Owen Land

American artist and filmmaker Owen Land (formerly known as George Landow), who was a former assistant to Gregory Markopoulos and mentored by Stan Brakhage, has gained a solid reputation among cinema enthusiasts for his films made during the 1960s and 1970s. His work was associated with the earliest examples of the so-called ‘structural’ film movement, when Land worked alongside filmmakers like Michael Snow, Hollis Frampton and Paul Sharits, though he distanced himself from this context very early on. Land himself stresses his education as a painter and his early efforts recalling Abstract Expressionist painting through exposing the physical properties of celluloid (Film in Which There Appear Edge Lettering, Sprocket Holes, Dirt Particles, Etc., 1965-1966). His visual genius was paired with sophisticated wordplay in his subsequent output. Inspired by educational film (Remedial Reading Comprehension, 1970), advertisement and television, Land parodies the experimental and structural film-movement itself, as is manifest in his 1975 Wide Angle Saxon. Virtuosity in the use of Duchampian double entendres, puns and wit, make these films hilarious at times, and gave Land a special status in the then burgeoning American avant-garde cinema. Thirty years after On the Marriage Broker Joke – his last completed film (with the exception of two rarely screened video-shot projects made in the mid-1980s, Noli Me Tangere and The Box Theory, and the unfinished Undesirables, 1999) – a new film, Dialogues (2007-2009), was shown at the Kunsthalle Bern. Dialogues is an episodic series of short films informed by the artist’s study of folklore, myth, history and the theology of all major religions, including Gnosticism and cabala. With a healthy dose of irony and a proudly irreverent attitude toward all kind of orthodoxies Land readily applies the structure of the Platonic dialogue to explore themes of reincarnation, art criticism, and Tantra. In the filmmaker’s own words Dialogues “concentrates on the events of Owen Land’s life in 1985, when he returned to Los Angeles after spending a year in Tokyo, Fukuoka, and Okinawa, Japan. […] It was a time for much soul-searching about his relationships with women (and with strippers). There are flashbacks to that very formative period, the 1960s when ‘we won the sexual revolution’ as one character says. Some of the episodes contain events which are more speculative, or imaginative, than literally real.” The film also includes musings about Land’s artistic forebears and pastiches of other films, including The Graduate, Red Eye (called Craven Death Maven), most of Kenneth Anger’s films, and complex allusions to the films of Maya Deren and Stan Brakhage. This book is constructed around Land’s “Dialogues” and features the “Dialogues” script, interviews between Land and Julia Strebelow and Scott Foundas, and an essay by Chris Sharp. Edited by Philippe Pirotte and Julia Strebelow. Co-published by Paraguay Press and Kunsthalle Bern on the occasion of the exhibitions: Owen Land: “Dialogues” Kunsthalle Bern 4.4. – 17.5.2009 Owen Land: “How can you believe anything he says?” KW Berlin – Kunst-Werke Berlin e.V. – Institute for Contemporary Art 22.11.2009 – 24.1.2010

"Dialogues" a film by Owen Land
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