Cold Lips like to party. So as well as launching in fashion week in London supporting NOKI at the Subcultural Archives, we created some special poster editions, COLD LIPS III, and dragged them over to New York, for Jeffrey Wengrofsky’s film festival, Secrets of the Deep in downtown Manhattan. (PHOTOGRAPHS BY CRAIG STOKLE)
Here’s what founder of the Secrets short film festival, JEFFREY WENGROFSKY told us. He comes from the punk rock underground of early 1980s New York, and is dedicated to the notion that, in a free society, citizens are cultural producers, not merely consumers.
“Punk taught me that art needn’t be a bore. Five to ten minute films are likely to have more energy than longer films. I wanted to design an event that would have the speed and thrills of the old hardcore shows I used to see at CBGB with eight bands, short sets, and two-minute songs.”
“I believe that higher-order understandings sometimes arrive through seeing an immediate correspondence between a thought and reality, but just as often they develop indirectly, by Freudian suggestion, allusion, and changes in cognition. Films, and art in general, influence how I think, which shapes what I think. Sometimes I am baffled by art when I encounter it, so it runs around my head for a while, tipping over settled thought structures. So, perhaps, films can open up the world by entering our eyes and ears, altering our perception and – presto chango! – the world appears anew with secrets revealed.”
Secrets of the Deep is the fourth instalment of the Secrets series. Ten short films are selected on a specific topic: Secrets of the Heart, Secrets of the Insect World, Secrets of the Intoxicated Life, and the new program on dreams. Secrets of the Deep attracted 415 international submissions.
“A third of our lives is spent sleeping, so dreams are not an incidental part of our existence. Whether understood as a form of foreknowledge, a portal to a metaphysical plane, or a domain of psychological de-sublimation, dreams have rightly been the subject of spiritual speculation, scientific research, and artistic endeavour since the dawning of humankind. Giving dreams their pride of place among human obsessions, SECRETS of the Deep: DREAMS ON FILM exhibits 5 to 10 minute films about dreaming, featuring dreams, or films that are dream-like as a way of investigating a fundamental aspect of our existence. We dream alone, but in the cinema, we share that dream with others. And in an age when we so often watch things alone, the phenomenon of people physically coming together to see and hear the same thing – to go on a cinematic trip together – is precious. As a filmmaker, I am fascinated by the way energy and emotion can be shared and transmitted by people who don’t speak or in any way directly interact. Cinemas are collective thought chambers. Wilhelm Reich and William S.Burroughs got it wrong – not orgone energy, but energy of thought and emotion are of interest here. And the moment we return to this world to think about the experience – well, there are few things more satisfying than dissecting a dream or discussing a film.”
“Dreaming and the cinematic experience also have a good deal in common. They are audio-visual without deploying any other senses: smell, tactile, taste. (The only exception I know of is the Smell-O-Vision of John Waters’ Polyester. He’s always ahead and better than the rest of us, you know.) Films also create a temporary, subjective form of reality that, if we allow it, can be fully immersive – just as real for us as any other. The world we live in seems to be getting worse all the time and changing it seems impossible, for me, at least. In addition to altering perception, art makes for a great refuge. I can think of no more healthy recreation than sneaking off from the world and vacationing in the imaginations of strangers, which is how I view cinema. It is important to return to the physical world and I believe that watching films with others is healthier than watching them by one’s lonesome.
“In 2011, when I first started making films, I hosted a series of salon parties at my apartment – S.H.I.T. in the Parlour – that featured live entertainment (burlesque, magicians, musicians), free booze and other treats, as well as preview screenings of one of my films. Although I had seen my film many times as it was made and edited, seeing it with others – a live audience in the flesh – was altogether different. I could sense where it dipped emotionally as well as where it connected. It revealed secrets about my own art!”
Watch: http://www.humansyndicate.com/domination.html for more.
Jeffrey is putting together an amazing film: Song of the Hiawatha, about the first black White Panther. More on that, and his other films, in coming posts, and a beautiful podcast. It was a pleasure to get to know him, and him tour-guide us…
Cold Lips met Wengrofsky through Jim Sclavunos, who recently put music to one of his short films. Jim, also a New Yorker, by blood, does an ace show on Soho Radio, plays drums for Nick Cave, and everyone else who’s cool in the world…
Wengrofsky invited Gil De Ray and Kirsty Allison (Cold Lips’ editor) to submit. They collaborated for the first time, on a film shot in New Orleans, called Double Play, which received its premiere to a packed house (the event was so full, the doors had to be shut). It will premiere in the UK in due course.
The film festival was a riot of the flavours that created so much of New York’s iconic cultural legend – the rare light of dreamers with nothing to lose, dimmed by the bankers and Hamster-wheel filthy lucre-chasers, banishing creativity (in anything other than countless zeros) to the outer regions of Manhattan, squishing grittiness to the Lower East Side, and the artisanal Etsy-labs of Brooklyn. Ya – NYC is a changed city, and a frightening proposition of what will happen in London. The streets are clean, which is no bad thing, but the NYC of old is dead, beyond rare places such as the Gene Frankel theatre, which hark back to art-first, money-later possibilities.
Staying in the beautiful home of beautiful hosts: Gillian McCain and Jim Marshall, both legends in their own rights, Kirsty and Gil want to thank McCain, a fellow poet, she’s involved in the St Marks Poetry Project, where everyone from Ginsberg to Patti Smith have preached – and writer and editor of PLEASE KILL ME (Cold Lips’ fave music book ever, it’s an oral history of punk, and now fine music site…) – and Jim Hound, DJ, former bar owner, former shifter of all kinds of units – and world class raconteur – it was a more than a pleasure to be welcomed into their boho castle, a last-standing temple to rock n roll, brownstone walls sheltering art dreams, as many of the streets of Chelsea once did, theirs is a rare outpost for rebels, still clinging to the the citadel of anti-culture, like a fading photograph falling in a landslide.