80 Washington Square East, NYU


Ken Jacobs

July 25, 2023 7:30pm

Light Industry

Introduced by Andrew Lampert
Ken and Flo Jacobs in Attendance

XCXHXEXRXRXIXEXSX, Ken Jacobs, 1980/2022, digital projection, 84 mins

This screening is organized in conjunction with the exhibition Ken Jacobs: Up the Illusion, curated by Andrew Lampert for 80WSE Gallery at NYU. The show is on continuous display through November 26 in the Broadway Windows gallery space, on the corner of Broadway and E 10th Street in Manhattan. All the films/videos and drawings in the three-part exhibition can be watched anytime, in their entirety, here.

Tickets - Pay what you can ($10 suggested donation), available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm. No entry 10 minutes after start of show.

By the late 1960s Ken Jacobs had already imploded film form as we know it with underground classics like his epic Star Spangled to Death (1956-60), the brazen Blonde Cobra (1963), and the meta-masterpiece Tom, Tom the Piper’s Son (1969). Collaborating closely with his wife, Flo, he also broke significant ground in both the burgeoning field of expanded cinema and the age-old art of shadow plays. Their fascination with historic images and found footage drove them into another spatial dimension of paracinematic possibilities with the introduction of a new film performance apparatus in 1975, dubbed “The Nervous System.” Using two 16mm analytical projectors capable of single-frame advance-and-reverse playback, a pair of film prints with identical footage, an exterior shutter in the form of a fan placed in front of the projectors, and other still-secret tricks, the duo’s indelible performances relied on heavy flicker and incremental image movement to conjure 3D that could be seen without eyeglasses. Together they created a repertoire of well over a dozen sui generis pieces before moving on in the early 2000s to explore their next invention, the phantasmagoric Nervous Magic Lantern. 

Ken turned from celluloid to video in 1999, and within a few years began addressing a shared concern with Flo to bring their once live performances into the digital present. Never one to leave a finished work untouched, Ken doesn’t attempt to make one-to-one approximations of old pieces, rather he employs his pulsating “Eternalism” editing method to devise new versions that plunge image and sound deeper into abstraction. 

The digital version of XCXHXEXRXRXIXEXSX is a feature-length adaptation of one of their most well-known efforts. First performed in 1980, and most notoriously at the 1992 Flaherty Seminar, where the provoked audience and peeved artists exchanged bitter words post-show, this reclaimed early porno reel is a work of tantric cinema like none other. Sex is celebrated and screwed with, bodies are pierced with throbbing light, there is tension and release in a coital dance of cosmic proportions. What a movie.

- Andrew Lampert