"An Ambivalent Pupil: John Cage’s Influence on Stan Brakhage’s Film Aesthetics" (Weiss Cinema)

John Pruitt

Throughout his career, the avant-garde filmmaker Stan Brakhage pursued a study of the aesthetics of music in order to achieve what he termed "visual thinking," a kind of cinematic parallel to the older art form. In the mid-1950’s, Brakhage’s researches would include a serious encounter with John Cage’s music and writings. In fact, one of his early films, In Between (1955), a portrait of the collage artist Jess Collins, makes use of Cage’s music on the soundtrack. This presentation will explore the multiple facets of Brakhage’s engagement with Cage, including those aspects of Cage’s vision that Brakhage apparently could not accept. In addition to In Between, two other Brakhage films will be screened: The Riddle of Lumen (1972) and Arabic 9 (1981).