A figurative roll of the dice rather than a master plan determined that the twentieth anniversary of film screenings here at the Wexner would coincide almost to the day with the announcement of its Film/Video Program entering into an ambitious partnership with the nearby Gateway Film Center. Starting in January, the partnership will give us programming access to two of the Gateway's seven screens, thereby tripling the number of films we'll be able to share with the community. Twenty years ago, our institutional need for that was not urgently felt, given the film culture then prevailing, but the emergence of independent production and an ever-expanding global slate of titles has contributed to a radically altered state of film exhibition, one disadvantageous to the Wexner's single-screen situation.
The Wexner's Film/Video Program has itself responded over two decades to the changing ecosystem of movie-going; it's done that partly as a response to real gaps in and occasions provided by what other local venues saw fit to offer or to not offer, and partly as a result of our Media Arts department growing from one person in 1989 to six people in 2009, with an accompanying expansion of programmatic and creative energy.
In the meantime, imagine it was twenty years ago today: on 17 and 18 November, 1989, a few days after the Center's official opening, we christened the Film/Video Theater with screenings of King Vidor's 1949 The Fountainhead (in a 35mm print on loan from the Library of Congress), preceded by Pierre Chenal's 1931 L'Architecture d'aujourd'hui, a short on LeCorbusier's modernist villas. In keeping with the programming ethic in place for the Wexner Center's debut, this double-bill focused on architecture, but as I see it now, it also managed to contain, entirely unwittingly, some of the core values by which the Film/Video Program would subsequently aspire to maintain in the choices it's made: that of classicism, that of experimentation, and that of delirium.
And so onward.
17 November 2009