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Smithson, Serra, and Holt:

At the Drive-In



Portland is a social city, and never more so than in the beauty of summer. The punks nod hello to the hippies; motorists stop plowing over bicyclists for a while; and even the surliest waiters force out tiny smiles when refilling your water glass. The consensus is that it's time to be with your fellow Blue Staters, and better yet, to be with them outside. Cinema Project knows this, and has accordingly organized one of the best imaginable summer kickoffs for Portland's art community: an outdoor (bike-in) screening of seminal films by Robert Smithson, Nancy Holt, and Richard Serra, preceded by live music and the promise of cool beverages.

Smithson's Spiral Jetty is often referred to as the documentation of his landmark earthwork of the same name, a patently untrue assertion. Spiral Jetty (the film) is an autonomous work of art unto itself that poetically explores some of the themes that were on Smithson's mind as he made his masterpiece. Authors have recently explored Smithson's fascination with science fiction movies at the time he created Spiral Jetty, and these influences reveal themselves slyly in his own film, from his mercurial shots of dinosaur skeletons to the apocalyptic "last man standing" scenes of the artist running the length of the jetty. The movie's a little tedious in parts, but it's generally haunting, fascinating, and required viewing for anybody interested in the art of the '70s.

Smithson's widow, Nancy Holt is also on the bill with Sun Tunnels, similarly titled after her own earthwork of the same name. Holt's film is much more straightforward than Smithson's for the first 20 of its 27 minutes, mostly just showing the heavy industry that went into the construction of her enormous cement tunnels. But having visited the actual work of art in Utah, I can safely say that at the end of Holt's film, she's captured the impact and power of her monumental sculpture better than any pilgrimage to the desert does.

Also on the bill is Railroad Turnbridge, a Richard Serra movie shot here in Portland which wasn't screened for critics. At 8 pm, the bands Ghosting and Bird Costumes will kick things off, and then when the sun goes down, the projector will crank up and you'll kick back under the stars with Robert Smithson, friends, and the onset of another Portland summer.


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