P. Adams Sitney

Modes of Vision. American Avant-Garde Cinema in the Second Half of the 20th Century

15 and 19 March, 2018 - 7pm
Free, until full capacity is reached
Sabatini Building, Auditorium

The Punto de Vista Festival and Elías Querejeta Zine Eskola, San Sebastián

Related activity inside the programme:

P. Adams Sitney. Visions of Experimental Cinema

Organized by
Museo Reina Sofía
Maya Deren. At Land. Film, 1944. Courtesy of LUX, London
Maya Deren. At Land. Film, 1944. Courtesy of LUX, London

In this lecture, theorist and experimental cinema historian P. Adams Sitney (New Haven, Connecticut, 1944) will discuss the nature and history of experimental American film in the second half of the twentieth century.

The discussion, which is part of the Museo Reina Sofía’s programme centred on Sitney’s work and will take place on Thursday 15 March, will see him analyse the continuities in American avant-garde cinema, in addition to the deviations in its evolution, thus underscoring the different ways of understanding film as an experimental and poetic artistic practice. The discussion will conclude with a series of screenings selected by the author, featuring works by Maya Deren, Stan Brakhage, Ernie Gehr, Hollis Frampton, and Su Freidrich — key film-makers in the studies Sitney has carried out across his career and a crucial part of pinpointing the different ideas and aims of experimental film.

The programme’s screenings include the film At Land (1944), the first film-maker Maya Deren wrote, directed and starred in as she married personal psychological explorations with a visual manifesto on the uniqueness of time and filmic space; two Stan Brakhage films, Thigh Line Lyre Triangular (1961) and Blue Moses (1962), which reject the formulations set forth by Deren; Ernie Gehr’s Shift (1974), which references Deren’s and Brakhage’s spatial and temporal figurations whilst using sound to give new meaning — what Sitney referred to as a “structural film”; Hollis Frampton’s Gloria! (1979), which, centred on his incomplete and epic film Magellan — with a 36-hour running time and intended to be seen in fragments every day over the course of a year — looks back at the history of cinema and forwards to the computerised world at the same time as it challenges Stan Brakhage’s theories objecting to the inclusion of words in films. The programme concludes with Su Freidrich’s feminist visual poem Gently Down the Stream (1981), a diary of dreams which draw inspiration from the avant-garde languages of Hollis Frampton. 

In the days that follow the lecture, P. Adams Sitney will hold a seminar of film analysis entitled The Syntax of Cinema in Relation to Narrative, Poetry and Theatre.

A second session of the audiovisual programme will take place on Monday 19 March.


Maya Deren. At Land, 1944
USA, 16 mm, b/w, 15’

Stan Brakhage
. Blue Moses, 1962
USA, 16 mm, b/w, 11’

Stan Brakhage. Thigh Line Lyre Triangular, 1961
USA, 16 mm, colour, 5’

Ernie Gehr.
Shift, 1974
USA, 16 mm, colour, 8’

Hollis Frampton
. Gloria, 1979
USA, 16 mm, b/w and colour, 10’

Su Freidrich
Gently Down the Stream, 1981
USA, 16 mm, b/w, 14’


P. Adams Sitney is a historian of American avant-garde cinema. In 1970, he co-founded Anthology Film Archives, and has served as a professor at Princeton University since 1980. His most notable works include Visionary Film: The American Avant-Garde (1943–2000) (2002), the first historiographical study of American avant-garde films in the post-war period, Eyes Upside Down. Visionary Filmmakers and the Heritage of Emerson (2008) and The Cinema of Poetry (2014). As a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he has received a number of accolades, including Princeton's President's Award for Distinguished Teaching (2010) and the Anna-Maria Kellen Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin (2011).