Summer 2009

– Summer 2009

Contextual Essays


Events, Works, Exhibitions

Against the Archive: Raphael Montañez Ortiz’s Destructivist Cinema

Chon A. Noriega

Tags: Hal Foster, Michel Foucault

Raphael Montanez Ortiz, 'Cowboy' and 'Indian' Film, 1957–58, black-and-white film with sound, 2min, still frames. Courtesy of Archives of Raphael Montanez Ortiz

Raphael Montanez Ortiz, 'Cowboy' and 'Indian' Film, 1957–58, black-and-white film with sound, 2min, still frames. Courtesy of Archives of Raphael Montanez Ortiz

In the late 1950s, Raphael Montañez Ortiz, then painting in an Abstract Expressionist style, picked up a wet paintbrush from a stack of paper towels, only to have the brush pull up several layers of the paper, leaving behind an almost sculptural artefact with paint soaked through the towel.1 Though Ortiz had learnt how to create art by adding layers of paint to a canvas, he found in this chance destruction of a pre-existing object something not conceived of as art per se, but a more radical and personal act. This accident shifted his thinking about art from additive to subtractive, from making to un-making, from creation to destruction. Soon he turned from traditional easel painting to what he called 'archaeological finds', in which he peeled away the outer layers of man-made domestic objects such as mattresses, chairs and sofas. In a similar vein, Ortiz also destroyed pianos and film reels, identifying these actions as a new 'destructivist' form of musical concert and cinema.2 His goal was not, pace archaeology proper, to retrieve a buried object from the accumulated dirt of history, but rather to tear into that object and thereby release something hidden within its very making. In this sense, his work is not so much archaeological, nor even archival, as it is against the archive.

Born in 1934, Ortiz grew up in a working-class environment in New York during the Great Depression, World War II and the Korean War. But if he was deeply involved in and impacted by these events, his development as an artist was equally oriented toward the ascendant art world of New York. Since the late 1950s, Ortiz has contributed to international art movements centred on performance, installation, participation and the moving image. Ortiz produced recycled films in 1958, the same year that Bruce Conner is credited with establishing the genre (after earlier examples by Joseph Cornell and others) and, as a film-maker, he represents a parallel development alongside established or canonical movements within the American avant-garde. Today, however, he is primarily known within the context of Latino art; his involvement in late modern film and art is less noted, despite his rather extensive involvement in the New York and international art world during the late 1950s to the mid-60s.3

Before continuing with Ortiz, I want to stop and pose a question that would be germane within the context of this essay's focus on the archive: what happens when we frame the critical discussion of an artist such as Ortiz, who encompasses the histories of both American avant-garde and ethnic art, within the rhetoric of 'lost', 'ignored' or 'forgotten' instances that can be recovered and assimilated into the canon? Up to now that is how I have proceeded, and it is unclear how else I could proceed: here is my object of study; it has been outside the canon and the archive (conceived of as a repository and as a system of remembrance); and I will now introduce it into critical discourse and institutional practice. I call this approach the 'orphan argument', and in its formal structures it mirrors Michel Foucault's repressive hypothesis, wherein he describes a society 'which speaks verbosely of its own silence, takes great pains to relate in detail the things it does not say, denounces the powers it exercises, and promises to liberate itself from the very laws that have made it function'.4 I will elaborate on the orphan argument shortly, but first I want to note a countervailing and less discussed tendency within historiography: destruction. One can detect this tendency in the Foucault quotation itself - in order to be liberated, society must in effect destroy the laws that have made it function. Such destruction then becomes the precondition for actualising the utopian impulse of finding the lost, attending to the ignored, saying the unsaid or assimilating the different - the utopian impulse itself is grounded in a repeated discourse about absence, a structuring absence. In other words, there is the revolution (which can be conceived only in terms of destruction) and then there is what we say when walking through the door (an action which consecrates the status quo around its exclusions, even as access is granted).

As might now be apparent, I am trying to bring together two critical strands: on the one hand, philosophical ruminations on historiography and the archive, which place death and destruction at the core of the historical project (Michel de Certeau, Jacques Derrida); and, on the other hand, critical works on minority discourses, which find a comparable paradox in the dynamic between exclusion and inclusion, in which the one determines the other. But I am also trying to outline two approaches, one grounded in expanding the archive, the other in being against it. I do not argue that one approach is better than the other; in some ways the project of writing history bears traces of both. But I do want to focus some attention on the latter approach as it is engaged by US minority artists. In the remainder of this essay, I will outline the orphan argument, consider an example of destruction in film-cum-art history, and then end with a brief consideration of 'archival art' vis-à-vis Ortiz's own artistic practice of destructivist cinema.


