Land debuted as an experimental filmmaker in the 1960's with a critique of structural film. When Land was barely twenty years old, he produced some early masterpieces like Film in Which There Appear Edge Lettering, Sprocket Holes, Dirt Particles, Etc. (1965/66), which contains exactly what the title promises. A Kodak test film used to adjust colour balance serves as the basic material. Land recomposes it and extends it into a four-minute loop, the result, in which P. Adams Sitney saw “the essence of minimal cinema”, no less – “a found object extended to a simple structure”.
Land quickly expanded the genre of structural film to incorporate more complex strategies and ideas and has produced some of the most thought provoking and ground breaking works in film to day. His activities span several decades and include film work on 16mm and on hi-video, as well as screenplay writing and poetry. Land’s more recent films have combined prolific, mythopoeic writing, with a subversive visual strategy, to produce what is probably best described as an entertaining yet disrupting “kitchen-sink-classicism”. Land’s seminal Dialogues (2007-2009) features an episodic series of short films informed by the artist's study of female sexual desire, folklore, myth, history and the theology of all major religions. Dialogues has premiered at Kunsthalle Bern in 2009 and travelled to Kunstwerke Berlin (2010) and Biennale of Sydney (2010) among others.
Owen Land’s work was characterized by a rare ability to combine critical narrative with an eloquent, yet playful post-conceptual aesthetic. His films are critically smart, densely lucid speculations on popular and consumer culture, sexuality, language, history, art and religion that have outgrown the borders of known art historical genres or styles.
Owen Land studied Acting between 1970 and 1971, and received an MFA in Painting in 1993. He has taught film production at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Northwestern University, San Francisco Art Institute, and Art Center College of Design, Pasadena California. He founded the Experimental Theater Workshop at The Art Institute of Chicago, and wrote and directed several musical theater pieces. Land’s most important works on 16mm film include Film in which there appear Edge Lettering, Dirt Particles, Sprocket Holes etc. (1969), A Film of their 1973 Spring Tour as commissioned by Christian World Liberation Front (1974), Wide Angle Saxon (1975), On the Marriage Broker Joke as cited by Sigmund Freud in Wit and its Relation to the Unconscious (1977-1979) and Dialogues (2009). With his later work, including Undesirables (1999) and Dialogues (2009), Land mostly found recognition in Europe. Recent individual exhibitions of his work were held at Kunsthalle Bern, Bern; Kunstwerke, Berlin; and Moderna Museet, Malmö.
Retrospectives of Owen Land's films have been held at the Edinburgh Film Festival in Scotland, The American Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria New York, The Rotterdam International Film Festival in the Netherlands, The Tate Gallery in London, Anthology Film Archives and The Whitney Museum of American Art and in collaboration with Lux, London and Filmmuseum Austria, Vienna. A monogpraph was recently published by Kunsthalle Bern, Bern and Paraguay Press, Paris.
The films of Owen Land are preserved by Filmmuseum Austria, Vienna.
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