Ken Kobland

2020 | 00:44:56 | United States | English | Color | Stereo | 16:9 | HD video

Collection: Single Titles

A 10-part series with preface.

Reflecting, ruminating, remembering, lamenting, drawing and living with the past and present…

Age, I suppose. LOOKING BACKWARD(s)... “Backward” both ways, behind and awkwardly. Years of talking to myself, arguing, in an invisible courtroom. The ideas, fears, despairs that appear again and again. The world now, the world then, the past always prologue. Santayana’s “those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it”. If only it were only ‘those’. The old fairly tales, now suspect, Pinocchio according to Disney, watch-out. Home movies of people I no longer know or can remember. The new world of the iPhone, the domination of the device, the surreality of the street, the walkers eyes planted into handheld talismans. The horror of religious fanaticism: its incredible stupidity, its love of death...

Oh, yes, and a bit of my bio. Drawn to photography and the ‘eroticism’ of buildings; the urban theater of it all. The Bronx, old 16mm footage shot on the el train. The memory of the place at one time burning down, the past never really past. The memories from a time in Berlin, when the Wall was there. The political nightmare of the past, now here in the USA. Beginning one day in November, and in a short time the whole country could be lost. Remember what happened in Germany? That it repeats is too absurd, can history be so ironic?

The old bird room at the Museum... also filmed years ago, but now ever more so a witness to the disappearance of things, of creatures paved over by civilization.... Finally the past (the film) un-winding, like a skeleton falling to pieces into a trash bag. And Pinocchio, oh, he really was just a piece of wood, a “dream surrounded by a sleep.”

Excerpts of earlier films:

The Communists are Comfortable (1984)

Buildings and Grounds (2003)

Vestibule (1978)

Landscape and Desire (1981)

Arise, Walk Dog, Eat Donut (1999)

Foto-Roman (1990)

Where Was I Now (2015)

The Toy Sun (2014)

“Ken Kobland’s LOOKING BACKWARD(s) is among his strongest, most evocative films. Opening a cardboard box, Kobland establishes a metaphor for unpacking his past. Out comes a 1950s Disney “Cartoon Theatre,” a miniature stage on which his childhood is replayed in ways both oblique and literal. The film’s soundtrack is equally rich and multi-layered: Kate Smith’s infinitely melancholy, plaintive voice is ruthlessly replaced by an idiotic radio advertisement: “Skippy never sticks to the roof of your mouth.” Bryan Ferry’s 21st Century take on You Are My Sunshine is a far cry from my grandmother’s version of that song, but it evokes memories of childhood every bit as complex as those this film brilliantly dips into.

“Consciousness is both a gift and a curse... and does it matter at all in the end?,” laments the filmmaker. Yes it does – if being conscious means creating art on a level that illuminates the past with a light that make something like sense of the present.”

— Karen Cooper, Director, Film Forum

Pricing Information

Additional Formats/Uses
Request an Exhibition Quote Request an Archival Quote

Please contact info@vdb.org or visit http://www.vdb.org/content/prices-formats with any questions about the license types listed here.