Following the US National Film Preservation Act of 1992, as Emily Cohen notes in her essay 'The Orphanista Manifesto: Orphan Films and the Politics of Reproduction' (2007), an 'orphan is now considered any film abandoned by its owner or creator'. 5 The term has entered preservation practice on an international level, and one can find references to film preservationists as 'orphanistas' and film archives as 'orphanages'. 6 But it is useful to step back from this peculiar enthusiasm and consider a simple fact: film history depends upon the archive, and the archive is for the most part oriented toward the entertainment industry. Indeed, among moving-image archivists, it is specifically the titles produced outside the film industry that are now identified as 'orphan' films, and since the 1990s there has been a call for moving-image archives to adopt this work. With respect to the United States, before this concept emerged, all films were implicitly orphaned, since Hollywood itself saw little reason to preserve older titles - that is, until the arrival of secondary markets by way of home video, cable, DVD and the Internet. The term, then, is a bit of a mea culpa, acknowledging the corporate orientation of archive acquisition policies for film in the US, but it also imposes a melodramatic pathos on previously excluded works. In other words, nonindustry films enter the archive as orphans, and thus the care these films receive is coded as supplemental to the day-to-day operations of the archive itself, which remains oriented toward the legitimate offspring of industry cinema - what we typically mean when we say 'national cinema'.7These excluded materials are by their nature orphaned with respect to corporate capitalism and archiving institutions, but not with respect to the community and social or aesthetic movements within which they were made, contexts that can be lost as easily as the films themselves. In this way, minority avant-garde artists often become, in the apt phrase of Chicano artist Harry Gamboa, Jr, 'orphans of Modernism'.8


If archival and scholarly efforts are attempting to expand the archive through the orphan metaphor, there is a counterbalancing gesture toward destruction also at work. I draw my example from David E. James's Allegories of Cinema: American Film in the Sixties (1989) - a major historical study and theoretical reframing of American avant-garde film that at once opens up a space for, and is silent about, Ortiz. About Structural film-makers, James writes: 'In order to save film, they had to destroy it.'9 For James, Structural film - essentially, film about the medium of film, a movement not unlike Minimalism in visual art - represented an 'apotheosis of Modernist aestheticism', so much so that 'Structural film thus finally justified the ideology of an autonomous avant-garde by generating a totalised antithesis to Hollywood'.10
In writing that the Structural film-makers had to destroy film in order to save it, James refers to the famous account by American journalist Peter Arnett, who, reporting on the Vietnam War on 7 February 1968, quoted an unnamed US military officer as saying of the Bên Tre village: 'it became necessary to destroy the town to save it'.11 The irony here is wicked and incisive. James situates the 'great monuments' of Structural film between 1968 and 1974 - that is, within the last years of the Vietnam War, a period characterised by 'Bên Tre logic' and Arnett's unvarnished reportage.12 In doing so, he equates Structural film-makers with military officers, and Modernist aestheticism with counter-insurgency. A tour de force, James's Allegories of Cinema argues not only for the significance of social contestation through alternative film practices, but also for the centrality of Hollywood (or cinema as commodity production) within this or any other film history, the necessity of considering other cultural and social contexts (such as the counterculture and the art world), and the inevitable complicity between alternative practices and the culture industry under corporate liberalism.13
I dwell on James's argument because it manifests a dialectic between destruction and the archive that underlies our accepted film and art histories, and also frames the writing of them. Consider James's own conclusion:

The 1960s alternative cinemas were built amid the ruins of an industry, but the unprecedented social maturity they brought to film was its autumnal ripeness. When we look back, it is not only to specific practices of film that have been lost, but to an equally vanquished social presence for the medium as a whole. The end of cinema, at least for the West, came much more quickly than expected, even by those who desired it most.14

The syntactical ambiguity of the last sentence is telling: did the end come quickly for those who most desired cinema, or for those who most desired its end? I suspect both.


