Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Movies: Folk surrealism at the Coney Island Amateur Psychoanalytic Society.

After World War I, a discharged doughboy named Albert Grass returned to his hometown of Brooklyn. Overseas, Grass had become fascinated with the theories of Freud, the father of psychoanalysis. This positioned Grass on the leading edge of what would become a full-fledged American cultural obsession throughout the 1920s, when Freud went from the quiet drawing room of the analytical session and exploded into the noisy, if often hazy on detail, realm of pop culture icon.

It was during Freudian boom that Grass gathered a local circle of like-minded Freud fanciers and founded the Coney Island Amateur Psychoanalytic Society. Although psychoanalysis was all the rage among the well-off, the CIAPS was notable for its distinctly working class origins. The membership, who met regularly in an office off Surf Ave, were drawn not from the brightest lights of the Roaring Twenties in-crowd. They were working stiffs, blue-collar types from the local neighborhood.

The society was remarkably long-lived - the society held together from 1926 to 1972 - and left behind a rich legacy of what might be dubbed folk surrealist art. For fans of outsider film, the cream of this material is the society's output of "dream films." In 1927, Kodak introduced the Cine-Kodak, an inexpensive 16 mm handheld aimed that the amateur filmmaker. The society embraced the new tech and began making short films that dramatized their dreams. Often these films included an overlay of somewhat heavy-handed Freudian analysis.

A selection of the odd flicks, ranging from the 1926 The Midget Crane to 1972's The Bobsled, can be found on the website of artist Zoe Beloff.


zoe said...

oh, bless you! i'm going now!

wiec? said...

i can't wait to get home and look at these! my work computer is too ancient to even handle a 3 min. vid.

it crapped out right in the middle of the Chicken Dream.