The vibrant, poetic and wild works of American underground filmmaker Mike Kuchar have inspired generations of filmmakers and artists with their wickedly perverse parodies of pop-culture and abundant creativity. From early 8 mm films made with his twin brother George Kuchar featuring friends from their Bronx neighbourhood to the underground sci-fi extravaganza Sins of the Fleshapoids 1965, his films take the language of Hollywood and make it so ‘overblown it’s glorious’. In the 1990s Mike Kuchar embraced video with the same transformative passion that he brought to his early 8 mm films, and created a vast body of work ranging from delirious teleplays to recent digital fantasies, displaying a unique creative sensibility. Relishing the possibilities of the most minuscule budgets his films are radiant and lurid in equal measure, celebrating human creativity with an undiminished passion and humour for over 50 years.
This weekend is the most substantial survey of Mike Kuchar’s work to be held in the UK and offers an unparalleled opportunity to explore the fantastic, humorous, bittersweet and flamboyant characters and worlds conjured from his feverish imagination. A key outlet for his fantasies and daydreams has been his extensive body of drawings. Throughout his life Mike Kuchar has drawn and painted fantastic visions that merge a range of influences from Natural History Museums to New York and San Francisco gay underground. Published in magazines and comics since the 1970s, his drawings and paintings have been rediscovered and widely exhibited in recent years.
Mike Kuchar addresses the interconnection between this breeding ground for his fertile imagination and his films with a special illustrated talk following the 18.00 screening Mike Kuchar 3: Melodramas And Teleplays.
The screenings, carefully selected from a body of over one hundred film and video works, offers a rare insight into one of the most singular voices to emerge from the American underground. Unlike his brother George who moved to San Francisco in the 1970s, Mike Kuchar remained in New York for the majority of his career and his fascination with its people – from his sexually frustrated neighbours in the Bronx to the queer, punk and drag communities he cast in his teleplays – his work offers a remarkable insight into American culture of the last 50 years. Recent years have seen Mike Kuchar relocate to San Francisco and began a new prolific phase in his career. We feature a selection of his wild class productions made at the San Francisco Art Institute and conclude with a programme of his most recent digital productions.
Mike Kuchar makes a rare London appearance to introduce his films and answer questions following the screenings.
Curated by George Clark, Assistant Curator, Film, Tate Modern.
Thanks to Mike Kuchar; Margaret Tedesco, [ 2nd floor projects]; Michelle Silva; John Klacsmann, Andrew Lampert, Anthology Film Archives; MM Serra, The Film Makers Cooperative, The New American Cinema Group; Sam Ashby.
Tate Film is supported by Maja Hoffmann / LUMA Foundation