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Raphael Montañez Ortiz: Chopping Up the Classics


Billy Wilder Theater
Dec 8, 2023

Raphael Montañez Ortiz’s film, music and video art represent a missing link in the history of experimental media in the post-WWII era that helped redefine the idea of modern art after Abstract Expressionism. Born in 1934, Ortiz is a key figure of the 1960s international “Destruction in Art” movement, U.S.-based Guerrilla Theater and Latino art (including as founder of El Museo del Barrio). His object-based work is in the permanent collections of major U.S. and European art museums. But Ortiz’s turn to destruction in art started by way of film in the late 1950s with his use of ritual and shamanic approaches to the destruction of 16mm films sold for home viewing. These recycled films are concurrent with similar work by Bruce Conner and other avant-garde filmmakers around the world, but they signal a distinct alternative to traditionally modernist work relying on classical music composition and “diagnostic” editing as a critique of media culture. Ortiz extended his work from ritual destruction to performance-based editing in the 1980s and 1990s through what he called “scratch videos.” His extensive media collection — archived at UCLA — includes footage documenting the emergence of performance, installation art and experimental music in New York City. This two-night program surveys the full scope of his media art since the late 1950s.

Series curated and notes written by Chon Noriega, Distinguished Professor, UCLA School of Theater Film and Television.

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