Collection Playlist: Surface Tension & This Action Lies
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Collection Playlist: Surface Tension & This Action Lies

A classic experimental film from the Walker’s Ruben/Bentson Moving Image Collection is paired with a contemporary work that is not in the collection. The two works resonate with timeless, conceptual connections.

Hollis Frampton helped define conceptual filmmaking in the late 1960s and ’70s. In doing so, he reinvented the way we view cinema and challenged expectations of form in this medium. Similarly, James N. Kienitz Wilkins’s films use language and semiotics to advance Frampton’s concepts. By only showing a discarded, everyday object placed on a pedestal, Wilkins creates a stand-alone, 21st-century tour-de-force cinema experience. Total runtime: 43 min.

Screening for free beginning at 10 am (CDT) October 13 until October 26.

Surface Tension by Hollis Frampton
Confounding the relationships between image, sound, and language, Frampton challenges the traditional associations of the senses. “Surface tension” is the property of a liquid that allows the surface to resist an external force, serving here as a metaphor between sound and image. The film is told in three parts: a man talking over a telephone ringing, a time-lapse trip from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park; and a goldfish at the beach—all contradicting one another through playful conceptual film techniques and visual effects. 1968, 16mm to digital, 10 min.

This Action Lies by James N. Kienitz Wilkins
This film is about the limits of observation, about staring hard at something while listening to something else. It unfolds as an unreliable monologue analyzing a common and underappreciated commercial product, a Styrofoam cup, elevated through cinema to the status of a near-Platonic form. The early works of Hollis Frampton can be seen in Wilkins’s witty yet serious take on the mundane. A coproduction of the Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève for the Biennale de l’Image en Mouvement 2018. 2018, digital video, 32 min.

Hollis Frampton is known for the broad and restless intelligence he brought to the films he made from the early 1960s until his death in 1984. An important experimental filmmaker, he was also an accomplished photographer and writer, and in the 1970s made significant contributions to the emerging field of computer science. He is considered one of the pioneers of structuralism, an influential style of filmmaking that uses the basic elements of cinematic language to create works that investigate form at the expense of traditional narrative content. Along with Michael Snow and Stan Brakhage, he is one of the major figures to emerge from the New York avant-garde film community of the 1960s.

James N. Kienitz Wilkins is a filmmaker and artist based in Brooklyn, New York, His work has screened at the New York Film Festival, Toronto, Locarno, Rotterdam, Berlinale, CPH:DOX, BAMcinemaFest, and beyond. In 2016, he was awarded the Kazuko Trust Award from the Film Society of Lincoln Center. In 2017, he was included in the Whitney Biennial, and a retrospective of his work was showcased at RIDM (Montreal). He has had solo exhibitions at Gasworks (London), Spike Island (Bristol, UK), and Kunsthalle Winterthur (Switzerland). He is a graduate of the Cooper Union School of Art in New York.

  • Major support to preserve, digitize, and present the Ruben/Bentson Moving Image Collection is generously provided by the Bentson Foundation.