Wonderful Trick: Illusion of Space in Depth in Films by Ken and Flo Jacobs

Wonderful Trick: Illusion of Space in Depth in Films by Ken and Flo Jacobs

Ken and Flo Jacobs, photographed by Mike Snow (1968).

Wonderful Trick: Illusion of Space in Depth in Films by Ken and Flo Jacobs

Admission starts at $5

May 5, 2022, 7:30–10pm
172 Classon Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11205

Join us at e-flux Screening Room on Thursday, May 5 at 7:30 pm for Wonderful Trick: Illusion of Space in Depth in Films by Ken and Flo Jacobs, a screening of works by Ken and Flo Jacobs accompanied by a discussion with the filmmakers.

Tickets are available here.

“Eisenstein said the power of film was to be found between shots. Peter Kubelka seeks it between film frames. I want to get between the eyes, contest the separate halves of the brain. A whole new play of appearances is possible here,” Ken Jacobs writes describing his stroboscopic filmmaking.

This screening celebrates Ken and Flo Jacobs’ persistent fascination with the illusion of space in depth and movement in time inherent to the production and perception of moving images. Inspired by the history of abstract painting and captivated by nineteenth-century photography and early cinema, Ken Jacobs has been investigating the technology of stereoscopic images and their influence on the nervous system of spectators for more than five decades. Embracing various forms of film exhibition—from standard screenings to expanded cinema performances—in the 1950s and ’60s, Jacobs, to paraphrase Amy Taubin, rose from the New York underground to the New York avant-garde becoming a central figure in American experimental film history and an influence for many generations to come. Always adapting new technologies to suit his critique of the aesthetic, ideological, and technological limits that define cinema and the cinematic apparatus itself, Jacobs embraced digital filmmaking in the 1990s, remaining a prolific creator who continues to test the limits and potentials of film with the application of what he calls “eternalism technique” that allows him to bridge the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries.

The program at the e-flux Screening Room will begin with Orchard Street (1955), a poignant portrait of the bustling commercial district on Orchard Street in Lower East Side Manhattan that will be followed by Street Vendor (2012), its 3D match made fifty-seven years later. The screening will also showcase Jacobs’ digital explorations of nineteenth-century stereographic images, a selection of his recent three-dimensional and flicker experiments, and the New York premiere of EAT THE RICH Aligning Perspectives And Other Challenges To Viewers (2022). After the screening a conversation with Ken and Flo Jacobs will be held.


WARNING: All the works in this program, except for Orchard Street, contain throbbing light and should not be viewed by individuals with epilepsy or seizure disorders.

Orchard Street (1955, 27 minutes) 
Released from two years in the Coast Guard (the draft was on), my mustering out pay was enough to buy a 16mm movie camera. I had a screenplay for a movie with actors but first needed some experience, a track record, and began with a documentary. Economics determined a physically contained subject so I moved around the corner of the Lower East Side’s Orchard Street and haunted the few blocks of bargain stores for a summer. No one objected and the young lady you see me kissing on the street worked in one of the stores. Couldn’t sell the film, though, and it never received a film score. The big movie the short was to lead to (a modern-day Don Quixote) never happened and instead I went ahead with the 7-hour 16mm Star Spangled to Death, my tribute to Von Stroheim’s Greed. (Ken Jacobs)

Street Vendor (2012, 6 minutes)
The piece documents a New York street vendor, taking a short interaction between the vendor and a customer and protracting it into a strobing, throbbing, pulsing meditation on movement and light. Reminiscent of a sequence in Orchard Street, it focuses on just one vendor, abstracting its movement and yet preserving it in extraordinary detail, taking its familiar presence to its aesthetic extreme. (Ken Jacobs)

We Are Charming (2007, 1 minutes)
An early stereo-photo of dancing girls undergoes the eternalism technique, my patented system for creating jittering 3D events seen with two eyes or one. (Ken Jacobs)

