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329 West 18th Street Suite #610
Chicago, Illinois 60616
(312) 243-1808

September 25, 2013

Gone Orphansing…

CFA’s offices will be closed this Thursday and Friday. Our whole staff is headed south and little east to catch Orphans Midwest: Materiality and the Moving Image- a gathering of scholars, archivists, film enthusiasts and artists who all share an interest in “orphaned” or neglected films (home movies, outtakes, unreleased films, industrial and educational movies, independent documentaries, newsreels, student works, etc etc). Presented by Indiana University Libraries Film Archive, Indiana University Cinema and NYU Cinema Studies/Tisch School of the Arts, the symposium features enlightening panels and screenings of orphaned rarities, rediscoveries and new productions. In year’s past, we’ve attended and presented at the Orphans Symposium in NYC, but conveniently for us Midwesterners, they moved it a bit closer this time.

CFA films and colleagues will also make an appearance this year! On Saturday, September 28, CFA colleague, Andy Uhrich (Indiana University), will present at the Curatorial Challenges: Contextualizing and Recontextualizing Bits and Pieces session. In his presentation, Andy will share and discuss films from CFA’s Film Group and Chuck Olin collections and examine the contested and productive connections between their political documentaries and TV commercials in the late 1960s (you can read more about Andy’s presentation here). AND! later that day, one of our favorite CFA films, CLOSE TO YOU BY THE CARPENTERS (1971) will take part in An Evening of Music in Orphan Films” - a screening of musical wonders curated by archivist and musician Kelli Hix (Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum).

Looking forward to the symposium and catching up with dear colleagues and friends!

(and in case we convinced you to attend, tickets to evening events are available to the public at the Indiana University Cinema and IU Auditorium Box office.)

September 24, 2013


Already Ruth Page revisits an old friend. If you happen to be on the east coast, there is a collaboration of two artists you don’t want to miss. The work of Ruth Page and Isamu Noguchi can be seen starting tomorrow at the Noguchi Museum in Queens, New York.

Space, Choreographed: Noguchi and Ruth Page was developed in a collaboration between The Noguchi Museum and The Ruth Page Foundation, building on a group of drawings Japanese-American artist, Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988), made of the great American avant-garde dancer and choreographer Ruth Page (1899-1991) posing in a sack dress he designed in 1933 to transform her into a dynamic embodiment of his 1932 sculpture Miss Expanding Universe.

That piece had emerged from Noguchi’s extensive efforts to find a distinctive way to abstract the human figure- efforts greatly enhanced by his contact with modern dance, and Page’s form in particular- his study of ink wash painting with the Chinese painter Qi Baishi, and his best friend, the eccentric futurist genius Buckminster Fuller, a sort of Three Musketeers of American ability and aspiration, had been captivated by a series of lectures popularizing Edwin Hubble’s recent discovery that the universe was neither static nor tidily Copernican. It is hard to conceive a better visual metaphor for Hubble’s new picture of the universe, a pulsating amoeba of out-rushing matter, than Page in Noguchi’s sack dress.

The exhibition explores Noguchi and Page’s personal relationship and their two professional collaborations: the constellation of objects and performances that includes Miss Expanding Universe, the dress and the dances it inspired and Page’s post- World War II dance The Bells, based on Edgar Allen Poe’s poem of the same name, for which Noguchi designed costumes and a set. (description courtesy of the Noguchi Museum)

Chicago Film Archives continues to unearth, preserve, catalog and digitize the many performances and rehearsals in its Ruth Page Collection. This work is wholly sponsored by the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Below is a 1938 performance of EXPANDED UNIVERSE, featuring costumes by Noguchi. Head on over to our Ruth Page Collection finding aid to view a growing number of digitized films (63 and counting!) from the collection.

EXPANDED UNIVERSE  aka VARIATIONS ON EUCLID [circa 1938, 16mm., B&W, SIlent, found in CFA's Ruth Page Collection]


Space, Choreographed: Noguchi and Ruth Page

September 25, 2013 through January 26, 2014

Noguchi Museum
9-01 33rd Road, (at Vernon Boulevard)
Long Island City, NY 11106

September 16, 2013

Sybil Shearer – IN A VACUUM

Sybil Shearer performing IN A VACUUM 

It’s probably time you got to know dancer/choreographer Sybil Shearer. We can suggest a time and place to begin. On September 20, 2013 at the Logan Center for the Arts, you can see the Thodos Dance Chicago perform the very first restaging of Shearers’ “In a Vacuum” accompanied by the Fulcrum Point New Music Project. It is then and there that you can experience Shearers’ vision of the mid twentieth century machine-age worker derailed from his or her humanity.

Her stuff is good, funny and unusual. We know it because we have been stabilizing and digitizing her dances recorded on film, shot by her long-time artistic collaborator Helen Morrison. Shearers’ dance is unique, spiritual and earthly at the same time.

Trained on the east coast by the likes of Doris Humphrey and Agnes de Mille, Sybil debuted her talents as a dancer at Carnegie Hall in 1941. In spite of the huge success of her performance there, she chose to quietly slip away from the glare of fame and notoriety that New York brings to develop her art in the plains of Chicago “…a magical place…the place that the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead had said was the seedbed of creativity out of which so many artists had come… Everything called for me to create in a new way.”

The work of Helen Morrison and Sybil Shearer is abundant and still unseen. Thanks to the Morrison-Shearer Foundation, CFA has been organizing, inventorying, stabilizing, cataloging and digitizing the work of these two women who today go largely unknown.

Take a chance and spend an unusual night as the Thodos Dance Chicago restages In a Vacuum for the first time.

