1999. Big As Life - An American History of 8mm Film

"Big As Life" was a series of screenings of small gauge movies curated by Steve Anker (of the San Francisco Cinematheque) & Jytte Jensen (of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City). It was originally intended to run from February 6, 1998, to December, 1999. Instead it ran to at least February, 2001, & beyond. It was a phenomenal series & I was fortunate enough to be part of it. This book is the catalog, probably published in 1999 when the series was still in progress. In the list of programs in the back, it doesn't go past December 17, 1998.

I'd known Steve Anker because I'd presented at the SF Cinematheque in 1986. He'd probably told me about "Big As Life" when it was in its planning stages & I'd sent him two 2 hour long VHS tapes of transfers of 8mm & super-8mm work of mine:

If I'd known that the criteria for small gauge was expanded to include PXL-2000 I might've sent another 4 hours's worth. As it was, though, PXL-2000 was just tacked on because they wanted to include Sadie Benning, who was a hot property. There're many other people listed as presenting video, I also didn't know that was an option or I might've submitted an even larger body of work.

I was excited to be in the show. Nonetheless, my status as a second (or lower) class citizen soon became apparent. Since it was my intention to give an in-person appearance on May 28, 1998, I was discussing this over the phone with a MoMA employee. She started to say something like: "Oh, yes, we'll pay for your pla-" when she was cut off in mid-word & mid-sentence, presumably by someone gesturing to her to contradict what she was about to say: 'plane ticket'. This changed to "bus ticket". They gave me $100 for an in-person appearance which was enough to pay for the round trip bus fare from Pittsburgh to NYC & part of a meal. At least no-one tried to force me to have sex with them. Maybe that's mainly a Hollywood thing. I would've been 44 years old at the time & I'd been making 8mm films since 1975, for 23 years. One might've thought that that would've given me a little seniority, but, NO.

I was put on the same program as Martha Colburn, who'd been a filmmaker for 5 years. I was told that the curators wanted to put the "young people" together.

Given that I'd been making films for 18 years longer than Martha, one might think that I'd be in a different generation. This would've been fine except that I knew Martha. In fact, I knew Martha entirely too well.

In 1992, I'd been touring with the "Official" Project. You can witness a movie made from that tour on YouTube:


157. a. "Official Tour/Ture - '92" {version 1}

- PXL-2000 & 1/2" VHS cassette -> 1/2" VHS cassette

- 2:00:00

- '92-'93

b. "Official Tour/Ture - '92" {version 2}

- 1:17:00

c. "Official Tour/Ture - '92" {version 3}

- 37:30

d. "Official Tour/Ture - '92" {version 4}

- 28:30

- on my onesownthoughts YouTube channel here: http://youtu.be/EN5U7JANpRA


While I was on tour, I learned that Martha wanted to move into the warehouse I was renting at the time. I didn't really know her but I agreed & she moved in in September of 1992. She was a MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art) student making collages & painting. She wasn't a moviemaker or a performer.

When I returned from the tour, I got back to work on my feature-length 16mm film that involved direct-on-film work:

146. a. "The "Official" John Lennon's Erection as Blocking Our View Homage & Cheese Sandwich"

- 16mm -> 1/2" VHS cassette

- 25:30

- '90-'92

- YouTube URL: http://youtu.be/z9f7mzn2euc

b. "The "Official" John Lennon's Erection as Blocking Our View Homage & Cheese Sandwich" ("techno-sensualist" version)

- 16mm -> 1/2" VHS cassette

- 25:30

- '90-'93

c. "The "Official" John Lennon's Erection as Blocking Our View Homage & Cheese Sandwich"

- 16mm -> 1/2" VHS cassette

- 1:24:00

- '90-'95

- onesownthoughts YouTube channel URL: http://youtu.be/nRqfWwHAdqA


& I started work on one of the most labor-intensive direct-on-film films I've ever made:


147. a. "Bob Cobbing/Movie Trivia/Hypnopedagogy"

- 16mm -> 1/2" VHS cassette (single layer fish-eye transfer w/ white spandex screen)

- 28:30 or 57:00

- '91-'93

- on my onesownthoughts YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/OsqqA7MwdL4

b. "Bob Cobbing/Movie Trivia/Hypnopedagogy"

- 16mm (double layer optical print)

- 29:45 or 59:30

- '91-'94


I showed Martha what I was doing & explained the techniques to her. At the time, these direct-on-film films & my being the drummer in the "Official" Project were 2 of my primary occupations. The drumset I was using was called my "Erector Set". It was something I'd made. Martha asked me what school I thought was good for film & I suggested UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County Campus).

It wasn't long before Martha started making direct-on-film films & before she became a drummer playing a set she cobbled together herself that was a very cheap imitation of my Erector Set. She started going to UMBC & started taking private drum lessons from a tutor at Peabody, the local classical music academy.

Even though it was clear that Martha was redefining herself in imitation of me that didn't matter so much to me until years later when I read a bio of hers online where she revealed that she was "self-taught". I found that astonishing given that she'd attended at least one university before MICA so that made at least 3 universities that she'd attended. Add onto that that she had a drum tutor & I'd hardly call her self-taught. That's not even mentioning everything I taught her while she was living with me.

