Jem Cohen: New York

Monday, May 28, 2012 - 8:30 pm

Programmed by Amy Kazymerchyk

"Its beauty is quite ineffable. It's the sort of visual experience that transforms everything seen by the viewer for several hours afterward ... What it actually does is capture the subconscious of the city itself, the dream state of the whole past existing in simultaneous disarray." 

Following DIM's presentation of his feature-length Benjamin Smoke in March, “New York" highlights Jem Cohen’s 20-year practice of picturing New York City. Cohen constructs his city portraits as a witness and collector, compiling film reels and audio recordings that develop into compositions over time. Cohen focuses his camera on the liminal spaces of the city and the people who live and work on the margins. In Lost Book Found Cohen reflects, “I became invisible, and then I began to see things that had once been invisible to me.” 

"New York" begins with Cohen's 1988 film, This is a History of New York, which borrows the narrative of monumental epochs to frame fragments of industrial decay and vagrant life along the Hudson River. A decade later,  Lost Book Found (1996) follows listings of places, objects, and incidents from a found notebook to decode the city's confessions. Little Flags (2000) and NYC Weights and Measures (2006) straddle 9/11, portraying the aura of publicness and pride in the financial district, before and after the event. In Long For the City (2008) Cohen pictures New York through Patti Smith's reflections on her forty-year history under its sky. Cohen's most recent production, a series of nine newsreels from Occupy Wall Street affirms his practice as flaneur and verite historian.


This is a History of New York. 1988, 16mm, 23mins.
Lost Book Found. 1996, 16mm, 37 mins. 

Little Flags. 2000, 16mm, 6mins.
NYC Weights and Measures. 2006, 16mm, 6mins.

Long for the City. 2008, 16mm, 10 mins.
Night Scene New York. 2009, 16mm, 10mins.
Gravity Hill Newsreels: Occupy Wall Street #03. 2011, HD, 5mins.
Jem Cohen's work is distributed by the Video Data Bank.