Reza Abdoh: Radical Visions
The Museum of Modern Art
The Blind Owl. 1992. USA. Directed by Reza Abdoh
A polymath and self-described member of “a TV generation,” pioneering Iranian-American theater artist Reza Abdoh voraciously incorporated varied references to music videos, variety shows, film, dance, classical texts, BDSM, and more into his work, with equal parts poetry and rigor. Moving images played an essential role in the artist’s large-scale, interdisciplinary productions beginning in the mid-1980s. In his final working years he also turned to the cinematic form; his second feature remained unfinished at the time of his 1995 death from AIDS-related complications. In conjunction with the retrospective Reza Abdoh, currently on view at MoMA PS1, this series offers insight into the artist’s profound creative energy—films he directed and videos created collaboratively for productions—along with a recent documentary.
Across disciplines, Abdoh confronted themes of transgression, violence, and abjection to speak to social and political upheaval and marginalization in America and around the world—with a demanding yet transcendent effect on cast members, audiences, and future scholars and followers of his work. While his media output was largely envisioned in the context of theatrical mise en scène, experiencing Abdoh onscreen is vital to the rediscovery of this essential creator, whose urgent anger, clarity of vision, and unique voice resonate two decades on.
The Blind Owl. 1992. USA. Written and directed by Reza Abdoh. Produced by Adam Soch. With Peter Jacobs, Tom Pearl, Tony Torn, Juliana Francis, Tom Fitzpatrick, Paulina Sahagun-Macias. 90 min. Filmed in parallel with his raging, maximalist stage production Bogeyman (and including many of the same actors), Reza Abdoh’s sole feature film demonstrates an aesthetic vision distinct from his onstage work. Robert Bresson’s 1959 film Pickpocket is prominent among the influences on The Blind Owl, as much for its radically slowed-down cinematography and detached treatment of plot as for its overlapping themes of obsession, transgression, and eroticism.
Saturday, July 14, 6:00 p.m. Introduced by Tony Torn
Thursday, July 19, 7:00 p.m. Introduced by Tony Torn
Reza Abdoh: Theatre Visionary. 2015. USA. Directed by Adam Soch. 99 min. Created by his longtime video collaborator and archivist Adam Soch, this documentary builds a vivid portrait of Reza Abdoh through archival footage and recent interviews. Members of the Dar a Luz theater company chronicle the making of successive productions in Los Angeles, New York, and abroad, detailing Abdoh’s method of drawing on actors as much as his own experiences to develop the visceral characters and physicality of his productions, to simultaneously exacting and empowering results.
Sunday, July 15, 1:30 p.m.
Video from the productions The Hip-Hop Waltz of Eurydice, Bogeyman, The Law of Remains, and Tight White Right. 1990–93. USA. Directed by Reza Abdoh. Video design by Adam Soch. 25 min.
Sleeping with the Devil. 1988. USA. Directed by Reza Abdoh. With Luis Zaldivar, Ken Roht, Michael Whitmore, Anthony Cristian, Paul Durand, Ingrid A., Steve Oglesby. 12 min.
Daddy’s Girl. 1991. USA. Directed by Reza Abdoh. Cinematography by Adam Soch. With Tony Torn, Juliana Francis. 9 min.
The Tryst [excerpt from an unfinished film]. 1995. USA. Directed by Reza Abdoh. Cinematography by Tal Yarden. With Tom Fitzpatrick, Tom Pearl, Tony Torn. 7 min.
Sunday, July 15, 4:00 p.m. Introduced by Adam Soch
Sunday, July 22, 3:30 p.m.
Featuring a number of his early collaborators, Peep Show, co-directed by Reza Abdoh, foretells the director’s radical use of space and moving image. Staged in the seedy Hollywood Highland Hotel, where he worked night shifts, the show comprised six scenes in as many rooms, each outfitted with a television set and an egg-timer to punctuate the actors’ performance as the audience moved from space to space.
Wednesday, July 18, 7:30 p.m. With readings by Tom Fitzpatrick and Ken Roht
Saturday, July 21, 3:30 p.m.