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From 22 June to 16 September

Exhibitions

Gus Van Sant

Room D, Room E

La Casa Encendida proudly presents Gus Van Sant, the first retrospective in Spain dedicated to the films and artistic creations of the iconic American indie director. A genuine multidisciplinary odyssey divided into different sections, it offers an overview of the creative genius and unique universe of Gus Van Sant.

La Casa Encendida opens its doors to Gus Van Sant, an exhibition curated by Matthieu Orléan and co-produced by Cinémathèque Française, Museo Nazionale del Cinema (Turin), Musée de l’Elysée (Lausanne) and Cinémathèque Suisse. The retrospective features films, visual artworks (photographs, drawings and music never seen before in Spain) and various creative collaborations (with William Burroughs, William Eggleston, Bruce Weber, David Bowie, etc.) that plunge us into the world of this cult director, the epitome of radical, non-conformist cinema.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1952, Gus Van Sant’s films are a snapshot of post-modern (post-Pop, post-New Hollywood, post-activist) American history. Their complex narrative structure (in the form of mosaics or collages) and shifts in tone are disconcerting, creating a dissonant cinema where melancholy and humour are never treated as opposites.

The filmography of this multi-faceted director is so rich, heterogeneous and staggering in its diversity that Van Sant seems to reinvent his entire concept of cinema with each new release. One wonders if the director who shot the moments of a massacre in Elephant is the same person who narrated the life of gay activist Harvey Milk, filmed youth with such gravity (Elephant, Paranoid Park) and portrayed the founders of the Beat Generation as enfants terribles.

The exhibition offers us insight into the legendary director through his filmography, including his most experimental films which evoke his adopted home of Portland, Oregon, and reveal some of the primary influences that shaped his aesthetic, such as the Beat Generation and American writer William S. Burroughs, but also through an extensive array of Polaroid shots taken during the casting sessions for his early films (hundreds of actors, writers and anonymous people posed for his camera). Van Sant stopped using his Polaroid in the late 1990s but continued taking pictures, especially for fashion magazines and various rock bands—for music, composed by himself or bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers or rock legend David Bowie, is an important part of his creative universe.

The poetic writings of William S. Burroughs also inspired two of Van Sant’s shorts, including The Discipline of DE from 1977. A few years later, he repeated the exercise with Ballad of the Skeletons, a film-collage in the video art tradition.

Van Sant’s output includes various experimental films (climaxing with Mala Noche) self-produced with a beginner’s fervour and, later, the “Death Tetralogy” (Gerry, Elephant, Last Days and Paranoid Park), a series of radical formal experiments.

Coinciding with this exhibition, during the month of June the Filmoteca Española Cine Doré in Madrid will offer screenings of Gus Van Sant’s complete filmography (see showtimes at Cine Doré).

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