I am self-taught & I'd be the 1st to admit that that means I learn things wherever I can - but the only 'institution of higher learning' I went to was a community college that I dropped out of after 3 & 1/2 semesters. I didn't study filmmaking or drumming there. I went there partially because it was the only place that would have me. It cost $118 a semester & that was too expensive for my family so I had to get a Basic Equal Opportunity Grant (or some such). I wasn't rich.

What this is tantamount to is that Martha stole my identity. Martha was not poor. She once told me that she'd started getting money from Ben & Jerry's ice-cream as a teenager because they thought she was a talented artist. When I was a teenager I was put in jail for vagrancy & the like. She went on to make money off of pretending to have a similar background to me because in the process of stealing my identity she left out the anarchist politics & the blatant sexuality. Martha was a cute young well-to-do art school student & graduate who was of no threat whatsoever to any business-as-usual. & I wasn't Martha's only victim. Her venality & utter ruthlessness in art world career climbing was astounding. I'd never seen anyone move so quickly with such total unscrupulousness.

& that's not even the half of it. Making matters worse, I was the 1st person to publish Martha's work, both by publishing the 1st movie she made, a video, & an audio recording of her playing drums in a duet with me. You get the idea, I wasn't happy to be on the same bill with her as 'two young filmmakers'.

When the screening happened, Martha showed her films. I think that the audience was impressed by how detailed the direct-on-film work was on small gauge. What they didn't know & what I did know is that the films shown had originally been 16mm & she'd reshot them to make them super-8. That made them eligible for being projected in this context. It was fraud, a typical Martha career move. I was disgusted. Afterward, a group of my friends & I were going out to eat. I didn't invite Martha.

The catalog came out & I was delighted to be part of it. The series was great & Jensen & Anker did a wonderful job of having many people represented. However, my inclusion in the catalog was further proof of what a 2nd class citizen I am:

As I hope is obvious, the above 2 excerpts are just a small part of Steve Anker's essay. I know how hard it can be sometimes to be accurate about details when one has many projects happening & very little time to bring them to fruition. Nonetheless, that doesn't stop me from being frustrated by the above. 1st of all, I started making super-8 films in 1975. The earliest film on the VHS compilation tapes that I gave Steve is clearly labelled as being from 1978. Therefore, I shouldn't be lumped in with 1980s filmmakers.

Secondly, the version of "Subtitles" that he's inaccurately describing is the super-8 version & NOT the regular-8 version & it's from 1980-1981 - something that's also clearly marked on the tape he had. Even if it had been the regular-8 version that's also marked as from 1981-1982. Hence "c. 1986" is completely inexcusably incorrect. Neither of these films have "footage taken from TV". I'd stopped watching TV in 1969 or 1970. Really, Steve, that's just bad.

On the brighter side, the above is fine even though it doesn't mention the most important aspect of "Balling Tim Ore is Best": viz: that it was made while I was working as a "peep show mechanic" & was smuggled into a peep show & shown there for 2 weeks without the management knowing. To someone's credit, I did actually get to screen this film as part of "Big As Life" at MoMA on February 15, 2001. Apparently it took that long to decide to take the risk of presenting something so controversial.

As of May 28, 1998, the 1st program at MoMA that I was a part of, I had made at least 192 movies. Of those, 6 were regular-8 (see here), 48 were PXL-2000s (see here) & more than that incorporated PXL, & 28 were super-8mm (although not all of those were available as individual films anymore (see here). I had a HUGE body of work. My status as 2nd class citizen rears its ugly head again. In the "Selected Filmography" I have 4 works listed, all from the 1980s:

"It's Not a Matter of Life and Death (Part Z: Stereo Brain)" has its date listed as "198?". On the VHS tape transfer of it that Steve had, it's listed as "1987". Steve was clearly disorganized. The 28 movies I sent him from 1978 to 1991 have been stripped down to 4 from the 1980s. Here're links to some of the ones that're on the VHS tapes that're not mentioned:


004. "Ghost*

(of Lamar "Chip" Layfield / Carol / Pat Brown /tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE)

(of films by entities other than myself)

of my Mike Film project

* - a Projectionist's Nightmare"

- super 8 (an 'inappropriate' 1/2" VHS cassette version exists)

- indefinite duration

- fall '78 (etc..)

b. "Ghost*

(of Lamar "Chip" Layfield / Carol / Pat Brown /tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE)

(of films by entities other than myself)

of my Mike Film project

* - a Projectionist's Nightmare"

- DVD (combines mini-DV footage of March 31, 2007 Jefferson Presents screening w/ above-mentioned 'inappropriate' transfer)

- 15:18

- fall, '78 / march/april '07

- finished april 4, 2007

click here to check out the 1st part of this on YouTube

click here to check out the 2nd part of this on YouTube


043. "Les Promenades Hysteriques"

[double film/double projection version destroyed by Reinhardt U. Sevöl]