Here is where I enter the picture, as it were, along with my object of study: Raphael Montañez Ortiz. I am looking back at a book published by James in 1989, and his analysis of film made in the 1960s, both now clearly historical periods during which film, cinema studies and the West all seemed more easily defined, destroyed and thereby defended - a process historian Richard Slotkin calls a 'regeneration through violence' in Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America (1992), his monumental study of the Western.15 Yes, I am being nostalgic for the time when we could destroy cinema in order to save cinema studies - all in the name of art.16 Or as de Certeau argues more generally in The Writing of History (1975), 'it is an odd procedure that posits death, a breakage everywhere reiterated in discourse, and that yet denies loss by appropriating to the present the privilege of recapitulating the past as a form of knowledge'. 17

So perhaps it is fitting that I find myself needing to destroy James's Allegories of Cinema in order to save it, an act motivated in part by the fact that the book is now out of print, and in part by the profound impact this book has had on my own research - an impact that indirectly led me to Ortiz's work, among other things. I need to destroy it in order to open up some of the book's seamless hermeneutics, which establish a synthesis between destruction and the archive in the same way as noted by de Certeau. I would like to introduce two aspects into this discussion: the presence of racial minorities within the avant-garde (and film and art history, more generally), and a related tendency for these artists to be, like Ortiz, working 'against the archive'. Racial minorities dofigure in film history, but often in ways that structure their absence. For James, racial and ethnic minorities are confiated with the working class, and the ostensible absence of 'ethnic cinema' in the 1960s is described as 'an aspect of the absence of a working-class cinema'.18 This argument is made in a chapter on 'Political Film/Radical Cinema', and, by and large, race does not factor into the discussion of more 'aesthetic' film movements. James is by no means alone in such an elision. Indeed, the tendency for minority artists to work 'against the archive' emerges out of this overdetermined presence through absence, wherein racial minorities (and also, of course, women) emerge only after the history of their moment has been told. Their presence can redeem or damn that history, but, importantly, in either case it confirms exclusion as a fact of the history itself - a fact grounded in the archive.19
The reason I am drawn to Ortiz is that his film practice can be seen within the framework of underground and Structural film with which it is contemporaneous. His broad aesthetic practice also includes performance, installation, photography, sculpture and painting. At the same time, however, Ortiz did not limit his expressions to the art world proper. From the start, he engaged archaeological and spiritual dimensions of Latino, indigenous and non-Western cultures - an aspect not readily assimilated into the historiography of late Modernism.20 In 1969, he founded the first US Latino art museum, El Museo del Barrio, in New York City.21 But if Ortiz moved fluidly between two worlds, as it were, the writing of art history did not, so his artistic production fell between two categories that became mutually exclusive after 1968 - the avant-garde and ethnic art. This categorical separation can be detected, for example, in Hal Foster's distinction between a 'politics of the signifier' and a 'politics of the signified' with respect to the so-called multiculturalism of the 1993 Whitney Biennial.22 Setting aside the problems of this distinction - namely, that it establishes an either/or contrast between the truly 'political' artists who focused on language, and the mostly 'minority' artists who focused on the things being signified, thereby deflecting visual analysis of the latter - what bears special emphasis here is that Ortiz challenged both the art world and his own community of origin, not just the apparently empty space between the two (or between a politics of the signifier and a politics of the signified, for that matter). He produced work that stood in counterpoint to the cultural nationalist articulations of a Puerto Rican art practice grounded in identity, difference and oppositionality. Indeed, Ortiz's own work did not quite fit within the aesthetic framework and exhibition practice of the museum he founded; and, in fact, within three years of its opening, a communitybased coalition assumed control of the museum and removed him as director.

Nevertheless, Ortiz produced work informed by, and contributing to, the Puerto Rican social protest movements of the 1960s and 70s. 23 This participation included the destruction - or what he now calls a 'deconstruction' - of the archive, and in particular the cinematic archive that is Hollywood. He understood Hollywood both as a corpus that has been preserved and made endlessly accessible (through television, DVD and the Internet, as well as through a broader film culture), but also, in the Foucauldian sense, as 'the law of what can be said'.24 His work, in contrast, represents an insistent structuring of what cannot be said, of that which is outside what Foucault calls the historical a priori of the archive, and that which achieves 'enunciability' only when it destroys the archive. I will give brief examples from Ortiz's recycled cinema.


