Structural film

Structural film was an experimental film movement prominent in the United States in the 1960s and which developed into the Structural/materialist films in the United Kingdom in the 1970s. [1]


The term was coined by P. Adams Sitney who noted that film artists such as Michael Snow, Hollis Frampton, George Landow (a.k.a. Owen Land), Paul Sharits, Tony Conrad, Joyce Wieland, Ernie Gehr, Birgit and Wilhelm Hein, Kurt Kren, and Peter Kubelka [2] had moved away from the complex and condensed forms of cinema practiced by such artists as Sidney Peterson and Stan Brakhage. "Structural film" artists pursued instead a more simplified, sometimes even predetermined art. The shape of the film was crucial, the content peripheral. This term should not be confused with the literary and philosophical term structuralism. [3]


Tony Conrad - The Flicker film
The Flicker by Tony Conrad produces a flicker effect with black and white frames. [4]

Sitney identified four formal characteristics common in Structural films, but all four characteristics are not usually present in any single film:

  • fixed camera position (an apparently fixed framing)
  • flicker effect (strobing due to the intermittent nature of film)
  • loop printing
  • rephotography (off the screen)

It has been noted by George Maciunas that these characteristics are also present in Fluxus films. [5]

Key films

See also


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Scratching the Surface: The Birth of Structural/Materialist Film
  3. ^ Ways of Seeing: Yoel Meranda's Web Site-Structural Film
  4. ^ Excerpt on YouTube-REVOIRVIDEO
  5. ^ Fluxus Film: George Maciunas Manifesto, Avant-Garde, and Anti-Art
  6. ^ [2]
  7. ^ [3]
  8. ^ Paul Sharits: Expanding Cinema to the Beyond-Offscreen
  9. ^ [4]
  10. ^ [5]
  11. ^ [6]
  12. ^ George Landow obituary-The Guardian


  • Gidal, Peter. Materialist Film Routledge; First Edition, Second Impression edition (Mar. 1989).
  • de Lauretis, Teresa and Stephen Heath (eds). The Cinematic Apparatus. Macmillan, 1980.
  • Heath, Stephen. Questions of Cinema. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1981.
  • Maciunas, George. "Some Comments on Structural Film by P. Adams Sitney." Film Culture, No. 47, 1969.
  • O'Pray, Michael. The British Avant-Garde Film 1926 to 1995: An Anthology of Writings. Indiana University Press, 2003.
  • Sitney, P. Adams. Visionary Film: The American Avant-Garde 1943-1978. Second Edition, Oxford University Press 1979

External links

Arnulf Rainer (film)

Arnulf Rainer is a 1960 Austrian experimental short film by Peter Kubelka. It is one of the earliest flicker films. The film alternates between light or the absence of light and sound or the absence of sound. Since its May 1960 premiere in Vienna, Arnulf Rainer has become known as a fundamental work for structural film. Kubelka released a "negative" version, titled Antiphon, in 2012.

Ernie Gehr

Ernie Gehr (born 1941) is an American experimental filmmaker closely associated with the Structural film movement of the 1970s. A self-taught artist, Gehr was inspired to begin making films in the 1960s after chancing upon a screening of a Stan Brakhage film. Gehr's film Serene Velocity (1970) has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. Gehr served as faculty at the San Francisco Art Institute.

The New York Times described Gehr's work as "abstract, beautiful, mysterious, invigorating, utopian" saying he had "embraced [the] Modernist cry, shunning mainstream narrative to make films in which bubbling grain, streaks of color and pulses of light are the main attraction." His film Essex Street Quartet (2004) was included in the exhibition "The Long Run" at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, from November 11, 2017 to November 4, 2018.His films are distributed by Canyon Cinema in San Francisco.


Fauvism is the style of les Fauves (French for "the wild beasts"), a group of early twentieth-century modern artists whose works emphasized painterly qualities and strong color over the representational or realistic values retained by Impressionism. While Fauvism as a style began around 1904 and continued beyond 1910, the movement as such lasted only a few years, 1905–1908, and had three exhibitions. The leaders of the movement were André Derain and Henri Matisse.

Film in Which There Appear Edge Lettering, Sprocket Holes, Dirt Particles, Etc.

Film in Which There Appear Edge Lettering, Sprocket Holes, Dirt Particles, Etc. is a 1966 American experimental short film directed by Owen Land.

George Landow (filmmaker)

George Landow (1944 – June 8, 2011), also known as Owen Land, was a painter, writer, photographer and experimental filmmaker. He also worked under the pen names Orphan Morphan and Apollo Jize.

According to the film historian Mark Webber, Land made some of his first films as a teenager and his later films, made mostly during the 1960s and 1970s, are some of the first examples of the "structural film" movement. Land's films usually involve word play and have been described by Webber as having humor and wit that separates his films from the "boring" world of avant-garde cinema.

His work is also known to parody the experimental and "structural film" movement, as featured in his 1975 film Wide Angle Saxon. His style of filmmaking is also inspired by Bertolt Brecht, educational films, advertising and television, and employs devices used by such in his films to destroy any sense of "reality", as exhibited in What's Wrong With this Picture 1 and Remedial Reading Comprehension.

Shortly after the release of his film On the Marriage Broker Joke as Cited by Sigmund Freud... (1977), Landow rearranged his name to Owen Land. It is an anagram of "Landow N.E.". Land was the model for Robert Heinlein's character Jubal Harshaw, unbeknownst to Heinlein.The book Two Films By Owen Land (Lux, London) has the complete scripts of Landow/Land's films Wide Angle Saxon and On the Marriage Broker Joke as Cited by Sigmund Freud in Wit and its Relation to the Unconscious or Can the Avant-Garde Artist Be Wholed?, as well as footnotes written by Land interpreting the many references and elements of these two films and a filmography by Mark Webber. Released in May 2011, the book Dialogues - a film by Owen Land (Paraguay Press, Paris) has the complete script of his last film, as well as two interviews with the artist and essays written by Philippe Pirotte, Julia Strebelow and Chris Sharp.

