- Light reign: Jonas Mekas' "Notes on the Circus"
Jefferson Presents ... was launched in February 2000, in the South Side's Brew House, with films by camp-cinema pioneers George and Mike Kuchar. On Sat., Feb. 27 -- 108 shows later -- Pittsburgh's monthly home for "experiments on film" marks its 10th anniversary.
Some things have changed. For one, the series has long had a permanent home at Garfield Artworks. But perhaps most significantly, an undertaking founded by three filmmaker pals is now run by one: Adam Abrams. Abrams kept Jefferson presenting after the departures of Jim Mueller (who moved on to other projects) and Gordon Nelson (who left town).
Nonetheless, Jefferson remains the city's lone consistent venue for experimental film, drawing small but engaged audiences. In the digital age, it's dedicated to showing all work in its original format -- usually 16 mm. That keeps Abrams in contact with folks at distributors like New York's Filmmakers' Cooperative, hunting classic and contemporary avant-garde moving pictures.
Often it's work by names like Stan Brakhage, Kurt Kren and Man Ray. Jefferson also sometimes showcases local artists. But with Abrams working solo (on a mostly self-funded labor of love), he's more frequently programmed one of his favorites: veteran French filmmaker Rose Lowder, whose trademark is tightly structured landscape films consisting of short-duration shots (sometimes single frames). Abrams compares Lowder's approach to cubism. "There's a pure visual splendor to what she does," he says.
The Feb. 27 show features Lowder's silent, hour-long Retour D'un Repere Compose (1981). Also showing are two films by avant-garde icon Jonas Mekas. "In Between: 1964-68" is a 52-minute collection of footage (with sound) depicting Mekas' New York circle, including Salvador Dali, Allen Ginsberg and Norman Mailer. "Notes on the Circus" (1966) is a short shot at a Ringling Bros. performance.
Abrams, who also teaches at Pittsburgh Filmmakers, knows experimental film as well as anyone. But true to his experimental ethos and idiosyncratic tastes, he can't say much more about the Feb. 27 films -- or indeed most of what's ever screened at Jefferson -- before the actual screening. "I try not to show anything I've seen before," he says.
Jefferson Presents ... 10th Anniversary Show 8 p.m. Sat., Feb. 27. Garfield Artworks, 4931 Penn Ave., Garfield. $5 ($4 students). 412-361-2262 or firstname.lastname@example.org