“He died destitute.” In the new Artforum, P Adams Sitney remembers George Landow, explaining towards the end of the piece how and why the late filmmaker changed his name to Owen Land. But for now: “Our friendship predated our memory: We had been born in the same apartment building in New Haven, just 32 days apart, both the only children of parents in their late 30s. Together as teenagers we had pored over the films of Brakhage, Maya Deren, and Gregory Markopoulos; read Joyce, Beckett, and Ionesco aloud to each other. But there were many times when he retreated into his illness and refused to see me or any of his friends…. He was even widely believed to have died shortly before his suspended work in progress Undesirables (Condensed Version) (1999), a satire on the pretensions of avant-garde filmmakers.” He didn’t actually die, though, of course, until June 8 of this year. He was 66. “His earliest films — Faulty Pronoun Reference, Comparison and Punctuation of the Restrictive or Non-Restrictive Element (1961), Are Era (1962), Richard Kraft at the Playboy Club (1963), and Fleming Faloon (1963–64), for instance — hold up remarkably; indeed, they look even more extraordinary after nearly 50 years.” The image above is from Remedial Reading Comprehension(1970).
George Landow teaches English and art history at Brown University. He was an early critic who wrote about hypertext and electronic literature, though his academic specialization is in Victorian literature, art, and culture.
The George Landow (AKA Owen Land) film “On the Marriage Broker Joke as Cited by Sigmund Freud in Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious or Can the Avant-Garde Artist Be Wholed?”(1977) featuring Paul Sharits and with commentary from the photographer Bruce Jenkins.
Check out never-before-published production stills from “On the Marriage Broker Joke…” (1977) here.
Owen Land, who went by George Landow until he changed in name in the 1970’s, passed away this June. He was known for his minimalist films, which are often referred to as “structural.” My personal favorite is a hilarious 20-second film he made when he was still going by “George” and associated with the Fluxus movement, Fluxfilm 25, The Evil Faerie (1966).
Check out the small obituary I wrote for Art in America Magazine on Land’s legacy.