home video about the events in New York after 11 September 2001.

CIRCLING ZERO: We see Absence

video | 01:54:00 | col.
spoken | english

We live in a top-floor loft, downtown Manhattan on Chambers Street, official outer edge of "Ground Zero", a 3 minute leisurely walk from the Twin Towers site. Our daughter and son were in the building and witnessed the 9/11 attack. I videotaped the strange events on the streets when allowed to return onto the island. The second half of this home-movie documents the gathering of people at Union Square, remarkable for the anti-war sentiment evident.

Time after Time # 7

Fri, 22 Oct 2004 - Fri, 15 Oct 2004
20:15 - 22:09

Variations on some film classics. “After a century of cinema industrialized, standardized, economically determined and “rationalized”, we need a return to the possibilities of a Cubist cinema. I blame Viktor Shklovsky, Soviet aesthetician, who urged slowing down aesthetic intake for maximum delectation.” (Ken Jacobs) The projection of Jacobs’ ‘variations’ is followed by the screening of the original films.

Buster Keaton
Eddie Cline

Super 8 | 00:23:00 | b&w

Cops is a short comedy with a series of mishaps gets him deeper and deeper into trouble. Keaton accidentally becomes a terrorist, throwing a bomb at the police department’s annual parade. He subsequently gets chased by the whole department in what must be one of the all-time great chase sequences.

Keaton’s Cops
Ken Jacobs
Buster Keaton

16 mm. | 00:23:00 | b&w

Some films are a joy to look at repeatedly, and also separately in their various parts. This is the bottom quarter, or fifth, of COPS. My "wide-screen" swath of peripheral vision, by denying narrative dominance (although it can excite a Rorschaching of story and incidents from visual clues that remain) and releasing us even just a little from contented Keaton-thralldom (marvelling as we might at the comic genius even of his feet, at what he can do with flapping trouserlegs), allows us to attend more to the period and place of the original production, to the business-as-usual streetlife casually documented at photoplay’s edge. At the same time forcing us, often, to give attention to shape, strange and beautiful shape, ordinarily subsumed or swallowed alive by nameable objects. (Is that a horse’s muzzle threatening to steal this show?) The beautiful parts of things come into their own, when the what of what we look at comes into question. Including the screen itself as again and again we wait on the information that will peel off a section of surface and allow us to ascribe it to a location in space. And a function in picturing a world. Between the drift towards granular entropy of a multi-generation print and denial of the easy space and identity assumptions theatrical composition provides, the disoriented viewer of KEATON’S COPS has to work for what s/he gets.



Human depth perception is normally the product of binocular vision. Two eyes set horizontally apart some 1 1/2 inches, pupil to pupil, offer two flat perspectives to the mind for resolving (their orderly differences) into 3-D. The deep space we see is all in the mind. The title of this Nervous System piece emphasizes the cinema source of its depth phenomena. Rather than resort to two related positions in space simultaneously perceived, the filmstrip enables us to mechanically and mentally process two separate and distinct instances in time.
The resulting apparent depth is sometimes similar to what we see in life, but other crazy spaces, crazy motions impossible in life can also be teased by the machine from every kind of shift that took place before the camera between frame-exposures. (607 frames photographed by Phil Solomon performed by Ken Jacobs on The Nervous System, 1994-5; recorded to video 2004)
Image flickers; not for persons afflicted with epilepsy.

Time after Time # 8

Sat, 23 Oct 2004
20:15 - 22:15

Jacobs discusses a beloved spot in the Manhattan of the early 1960s, underneath the Brooklyn Bridge, and the way he experienced it back then, when he was still a single young artist, as a Jew, as a political activist.

The Sky Socialist

16 mm. | 02:00:00 | col.
non spoken

Flo and I lived alongside the Manhattan side of The Brooklyn Bridge, poor as mice but filming on 8mm Kodachrome was absurdly cheap, under $2 for 2&3/4 minutes. We loved each other and loved where we were, a blessedly neglected piece of 19th century Manhattan. Moving towards marriage and children in a threatening world, more so as Jews, prompted this airy sunlit fable.

This event is part of argosfestival 2004

Ken Jacobs, Star Spangled to Death, 1957-2003  
  • Sat 16.10.2004 - Sat 23.10.2004
  • Practical info

    Ravensteinstraat 60
    1000 Brussel

  • Artists