Jerry Tartaglia

Escape From Rented Island: The Lost Paradise of Jack Smith
2017

21.2. 21:30 OV Akademie der Künste
24.2. 13:00 OV Arsenal 1

88 min. English.

In his essay film, Jerry Tartaglia, longtime archivist and restorer of the film estate of queer New York underground, experimental film, and performance legend Jack Smith, deals less with Smith’s life than with his work, analyzing Smith’s aesthetic idiosyncrasies in 21 thematic chapters.
Escape From Rented Island: The Lost Paradise of Jack Smith is a film essay about the artist’s work, rather than a documentary about his life. Therefore, it does not present a rational, linear, and detached explanation of his work. Instead, it asks the viewer to sympathetically experience the aesthetic choices behind the work of Jack Smith. This strategy that I have chosen creates a challenge for the viewer, particularly those who are reliant upon external commentary or non-diegetic material in the documentary film form; I have no apology to offer those who cannot bear the unmediated vision of Jack Smith; only an invitation to join him in his lost paradise.” (Jerry Tartaglia)

Jerry Tartaglia, born in 1950 in Brooklyn, USA, studied at Albright College, 1968 – 1972. His films have been screened around the world at museums and film festivals. Since 1993 he restored the complete body of film work by the late Jack Smith. Tartaglia teaches cinema, writing, and media production.

A Viewers’ Guide to ESCAPE FROM RENTED ISLAND: THE LOST PARADISE OF JACK SMITH

I call it a “non-documentary film,” but ESCAPE FROM RENTED ISLAND: THE LOST PARADISE OF JACK SMITH, is really a film essay that examines the work rather than the life of Jack Smith. The film tells nothing about his birth in Ohio in 1936, nor his life in Texas, Los Angeles, and New York, and not a thing about his death from A.I.D.S.- related disease in 1989. There are no details about the hundreds of artists who claim a creative connection to him. Not a single self-professed authority spends screen time waxing confidently on their personal involvement with him. No mention of Andy Warhol is made in the film, though Warhol owes much to the original aesthetic of Jack Smith.  The customary name dropping that occurs in documentary films about artists is not to be found there.

For more than twenty years I worked on restoring, preserving, and exhibiting the film legacy of Jack Smith. With the support of Jack’s friends, of The Plaster Foundation, and of The Gladstone Gallery, Smith’s films are now available for future generations.
In 2015, having completed that work, I turned my attention to creating a film essay that consists of twenty-one short illustrations of Smith’s aesthetic and political principles including capitalism, glitter, performance, chance, boredom, thievery, injustice, and Maria Montez.

Jack Smith left behind a cache of reel-to-reel magnetic tape audio recordings that he made in the 1970s, ‘80s, and earlier, in which he reveals much about his ideas of artmaking, cinema, politics, and life. Some of the recordings are solo readings of his published writings while others are documentations of his “live film” performances. Some are recordings that document rehearsals for his films and others are impromptu recitations on a theme.

I’ve culled the most daring and engaging of these recordings and paired them with images from his films and photography that exemplify or illustrate his ideas.  The unique feature of the film is that there are no “talking head” interviews with anyone.  The only spokesperson for Jack Smith is Jack himself! This strategy that I have chosen creates a challenge for the viewer, particularly those who are reliant upon external commentary or non-diegetic material in the documentary film form. I have no apology to those who cannot bear the unmediated vision of Jack Smith.

(Jerry Tartaglia)

Production Jerry Tartaglia. Production company Jerry Tartaglia (Oley, USA). Director Jerry Tartaglia. With Jack Smith, Mario Montez, Beverly Grant, Tony Conrad, Agosto Machado, Francis Francine, Irving Rosenthal, Tally Brown, Mary Waronov, Tiny Tim.

Films

1988: A.I.D.S.C.R.E.A.M. (6 min.). 1989: Fin de Siecle (9 min.), Ecce Homo (7 min.). 1990: Remembrance (5 min.), Final Solutions (10 min.). 1991: Holy Mary (5 min.), 1969 (18 min.). 1993: Interpretations of Dreams (15 min.). 1995: See For Yourself (17 min.). 1998: Amnesia (7 min.). 2005: Via Dolorosa (7 min.). 2006: Sede Vacante (4 min.). 2008: Is What Was (22 min.). 2009: The Mystery School (23 min.). 2011: Prologue (5 min.), The Projectionist (30 min.). 2013: A Short History of the Future (19 min.). 2017: Escape From Rented Island: The Lost Paradise of Jack Smith.

Photo: © Jerry Tartaglia