This project would not be possible without the gracious and ongoing support of a Carnegie-Whitney Grant from the American Library Association, and particularly Mary Jo Bolduc.
With much love to my one-man cheering section, Tim Palmer, whose unflagging love and support made this — undoubtedly my life’s work — a reality. He endeavors tirelessly to make all my dreams come true, no matter how big or harebrained.
Liza Palmer is the review-section editor for the journal Film International and co-editor-in-chief of the magazine Film Matters, both published by Intellect. Her research interests involve the cinema of the American avant-garde with a particular focus upon the works of Stan Brakhage, Maya Deren, and Kenneth Anger. Recent publications include pieces on Salut les cubains (1963) and L’étoile de mer (1928) for Directory of World Cinema: France (forthcoming Intellect, 2012), “Feeling Familiar, or Artists Interrupted” (http://images.spectator.co.uk/arts-and-culture/night-and-day/6139793/feeling-familiar-or-artists-interrupted.thtml) for the Spectator Arts Blog, and “Self-Made Myths: Strategies of Promotion Among Avant-Garde Filmmakers” in Film and Television Stardom (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008).
The mission of this project is to be a valuable repository of references to research about avant-garde film (primarily to American artists initially — see below — but eventually expanding to include international artists). To stay current and relevant, a web resource and index such as this must be an organic thing — it must grow at a sustainable rate while maintaining its existing form. To this end, Liza Palmer’s aim is to revise/update one film page and add one new film each week. To begin with, additional films by the filmmakers included in the initial sample (see below) will be added to flesh out the framework, followed by additional filmmakers new to this index.
Avant-Garde Film: An Index to Films and Publications is a freely accessible online resource, which indexes an ever-growing list of books (both in print and out of print), book chapters, articles, stable web documents, and other more non-traditional print publications (i.e. small-press works and pamphlets that characterize the avant-garde, like Stan Brakhage’s The Seen) related to avant-garde film practice.
Initial Sample June 2012 (xlsx)
The scope of a project proposing to index all of avant-garde film is vast and overwhelming. It was important to Liza Palmer, at the outset, to work from a manageable — yet justifiable — initial sample of films: a snapshot of avant-garde film that does justice to all the various approaches and practitioners working in this vein, past and present. After substantial review, a methodology was determined that would seek to minimize cherry-picking (coverage of films that appealed to the author personally) and privilege a more objective selection process. The result is an initial sample that includes many of the avant-garde canon (Stan Brakhage, Maya Deren, Kenneth Anger, etc.) but also figures and films that, while perhaps once of artistic and/or cultural interest, had fallen by the wayside.
The criteria for inclusion in the initial sample are as follows:
- The films must have been produced between the years 1905 and 2005 — a somewhat arbitrary decision, based on and relative to the date of the original grant proposal, to cover 100 years of avant-garde filmmaking.
- The films (and filmmakers) must have been distinguished by some external evaluative body — in this case, included either on the National Film Registry (managed by the Library of Congress) or in a Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial showcase.
- The initial focus is on American artists for the most part; and while the Whitney Biennials are generally limited to American artists, curators through the years have interpreted this differently.
- Unless a film was included on the National Film Registry, all films must be included in either the Canyon Cinema Catalog or the Film-Makers’ Cooperative Catalog. This seeks to highlight those artists who are actively distributing their films through non-traditional circuits, while making a distinction between avant-garde and gallery films, limiting out those films that require a more sophisticated installation process than a cinema venue.
The criteria for the references included within this index are as follows:
- Articles must be at least one page, unless authored by the filmmaker him-/herself.
- Articles must be in English.
- No book reviews are included, unless of a book authored by the filmmaker him-/herself.
- No reviews of fiction films (i.e. not documentary) about the filmmaker.