For more than 40 years, Ken Jacobs, whose lifelong project has been the aesthetic, social, and physiological critique of projected images, has inspired the sense of awe and mystery that 19th-century audiences must have felt when confronting motion pictures for the first time. The subject of a MoMA retrospective in 1996, Jacobs returns with three works that reinvigorate the medium by restoring it to its first principles. He presents Ontic Antics Starring Laurel and Hardy (1997), a Nervous System performance in which he plumbs a 1931 comedic two-reeler for unforeseen optical effects; Local Hubble II (2004), a Nervous Magic Lantern improvisation in which he reveals the miraculously “impossible movements, spectacular spaces, and unthinkable transformations” that can be conjured from a rudimentary projection device; and Star Spangled to Death (1957/2003), his recently completed, no-budget magnum opus, which, with its fierce political punch and Beat whimsy, could not have come at a better time.
Organized by Jytte Jensen, Curator, and Joshua Siegel, Assistant Curator, Department of Film and Media. Sincere thanks to Flo Jacobs.