Ortiz's recycled films, produced between 1956 and 1958, present a significant challenge to the history of avant-garde film, especially insofar as Ortiz worked from radically alternative premises about visionary film culture. At the time, he had dropped out of the Pratt Institute in New York and was exploring the Yaqui ancestry of his grandfather through Peyote rituals. Ortiz decided to use ritual sacrifice to 'redeem the indigenous wound' perpetrated by the West.25 Using a tomahawk, he hacked at 16mm prints of films, placed the fragments in a medicine bag, then shook the bag while issuing a war chant. When he felt the evil had been released, Ortiz randomly pulled out pieces and spliced them together, irrespective of their orientation, a process he also employed with audio-tape recordings. Two such films from 1958 are 'Cowboy' and 'Indian' Film, which recycles Anthony Mann's Winchester '73 (1950), and Newsreel, which recycles a Castle Films newsreel featuring the Pope blessing a crowd, the Nuremberg trials and an atomic bomb explosion in the Pacific. In these films, the audiovisual integrity and continuity of the shots is destroyed, replaced by a random sequence of image and sound fragments that constitute a détournement of the original films, as well as of the genre expectations for each (Western, newsreel). On occasions this produces ironic montage, as when the Pope blesses a mushroom cloud in Newsreel, but such associations are random by-products of a more encompassing destructivist approach. Satire or parody is not the objective; rather Ortiz attempts to transmute the destroyed text into a new text. These films were produced the same year as Bruce Conner's A Movie (1958), a work that, according to James, engages in a 'morphemic analysis of the grammar of Hollywood film' and serves as a touchstone for recycled cinema.26 Indeed, according to film historian Bruce Jenkins, 'Conner would almost single-handedly redirect the materialist perspectives of late Modernism onto cinema'.27 In contrast, Ortiz sought a more thoroughgoing destruction/redemption of the original text than was available through Conner's use of irony and parody, both modes of critique that require a coherent, stable source. This is perhaps nowhere more evident than in their respective use of sound: Conner - as with other avant-garde artists of this period - juxtaposes carefully re-edited shots with complete soundtracks or songs that establish stable parameters for irony; Ortiz violently fractures both sound and image.
Ortiz did not work in the moving image again for nearly three decades, though he did produce video documentation of his performances. In the early 1980s he wrote several manifestos on the use of the computer in art.28 Then, between 1985 and 1996, he produced approximately fifty works he called 'computer-laser-videos'. As with his earlier recycled films, there was a performative aspect to the construction of these videos. But rather than use film as a material object to be transformed through destruction, Ortiz here engaged in the digital deconstruction of excerpts from Hollywood films using a real-time editing process. He worked with short passages of Hollywood films on laserdisc (one to ten seconds each), manipulating these through a computer programme and joysticks that allowed him to advance and reverse at different speeds, as slow as one frame at a time, while watching them on a monitor. A wave-form generator further modified the sound during this process, creating a driving background rhythm while also fracturing words into phonemes for a free association that sometimes suggests new words or phrases. This opened up a space between these phonemes as signifiers and their arbitrary connection with a signified, thereby shifting attention from signification to sound itself and its relation to movement. Ortiz would work through a passage repeatedly for as long as six months, until he was satisfied with a 'performance' that he then transferred to video. The finished pieces range in length from three to twenty-six minutes. Ortiz describes the overall effect as a 'holographic' space within the Hollywood text, yet outside the familiar perceptual mode and linear structure of mass media.29

In The Kiss (1985), for example, he explores a cliché of classical Hollywood narrative, the first kiss that signals the movement toward marriage and narrative closure. The source is Body and Soul (1947), a classic boxing film in which the troubled protagonist falls in love with a painter and marries her. The scene of the kiss takes place at the front door of the painter's apartment, where she both initiates and stops the embrace, shutting the door on the boxer and returning him to the street. Ortiz's video extends the seven-second kiss to six minutes, resulting in what film historian Scott MacDonald calls a 'spasm' that transforms the implied, then repressed gesture of the kiss into a 'virtual act of intercourse'.30 MacDonald's close reading shows how the video draws out the historical context within which the original film was produced, including censorship codes and post-War sexual ideology. In the end, for MacDonald, The Kiss becomes a dual allegory of the painter's sexual liberation and of Ortiz's own evolution from 'slum kid' (like the boxer) to artist (like the painter). Other scholars of found footage or recycled films also point to how such films engage something on the order of a cinematic unconscious from which repressed materials can be revealed. As film scholar Michael Zyrd argues, 'Found footage film-makers mine the unconscious of film footage, whether it be the psychosexual unconscious that [Martin] Arnold exposes, or the political unconscious uncovered by film-makers like Emile de Antonio and Bruce Conner'.31 Arnold, an Austrian film-maker working in a similar mode as Ortiz, elaborates on this point with respect to his own work:

