September 24th
Two by Two: Films by Jerome Hiler and Nathaniel Dorsky

September 24, 2015
@ grayDUCK Gallery
2213 East Cesar Chavez Street, Austin, TX 78702 (map)
Free ($5-$10 Suggested Donation)

We’ll be kicking off our 2015 fall season with a screening of films by partners in art and life, Jerome Hiler and Nathaniel Dorsky! Made over the course of a decade, Dorsky’s Hours for Jerome, parts one and two (1966-70/82), will be shown with Hiler’s In the Stone House (2012) and Words of Mercury (2011). Please join us at grayDuck Gallery at 8PM for an evening of luminous, finely crafted films by two of the greatest film artists still working in the in 16 millimeter format.

Hours for Jerome Parts One and Two

This footage was shot and edited from 1966 to 1970 and edited to completion over a two year period ending in July 1982. HOURS FOR JEROME (as in a Book of Hours) is an arrangement of images, energies, and illuminations from daily life. These fragments of light revolve around the four seasons. PART ONE is spring through summer; PART TWO is fall and winter. – Nathaniel Dorsky

“HOURS FOR JEROME is simply the most beautifully photographed film that I’ve ever seen; here we enter the realm of the compassionate and the full achievement of what film can do cinemagraphically is achieved. It is a privilege to experience the thoughtful unfolding of these images.” – Warren Sonbert

Words of Mercury

WORDS OF MERCURY is my loving farewell to color reversal 16mm film. The Bolex camera, which has served me so well for over fifty years, became a container for a process of distillation. I wanted to extract as much as I could from my remaining rolls of Ektachrome 7285. Film emulsion is so rich with latent colors and images, it was a simple decision to make a film of superimpositions which were all shot in the camera. Anyone who has tried this knows how difficult and sometimes cruel the process can be. In the past, I had renounced it more than a few times in defeat. It’s especially hard when shooting four or more layers. But I had my inspiration from a lifetime of musical listening to polyphonic choral music from the middle ages and renaissance – so many pieces in four to six voices. As it developed, only the passages I shot in four layers were satisfying to me, even though all four might not be perceived on the screen since some were sub-visual and some imitated other layers.

The flow of multiple images is sometimes broken with a single layer image, which might have the
effect of the aria – recitative relationship of classical Italian opera. (Although P Adams Sitney, in ArtForum, saw another musical model – that of plain chant alternating with polyphony). But, as a filmmaker, one is simply a practical artisan and, for me, the single-layer images serve simply as relief from the restless movement of the superimpositions. I am subject to vertigo, and to my surprise and without intention, the superimpositions sometimes mimic my episodes.

The film takes a journey from darkness and a bare world through the seasonal spreading of seeds to a place almost choked and repugnant with color – a place that invites death. The final couplet from Shakespeare’s LOVE’S LABOR’S LOST speaking of the place of death, supplies me with my title. I seem to make the same film again and again in different ways. -Jerome Hiler

In the Stone House

IN THE STONE HOUSE, as a project, spans my lifetime as a filmmaker. The images date from the mid 1960s to 1970. These scenes have remained as camera original since that time and were part of a larger body of work that gradually disappeared over the years through viewings, re-editing, damage and misplacement. At some point, they were put away and forgotten about. In 2012, Mark McElhatten asked me if I had a film or some material to show on a bill with Nathaniel Dorsky’s rushes for SONG AND SOLITUDE. I remembered my early material and said I would have a “film” to show. The material had already been assembled on a reel for a screening of random footage in 2004 at LUX in London. In 2012, I made a new film from the footage that made up the London screening.

It was a challenge to work with such fragmentary footage. The temptation to treat it drastically and fragment it further to reach a new form met with the needs of an old filmmaker who found himself repeatedly surprised by private messages and revelations exhaling from the images – along with a trace of vinegar. On one hand, I was engaged in the shaping of a film as a difficult artistic struggle and, on the other, I was confronting personal understandings that reflected the whole spectrum of my good and bad traits, which were unchanged even as I worked. I sometimes regretted having to deal with a project that ripped myself open to myself. I wanted to turn away, but I made a commitment and had to continue.

Because I was dealing with remnants, I didn’t have the freedom and flexibility that comes with a contemporaneous project. People have noted the use of black in the film. Black, for me, has the sense of rejuvenating the consciousness in an inner space of darkness. It both connects and disconnects which brings it close to mental functions. When the film starts, the images emerge from black as if flares illuminated the dark landscape. But, it eventually takes on other purposes: it serves a live function in joining fragments.

The images come from a life lived by Nathaniel Dorsky and myself as we sought refuge from life in Manhattan in the later 1960s. I feel that the 1960s are no longer understood properly. As the period slips further and further away, we are left with cartoonish images – and some of them are justified. Yet, as with all movement eras, there was a core of people who had uncommon understanding of what the human dilemma of the time was and how one could find a worthy life that transcended the degradations that seemed overwhelming. Understanding came from going beyond the forms and promises of materialism. The mind became a frontier of vast spirituality rather than the calculator of facts and figures. There was a tremendous interest in psychedelic drugs, some of which completely nullified the most basic assumptions of ordinary logic. At its core therefore, the Sixties was a time of spiritual search. Naturally, when it comes to mass movements, there will only be a few who seriously remain true to such an ideal – and even among them there were plenty of clowns. Into this tapestry, add two young filmmakers who took themselves to a remote, rural area of northern New Jersey to unobtrusively usher in the New Age of… name it, it was coming. We were lucky to find a great house on a lake below a mountain for $85.00 a month. Although we were now close to nature, we were also surrounded by neighbors who all seemed to have stepped out of a D W Griffith film. Flinty Yankees who had never seen a Democrat except on television. And we wanted to explore our minds. So, in our new home, discretion was the order of the day. I went around dressed like a country gentleman in tweed, which singled me out beautifully. Even so, we were visited every weekend by the most conspicuous, lavishly hippest of the hip Manhattanites. One particularly hairy giant hitched his way to a point around ten miles away on the main route. The cops were too curious and asked who he was and where he was going. “Oh. Nick and Jerry’s” was his answer. The cops nodded and said “The stone house” and sent him on his way. So much for my tweedy look. -Jerome Hiler