. community —

Derek Jarman: Blue (Dirty Looks: On Location)

  • Location:
    Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South, New York, New York, 10012, US

1993, 35mm film transferred to video, color, sound
Curated by David Everitt Howe

Judson Memorial Church

Blue was filmmaker Derek Jarman's final feature before dying of AIDS complications in 1994. It consists solely of a wide projection of the color blue with voiceover narration by John Quentin, Tilda Swinton, Nigel Terry, and Jarman himself. At the time of its filming, the color blue almost entirely compromised Jarman's vision and thus Blue's monochrome color field becomes the formal, symbolic, and existential focal point not only of the filmmaker's personal fight with the disease—which left him, in his words, a nearly blind "walking laboratory"—but also of its lingering physical and moral effects on the gay community at large; AIDS was initially reported in five Los Angeles gay men on June 5, 1981 and subsequently spread throughout the Los Angeles and New York gay communities with much confusion and devastation. Initially labeled in the popular press as GRID, or gay-related immune deficiency, the film's humorous, poignant, and moving narration universalizes a disease still stigmatizing the queer community.

Derek Jarman was born in 1942 and attended the Slade School in London Initially, Jarman worked in set and costume design before releasing his first feature, Sebastiane in 1975 and his second, Jubilee, which screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 1977. Subsequent films include The Last of England (1988), Edward II (1991) and the critically acclaimed Caravaggio (1986), which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival. Retrospectives of his work include the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London in 1984, the Barbican Centre in 1996, The Serpentine Gallery in 2008, and X Initiative in New York in 2009.

A functioning parish affiliated with the United Church of Christ, Judson Memorial Church is perhaps best known for its active championing of modern and contemporary art and performance. Initiated in the 1950s, Judson's arts ministry offered early exhibitions to Robert Rauschenberg, Claus Oldenburg, and Yoko Ono, among other visual artists. In 1962, Judson Dance Theater was established. Providing rehearsal and performance space to Yvonne Rainer, Trisha Brown, Lucinda Childs, and other dancers, Judson Dance Theater almost single-handedly established the postmodern dance movement, which continues to this day at the church where Movement Research regularly holds experimental dance performances.