The Surging Sea of Humanity (2006, 10 minutes) 
Antique stereo-photo activated; original title. A crowd of people ebb and flow. The eternalism technique remains irresistible to me, determining possibly all my work up to the present. (Ken Jacobs)

Capitalism: Child Labor (2006, 14 minutes)
Promotional 18th century stereo-photo proudly presenting efficient factory organization.  Unnoticed is that the machines are being “manned” by children. (Ken Jacobs)

A Loft (2010, 16 minutes)  
Our downtown NY loft home for many decades lends itself to dance. And why not?  Nailed and plastered, objects held by gravity, the recording camera does the work and the eternalism helps. (Ken Jacobs)

Improvised selections of new short works by Ken and Flo Jacobs (approx. 20 minutes) 
Produced with the assistance of either Nisi Jacobs or/and Antoine Catala. Often with the assistance pulling me along. (Ken Jacobs)

EAT THE RICH Aligning Perspectives And Other Challenges To Viewers (2022, 10 minutes)
My 3D Fujifilm camera travels with me, always ready to snap. In this very recent work, assistant Victor Timovy and I whip the images on to do things impossible in life. (Ken Jacobs)

For more information, contact program@e-flux.com.

Film, Avant-Garde
Experimental Film, USA

Ken Jacobs is a key figure in the history of American avant-garde cinema. In the mid-1950s, Jacobs studied painting under Hans Hofmann, one of the founders of Abstract Expressionism, and, at the same time, he began making films, eventually becoming a major voice of American Underground Film and a member of the New American Cinema. Jacobs’ films explore the mechanics of the moving image and the act of viewing itself. He investigates the cinematic experience in its entirety, from production to projection. Whether undertaking archaeological journeys to the dawn of cinema, scrutinizing the interstices of new digital technologies, or exploring new opportunities for film performance with his Nervous Magic Lantern, Jacobs’ work continues drawing power from the mysteries of human vision to reveal the mechanics of illusion of screen images and their spectral implications and socio-political connotations. Along with over fifty film and video works, he has created an array of shadow plays, three-dimensional films, installations, and magic lantern and film performances that have transformed how we look at and think about moving-image art. The Museum of The Moving Image hosted a full retrospective of Jacobs’ work in 1989, The New York Museum Of Modern Art held a partial retrospective in 1996, as did The American House in Paris in 1994 and the Arsenal Theater in Berlin in 1986. He has also performed in Japan, at the Louvre in Paris, the Getty Center in Los Angeles, among many other institutions. Jacobs’ honors include the Maya Deren Award of The American Film Institute, the Guggenheim Award, and a special Rockefeller Foundation grant. His works are part of the permanent collections at MoMA and the Whitney, and have been celebrated in Europe and the US.

Flo Jacobs is a producer, actress, and director, known for films Ulysses in the Subway (2017, with Paul Kaiser and Paul Mark Downie), Momma’s Man (2008), and Nobody Needs to Know (2003). Collaborating with Ken Jacobs, Flo produced many of his films and has been involved in important avant-garde film projects, including Millennium Film Workshop which she and Ken founded in 1966.

RSVP for Wonderful Trick: Illusion of Space in Depth in Films by Ken…

Thank you for your RSVP.

will be in touch.


e-flux announcements are emailed press releases for art exhibitions from all over the world.

Agenda delivers news from galleries, art spaces, and publications, while Criticism publishes reviews of exhibitions and books.

Architecture announcements cover current architecture and design projects, symposia, exhibitions, and publications from all over the world.

Film announcements are newsletters about screenings, film festivals, and exhibitions of moving image.

Education announces academic employment opportunities, calls for applications, symposia, publications, exhibitions, and educational programs.

Sign up to receive information about events organized by e-flux at e-flux Screening Room, Bar Laika, or elsewhere.

I have read e-flux’s privacy policy and agree that e-flux may send me announcements to the email address entered above and that my data will be processed for this purpose in accordance with e-flux’s privacy policy*

Thank you for your interest in e-flux. Check your inbox to confirm your subscription.