- made as part of TON TOCOCK SCHISME ( Reinhardt U. Sevöl , Via Vidorae, & tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE)

- super 8 -> 1/2" VHS cassette

- 10:00

- '84

- on my onesownthoughts YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/cJzXyR7YtzM


046. a. "See-Saw" {version 1}

- See-Saw made by O.J.Dart

- regular 8 -> 1/2" VHS cassette

- 15:20

- '85

- on my onesownthoughts YouTube channel here: http://youtu.be/Y8MsA6Ezf70

b. "See-Saw" {version 2}

- w/ processing overkill


[052. "International Neoist Day"

[present location unknown - probably in the collection of 1 of the members of the 6 Fingers League]

- w/ Joan Lobell

- super 8 -> 1/2" VHS cassette

- 3:20

- march 24, '86

- on my oneownthoughts YouTube channel here:https://youtu.be/TJ7PKJboZmw ]


133. a. "Vex 1990E.V."

- w/ sound from Dick Turner

- super 8 -> 1/2" VHS cassette

- 6:20

- march 19 & 20, '90 (etc..)

b. "Vex 1990E.V." (for YouTube)

- w/ titles added december 25, '09

- on my onesownthoughts YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/fGDsj1ZJnMU


I unabashedly claim that these are all interesting films worthy of inclusion in a "Selected Filmography". But they weren't included - & the reason for that is that I was given 2nd class status in relation to the canonized filmmakers like Stan Brakhage who has 45 films listed. 30 of these are from his 8mm "Songs" series. I've seen most or all of these & I, personally, think most or all of them are mediocre.

The "Selected Filmography" gets even more stripped down in the "Index to Films":

In actuality, they screened:


178. "Satanic Liposuction, Neoasm?!, & YOU!!"

- a collection of footage donated to me by John Berndt (4 X 50'), Mannette Letter (2 X 50'), Laure Drogoul (app 50'), Richard/Susan Henderson (2 X 50'), Florian Cramer (app 8 X 50'), Gen Ken Montgomery (7 X 50'), Boris Wanowitch (50'), Monty Cantsin/Istvan Kantor (app 10'); + excerpts from a home-movie version of "War and Peace"; + "porno" made by "unknowns"; + excerpts from "Mike Film" (see #3), "Crab Feast(s)" (see #11), "Luskin's" (see #56), "International Neoist/Tourist Day" (see #60), "Sponging off the Mandlebrot Set" (see #128), + out-takes from "Balling Tim Ore is Best" (see #49), "6 Fingers Crossed Country T.Ore/Tour" (see #55), "Vex 1990E.V." (see #135); + the entirety of "It's Not A Matter of Life & Death: Part Z: Stereo Brain (preface)" (see #62) & "Re-Runs" (see #132); + previously unused footage labelled: "Finish Off the Roll Film Using Intervalometer Shot from my House to Second Story Books to the Science Fiction Book Store etc..", "'Live' Autopsy" (shot for me by Martha Colburn w/ the assistance of Bill Haas), & "Funny Farm Disco Room"; + footage shot especially for it including the title, credit, & "Satanic Liposuction" scene (shot by Greg Pierce), etc..

- (cr)edited (to/)by anonymous

- soundtrack provided by Anonymous, John Berndt, & Gen Ken Montgomery

- super 8

- 1:17:00

- (footage from '78 - '98) edited from fall '95 - summer '98

b. "Satanic Liposuction, Neoasm?!, & YOU!!"

- revised to include screening footage from Orgone Cinema 1999 five projector version, 2000 Melbourne Super-8 Club version w/ explication & reel change tarot reading, 2007 Jefferson Presents explication from S. Cannon, John Allen Gibel & tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE

- super-8, 1/2" VHS cassette, & mini-DV -> DVD/mini-DV

- 1:25:07

- finished april 6, '07


which incorporates "It's Not a Matter of Life and Death (Part Z: Stereo Brain)". Since that's a feature, it was deemed 'too long' so I showed it as a 5 reel simultaneity. That was fine. What wasn't fine was that the MoMA personnel told me that they only had 2 super-8 projectors & that I'd have to provide the other 3. So much for meeting the needs of the 2nd class presenter.

I'm not from NYC. Presumably the MoMA people knew other people or organizations who could've loaned them the additional projectors but they didn't want to be bothered. Instead, as a non-New Yorker, I had to do it. FORTUNATELY, I knew Stephen Kent Jusick. Stephen very generously loaned me 3 more projectors which I proceeded to hand-carry by public transportation & on foot, with the assistance of my girlfriend of the time Linda Gielec, to MoMA. Thank you, Stephen Kent Jusick, you are a true champion of underground film.

Despite all my criticism expressed above I still think "Big As Life" was an amazing thing. If I were a canonized filmmaker who was worth more than bus fare to them & if they would've gone to the trouble of getting the other 3 projectors instead of leaving them to me it would've been even more amazing - but, HEY!, this is the art world where society is highly stratified - even in a low-gauge exhibit. Oh, well.


- tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE note, March 28, 2018E.V.








idioideo at verizon dot net


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