A Primer in Sky Socialism
Directed by Ken Jacobs
Inspired by the story of the Roebling family, A Primer in Sky Socialism is a joyful, digital 3D mediation on the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. Returning again to the subject of his 1964 film The Sky Socialist, to Jacobs “The bridge embodies the Roeblings’ wishes for America, their blessing, nothing less.” Washington Roebling (1837-1926) graduated from RPI in 1857 and became chief engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge following his father's death in 1869. Developing new building techniques, he designed the pneumatic caissons that became the foundations for the two towers where a construction accident forced him off-site due to decompression sickness. Remaining the chief engineer, he advised from afar, while his wife Emily Warren Roebling continued to manage the bridge's complex construction.
Premiered at the Museum of Modern Art in May 2013, A Primer in Sky Socialism continues avant-garde film pioneer Ken Jacobs’ exploration into 3D filmmaking, renewing his fascination with the histories and technologies of the moving image, a theme that has preoccupied his work for over 50 years. Shot on the Brooklyn Bridge with a view of the fireworks, this long-form film privileges the experiential over narrative drive. Using quick edits and effects to focus on the expressive and aesthetic experience of cinematic form, Jacobs uses digital 3D processing to delve into the human perception of depth in a dizzyingly brightly colored nighttime perspective of a bustling New York City.
Ken Jacobs was born in Brooklyn in 1933 and lives and works in New York City. A pioneer of the American film avant-garde of the 1960s and '70s, Jacobs is a central figure in post-war experimental cinema. From his first films of the late 1950s to his recent experiments with digital video, his investigations and innovations have influenced countless artists. He has received numerous awards, including the Maya Deren Award and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, as well as grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the New York State Council on the Arts. In 1969, with the help of Larry Gottheim and Gottheim's students (one of whom was J. Hoberman, current senior film critic for the Village Voice), Jacobs began the Cinema Department at SUNY Binghamton and taught there until 2002. His films, videos, and performances have been received at such international venues as the Berlin Film Festival, the London Film Festival; the Hong Kong Film Festival; the New York Film Festival; the American Museum of the Moving Image, Astoria, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and The Museum of Modern Art, New York. He was a featured filmmaker at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in 2004.
“Each new year Flo and I join the young and many-languaged crowd walking to the top of Brooklyn Bridge, ostensibly for the fireworks. The crowd, the bridge, comprise the spectacle. The bridge has been particularly dear to us since the '60s, when we learned the story of the Roeblings, father, son and daughter-in-law. The bridge embodies their wishes for America, their blessing, nothing less. I filmed (on 8mm) The Sky Socialist back then and this is a follow-up.”