Part of the NOT OVER exhibition series and The Gordon Kurtti Project, Visual AIDS and Dirty Looks present Significant Others. A night of film and discussion with Cynthia Carr, Rayya Elias, Carl George, Esther Kaplan, and Jack Waters.
David Wojnarowicz, Beautiful People, Super 8 on digital video, 34 min, 1988
Carl George, 6 Feet, Dancers That I Know and Love, 16mm, 23 min, 1991
Beautiful people, artists known and loved. The story of the downtown scene of 80s and early 90s New York is about more than a few select artists. It is the story of another city—fighting with grit gentrification and a heightening AIDS crisis—the story of a whole generation of friends, lovers, and collaborators, connecting and making art together at now legendary sites, from ABC No Rio to Danceteria, 8BC, or the Pyramid Club. On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Visual AIDS and in conjunction with the Gordon Kurtti Project, a retrospective exhibition of work by 80s East Village artist Gordon Stokes Kurtti, Dirty Looks presents a screening and panel discussion, remembering and celebrating this scene and featuring rarely seen films by Carl George and David Wojnarowicz.
Beautiful People is one of the last films David Wojnarowicz made, like his controversial film, Fire in My Belly, left uncompleted at his death. Nevertheless, the film, unusual among his work for its clear narrative, stands as one of his best films. Filming his 3 Teens Kill 4 bandmate, Jesse Hultberg, as he gets up in drag in his small East Village apartment before heading through the city and out into the wider world, in Beautiful People Wojnarowicz sees “drag queens as true revolutionaries who fuck with visual codes of gender,” bringing the queer, East Village revolution to the streets of the city and beyond. This screening features the rarely shown, full version of Beautiful People.
In 6 Feet, Dancers That I Know and Love, Carl George pays tribute to three friends and collaborators, who made up the collective POOL, the resident dance company of the legendary Pyramid Club in the 1980s—Brian Taylor, Jack Waters, and Peter Cramer—each given his own vignette to showcase his dance. Cramer, Waters, and Taylor, along with brother Brad Taylor, as well as Carl George, Kembra Pfahler, Tabboo!, Samoa, Gordon Kurtti, and many others, together formed a community of artists at ABC No Rio and in the East Village. Shot on location on the streets of the city, 6 Feet moves from its opening scenes in the East Village these artists called home, eventually bringing its queer, DIY sensibility to the rest of the city, culminating in a campy provocation in Central Park.
The screening will be followed by a panel discussion, moderated by Esther Kaplan, editor of the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, and featuring panelists Cynthia Carr, author of the recent critically acclaimed biography Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz, winner of the 2013 Lambda Literary Award for biography, Rayya Elias, whose just-released memoir, Harley Loco, recounts her time making music, battling addiction, and living in Tent City in the East Village, and Jack Waters, featured performer in 6 Feet, founding member of POOL, former co-director of ABC No Rio, and co-founder of Le Petit Versailles.
The Gordon Kurtti Project has been made possible by generous support from Mary Jo and Ted Shen.
About the filmmakers:
Carl George is an artist, filmmaker, and curator. He is a founding member of art collective Allied Productions and has been actively involved with ABC No Rio, an experimental artist run exhibition and performance space, for more than twenty-five years. Many of his short experimental films have shown in festivals internationally, including at the Museum of Modern Art, the Cannes Film Festival Semaine de la Critique, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Guggenheim Museum, and are in the permanent collection of the New York Public Library. His 1986 film, The Lost 40 Days has recently been restored with the assistance of the National Film Preservation Foundation and is now in the permanent collections of the Library of Congress and Anthology Film Archives. His 1989 film DHPG Mon Amour, documenting the radical advances made by people with AIDS in developing their own health care, is a classic of AIDS activist filmmaking and was recently incorporated into the Oscar-nominated documentary How to Survive a Plague (2012).
David Wojnarowicz was an indelible presence in the New York City downtown art scene of the 1970s and 80s. Known for his writing, filmmaking, painting, drawing, photography, mixed media installations, performances, and activism, he often collaborated with other artists, including Peter Hujar and Richard Kern. Wojnarowicz used blunt symbology and graphic illustrations to expose what the mainstream repressed: poverty, abuses of power, blind nationalism, greed, gay sex, and the devastation of the AIDS epidemic. He began making Super 8 films in the late 70s, including Heroin and the later, unfinished films, A Fire in My Belly and Beautiful People. Wojnarowicz left his mark on the city in the form of street graffiti, his band 3 Teens Kill 4 and the flyers he designed for their performances, and shows at such legendary East Village venues as Civilian Warfare, Club 57, and Gracie Mansion Gallery. Published collections of his writing include Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration, The Waterfront Journals, and Memories That Smell Like Gasoline. Wojnarowicz died on July 22, 1992, of AIDS-related illnesses.