Projection and discussion
Piero Heliczer and the Paris Filmmakers Cooperative
All Hallows Show02 Nov 2022
The event is over
This session is dedicated to Piero Heliczer and his work as a filmmaker, but also to the Paris Filmmakers Cooperative which he founded and spearheaded until the late 1970s.
"We can now present films by Dexter Kelly (Jack Smith), Stan Brakhage, Patti Lee Chenis, Piero Heliczer, Andy Warhol, Gerard Malanga, Charles Henri Ford, Kenny Schneider, Shirley Clarke (who nevertheless requested that we return her copy), Erich von Stroheim, Walt Disney, and Naomi Levine. We are expecting copies from one moment to the next of films by Paul Morrissey, Ray Wisneiwski, Jeff Keen, and Willard Maas; Ira Cohen's film will be available when consciousness returns to contemplation, or toward the month of May." — The Paris Filmmakers Cooperative recounted by Piero Heliczer, Filmmakers Newsletter (February 1971)
Artist, poet, publisher, actor and filmmaker, Piero Heliczer (1937-1993) led a nomadic life between Paris, Amsterdam and New York, before settling in the Orne department. A marginal figure, he was at the heart of the history of the American underground and the international counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s. In Paris in the late 1950s, he founded The Dead Language Press with musician Angus MacLise and published his own pieces along with those of Beat Generation poets and writers. Following a spell in England, where he made his first film with filmmaker Jeff Keen (The Autumn Feast, 1961), he moved to New York where he became friends with Jack Smith, Jonas Mekas and Andy Warhol. He thus appeared in Flaming Creatures (Jack Smith, 1963) and Couch (Andy Warhol, 1964), collaborating in turn with Tony Conrad, Gerard Malanga and Mario Montez, among others. Film is one of the forms through which Piero Heliczer established an equally intense and fugitive presence in the world: blending filmed journal, performance and directing with mythological undertones, The Stone Age (ca. 1969–70) and Robin Hood (ca. 1970–71) link the stones of Normandy churches to those of New York buildings, the birth of an infant during the Italian Renaissance and occultist rites.
In the mid-1960s, Heliczer founded the Paris Filmmakers Cooperative – which he described in 1971 as a "not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the highest ideals of cinematographic creation without discrimination of race, colour, religious belief, sex, birth, nationality or artistic competence." The Coop took off in the late 1960s with the acquisition of copies of films from filmmakers, most of whom Heliczer frequented in New York. Projections were organised in Paris, notably in the American Centre, Boulevard Raspail, in Les Friches in the Normandy countryside where Piero owned a house, which was the official address of the PFMC, but also in Germany, Austria and Italy. Projections were often accompanied by poetry readings, even concerts or performances.
Patti Lee Chenis, artist and filmmaker, Heliczer's companion at the time, played an important role in organising PFMC activities. In Yogurt Culture (1970), she combined experimentation with her own drawings of her everyday life over a soundtrack where we can hear a traditional Lithuanian song. Shaman, A Tapestry for Sorcerers (1967) by Storm de Hirsch, is one of the films programmed by Heliczer in PFMC sessions. The mystical dimension of the director and poet's work overlaps with the visionary part of Heliczer's work, notably his poetry. Ira Cohen, a poet, artist and publisher, was close to Heliczer, having collaborated with him on several poetry reviews. Also close to Heliczer's friend, Angus MacLise, Cohen made The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda, to the soundtrack of which Tony Conrad notably contributed.
Piero Heliczer, Stone Age, 1970-1971, film 16mm, colour, sound, 30 min
Patti Lee Chenis, Yogurt Culture, 1970, film 16mm, black and white, sound, 11 min 50 s
Storm de Hirsch, Shaman, A Tapestry for Sorcerers, 1967, film 16mm, colour, sound, 12 min
Ira Cohen, The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda, 1968, film 16mm, colour, sound, 21 min
This session is presented in collaboration with Sophie Vinet, director the Bains-Douches Alençon, and Benjamin Thorel, publisher and art critic, who together edited the volume entitled Piero Heliczer. Poèmes & Documents published by After 8 Books in 2022.
Acknowledgements: MM Serra (The New York Film-Makers’ Cooperative), EYE Filmmuseum (Amsterdam)
19h - 21h