The cinema of transgression.’You killed me first’ @ KW Institute of Contemporary Art, April 4th, 2012

Posted on

In the 1980s a group of filmmakers emerged from the Lower East Side, New York, whose shared aims Nick Zedd later postulated in the

Cinema of Transgression manifesto:

„We propose … that any film which doesn’t shock isn’t worth looking at. … We propose to go beyond all limits set or prescribed by taste, morality or any other traditional value system shackling the minds of men. … There will be blood, shame, pain and ecstasy, the likes of which no one has yet imagined.“

While the Reagan government mainly focused on counteracting the decline of traditional family values, the filmmakers went on a collision course with the conventions of American society by dealing with life in the Lower East Side defined by criminality, brutality, drugs, AIDS, sex, and excess. Nightmarish scenarios of violence, dramatic states of mind, and perverse sexual abysses – sometimes shot with stolen camera equipment, the low budget films, which were consciously aimed at shock, provocation, and confrontation, bear witness to an extraordinary radicality. The films stridently analyze a reality of social hardship met with sociopolitical indifference. Although all the filmmakers of the Cinema of Transgression shared a belief in a radical form of moral and aesthetic transgression the films themselves emerged from an individual inner necessity; thus following a very personal visual sense and demonstratively subjective readings of various living realities. Located to this day outside society and art, the movement’s output has largely gone unscreened, although the films changed hands at art academies and film colleges, where they strongly influenced subsequent generations of artists.

WARNING: these films are an EXERCISE in the CAPITALIZATION of an EXPLOITATION that some may find unnecessarily VIOLENT, SEXIST and DISGUSTING. We therefore suggest the viewer EXECUTE caution and discretion. Although it is not our sole intention to SHOCK, INSULT or IRRITATE you have been warned that we are CATERING only to our own preference as members of the SEXUAL MINORITY.

Video above, “You killed my first” by Richard Kern

 Video above, “I hate you know” by Richard Kern

 Video above, “A fire in my belly”, excerpt, David Wojnarowicz

 Video above, “Nimphomania”, excerpt, Tessa Hughes-Freeland

Video above, “Go to hell”, Nick Zedd

Display of the screening in the exhibition at KW, dark and immersive…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Films by Karen Finley, Tessa Hughes-Freeland, Richard Kern, Lung Leg, Lydia Lunch, Kembra Pfahler, Casandra Stark, Tommy Turner, David Wojnarowicz, Nick Zedd

Text source: Press release, on