projection 32

Memories of an Unbeaten Childhood
Films by Julius Ziz, Louis Benassi and Joseph Cornell

6:30pm / Tuesday 25 June 2013  
Irish Film Institute, 6 Eustace Street, Temple Bar, Dublin.

In this month's programme two contemporary filmmakers, Julius Ziz and Louis Benassi, celebrate the films of Joseph Cornell. Cornell is more widely known for his sculpture work from the 1950's, but he also made mysterious and beautiful found footage films between the 1930's and the 1970's. These films often explored the themes of childhood memories, dreams and fantasy.  

In the first film, ‘Memories of an Unbeaten Childhood’, Benassi and Ziz create a world made of such memories and fantasies, a world as seen through the eyes of a young adolescent boy. Sitting by a river he examines the bacteria living in the water. The montage he sees visually reveals his curiosity in a phantasmagoria of found and archive footage depicting the conditions of life and the world.

Memories of an Unbeaten Childhood, Julius Ziz and Louis Benassi 
2012, colour and B&W, sound, 17 mins, various sources edited digitally, screening from Blu-Ray.

In the second film, 'Arc Arial', Louis Benassi uses many elements - acts, performers, technological devices - to create a pynchonesque meditation on cinema, politics, and the eye in the sky. From Icarus to the astronaut metaphors are many, an expression of radical subjectivity in a field of exploded inquiry  "Cinema is not I see, its I fly" (Paul Virillio)

Arc Arial, Louis Benassi
2010, colour and B&W, sound, 40 mins, various sources edited digitally, screening from DVD.

These two films are energetic and life affirming explorations made in the found footage montage tradition. Cornell was one of the earlier influences in this field. According to his archivist, Larry Jordan "Cornell combines Vaudeville jugglers, animal acts, circus performers, children eating and dancing, science demonstrations, mythical excerpts, and crucial freeze-frames of faces into a timeless structure, totally unconcerned with our usual expectations of "montage" or cinematic progression. He collects images and preserves them in some kind of cinematic suspension that is hard - impossible - to describe. But it's a delight to anyone whose soul has not been squashed by the heavy dictates of Art."

The Midnight Party, The Children's Party & Cotillion, Joseph Cornell
1940s-1969, colour and B&W, sound (optical), 19 mins, 16mm

The third title in the program is Cornell's ‘The Midnight Party, The Children’s Party & Cotillion’, which he started in the 1940's, but wasn't finished until 1968, with the help of Larry Jordan. This is a re-edit of three separate films running together. There are the characteristic elements - acrobats, tightrope walkers, knife throwers, chorus girls. But there is also something provocative in the juxtaposition of these images, particularly the image of the little girl riding a horse in the manner of Lady Godiva. It is a haunting moment which brings to the surface the adolescence that also runs through 'Memories of an Unbeaten Childhood'.

Like Cornell, Julius Ziz and Louis Benassi have created works which have obviously not been squashed by the heavy dictates of Art. They are passionate, lyrical celebrations made through the medium of the found and re-purposed moving image.

Joseph Cornell was born on December 24, 1903, in Nyack, New York. In the early 1930s he met Surrealist writers and artists at the Julien Levy Gallery, New York, and during this period his early constructions of found objects were first shown. During the 1940s and 1950s, he made his famous shadow boxes, Medici boxes, and other series, as well as boxes devoted to stage and screen personalities.

Cassiopeia 1, Joseph Cornell
c. 1960, Construction

Julius Ziz was born in Lithuania in 1970. His films have been shown in many international film festivals including Rotterdam, Montreal, Edinburgh, Berlin, Nyon,San Paulo, Karlovy Vary.

Louis Benassi was born in Glasgow in 1961. He is an artist, filmmaker and curator. He currently lives in London.