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Film/Video, Structuring Strategies: Gunvor Nelson, Swedish film and video pioneer

December 4, 2012
Tuesday, December 4, 2012 - 7:00pm

CalArts, Bijou Theater

FILM/VIDEO: Structuring Strategies presents Swedish film and video pioneer Gunvor Nelson.

“Silencing Sounds/Sounding Silences: Many diverse modalities of signature and translation—and a crucial "resonance"—flow through Nelson's work, for in all her films and videos emotion and mood predominate, fueling, prompting and soliciting our reflections, ruminations and interactions. These are shaped through an unmooring of language and a probing of "signature" in the more musical sense, via a stress on aural textures, rhythms and voicing. Equally, her surrealist play with words, generic expectations and film conventions mirrors these stresses, as does her focus on silence. “ - Signature, Translation and Resonance in Gunvor Nelson's Films. Chris Holmlund

“Gunvor Nelson’s poetically expansive life's work-created in both San Francisco, her home and workplace for over thirty years, and her native Sweden, where she has resettled-has consistently, often courageously, privileged her subjective gaze and individual experience. Nelson relentlessly refuses predictability (and succeeds) in her search for a true relation between project and form. Among the most experimental of artists, Nelson illuminates such elusive and intimate subjects as childhood, aging, displacement, memory, women's roles, death, and the symbolic forces of nature and water via a potent exploration of the possibilities of sound and moving image. Her ephemeral, dreamlike images are simultaneously tactile and almost tangible, while her imaginative use of language and traces of music add considerably to the emotional impact of her works. Filmic collage and dynamic editing create tension and contrast. The unique characteristics of Nelson's works form less a definable style than a sustained aesthetic.” – Jytte Jensen, Curator, MOMA


with Dorothy Wiley, 1966, 15 mins, B&W, 16mm

"SCHMEERGUNTZ is one long raucous belch in the face of the American Home. A society which hides its animal functions beneath a shiny public surface deserves to have such films as SCHMEERGUNTZ shown everywhere - in every PTA, every Rotary Club, every club in the land. For it is brash enough, brazen enough and funny enough to purge the soul of every harried American married woman." - Ernest Callenbach, Film Quarterly

Awards: First Prize, Ann Arbor Film Festival; Prize, Kent University Film Festival; Prize, Chicago Art Institute Film Festival.

1972, 10 mins, B&W, 16mm
Starring Ellion Ness

A dance, a documentary, a metaphysical strip tease.

"Ellion Ness, a thoroughly professional stripper, goes through her paces, bares her body, and then, astonishingly and literally, transcends it. While the film makes a forceful political statement on the image of woman and the true meaning of stripping, the intergalactic transcendence of its ending locates it firmly within the mainstream of joyous humanism and stubborn optimism." - B. Ruby Rich, Chicago Art Institute

Awards: First Prize, Berkeley Film Festival; Prize, Ann Arbor Film Festival; Humboldt State Film Festival.

1988, 8 mins, COLOR, SOUND, 16mm

“Superimpositions of dark pourings are perceived through the film. Suddenly a bright color runs across the picture and delicate drawings flutter past. Grunts from animals are heard.” – Canyon Cinema

1987, 28 mins, COLOR, SOUND, 16mm

LIGHT YEARS is a collage film and a journey through the Swedish landscape, traversing stellar distances in units of 5878 trillion miles. It is a film acutely in the present reflecting our temporal existence ... continuous and imperfect.

"The film is so filled with visual ideas that Gunvor Nelson has extended the film's themes and techniques in her subsequent effort LIGHT YEARS EXPANDING. All her recent films suggest that while the distance of time makes home further, the intensity of memory makes it richer." - Parabola

1998, 8 min, 4:3, Color, Stereo, No language. Original shot on: DV.

2006, 38 min, 4:3, Color, Stereo, No language. Original shot on: DV.

Lynne Sachs’s note on films by Gunvor Nelson

About the Artist

GUNVOR NELSON was born in 1931 in Stockholm and grew up in Kristinehamn, Sweden.

She studied at University College of Art, Craft and Design (1950-51) and at Beckmans College of Design (1952-53), both in Stockholm. Moved to the USA in 1953 and studied at Humboldt State College (1954-57), San Francisco Arts Institute (1957) and Mills College in Oakland (1957-58). She graduated with an MFA in painting. At the Institute she met Robert Nelson whom she married in 1958.  Film debut with Schmeerguntz in 1966, co-made with Dorothy Wiley.

Teaching positions at San Francisco State University 1969-70 and San Francisco Art Institute 1970-1992. Moved back to Sweden in 1993. Numerous major awards and grants, most recently the Swedish Arts Grants Committee’s Grand Award (2006). Her films have been screened at the major art museums and cinematheques in Europe and North-America and had the recognition of several retrospectives: among them MOMA in New York, Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Arsenal in Berlin, and at Oberhausen, Germany.  In 2008 Nelson was awarded an artists lifetime income guarantee by the Swedish Arts Grants Committee.

Last edited by dthatt on Nov 29, 2012
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