25 October – Paul Sharits

“I wish to abandon imitation and illusion and enter directly into the higher drama of: celluloid, two-dimensional strips; individual rectangular frames; the nature of sprockets and emulsion; projector operations; the three-dimensional light beam; environmental illumination; the two-dimensional reflective screen surface; the retinal screen, optic nerve and individual psycho-physical subjectivities of consciousness.” 

Paul Sharits, 1967

portret Paul_Sharits (2)

The evening, `Reprojection: Paul Sharits and the Analytical Film, Curated by Sandra Gibson & Luis Recoder` within the frame of the exhibitionn `Celluloid` at Eye, is dedicated to two works of Paul Sharits (1943-1993, USA), a master filmmaker who negates filmic illusion, and places the focus on the function and materiality of film, as well as on the viewers’ subjective perception.

Please read here the curatorial statement of Sandra Gibson & Luis Recoder for this film program.


In his career Sharits made more than 30 films. The first ones were more psychodramatic works using actors to explore the subjects of sexuality, solitude, anxiety and fear. They were inspired by earlier american filmmakers, such as Maya Deren, Kenneth Anger, and Stan Brakhage. Later films and also his pictorial works revolved more around the world of abstraction and formalism, for which he is now worldwide famous. Although they always included strong effects having repercussions on the human subjectivity and the perceptive system. Often Sharits’ films are described as provoking hallucinogenic effects, violent, aggressive but also strong, deep and magic.

“I’m intrigued with parthenogenesis, which has some relation to the new film, and toyed with the thought of titling the film REPROJECTION; before then I had decided that since the film was being structured in a way which might be thought of as non-algebraically tautologic, I would title it PROJECTIONPROJECTION; now it seems better to return to my first title: either PRINT PROJECTION or simply PROJECTION.”
Paul Sharits (‘Correspondence with Stan Brakhage’)

1971-76 ANALYTICAL STUDIES II: Un-framed-lines. 16 mm / color / silent

A highly varied and playful series of short sketches involving induced camera “mistakes,” printing “errors” and various “assaults” upon film (some rephotographed) which in one way or another reveal the process/materiality of cinema.

The “unframing” called for in this film (bringing the top frame line down into the viewing area as is possible by adjusting the projector framer) is a way of heightening the intended unmasking of the usually hidden vulnerability/fragility of the film strip.


1976-77 DECLARATIVE MODE,  double projection 16 mm / color/ silent

Dedicated to Gerald O’Grady. This work was made possible by a Bicentennial Grant by the N.E.A. and the N.Y. State Council on the Arts.

“This film, rather than being ‘structural,’ is ‘narrative like.’ We feel as if we are on some sort of journey, where we never know/predict what is to ‘happen’ next. It is engaging, like a novel full of surprises. The ‘narrative’ feeling is like a soap opera, which just keeps twisting and turning, with no apparent resolution intended (but there _is_ a closure on the purely formal level), as opposed to say _Miami Vice_ wherein the dramatic line moves towards and achieves a weekly resolution. This work prefigures a long series of 30 min. chapters in a ‘Light Novel,’ PASSARE, which I am presently working on (which could finally reach 40 hours in total length before I die). Aside from a recurrent red, white and blue phrase, there is no repetition in the film (repetition conventionally provides structural order).” – Paul Sharits.

“With colors, therefore, in reciprocal relationships with each other within space and over time, Sharits creates new hues not actually present upon the film through their co-temporal blending and through after-image retention. It’s a a complex phenomenon that yields sublime transitions across a spectral range, while the inner frame pulses with illusionistic movement as the hues change from warm to cool.” Anthony Bannon, _Buffalo Evening News_. http://lightcone.org/en/film-4638-declarative-mode

The double screen’s projction enabled Sharits to contemplate connections that could activate the virtualities of film. Symmetry may have been what was explored, or the complementarity or relation between images/frames. In Declarative Mode we examine the mise-en-abyme, and thereby question the frame and its boundaries.

declarative mode paul sharits (2)

About Paul Sharits

Trained as a graphic artist and a painter, Paul SHARITS became an avant-garde filmmaker noted for manipulating the film stock itself to create a variety of fascinating, abstract light and colorplays when projected on the screen. Fans hail the effects hallucinogenic, while his detractors find them garish. Sharits is also known for establishing experimental film groups at prominent universities, including one at the University of Indiana where he studied. He later taught and developed an undergraduate film program at Antioch College. Between 1973 and 1992, Sharits taught at the Center for Media Study at the State University of New York.

When he was 11 he realized his first film on an expired reel of 16mm film, given him by an uncle. After completing his studies, in the middle 1960’s,  he engaged more and more with film. The discovery of Christo’s motorcycle and its ‘concise toughness’ inspired him and pushed him to similarly isolate and essentialize the aspects of film representationalism.

Paul’s son, Christopher Sharits, made a website with a lot of information regarding the life, artistic approaches, painiting, writing and films works of his father, including the ways of conceiving his works, much inspired by music, articles about-by him and interviews. Please check this great resource here.






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