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Thursday at MOCA: Rare L.A. punk films take center stage

January 12, 2012 |  3:04 pm

The title of tonight's screening at the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown Los Angeles says it all: "Strange Notes and Nervous Breakdowns: Punk and Media Art, 1974-1981." The program features 20 rarely screened films, clips, videos and other media documenting the birth of punk culture in Los Angeles.

Shown in conjunction with MOCA's mindblowing "Under the Big Black Sun" exhibit at the museum's Geffen campus (which features a huge installment of Raymond Pettibon's early Black Flag fliers in the same room with Gary Panter's iconic work), "Strange Notes" promises to reveal seldom-seen nooks and crannies of the city's rock scene.

Writer Jamie Wetherbe spoke with the curator of tonight's screening, Adam Hyman, executive director of the Los Angeles Filmforum, for a feature in today's Times. Wetherbe on some of Thursday's offerings:

UCLA students in the '70s and early '80s captured bands on campus and in clubs, including Eugene Timiraos' 1979 video of the X song "I'm Coming Over," shot for experimental filmmaker Shirley Clarke's course. Classmate Bradley Friedman directed an 11½-minute video of the Screamers in 1981 performing "Eva Braun," a synth-punk song named for Hitler's mistress, in front of TV monitors. He also shot the stern and synthesized Anti-Sex League in 1980 playing a song with an unpublishable title enhanced with blurred-out images from a porn film.

"It directly related to the name of the band and the lyrics of the song and the performance, and the video was a response to a perceptions of sexual restrictions at the time," says Hyman. "Filmmakers were [manipulating video] to add to the music or add political commentary with the alternative imagery they were bringing." 

Also featured at the screening, writes Wetherbe: " 'Never Mind the Sex Pistols, Here's the Bullocks,' a 30-minute black-and-white capsule shot mostly in 1977 documenting performances by the Avengers, the Bags, the Dead Boys, the Screamers and the Weirdos. There are also clips from the early 1980s cable access show 'New Wave Theater' featuring Black Flag and performance artist Johanna Went, known for wild, transgressive works involving elaborate costumes, punk music and often lots of fake blood."

Thursday's 7 p.m. screening is open to the public, though an RSVP is required. See below for details.


Art review: 'Under the Big Black Sun' at MOCA

Punk rock and media collide in 'Strange Notes'

Nixon, Ford offer context for 1970s California art at MOCA

-- Randall Roberts

"Strange Notes and Nervous Breakdowns: Punk and Media Art, 1974-1981"
Where: MOCA Ahmanson Theater, MOCA, 250 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Price: Free, reservation required
Info: (213) 621-1736, moca.org  

Photo: Installation view of "Under The Big Black Sun: California Art 1974-1981" at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. Credit: Brian Forrest / MOCA.