Program One: A Sense of the Past


March 4th, 2011

Fred Camper has been a thoughtful and articulate writer on film for over forty years (much of his writing is available on his website) and, more recently, has been producing an astonishing body of digital artworks. His earlier filmmaking practice, however, is little known. Long out of distribution (some never in distribution), his short 16mm and Super-8mm films have not been publicly screened for decades.

JOAN GOES TO MISERY (1967, 8 minutes, 16mm, sound)
A SENSE OF THE PAST (1967, 4 minutes, 16mm, silent)
DAN POTTER (1968, 39 minutes, 16mm, silent)
WELCOME TO COME (1968, 3 minutes, 16mm, sound)
BATHROOOM (1969, 25 minutes, 16mm, silent)
GHOST (1976, 1 minute, super-8, silent)

“My five early 16mm films were made in a two year period when I was between 19 and 21, after I had been interested in cinema for only a few years. Each of my early films is somewhat different. JOAN GOES TO MISERY was actually commissioned by a television show that wanted an “underground” film. It’s my only film with a narrative, one with psychological overtones, and, like the others, shows influences from both classical Hollywood and avant-garde filmmaking. A SENS EOF THE PAST was shot without pre-planning during a long weekend reading Henry James, and I would like to think that its form was somewhat influenced by his passive descriptions that seem to both evoke and conceal great, not fully articulated, traumas. DAN POTTER, showing a young man in the woods, was shot over many months as the landscape changes from summer to winter. Though not a portrait, it was inspired by the way Gregory J. Markopoulos’s portraits in Galaxie intermingle the identities of his figures with objects around them; less obvious influences are F.W. Murnau’s Tabu and the relationships between figures and backgrounds in the films of Howard Hawks. WELCOME TO COME, which depicts a somewhat mysterious transformation of the image in the course of a single zoom, was my only film to achieve a small measure of “popularity,” with a short write up in Variety and prints purchased by several film teachers who still show it today. BATHROOM shows a somewhat seedy bathroom, beginning with a stab at seeing it “objectively” that soon fails; the forms descend into what I hope is a terrifying, even self-destroying irrationality. One inspiration was the long take depiction of madness at the end of Edgar G. Ulmer’s Detour; another, the two out-of-focus shots of the altar near the end of Douglas Sirk’s The First Legion. The program ends with my less-than-one-minute long super-8 film Ghost, which leads to a fleeting final image I hope worthy of its title, and which will be screened twice in a row, my usual practice with this film.” (Fred Camper)

Fred Camper has been writing and publishing on cinema since the late 1960s, and on art since the late 1980s. He has taught at a number of colleges and universities, and presented film programs throughout the world. For the last six years, he has mainly concentrated on making his own art, mostly photo based digital prints; cinema is one key inspiration. His Web site iswww.fredcamper.com.

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