Opening Day: Baseball in Experimental Film and Video presented with Bowerbird

Wednesday, April 17, 2024 (7:00pm)
University Lutheran, 3637 Chestnut Street

Robert Breer’s BANG

”It’s a paradise of balls and bats” — George Kuchar

What does baseball mean to the experimental filmmaker? In the great taxonomy of American archetypes, the jocks and the artists don’t tend to sit together at the same proverbial table. So it’s unsurprising that although baseball was the most popular American sport from the days of early cinema through at least the Vietnam War and an unquestionable symbol of Americanism, film outside of the mainstream paid little attention to the sport. But it was only a matter of time until filmmakers would begin mining baseball and its iconography to tackle subjects that have always been near and dear to the American avant-garde: nationalism, nostalgia, masculinity, identity, and celebrity.

In honor of the beginning of the baseball season, Opening Day presents five very different films and videos which use baseball as raw material. Pittsburgh-based filmmaker Brady Lewis playfully works with his town’s obsession with the Pirates and much more in a dense collage of references. Robert Breer, one of the legends of hand drawn animation, incorporated his youthful love of baseball into Bang!, a kaleidoscopic hybrid of drawings, animation, film, and video. In Breer’s hands baseball takes a role as a symbol of nostalgia and American boyhood. Sharon Couzin similarly uses baseball as a marker of nostalgia and boyhood but to very different effects. Cousin’s OdilonOdilon looks back at the swirl of cultural and political forces surrounding young Odilon coming of age in World War II. Vanalyne Green’s A Spy in the House that Ruth Built is a quintessential work of 1980s feminist video art, deconstructing the male-dominated sport and desire for their bodies with a confessional edge. With Joe Dimaggio 1, 2, 3, Anne McGuire takes the obsession with the icons Green intellectualizes and turns it pure Id as she stalks and sings to the elderly Hall of Famer around San Francisco. Without any knowledge that McGuire is following him and McGuire’s performative total lack of self-awareness, Joe Dimaggio 1, 2, 3 is the missing link between the earlier generation of videography and the current “weirdo” strain of YouTube and Vine video art.

Bang! / Robert Breer / 1986 / 10 min / 16mm
OdilonOdilon / Sharon Couzin / 1984 / 21 min / 16mm
Quick Opener / Brady Lewis / 1987 / 5 min / 16mm
A Spy in the House that Ruth Built / Vanalyne Green / 1990 / 29 min / Digital
Joe Dimaggio 1, 2, 3 / Anne McGuire / 1991 / 11 min / Digital

Tickets: $8-12 at the door.