an evening with the fanfreluches…

The XXVIIIth edition of the Strange Festival pays tribute this year to one of the greatest artists and visual artists of the Californian scene of the last century: the iconoclast and prolific Steven Arnold, creator of literally striking forms “fallen into the pot” of exuberance of all kinds from an early age. Integral artist Arnold was among other things draftsman, photographer, painter, decorator, costume designer, make-up artist and finally director of cinema films, contemporary of Andy Warhol having created innumerable penciled and picturesque works in the same movement of ease and spontaneity.

Born on a fine day in May 1943, Steven Arnold maintained a relationship closely linked to Art and spirituality from the age of 5, cultivating a pronounced taste for interior decoration and embellishment in general… Since his child’s room converted into a stylized laboratory resembling a Versailles attic, he imagines incessant visions mixed with transformed bodies and astral and sidereal radiation. Esthete at all costs, considering Art as a true way of life Arnold claims as much of the paintings of Clovis Trouille as of the experimental cinema of Kenneth Anger and the many short films of the inexhaustible and emeritus Georges Méliès (pioneer of the Seventh Art and inventor of the cinematographic trick, and whose famous Journey to the Moon is one of the American artist’s favorite films, editor’s note).

It was at the very beginning of the 1960s that the artist applied the credo of his art teacher Violet Chew, namely ” expressing one’s joys and sufferings through the creative act“. Freshly graduated, he first studied at the San Francisco Film Institute and then at the famous École des Beaux-Arts in Paris before directing his first short film in 1967: the bewitching and beautifully badly cut The Liberation of the Mannique Mecanique, an XP object strangely resembling a “color” black and white film and through which Steven Arnold develops an exciting work on double photographic exposure. In parallel with his many pictorial and graphic creations and his spiritual science nourished by his readings ranging from Carl Jung to the Tibetan Book of the Dead through Buddhist philosophy, he turns the following year Posts, Posts, graduation film with a similar aesthetic: 24 minutes of footage featuring his favorite muse and actress Ruth Weiss in a maelstrom of fascinating gray scales and stripped of all preconceived narrative logic. will ensue Various Incantations of a Tibetan Seamstressa filmic weave reinventing textures and visual text with the reinforcement of double exposures and mystical symbolism pleasantly digested by Arnold…

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He then made his first and only feature film (and first color film, editor’s note) between the fall of 1969 and the beginning of 1970 with the troupe The Cockettesa group of drag-queen performers spotted by Arnold during a Nocturnal Dreamshowsequivalent to Midnight Movies from the end of the 60s: it will be the resplendent Luminous Procuress, a haptic walk against the backdrop of a psychedelic orgy lasting almost an hour and a quarter. Shot in the very poorly soundproofed studio on 17th Street in San Francisco, this experimental object with certain roughness depicts the erotic and haunting wandering of a couple of teenagers who seem straight out of the More by Barbet Schroeder, young men introduced almost reluctantly into an unlocatable and timeless mansion; around them will multiply the feminine and/or masculine figures with airs of benevolent equivocation, succession of characters camp and self-derisory bearing the seal of a model maker making it a point of honor to make difference and singular beings the spearhead of a free and modern Work from every point of view… In his own way, Steven Arnold becomes the main emulator of Kenneth Anger, taking up the caressing and shimmering visions of a film like Moment chip and collage effects of a Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome The scopic introspection of a Scorpio Rising (stunning kammerspiel filmed by Anger in 1963, editor’s note) does not fail to infiltrate our thoughts according to the obsessive, almost structural flow of this remarkable Luminous ProcurementXP immersion punctuated by inaudible and polyglot dialogues testifying to the non-essentiality of narrative tags of all kinds… Prefiguring the very sensory Pink Narcissus that James Bidgood will release at the same time this visual walk without beginning, neither continuation nor end maintains its own logic throughout, playing on the progressive and repetitive musical layers of Warner Jepson for a beautifully healthy invitation to let go…

Luminous Procuress was then noticed by Salvador Dali, the surrealist painter, quickly making it one of his main film references. Regularly rubbing shoulders with Steven Arnold between 1972 and 1975, the Catalan genius made him his protege, allowing him, among other things, to participate in the construction of his museum in the town of Figuieras located on the outskirts of Barcelona… In addition, the aforementioned feature film received a near-triumphant reception at the San Francisco Film Festival, consecrating Arnold best director of the year.. If the project killed in the egg of monkey gradually takes the director away from the open doors of a truly atypical and practically revolutionary filmic perception the artist continues his multiple works on still images and sketches made in one go, until the terrible AIDS years of the Reagan era and its carabineer conformism…

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Steven Arnold died in 1994 as a result of the sexually transmitted virus, in the same way as a certain Derek Jarman. He leaves behind a handful of films constituting a filmography of barely two hours of images set with hot and luminous spots, atavism of the esoteric and spiritual readings of the filmmaker passionately evoked by Vishnu Dass in his unpublished documentary Steven Arnold: Heavenly Bodiesscreened on September 11 of this year during the Strange Festival; three short films as well as a feature in the end, program exclusively visible this Thursday, September 15 at the Forum des Images in Paris and proof that if Andy Warhol (incidentally a great admirer of Steven Arnold, editor’s note) was during his lifetime the commercial executor of his Art, the director of Luminous Procuress was the vital and artistic creator of his own existence. Wonderful.

an evening with the fanfreluches… –