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Ann Arbor Film Festival Highlights: Black Infinitude - Aldo Tambellini Retrospective

March 18, 2024

Aldo Tambellini with his 1960 sculpture Hydrocal with found objects of metal

The 62nd Ann Arbor Film Festival presents the special program Black Infinitude - Aldo Tambellini Retrospective, curated by M. Woods about the visionary filmmaker, in the State Theatre at 7pm, Thursday March 28th

Aldo Tambellini, one of the most influential multi-disciplinary artists of the last century, died in November 2020. Tambellini’s avant-garde work and insistence on new media led him to be considered a pioneer in the field of experimental film and video. The retrospective screening Black Infinitude, and an accompanying installation of a virtual reality experience, offer a compendium of some of Tambellini’s most important works.

Tambellini did not enter filmmaking through the camera. He approached the medium as a sculptural object and an extension of the poetic with which he could experiment in time. One cannot remove Tambellini from the context of his war-torn childhood in Italy or the radical political activities in which he was involved through his work at New York City’s Gate Theatre and elsewhere. 

His sculptures are like the negative cast of a cratered world—they are often concave half-spheres of brutal remnants. While the sculptural works hold a sort of psychogeography transferred by Tambellini through his experiences of WWII, his cinematic works simulate the “hot” hyperspeed of chaotic time-space. These works belong in relation to Tambellini’s concept of “the centrifuge,” an art experience in which all various elements act as subatomic particles. This exploration of negative and positive cosmic space must be seen as a response to the hyperstimulation brought about by witnessing and experiencing incendiary, bombastic, and violently abject sociopolitical traumas. 

M. Woods, trailer for Black Infinitude - Aldo Tambellini Retrospective

Tambellini’s first explorations in cinematic space involved slide film as a canvas. Through performative interventions, he began altering the speed of the slide projector, eventually using analog motion picture and projectors. Tambellini, through film and video, quickly began creating expanded cinema before it was ever named. Through this screening, M. Woods presents Tambellini’s body of essential cinematic work within the context of his multidisciplinary approach and his persistent search for new media.

Installed at the State Theatre throughout the festival will be a VR experience that includes Tambellini’s moving image works Black Video 2 and The Cathodic Works Volume 1, as well as a VR interview with the artist conducted by his mentee M. Woods.  Moving image works provided by the Aldo Tambellini Art Foundation.

Tickets are $14 general admission | $9 seniors & AAFF members | students $8. For complete festival details please refer to the Ann Arbor Film Festival Schedule.

Warning: These films may contain content that is not recommended for those with photosensitivity or epilepsy. Viewer discretion is advised.

Black Infinitude - Aldo Tambellini Retrospective includes:

The Screw | Aldo Tambellini | New York, NY | 1963 | 5 | digital

Provided by the Aldo Tambellini Art FoundationWe begin with video documentation of Tambellini’s 1963 performance art piece, The Screw, a biting satire aimed at the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum who agreed to accept a new sculpture created by Tambellini in 1963. 

Black Is | Aldo Tambellini | New York, NY | 1965 | 4 | 16mmProvided by the Harvard Film Archive and the Aldo Tambellini Art Foundation

Tambellini at first used 35mm slides as a means of projecting handprinted abstract images onto larger spaces, using a carousel projector to control timing. However, due to the limitations of this technique, he sought an alternative method for exploring time. The result, Black Is, uses a cameraless technique on 16mm film. 

Black Trip #1 | Aldo Tambellini | New York, NY | 1965 | 5 | 16mmProvided by the Harvard Film Archive and the Aldo Tambellini Art FoundationBlack Trip #1 expands upon the painted language of Black Is, now positing the film experience as similar to the sensorial destination of a hallucinatory zone. We see the beginnings of Tambellini’s theories on multi-disciplinary media environments.

Black Out | Aldo Tambellini | New York, NY | 1965 | 9 | 16mmProvided by the Harvard Film Archive and the Aldo Tambellini Art FoundationIn Black Out, Tambellini’s symbolic exploration directly on film reaches its chaotic heights as the painted circle and his iconic spiral intermingle with lattices, light leaks, and concentric circle patterns. Black Out is notable for its soundtrack, calling upon the violence of the political now inside of a cosmic hereafter.

M. Woods | Lecture | 10 min

M. Woods discusses Aldo Tambellini’s early works and films, and ties his artistic practice to his notes on installation design and innovations in proto-virtual reality. He also discusses Tambellini’s history of radical political art practices. 

Black Trip #2  | Aldo Tambellini | New York, NY | 1967 | 3 | 16mm 

One of Tambellini’s first forays into representational imagery in cinema. Black Trip #2 is a nail bomb of a movie. A fitting companion to Black Plus X and Black TV.  

Black Plus X | Aldo Tambellini | New York, NY | 1966 | 9 | 16mm 

Provided by the Harvard Film Archives and the Aldo Tambellini Art Foundation 

Black Plus X speaks from a place of deep-felt sincerity, inner reflection, and exploration. It reflects what it is to be a loving accomplice in the struggle for civil rights and universal human decency. It captures real events without a clear referent in static space, creating one of the most beguiling cinematographic experiments of in-camera multiple exposure.

Listen | Aldo Tambellini | Cambridge, MA | 2007 | 15 | digital

Provided by the Aldo Tambellini Art Foundation

Tambellini collaborated with Anna Salamone, his second wife, on Listen, a politically militant anti-Bush attack on the illegal wars on Iraq and Afghanistan. Tambellini used the low fidelity of digital media, interspersed with long frames of black, to respond poetically to the atrocities once again committed by the US military industrial complex. 

Black Video 3 | Aldo Tambellini | Cambridge, MA | 1981 | 24 | digital

Provided by the Aldo Tambellini Art Foundation


This work was recently discovered and will have its world premiere at AAFF. A free-wheeling, long-form trance as Tambellini distorts the imagery from a cathode ray television, recording the results. M. Woods accompanies the film with a live soundtrack performance.

Black TV | Aldo Tambellini | New York, NY | 1969 | 10 | 16mm

Provided by the Harvard Film Archives and the Aldo Tambellini Art Foundation

Black TV is Aldo Tambellini’s most famous work: a dual projection sensorial hell, waves of terror over the repetitive death proclamation of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination. Despite the contemporary political context, Black TV is a mirror into the depths of the void that is universally familiar. 

This program ends with Black TV to commemorate the 50 years since Tambellini won an honorable mention at the 1969 Ann Arbor Film Festival. 

M. Woods is a Latinx-American media artist working in avant-garde film, video art, photography, collage, sound design, performance, curation, installation, music composition, and immersive media.


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