September 20, 2013, 7:30PM

Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts
University of Chicago Film Archives 915 E. 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637

September 13, 2013

8 FLAGS Restoration Premiere

Last night I was reminded of why we do what we do. Over forty people packed into a small Garfield Ridge Public Library meeting room to view and discuss the 1970 Chicago-made doc, 8 FLAGS FOR 99 CENTS. The film, made by Chuck Olin & Joel Katz, provided a space for Garfield Ridge residents to express their opinions on the Vietnam War. To the filmmakers surprise, the interviewees’ responses were nuanced, thoughtful and almost unanimously anti-war.

The audience at last night’s screening consisted of past and present Garfield Ridge residents, or more specifically, interviewees from the film, Vietnam vets and family members connected to participants in the film. Using our tabletop Eiki, we projected the fresh 16mm restoration print (made possible thanks to the National Film Preservation Foundation!) onto a screen sandwiched between colorful reading club displays. The entire film was shot within a 5 block radius of the library, adding special meaning to our little screening space (this was also the library’s first film screening ever!).

As the back-of-the-room projectionist last night, I had the pleasure of watching everyone’s reactions to the film. Audience members would start whispering and raising fingers whenever they recognized a familiar face on the screen. In a typical movie theater setting this type of behavior would annoy me, but here it just made sense and added a whole new dimension to my personal viewing experience (it also gave us much-needed clues as to “who knew who” for the post-screening discussion).

Like the film itself, the discussion following the screening provided a space for those in and connected with the film to simply talk and be listened to. Dialogue was lively and justifiably emotional. CFA colleague and friend, Andy Uhrich, moderated the discussion, while CFA friend, Alicia Healy, filmed it. In cased you missed it, a transfer of 8 FLAGS FOR 99 CENTS is now available for streaming on our Collections Portal and Youtube Channel. We also plan to edit footage from the post-screening discussion…and here’s a sneak peek. This excerpt features Paul Aubin, a former Garfield Ridge resident and interviewee in the film.

Many thank-yous to our accommodating hosts, the Garfield Ridge Public Library. And more thanks to the Southwest Chicago Post and our co-presenter Clear-Ridge Historical Society for their assistance in spreading the word about the screening. 


September 6, 2013

JoAnn Elam Collection Update

Still from GRAINS by JoAnn Elam

We’re hard at work digitizing our Ruth Page Collection, but that doesn’t mean we’ve abandoned our other collections! The JoAnn Elam Collection, for instance, is near and dear to our hearts. The collection contains the films and production elements of Chicago experimental filmmaker JoAnn Elam (1949-2009). Since we first acquired the collection back in 2011, we have inventoried the entire collection (shout out to Michele Puetz!) and hand inspected all of the 8mm and Super 8mm films in the collection (shout out to Lauren Alberque!). JoAnn and her films have also been the topic of recent film productions and academic panels. As you might remember, JoAnn delicately organized the majority of her 8mm films in well labeled & colorful cracker boxes. It is a processors dream to have a collection arrive this organized (hint hint current filmmakers). We unfortunately had to remove these 8mm films from their eccentric homes in order to place them in more stable, archival containers….but don’t worry! We kept all the original cracker boxes and currently store them alongside JoAnn’s films and ephemera.

Processed 8mm films  from the JoAnn Elam Collection

The JoAnn Elam collection is complicated (the good, challenging kind of complicated). It is a production-centric collection that consists of a wide array of formats (16mm., 8mm, Super 8mm, VHS, 1/4″ audio, etc), print generations & elements (camera originals, reversal prints, answer prints, outtakes, etc) and affiliated ephemera (cameras, papers, splicing equipment, etc). Did I mention there are also 8mm and 16mm film loops in the collection?! On top of that, we are still finalizing a filmography of JoAnn’s work. Thanks to Michelle Puetz (MCA, CFA Advisory Board) and Chuck Kleinhans (Northwestern University, Jump Cut and close friend of JoAnn Elam), though, we have a great working filmography that will evolve with the collection as it becomes more processed. So what’s new with the collection? We’re now working off of Michelle & Chuck’s filmography to get JoAnn’s finished 8mm films digitized and streaming. So far we have about twelve of Joann’s 8mm productions streaming on our site:

Beauty and the Beast
Blizzard of ’79
Chocolate Cake
The Christmas Story
Grains (my new, personal favorite!)
There’s also a handful of JoAnn’s 16mm and mixed media productions now streaming, including her more well-known films Lie Back and Enjoy It and Rape as well as a rough cut of Everyday People (Rough Cut)- JoAnn’s unfinished film based on her experiences as a letter carrier for the US Postal Service in Chicago. Also in the mix is Rescue Breathing, an instructional film that teaches viewers about CPR or mouth to mouth resuscitation and how to perform it. “Huh?!” you might be thinking. Well, JoAnn’s father, James O. Elam, acted as one of three medical advisers on the film, while a young JoAnn acted in a short dramatized scene alongside her siblings.

Unprocessed 16mm prints & elements from the JoAnn Elam Collection

While we work to get more 8mm films digitized and streaming, CFA intern Travis Werlen is also hard at work hand inspecting all of JoAnn’s 16mm prints and elements. Included in this batch are composite prints, camera originals, production elements, film loops, hand painted films as well as a handful of medical films related to Mr. Elam. Stay tuned as we continue to process the collection and make these films accessible online for the first time E-V-E-R. And last but not least, endless thanks to JoAnn’s sister, Susan Elam, who continues to be a generous supporter of the collection. Thank to her and fellow Elam Collection preservation sponsors, Kenneth Belcher and Sandy Ihm, these films will reach audiences more quickly.
and now for some BONUS IMAGES! :

A young JoAnn performing CPR in RESCUE BREATHING

Inspection bench detail of the direct animation film, FILMABUSE, by JoAnn Elam (uncut 8mm film!)

Inspection bench detail of the 8mm film, GRAINS, by JoAnn Elam