Chris Kennedy

“Jordan Belson: Films Sacred and Profane.” October 24, 2012

Jordan Belson: Films Sacred and Profane
A program from the Center for Visual Music co-curated by Jordan Belson and Cindy Keefer

Jordan Belson (1926-2011) was one of many of the elder generation of experimental filmmakers who passed on last year, but he left behind a wonderful catalogue of stunning work. Influenced by Buddhism and other mystical philosophies, his films are both meditative and expansive, exploring states of spiritual transcendence that are translated into a dense and abstract visual music which serves “to transport whoever is looking at it out of the boundaries of the self ” (Belson).

Influenced by the abstract films of Oskar Fischinger, Norman McLaren and Hans Richter that he encountered at San Francisco’s Art in Cinema series, Belson turned his attention from painting to film in the late 1940s. In 1957, he performed a series of Vortex Concerts with sound artist Henry Jacobs. These multimedia concerts, held in the Morrison Planetarium, became extremely popular over their two-year run, and were highly influential on the Bay Area’s burgeoning psychedelic scene.

In the 1960s, Belson began making the films that he is now best known for. Re-Entry, inspired by John Glenn’s space flight and Belson’s readings about the Bardo Plane, introduced his signature brand of visual music. With a home studio set-up that allowed him to capture the ethereal movement of light and smoke in real time, Belson created gaseous light sculptures, with mandalas and cascading lights evoking both solar and spiritual activity. Tonight’s programme features a travelling retrospective of many rarely screened films, including Belson’s last film Epilogue, funded by the NASA Art Program and commissioned by the Hirshhorn Museum.

Caravan dir. Jordan Belson | USA 1952 | 4 min. | 16mm
Séance dir. Jordan Belson | USA 1959 | 3 min. | 16mm
Allures dir. Jordan Belson | USA 1961 | 8 min. | 16mm
Re-Entry dir. Jordan Belson | USA 1964 | 6 min. | 16mm on video
Momentum dir. Jordan Belson | USA1968|6min.|16mm
Chakra dir. Jordan Belson | USA 1972 | 6 min. | 16mm
Light dir. Jordan Belson | USA1973|6min.|16mm
Cycles dirs. Jordan Belson & Stephen Beck | USA 1974 | 10 min. | 16mm
Music of the Spheres dir. Jordan Belson | USA 1977 (abridged version 2002) | 7 min. | video
Epilogue dir. Jordan Belson | USA 2005 | 12 min. | video

Approx. total running time: 68 min.

All prints/videos are from the Center for Visual Music collection. Many of the films were preserved with support from The National Film Preservation Foundation.

Co-presented with

Wednesday, October 24, 2012 7:00 pm