Jack A. Charney

Jack Allen Charney (born 26 June 1921) was an architect responsible for a number of iconic buildings in cities in California.

Charney was born in New York City, New York. He worked as a licensed general contractor prior to opening his own architectural firm, Jack Allen Charney, Associates in Los Angeles, California in the 1950s. While working as a contractor, Charney attended the Art Center School where he studied architecture under Rudolph Schindler and Richard Neutra.

Kurt Kren

Kurt Kren (September 20, 1929 - died in Vienna on June 23, 1998) was an Austrian avant-garde filmmaker. He is best known for his involvement with the Vienna Aktionists and the group of films that resulted, although this accounts for only a part of his career, and he later returned to the Structural roots of his third film 3/60: Bäume Im Herbst. Although not a seminal Structural film, 31/75: Asyl is arguably one of the more satisfying films of the movement.

List of art movements

See Art periods for a chronological list.This is a list of art movements in alphabetical order. These terms, helpful for curricula or anthologies, evolved over time to group artists who are often loosely related. Some of these movements were defined by the members themselves, while other terms emerged decades or centuries after the periods in question.

List of modernist poets

This is a list of major poets of the Modernist movement.

Mont Sainte-Victoire (Cézanne)

Mont Sainte-Victoire is a series of oil paintings by the French artist Paul Cézanne.

Paul Sharits

Paul Jeffrey Sharits (February 7, 1943, Denver, Colorado—July 8, 1993, Buffalo, New York) was a visual artist, best known for his work in experimental, or avant-garde filmmaking, particularly what became known as the structural film movement, along with other artists such as Tony Conrad, Hollis Frampton, and Michael Snow.

Paul Sharits' film work primarily focused on installations incorporating endless film loops, multiple projectors, and experimental soundtracks (prominently used in his film Shutter Interface, produced in 1975).

Remedial Reading Comprehension

Remedial Reading Comprehension is an experimental short film by Owen Land, produced in 1970.

Standish Lawder

Standish Dyer Lawder (1936 – 21 June 2014) was an American artist, art historian and inventor, who contributed to the structural film movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Structuralism (disambiguation)

Structuralism is an approach to the human sciences that attempts to analyze a specific field as a complex system of interrelated parts.

Structuralism may also refer to:

Structuralism (architecture), movement in architecture and urban planning in the middle of the 20th century

Structuralism (biology), school of biological thought that deals with the law-like behaviour of the structure of organisms

Structuralism (international relations), studies the impact of world economic structures on the politics of countries

Structuralism (linguistics), theory that a human language is self-contained structure related to other elements which make up its existence

Structuralism (philosophy of mathematics), theory of mathematics as structure

Structuralism (philosophy of science), theory of science, reconstructing empirical theories

Structuralism (psychology), theory with the goal to describe the structure of the mind

Structuralism (sociology), also known as structural functionalism

Structural Marxism, an approach to Marxist philosophy based on structuralism

Structural anthropology, a theory of fundamental components in all cultures, stories and rituals, a so-called "deep grammar"

Structural film, an experimental film movement prominent in the US in the 1960s and which developed into the Structural/materialist films in the UK in the 1970s

Structuralist film theory

Structuralist film theory is a branch of film theory that is rooted in structuralism, itself based on structural linguistics.


T,O,U,C,H,I,N,G is a 12-minute short film directed by Paul Sharits in 1968. It uses many of the strategies characteristic of the structural film movement, including a static frame, flicker effects, flash frames and continual audio and visual repetition. The audio track consists exclusively of the filmmaker uttering the word "destroy" over and over until the word begins to lose its meaning and creates the impression of different combinations of words being spoken.

Unlike many clearly algorithmically-driven films of the structural film movement, T,O,U,C,H,I,N,G does not simply follow a sequence of mathematical transformation, but deploys combinations of audio and visual effects to elicit emotional and psychological responses in viewers.

Tony Conrad

Anthony Schmalz "Tony" Conrad (March 7, 1940 – April 9, 2016) was an American avant-garde video artist, experimental filmmaker, musician, composer, sound artist, teacher, and writer. Active in a variety of media since the early 1960s, he was a pioneer of both structural film and drone music. He performed and collaborated with a wide range of artists over the course of his career, most prominently the 1960s New York experimental music group Theatre of Eternal Music.

Wavelength (1967 film)

Wavelength is a 45 minute film by Canadian experimental filmmaker and artist Michael Snow, known for building his reputation upon publicity of the film. Considered a landmark of avant-garde cinema, it was filmed over one week in December 1966 and edited in 1967, and is an example of what film theorist P. Adams Sitney describes as "structural film", calling Snow "the dean of structural filmmakers."Wavelength is often listed as one of the greatest underground, art house and Canadian films ever made. It was named #85 in the 2001 Village Voice critics' list of the 100 Best Films of the 20th Century. The film has been designated and preserved as a masterwork by the Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada. In a 1969 review of the film published in Artforum, Manny Farber describes Wavelength as "a pure, tough 45 minutes that may become The Birth of a Nation in Underground films, is a straightforward document of a room in which a dozen businesses have lived and gone bankrupt. For all of the film's sophistication (and it is overpowering for its time-space-sound inventions) it is a singularly unpadded, uncomplicated, deadly realistic way to film three walls, a ceiling and a floor... it is probably the most rigorously composed movie in existence."

Avant-garde movements
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