On Sunday 4 May 2014 at 7PM, filmmaker, film studies professor and regular Film International contributor, Wheeler Winston Dixon will be screening some of his earliest films at Brooklyn’s Microscope Gallery. The screening, which will include films made between 1969 and 1976, is the first chance to see Dixon’s films since New York’s Museum of Modern Art hosted a retrospective of his work in 2003. At that time, MoMA also acquired all of Dixon’s films for their permanent collection. Dixon quit making films in 1994, with about 40 under his belt. The Brooklyn screening is, says Dixon, “quite probably the last public screening of my work, as they will never be available on DVD, and I will never put them on the web.”
Dixon was a member of New York’s underground film scene from the late 1960s, while also working as a writer for Life magazine and Andy Warhol’s Interview. “I first realized that I wanted to make movies when I was about four years old,” Dixon, who was born in 1950, told Senses of Cinema in 2003. Already as a teenager, “around 1965,” he started distributing his films through the legendary Filmmakers’ Cooperative.
THE FOLLOWING FILMS WILL BE SCREENED AT THE MICROSCOPE GALLERY
An examination of the American commercial lifestyle, recut entirely from existing television advertisements.
“Wheeler Dixon is a masterful film editor. His sensitivity to the movement within the frame and of the camera itself allows for fluidity in his editing that is exuberant and refreshing. He is skillful not only in manipulating the flow of images but the flow of ideas as well. He has assembled his images mostly from television commercials and juxtaposed them in such a way that their very ordinary nature suddenly becomes extraordinary. Through the editing process he reveals secrets of our culture that have always been sitting on our television screens but we have never seen them be fore. It is as though his film taps into our collective unconscious by exploring the surface realities that permeate our airwaves. Magical realms, pubescent fantasies, dreams of wish fulfillment, all so innocuous and tame on the television set, assume strangely mythic proportions through Wheeler’s editing and even the mundane world we accept so readily begins to look somehow dreamlike and unreal This fusing of dream and waking consciousness creates the magic of SERIAL METAPHYSICS.” (Bruce Rubin, Associate Curator of Film, Whitney Museum of American Art)
Color, Sound, 15 minutes, 1972
The DC Five Memorial Film
The film begins with a young man writhing in a frenzy in an abandoned house, then moves to rephotographed films of a Nuclear Age Bomb Shelter childhood, thence to the woods for a pastoral interlude, and in one of my favorite sections of film I’ve ever shot, a color reel re-exposed ten times in the camera, an avalanche of images from parties, gatherings, friends and others; this section ends with my friend John Dowd ominously signaling the viewer with a trouble light, as if to suggest that the celebration is over. The final movement of the film follows five young women, back from a peace march in DC, walking through Port Authority bus terminal at midnight, oblivious to the death around them; the entire film is scored to Charles Ives’ Fourth Symphony, Fourth Movement.
Color, Sound, 9 minutes, 1969
Quick Constant and Solid Instant
The film documents a Flux Mass at Voorhees Chapel at Rutgers University in 1969; intercut with footage of Rod Townley on this Harley 2100, plus the paintings of John Wallington. It also gathers together a group of my closest friends during this period in the manner of Alfredo Leonardi’s classic Book of Saints of Eternal Rome.
Color, Sound, 4 minutes, 1969
A friend’s wedding, in one reel. Soundtrack: Gabriel Fauré.
Black and White, Sound, 3 minutes, 1969
A young man’s dreams of immortality double back on themselves, as he discovers that no matter where you ultimately arrive in legend, you find yourself at the point of initial departure.
Color, Sound, 3 minutes, 1970
“An unusually balanced film, a very simple film (but then, one which knows itself), an evolution of feeling poised (occasionally) on a single pinpoint of light, its two ‘halves’ like two thought processes which counter each other without ever encountering Light is the subject matter, beginning in sun and ending at fireplace But this continuity is not permitted to disturb the singular emotion of the film I am especially intrigued by the stops and-starts within zoom and pan movements-these metamorphizing eye-movement more exactly than the usual smoothness thus keeping the work most carefully personal.” (Stan Brakhage)
Color, Sound, 4 minutes, 1974
Dana Can Deal
Three separate events: the birth of a litter of pups at a British reform school for delinquent minors in 1946; a dentist’s convention in Cincinnati circa 1936; and common place views of New York City in the 1920s as interpreted by a visitor from Ohio.
Color, Sound, 4 minutes, 1976
“Though he’s best known today as a scholar (his book The Exploding Eye provides a who’s who of 1960s experimentalists), Dixon’s short films are themselves visual catalogs of underground techniques: snarky Bruce Conner-ish montage, psychoactive Conrad/Sharits flicker effects, and Mekasian home-movie diaries. The distinctive Dixon kick comes from witty edits to far-out music. His loopy Americana remix Serial Metaphysics (1972) grooves to an increasingly trippy reverb and teen portrait The DC 5 Memorial Film (1969) prowls through Charles Ives, while the magnificent acid-structuralist London Clouds (1970) rocks to a Henri Pousseur electronic psych-out. The rich filmic collapse of personal memory into cultural history is summed up at the end of Quick Constant and Solid Instant (1969), a Fluxus performance set to a Gerard Malanga poetry reading. ‘It will take you a long time,’ intones Malanga, ‘to understand why I wrote poems for you.’” (Ed Halter, The Village Voice)