Seaside Show, (20 min, 56 sec), 2008
Faulty Fathoms, (13 min, 46 sec), 2006
Kingdom By The Sea, (19 min, 02 sec), 2002
In George Kuchar’s video Seaside Show (2008) there is a small amount of footage from the opening reception at San Francisco’s 2nd floor projects for Kuchar – paintingsdrawingspaintingsdrawingspaintings 1970s to 1980s. This was a 2008 show of George and Mike Kuchar’s 2D work, rarely seen in a gallery setting.* I was at this opening, and when I watched this scene in 2020 it was like time kind of collapsed. I kept expecting to see my old self looking out at my current self. It’s just footage of a lot of people I know looking a bit younger doing all the things that we did—up until recently. The faces, the clothes, the room, everything looked pretty much the same as it would today. It was all so familiar. The documentary aspect of George Kuchar’s work is rarely mentioned, but his camera recorded so much—images of San Francisco, New York, lost artworks, artists, students, gallery openings, film festivals and screenings. His generous voiceover is like the anti-Werner Herzog—warm, enthusiastic, seemingly delighted to commune with others, and excited by food and bodily functions.
The San Francisco Art Institute, which (prematurely) announced its closure in March of this year, was also a big part of the Kuchar universe. George moved to San Francisco from New York in 1971 because of a teaching opportunity at the school. He became a huge presence there, and his weekly Psychotronic Film course in Studio 8 went on to influence so many. I always saw him around when I was an undergraduate student at the school in the late 90s and early 2000s. I began teaching there in 2006, and I clearly remember George bursting into one of my grad seminars in a panic because he had locked himself out of the faculty office and couldn’t get to his bicycle. When I watched Seaside Show it reminded me of both my years as an undergrad, and the time when I had just started teaching.
Seaside Show presents George and SFAI as many will remember them, and Kingdom By The Sea (2002) and Faulty Fathoms (2006) are like links in the same nautically titled chain. The prop room in Studio 8 shows up again and again with new props but also the same props. It’s like time is just oscillating, never quite moving forward or backwards. George looks almost the same, the SFAI tower appears again and again, the San Francisco Bay relentlessly laps up against the sea wall. Different students and different scenarios, but George’s voice remains constant. There are versions of George and SFAI that have disappeared, but other versions live on through the images in these videos and the memories they evoke.
—Matt Borruso, 2020
* In 2016 Gordon Faylor and I interviewed Mike Kuchar, discussing his drawings and the Kuchars’ connection with underground comics and graphic design. You can find that interview HERE.
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