The cinema of Hollywood is a cinema of exclusion, reduction and denial, a cinema of repression. There is always something behind that which is being represented, which was not represented. And it is exactly that that is most interesting to consider. 32

In the video, the kiss is framed by a brief shot of a street scene taken from elsewhere in the film, playing up the gendered contrast between public and private. While I have focused on those films of Ortiz's that draw from a single-source passage, he also works with composite passages edited together from two or more films, as in Kiss Number Also(1994), which juxtaposes scenes from Against All Flags (1952) and Child's Play (1988). Ortiz, like Arnold, makes reference to the unconscious - although he tends to combine Freud and Jung by making the unconscious at once psychosexual, political and archetypal.33 In his 1984 manifesto on 'Computer-Laser-Video', Ortiz writes:

disassembling and reassembling the frame structure from its original seconds of an event, to however many minutes of that event are necessary to reveal its submerged secret, its concealed crime, as in Pushann Pushann, or sexual violence, as in Beach Umbrella, or outrageous eroticism, as in Back Back Back Back, or alienation and anger, as in the work entitled You Bust Your Bunns.34

While the overall psychoanalytic approach to these critics and artists is a compelling one, it proceeds from an archaeological metaphor for the unconscious (and the film image as an unconscious) - as a place in which material is repressed and from which it can be revealed, uncovered or liberated in the manner of Foucault's repressive hypothesis. In the case of Ortiz, as noted earlier, the archaeological metaphor does not quite hold; what he is attempting to 'release' is not a buried monad or signifying artefact but rather something about the process of making itself that can only be released through the object's destruction. Thus The Kiss is less concerned with liberation within the diegesis or with an allegorical reading of the artist as a young white woman; instead, it asks how cinema represents sexuality according to an economy of liberation/ repression in order to symbolically resolve social contradictions. The fact that Ortiz makes the scene circular elides the very narrative material that the kiss is supposed to structure and regulate - sort of Structural film meets feminist critique. In The Kiss you get the quintessence of couple formation, a pure Hollywood trope, wherein the kiss becomes an end in itself. Even so, the kiss continues to serve as the mediation point between public and private, outside and inside, male and female, but it leads nowhere else than its own repetition through a 'spasm' that is more violent and ritualistic than erotic and individualistic.

It is Ortiz's emphasis on violence and ritual - as opposed to critique and analysis - that gives a different tenor to his work's deconstructive process. He is not concerned with the possibilities for identification (through star auras, subtexts and resistant readings), critical distance or 'the melancholy or nostalgia for a cinema that is forever lost'.35 He seeks redemption, not liberation; his art unmakes rather than uncovers. Here it is important to note that his argument is not necessarily in the film, as is often the case with Conner and Arnold (as summarised by Zyrd above), but in the production process as well. Tellingly, while Arnold produces recycled cinema in 16mm and 35mm for theatrical exhibition (that is, in the same format as the original Hollywood source), Ortiz deconstructs the original works through a computer-based performance that is then output to video (and now DVD). In this regard, Ortiz is oriented quite differently toward the film genre - that is, he is oriented against the cinema-as-archive.

In 'An Archival Impulse' (2004), Hal Foster writes about an interest in archival strategies that he saw as prevalent in art at the time.36 This art draws upon as well as produces archives, presenting historical information within the logic of, in Foster's words, a 'will to connect'.37 As he explains, 'for these artists a subversive allegorical fragmentation can no longer be confidently posed against an authoritative symbolic totality (whether associated with aesthetic autonomy, formalist hegemony, modernist canonicity or masculine domination)'.38 In this regard, Foster finds this recent artwork 'more "institutive" than "destructive", more "legislative" than "transgressive"', and thereby marks a distinction from the repetition-compulsion and death drive associated with Derrida's 'archive fever', wherein 'The archive always works, and a priori, against Foster's formulation would seem to include Bruce Conner's A Movie (1958) as an example of an earlier allegorical fragmentation posed against the 'symbolic totality' of classical Hollywood cinema, contrasted here with contemporary artists' 'will to connect' in the absence of master narratives. What is missing, then, is the destructive impulse that has been posed not against, but within, the various totalities Foster names 'aesthetic autonomy, formalist hegemony, modernist canonicity or masculine domination'. itself'.39 In a footnote, Foster does acknowledge that such destruction can sometimes be sensed in archival art, a curious reframing of Derrida's deconstructive figuration of the archive. If Derrida offers a philosophical reflection on archival desire, the death drive and epistemology, Foster reduces this reflection to a heuristic that can be added to one's critical sensibility in viewing/sensing art objects. Even so, Foster re-inscribes something on the order of a deconstructive archive fever within his own argument by noting 'a hint of paranoia' in archival art as the 'other side of its utopian ambition'.40 He wants it both ways. In fact, Foster's slippage between discursive analysis and critical sensibility, between Foucault's order of things and Pierre Bourdieu's judgement of taste, is a functional one: it is an attempt to legislate the archive - 'the law of what can be said' - in large part through distinction and silence, through canonicity presented as archival knowledge. Let me be clear: I am not singling out Foster as a unique instance, but rather as a telling one, in whom the various understandings of the archive - as systems of statements, as a societal desire, as an institution, as a collection of objects and documents - exemplify not so much a 'will to connect' as a will to power. Of course, as Foucault notes, 'it is not possible for us to describe our own archive, since it is from within these rules that we speak'.41 But we speak, nonetheless, describing the turns, tendencies and impulses by which the field can make sense of artistic production. Such speaking correlates to an archive in which distinction masquerades as epistemology: it is the politics not of signifier and signified but of the canon. And so perhaps there is some purpose in being against the archive, in picking up an axe or a joystick and interrupting the process by which experience gives way to memory, gives way to artefacts, gives way to history and things that cannot be said.

- Chon A. Noriega

  1. In the 1960s, Ortiz went by the name Ralph Ortiz, and in the 1980s by Rafael Montañez Ortiz.

  2. Kristen Stiles, 'Rafael Montañez Ortiz', in Rafael Montañez Ortiz: Years of the Warrior, Years of the Psyche, 1960-1988, New York: El Museo del Barrio, 1988, pp.8-33, and personal interview with the artist, 7-9 June 2008.

  3. For example, Jacinto Quirarte, Mexican American Artists, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1973, and Yasmin Ramirez, Nuyorican Vanguards, Political Actions, Poetic Visions: A History of Puerto Rican Artists in New York, 1964-1984, unpublished PhD dissertation, City University of New York, February 2005.

  4. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Volume 1: An Introduction (trans. Robert Hurley), New York: Vintage Books, 1980, p.8.

  5. Emily Cohen, 'The Orphanista Manifesto: Orphan Films and the Politics of Reproduction', Visual Anthropology, vol.106, no.4, 2004, p.722.

  6. Dan Streible, 'The Role of Orphan Films in the 21st Century', Cinema Journal, vol.46, no.3, Spring 2007, p.124.

  7. The critical corollary to orphan film would be histories that 'expand' the archive through attention to the marginal, incidental, trash (refuse, detritus) and the non-existent. Two recent notable efforts in this regard are Amelie Hastie's Cupboards of Curiosity: Women, Recollection, and Film History (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007) and Jani Scandura's Down in the Dumps: Place, Modernity, American Depression (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008). If these works privilege the scrapbook and ephemera over 'official' documents, they do so as a turn within the archive, expanding not so much the archive's holdings as the historians methodology that 'makes sense' of these other, lesser materials that are already housed in acid-free folders and boxes.

  8. Harry Gamboa, Jr, 'Orphans of Modernism', in Chon A. Noriega (ed.), Urban Exile: Collected Writings of Harry Gamboa, Jr., Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998, pp.215-23.

  9. David E. James, Allegories of Cinema: American Film in the Sixties, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989, p.279.

  10. Ibid., p.280.

  11. Peter Arnett in The New York Times, 7 February 1968, p.14.

  12. D. E. James, Allegories of Cinema, op. cit., p.263.

  13. 'The contradictions in capitalist cultural production are irreconcilable and ineluctable, and they force the most extreme responses upon those film-makers who most love the art.' Ibid., p.279.

  14. Ibid., p.348.

  15. Richard Slotkin, Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America, New York: Harper Perennial, 1992.

  16. Recall the end of the first edition of Robert Sklar's Movie-Made America: A Cultural History of American Movies in 1975 - a book that pronounces the 'decline of movie culture' and signals the emergence of academic film history.

  17. Michel de Certeau, The Writing of History (trans. Tom Conley), New York: Columbia University Press, 1988, p.5.

  18. D. E. James, Allegories of Cinema, op. cit., p.195.

  19. In subsequent editions of Movie-Made America, when it was apparent that Hollywood had not died, Sklar added chapters on women and blacks as Hollywood's latter-day redemption.

  20. For an interesting consideration of Minimalism, 'understood as an ineluctably secular, materialist undertaking', and the impact of its patrons' 'cultic designs', see Anna C. Chave, 'Revaluing Minimalism: Patronage, Aura, and Place', Art Bulletin, vol.40, no.3, September 2008, pp.466-86.

  21. Today, El Museo's director is the only US Latino member (and director of a Latino museum) in the Association of Art Museum Directors of Canada, Mexico and the United States.

  22. Hal Foster et al., 'The Politics of the Signifier: A Conversation on the Whitney Biennial', October, vol.66, Fall 1993, p.3.

  23. See Y. Ramirez, Nuyorican Vanguards, Political Actions, Poetic Visions, op. cit.

  24. Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge (trans. A.M. Sheridan Smith), New York: Pantheon Books, 1972, p.129. 

  25. Interview with the artist, 4 December 1993.

  26. D.E. James, Allegories of Cinema, op. cit., p.242.

  27. Bruce Jenkins, 'Explosion in a Film Factory: The Cinema of Bruce Conner', 2000 BC: The Bruce Conner Story Part II (exh. cat.), Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 1999, p.186.

  28. Raphael Montañez Ortiz, 'The Computer in Art', manuscript, September 1982; and 'Computer- Laser-Video' (1984), in Raphael Montañez Ortiz, op. cit., p.53.

  29. Susan Jarosi, Art and Trauma Since 1950: A Holographic Model, unpublished PhD dissertation, Duke University, 2005. See especially Chapter 2, on Ortiz's computer-laser-videos. Latino Media Arts, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996, pp.183-207.

  30. See Scott MacDonald, 'Media Destructivism: The Digital/Laser/Videos of Raphael Montañez Ortiz', in Chon A. Noriega and Ana M. López (ed.), The Ethnic Eye: Latino Media Arts, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996, pp.183-207. In the video, the kiss is framed by a brief shot of a street scene taken from elsewhere in the film, playing up the gendered contrast between public and private. While I have focused on those films of Ortiz's that draw from a single-source passage, he also works with composite passages edited together from two or more films, as in Kiss Number Also (1994), which juxtaposes scenes from Against All Flags (1952) and Child's Play (1988).

  31. Michael Zyrd, 'Alone: Life Wastes Andy Hardy', Senses of Cinema, no.10, November 2000. Also available at (last accessed on 9 March 2009). Martin Arnold's work is often identified as an exemplary and sometimes exceptional instance. See Akira Mizuta Lippit, 'Cinemnesis: Martin Arnold's Memory Machine', Afterimage, vol.24, no.6, May-June 1997, pp.8-11; William C. Wees, 'The Ambiguous Aura of Hollywood Stars in Avant-garde Found-Footage Films', Cinema Journal, vol.41, no.2, Winter 2002, pp.3-18; and Michele Pierson, 'Special Effects in Martin Arnold's and Peter Tscherkassky's Cinema of Mind', Discourse, vol.28, no.2-3, Spring/Fall 2006, pp.28-50.

  32. Quoted from Arnold's website at (last accessed on 9 March 2009).

  33. Conversation with the artist, 7-9 June 2008.

  34. R.M. Ortiz, 'Computer-Laser-Video',Digital Media and the Arts, Maastricht: Stichting Moora Studio, State University of Limburg, 1985. Reprinted in Rafael Montañez Ortiz, op. cit., p.53.

  35. On this last point, see André Habib, 'Ruin, Archive and the Time of Cinema: Peter Delpeut's Lyrical Nitrate', SubStance, vol.35, no.2, 2006, p.121.

  36. See Hal Foster, 'An Archival Impulse', October, vol.110, Fall 2004. 
37 Ibid., p.21.

  37. Ibid.

  38. Ibid., and Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression (trans. Eric Prenowitz), Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998, pp.11-12.

  39. H. Foster, 'An Archival Impulse', op. cit., pp.21-22.

  40. M. Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge, op. cit., p.130.