Ken Jacobs Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

Film and the Creation of Mind: Conversation with Ken Jacobs, film artist; 10/14/99 by Harry Kreisler.
Photo by Jane Scherr

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Film and Other Media

At any time, were you thinking about becoming a painter? Yes, you were.

By this time, yes.

Yes. But in the end you decided to work in film.

I was studying both painting and film.

But ultimately it was to film that you turned.

I didn't turn, it just dominated. I still think that ... I mean, I actually do some stuff with paint, and I draw and things. I'm working at graphic works. Definitely film dominated, but it also took in, absorbed the sensibility shaped by studying with Hofmann. So I began to make more and more films in line with what I'd been alerted to and sensitized to.

We'll talk about that in a second but first help us understand, what is unique about film as an artistic medium?

It shares qualities with many other media.

Well, what are those?

The first thing that occurred to me was time, but of course there's [time in] music and theater. There's all kinds of works that use time, compared to painting. Time in painting is more interesting because the time pivots on one single image, which is timeless. And there's no saying how long, in time, a painting is or the experience of a painting is. In a certain way, it hits a more absolute solution in its existence...


Painting does, yes. Where film is actually, unless somebody is doing something very novel, tends to be cadenced in a certain distance in time. That's it. That's its time. The time of this scene, the time of this connection, the time of the entire work.

So how does film affect us? Is it different from a painting?

Well it's got to be different, but how does it affect us? I think they both can affect us ... I should say this, once you see a film it collects in your mind into a single image also. It's all there at once, which is what a painting is. It's all there at once. You can look at a painting and begin going off and seeing it in many different ways, experiencing it in many different ways. And so it does reach out into time, an unfixed time. But in a similar way for me, a film that you've seen and really taken into mind does also become an image, a single shape and form. And separates from clock time. I mean, they both seize the mind, or they can seize the mind, and they shape the mind and they become the mind. Cinema is a form of thinking. Painting is a form of thinking.

Next page: Film Artist: Form

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