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Getty to Host Screening and Symposium Featuring Harry Smith's Newly Restored Film #18, Mahagonny

Patti Smith Performance Culminates Event

May 23, 2002

LOS ANGELES—On May 30-31, 2002, the Getty Research Institute will host a screening, symposium, and a performance celebrating Harry Smith’s final epic Film #18, Mahagonny, based on the Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht opera Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. Filmmaker, anthropologist, painter, and musicologist Harry Smith (1923-1991) worked obsessively on Mahagonny for over ten years. He described it as a mathematical analysis of Marcel Duchamp’s Large Glass and considered it his magnum opus.

The screening of the newly restored Mahagonny print is slated for Thursday, May 30 at 7 p.m., and the Investigating Mahagonny symposium runs from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Friday, May 31. Both events are free, but reservations are required. Seating is limited. The symposium concludes at 7:30 p.m. with a spoken word and musical performance by Patti Smith. Event reservations and tickets for the performance ($20) are available by calling 310-440-7300 or by visiting the Getty Museum Information Desk. All three events will be held in the Getty Center’s Harold M. Williams Auditorium. (See schedule below for complete information.)

Harry Smith’s cinematic transformation of the caustically satirical Weill/Brecht opera is an allegorical exploration of human needs and desires amid the rituals of daily life in New York City. The film is a four-screen projection collage drawing from a variety of film genres. It includes portraits of avant-garde figures including Patti Smith and Allen Ginsberg, with images of Robert Mapplethorpe installation pieces, New York landmarks, and Smith’s visionary animation. The film is newly preserved by the Harry Smith Archives and Anthology Film Archives, New York.

“The Getty Research Institute is pleased to continue to offer opportunities that introduce the larger public to artists and scholars who transcend boundaries artistically and intellectually,” says Thomas Crow, director of the Getty Research Institute. “The restored film is a triumph, and the Mahagonny events will initiate those new to the work of Harry Smith and satisfy his many existing admirers with new insight into the culminating phase of his amazing career.” The Smith activities are related to the Research Institute’s 2001-2002 scholar theme “Frames of Viewing: Perception, Experience, Judgment.” This, along with the Getty’s April 2001 symposium, Harry Smith: The Avant-Garde in the American Vernacular, continues the Getty Research Institute’s commitment to engaging scholarship on Harry Smith. Both events were organized by Rani Singh, Smith’s former assistant, director of the Harry Smith Archives, and current research associate at the Getty Research Institute.

The symposium will initiate the first scholarly analyses of Smith’s film while focusing on the complicated restoration process. Along with Crow and Singh, panel members will include Gary Indiana, an author and critic; David Joselit, from the University of Calfornia, Irvine; Stephen Hinton, director of the Stanford University music department; restorers Michael Friend of Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Simon Lund and Belazs Nyari from Cineric Labs. Patti Smith will discuss her friendship with Smith and Mapplethorpe, and New York in the 1970s.

Harry Smith, a central figure in the mid-20th-century avant-garde, was a complex artistic figure who made major contributions to the fields of sound recording, independent filmmaking, the visual arts, and ethnographic collecting. Along with Kenneth Anger, Jordan Belson, and Oskar Fischinger, Smith is considered one of America’s leading experimental filmmakers. He would often hand-paint directly on film creating unique, complex compositions that have been interpreted as investigations of conscious and unconscious mental processes. Smith began as a teenager to record Native American songs and rituals. He is best known for his Anthology of American Folk Music, a music collection widely credited with launching the urban folk revival.

Ticket and Reservation Information:
The film screening and symposium are free, but reservations are required. Please call the Getty Center at 310-440-7300. To purchase tickets ($20) for the Patti Smith performance, call 310-440-7300 or stop by the Getty Museum Information Desk.

For additional information regarding Harry Smith visit

The Getty Research Institute Presents:

Screening and Symposium Schedule
All events take place in the Getty Center’s Harold M. Williams Auditorium, 1200 Getty Center Dr., Los Angeles.

Thursday, May 30, 2002, 7:00 p.m.
Film Screening

Harry Smith’s Film #18, Mahagonny
A mathematical analysis of Marcel Duchamp’s Large Glass expressed in terms of the Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht opera Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. (A newly restored, four-projector film work, USA, 1970-80, 16mm, 2 hours, 22 minutes.)

Friday, May 31, 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

9:00-9:15 a.m. Registration

9:15-9:30 a.m. Welcome and Opening Remarks, Thomas Crow, director, Getty Research Institute

Panel One: Mahagonny: The Film

9:30-10:15 a.m. The Road Map to Mahagonny, Rani Singh, research associate, Getty Research Institute

10:15-10:45 a.m. “It doesn’t represent ANYTHING!!!:” Harry Smith and American Avant-Garde Film in the Seventies, Paul Arthur, Montclair College

10:45-11:15 a.m. Blowing Up Harry Smith: Restoring Mahagonny, Simon Lund and Balazs Nyari, Cineric Inc., New York

11:15-11:30 a.m. Mahagonny: Smith’s Spatial Paradigms, Michael Friend, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Los Angeles

11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Respondent: Anne Friedberg, University of California, Irvine, (with Panel One Participants)

12:30-2:00 p.m. BREAK

Panel Two: The Seeds of Mahagonny

2:00-2:30 p.m. Mahagonny as conceived by Brecht, Weill and Smith: Visions of Urbanity, Stephen Hinton, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California

2:30-3:00 p.m. Weimar and 23rd St, Gary Indiana, writer and critic, New York

3:00-3:30 p.m. New York in the Seventies: The Scene, Patti Smith, musician and poet, New York

3:30-4:00 p.m. Split Screens: Duchamp’s Large Glass and Harry Smith’s Mahagonny, David Joselit, University of California, Irvine

4:00-4:20 p.m. BREAK

4:20-5:30 p.m. Panel discussion with conference participants, respondents, and special guests. Moderator: Thomas Crow

5:30-7:00 p.m. BREAK

Friday, May 31, 7:30 p.m.

Patti Smith: Spoken Word and Song

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