Barbara Rubin's Christmas on Earth (1963) and Carolee Schneemann's Fuses (1965)
May 16, 2013
Vox Populi Gallery
Philadelphia, PA, US
Part of Black Circle Cinema, co-programmed with Jesse Pires
Two epic and erotic depictions of raw sexuality, Christmas on Earth and Fuses are likely to still shock audiences 50 years on from their making. Both subjects of harsh criticism and censorship, these two films are prime examples of filmmaking in the era of sexual liberation. However, these works are not only radical in content but also form: Christmas on Earth is shown with two reels simultaneously projected (along with a soundtrack of AM pop radio hits); Fuses was self-shot and “collaged” by the filmmaker through many different means of stressing the film material, adding layers of physical subtext to the ecstatic struggles depicted.
Black Circle Cinema salutes Ladyfest Philadelphia (taking place June 7-9) and the Ladyfest Film Series taking place throughout the month of May at Aux and International House Philadelphia.
Christmas on Earth, Barbara Rubin, 1963, US, 16mm double projection, 29’
Note: Christmas on Earth will be presented according to the filmmaker’s wishes as expressed below.
Barbara Rubin’s 29-minute Christmas on Earth is the filmic record of an orgy staged in a New York City apartment in 1963. This double projection of overlapping images of nude men and women clowning around and making love is one of the first sexually explicit works in the American postwar avant-garde. Today Christmas on Earth generates a small but passionate discourse in avant-garde film circles. Many consider it to be an essential document of queer and feminist cinema, though others dismiss it as the worthless effort of a naive amateur. It is still largely unknown to art history.
Fuses, Carolee Schneemann, 1967, US, 16mm, 30’
Filmed and edited by Schneemann; with herself, James Tenney and Kitch.
2007 restoration of the original collaged 16mm print.
“In her attempt to reproduce the whole visual and tactile experience of lovemaking as a subjective phenomenon, Schneemann spent some three years marking on the film, baking it in the oven, even hanging it out the window during rainstorms on the off chance it might be struck by lightning. Much as human beings carry the physical traces of their experiences, so this film testifies to what it has been through and communicates the spirit of its maker. The red heat baked into the emulsion suffuses the film, a concrete emblem of erotic power." —B. Ruby Rich, Chicago Art Institute