The visually stunning works of this avant-garde cinema pioneer explore states of spiritual transcendence that are translated into a beautifully abstract visual music.
A program from the Center for Visual Music co-curated by Jordan Belson and Cindy Keefer.
Jordan Belson (1926-2011) was one of many of the elder generation of experimental filmmakers who passed away last year, but he left behind a wonderful catalogue of stunning work. Influenced by Buddhism and other mystical philosophies, his films are both meditative and expansive, exploring states of spiritual transcendence that are translated into a dense and abstract visual music which serves "to transport whoever is looking at it out of the boundaries of the self" (Belson).
Influenced by the abstract films of Oskar Fischinger, Norman McLaren and Hans Richter that he encountered at San Francisco's Art in Cinema series, Belson turned his attention from painting to film in the late 1940s. In 1957, he performed a series of Vortex Concerts with sound artist Henry Jacobs. These multimedia concerts, held in the Morrison Planetarium, became extremely popular over their two-year run, and were highly influential on the Bay Area's burgeoning psychedelic scene.
In the 1960s, Belson began making the films for which he is now best known. Re-Entry, inspired by John Glenn's space flight and Belson's readings about the Bardo Plane, introduced his signature brand of visual music. With a home studio set-up that allowed him to capture the ethereal movement of light and smoke in real time, Belson created gaseous light sculptures, with mandalas and cascading lights evoking both solar and spiritual activity. This programme features a travelling retrospective of many rarely screened films, including Belson's last film, Epilogue, funded by the NASA Art Program and commissioned by the Hirshhorn Museum.
All prints/videos are from the Center for Visual Music collection. Many of the films were preserved with support from The National Film Preservation Foundation.
Caravan (Jordan Belson \ USA 1952 \ 4 min. \ 16mm)
Séance (Jordan Belson \ USA 1959 \ 3 min. \ 16mm)
Allures (Jordan Belson \ USA 1961 \ 8 min. \ 16mm)
Re-Entry (Jordan Belson \ USA 1964 \ 6 min. \ 16mm on video)
Momentum (Jordan Belson \ USA 1968 \ 6 min. \ 16mm)
Chakra (Jordan Belson \ USA 1972 \ 6 min. \ 16mm)
Light (Jordan Belson \ USA 1973 \ 6 min. \ 16mm)
Cycles (Jordan Belson & Stephen Beck \ USA 1974 \ 10 min. \ 16mm)
Music of the Spheres (Jordan Belson \ USA 1977 (abridged version 2002) \ 7 min. \ video)
Epilogue (Jordan Belson \ USA 2005 \ 12 min. \ video)