Ken Jacobs (New York, 1933) is a central figure in post-war experimental cinema. In 1966, after becoming an integral part of legendary collectives like the NY Film-Makers’ Cooperative, he and his wife Flo founded one of the first open-to-all filmmaking studio, The Millennium Film Workshop. Driven by an abiding interest in the act of viewing and the spectator’s relationship with the image, in 1969 Jacobs produced Tom, Tom the Piper's Son, a two-hour film based on a ten-minute short from 1905. In the fall of 1969, he created with filmmaker Larry Gottheim a Cinema Department focused on avant-garde practice at the State University of New York at Binghamton, where he taught for over 30 years. After his fascination with the fact of screen-flatness in Tom, Tom, an abiding interest in illusionary depth entered his work. In the mid-1970s, the artist began to develop the “Eternalism”. With an arrangement of two 16mm stop-motion projectors, he created active illusions in three-dimensions via rapid juxtapositions of closely related film-frames, held onscreen for sometimes minutes at a time. In 2000, The Nervous Magic Lantern took over from The Nervous System as a performance device and he moved from film to digital production.
The Guests (2013) is among Jacobs’s most recent creations, and has been hailed by critics as one of his masterpieces. The foundation of this work is one of the first films made by the Lumière brothers, showing wedding guests filing into a church in late 19th-century Paris. Jacobs radically slows down the passage of individual frames, doubles the image onscreen with a single frame difference in sequence, periodically alternating which eye sees the advance-frame. When viewed with 3D glasses, as the wedding guests shift left and right, the combinations form three-dimensional images in the spectator’s mind, both lifelike and shockingly unreal. While viewers busily asses changes, the drawn-out pace of the action of an historic and inaccessible place elevates the Lumière’s original footage to a plane beyond the document, turning it into a direct experience of the maddening mystery of the image.
Exhibition organized by the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao