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'NO!art' conference and activist film festival will be part of the UI 'Global Focus' March 4-6

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A conference on "NO!art and the Aesthetics of Doom," and a concurrent festival of activist independent films from the 1960s, will be presented on the University of Iowa campus March 4-6 by a collaborative network of organizations at the University of Iowa and the Anthology Film Archive in New York City.

Events that are open to the public free of charge will include an opening session at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 4 in the Carver Gallery of the Museum of Art; conference sessions throughout the day Friday , March 5 in the Carver Gallery; and film screenings at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday,March 5 and 6 in Room 101 of the UI Becker Communication Studies Building.

The conference and film festival are part of "Global Focus: Human Rights '98," the UI's year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. UI organizations collaborating on these events are the Museum of Art, University Libraries, Alternative Traditions in the Contemporary Arts and the Institute for Cinema and Culture.

During the mid-century, the NO!art Collective, a pivotal group of activist artists and poets in New York, responded to the aftermath of the Holocaust and the bombing of Hiroshima, the atomic crisis and the commodification of women in the mass media.

Unlike the apolitical detachment of other artistic trends of the time, including abstraction and pop art, the NO!art Collective -- also known as the March Group -- attempted to integrate personal and social protest into a new form of artistic expression. The confrontational work of the group was a direct response to the Cold War era and the horror of the recent past, particularly the Nazi genocide in World War II.

Speakers at the conference during the day on Friday will discuss various aspects of the NO!art Collective and the work of its members. Topics will include "NO! and the Holocaust Memory in Germany" and the work of Holocaust survivor and NO!art co-fonder Boris Lurie, in a paper subtitled "Self Representation in the Wake of the Holocaust."

The film festival will present the work of other political activists of the post-war period, including anti-Vietnam war activists. "Angry Arts Against War in Vietnam," at 8 p.m. Friday in Room 101 of the Becker Communication Studies Building, is a film collage of short films by more than 50 independent film makers, created in 1967. The UI screening will be the first showing of the film since its premiere at the Judson Memorial Church in New York in 1967. Other films will feature 1960s-era figures including Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg and four American sailors who deserted in protest against the war in Vietnam.

The UI is also currently presenting three exhibitions that are related to the conference and film festival. An exhibition of works by artist Boris Lurie will be on view in the UI Museum of Art through March 7 in the museum's South River gallery. Lurie, born in 1924, was incarcerated at the age of 17 and transported to various ghettos, labor camps and Nazi concentration camps including Riga, Lenta, Stutthoh and Buchenwald. After being liberated from Buchenwald in April of 1945, Lurie emigrated to the United States. A decade later he became co-founder of the NO!art Collective.

An exhibition of political posters from the 1960s and 1970s will be on view at the UI Museum of Art through Sunday, March 7, in the Works on Paper gallery. The exhibition, "The Artists' Poster Committee: A Decade of Political Art," is representative of a large body of political posters compiled in the 1970s by the Artists' Poster Committee.

Finally, "Latin American Realities/International Solutions" is a virtual exhibition that recreates a significant 1972 exhibition of politically motivated art from Latin America. Organized as a collaborative project among three UI organizations -- Alternative Traditions in the Contemporary Arts, University Libraries and the UI Museum of Art -- it can be accessed at

"Global Focus: Human Rights '98" is a cross-disciplinary program of teaching, research and action of the UI and its surrounding communities designed to address the problems and prospects of human rights as the 21st century approaches. The program features distinguished speakers, scholarly lectures, panel discussions, published research, curricular innovations, community forums, radio broadcasts, artistic displays, theatrical events, films and musical offerings.

Global Focus has included visits by Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng; human rights lawyer Jerome Shestack, president of the American Bar Association; Cambodian "Killing Fields" photographer Dith Pran; and Nobel laureates Elie Wiesel and Desmond Tutu. For more information, visit the Global Focus website at <>

The conference and film festival were funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the UI Cultural Affairs Council, Council on the Status of Women, Museum of Art, University Libraries and the Institute for Cinema and Culture.

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NO!art and the Aesthetics of Doom
An Anthology of Activist North American Cinema from the 1960s

Composite Schedule

Thursday March 4
Carver Gallery, University of Iowa Museum of Art
 8 p.m. Conference Opening Remarks and Video screening: Ray Wisniewski, "NO!art," 1963, "A Conversation with Gerturde Stein," Gallery Gerturde Stein, New York
Friday, March 5
Carver Gallery, University of Iowa Museum of Art
 10 a.m. Coffee
 10:30 a.m. Estera Milman, the University of Iowa Alternative Traditions in the Contemporary Arts, "NO!art and the Aesthetics of Doom"
 11:15 a.m. Rainer Rumold, Northwestern University Department of German, "NO!art and the Dialectic of Enlightenment"
 12 noon Lunch break
 1 p.m. Susan Chevlowe, The Jewish Museum, New York, "Boris Lurie: Self Representation in the Wake of the Holocaust"
 1:45 p.m. Charles Vernoff, Cornell College Department of Religion, "An Intersection of Holocaust Post-Modernism with Americanist Post-Millennialism: The Spiritual Coordinates of the NO! Collective"
 2:30 p.m. Kurt Germundson, the University of Iowa School of Art and Art History, "NO! and the Holocaust Memory in Germany"
 3:15 p.m. Break
 3:30 p.m. Daniel A. Siedell, Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery and Sculpture Garden, the University of Nebraska, "Doom and the Triumph of American Painting"
 4:15 p.m. Stephen C. Foster, the University of Iowa School of Art and Art History, "Aesthetics of Freedom: NO! and the Political Construction of the Individual"
Room 101, Becker Communications Studies Building
8 p.m. Film Festival Program 1:
"Angry Arts Against War in Vietnam: A Collage Film by Over 50 American Film Makers," 1967
Saturday, March 6
Room 101, Becker Communications Studies Building
8 p.m. Film Festival Program 2:
"Newsreels" 1967-68: "Four American Sailors," "The Christmas Mill-In," "The Boston Draft Resistance Group," "Chicago."
  "Three Short Films by Jonas Meekas: Report from Millbrook" (1965/66), Notes of a Conversation with Timothy Leary; "Street Songs" (1966/83), from "Mysteries and Smaller Places," performed by the Living Theatre; and "Hare Krishna" (1966), soundtrack courtesy Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky.