Film and Theater


Barnes, S. (1998). Subversive Expectations: Performance Art and Paratheater in New York, 1976-85. Michigan: University of Michigan Press. ISBN-10: 0472066781

As critic for the Soho Weekly News and the Village Voice during the 1970s and 1980s, Barnes’s reviews and articles have established artists such as Meredith Monk, Robert Wilson, Ping Chong, and Joan Jonas; events by the Bread and Puppet Theater, Robert Whitman, Charlotte Moorman, and Chris Burden; revivals of classic avant-garde performances; and the emergence of famous (and some notorious) performers such as Anne Bogart, Karen Finley, Spalding Gray, Steve Buscemi, Tim Miller, and Whoopi Goldberg. This collection of her writings adds a wealth of insight into the genre of performance art.

Goldberg, R. (1998). Performance: Live Art Since 1960. New York: H. N. Abrams. ISBN-10: 0810943603

Goldberg (former curator of the Kitchen Center for Video, Music, and Performance) writes about performance art in lucid essays with a balance of theory with context. Loaded with great pictures, includes foreword by Laurie Anderson, chronology of significant works by year,  biographies of featured artists, and a bibliography.

Patterson, C. (2005). Captured : a Film/Video History of the Lower East Side. New York: Seven Stories Press. ISBN: 1583226745

“New York’s Lower East Side has been a fountain of creativity and art since the turn of the century starting with the Yiddish Theater, a free-wheeling bazaar of ideas and artists that has challenged and shaped mainstream culture. Captured tells the story of film and video in the Lower East Side and the East Village in the artists’ own words. Part formal history and part inspirational text, Captured serves to remind people on the outside looking in how often their contributions form the invisible pillars of American art and popular life.”–BOOK JACKET. Includes bibliographical references and index, for a list of contributors and essays:

photograph by Linda Psomas


Allen, J., & Brant, P. (Producers). Schnabel, J. (Director). (1996). Basquiat [Motion Picture]. United States: Miramax films.

Allen, W., Coppola, F. F., & Scorsese, M. (Directors). (1989). New York Stories [Motion Picture]. United States: Touchstone Pictures & American Zoetrope.

Three film shorts with the central theme of New York City: Life Lessons visits the NY art world and club scene. Its about an acclaimed abstract painter and his apprentice/assistant and former lover. Life Without Zoe is about an heiress, a young girl who helps return to an Arab prince a piece of stolen jewelry. Noted for lush cinematography, sumptuous sets and art direction. Oedipus Wrecks is about a New York lawyer (Sheldon) who has problems with his overly critical Jewish mother. At a magic show, his mother is invited to be a part of the act. She is put in a box that has swords stuck through it and she disappears like she is supposed to, but then she never reappears. This turns out to be great for Sheldon because, with her out of his life, he can finally relax. But soon his mother reappears in the sky over New York City.

Braunsberg, A. (Producer), & Poe, A. (Director). (1984). Alphabet City [Motion Picture]. United States: Atlantic Releasing Corp.

Crime thriller which takes place in one night in the life of Johnny, a teenage leader of neighborhood drug and extortion rackets in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Colesberry, R. F., Dunne, G., Robinson, A. (Producer), & Scorsese, M. (Director). (1985). After Hours. United States: The Geffen Company.

Driver, S. (Producer), & Jarmusch, J. (Director). (1984). Stranger Than Paradise [Motion Picture]. United States: Cinesthesia Productions Inc.

Fellner, E. (Producer), & Cox, A. (Director). (1986). Sid and Nancy [Motion Picture]. United States: Samuel Goldwyn Company.

Based on the mutually destructive, drug-and-sex filled relationship between Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen. Its dreamlike style and spellbinding score dramatize the divide between Sid and Nancy’s world and the world around them–and the inevitable horror when those worlds collide.

Fields, J., & Gramaglia, M. (Directors). (2003). End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones [Motion Picture]. United States: Magnolia Pictures.

This documentary tells the story of the Ramones from their beginnings at CBGB’s to their induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It includes commentary by Dee Dee Ramone,Johnny Ramone, Joey Ramone, Marky Ramone, C.J. Ramone, Tommy Ramone, Richie Ramone, Elvis Ramone and others (including Joey’s mother and brother). DVD ASIN: B000642JG8, See also the CD by the same name.

Foley, J. (Director). (1987). Who’s That Girl? [Motion Picture].United States: Warner Brothers.

An uptight New York tax lawyer (played by Griffin Dunn) gets his life turned upside down, all in a single day, when he’s asked to escort a feisty and free-spirited female ex-convict (Madonna) whom asks him to help prove her innocence of her crime.

Goetzman, G. (Producer), & Demme, J. (Director). (1984). Stop Making Sense [Motion Picture]. United States: Palm Pictures. DVD: ASIN: B000021Y7X

Over the course of three nights at Hollywood’s Pantages Theater in December 1983, filmmaker Jonathan Demme joined creative forces with cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth and Talking Heads… and miracles occurred. Following a staging concept by singer-guitarist David Byrne, this euphoric concert film is hailed by many as being one of the greatest rock movies ever made.

Gross, J. (Producer), & Seidelman, S. (Director/Producer). (1982).Smithereens [Motion Picture]. United States:

Joffe, C. H. (Producer), & Allen, W. (Director). (1979). Manhattan [Motion Picture]. United States: United Artists. LaserDisc: ASIN: B0015YNV88

In this romantic comedy Allen plays Isaac Davis, suffering from a mid-life crisis. Unhappy in his career as a variety show comedy writer and newly divorced from a woman who has since come out as a lesbian, Isaac waffles between two relationships: that with emotionally honest and open, but far too young, Tracy (Mariel Hemingway in an Academy Award nominated performance) and with pseudo-intellectual, neurotic Mary (Diane Keaton). Juxtaposing the naiveté and lack of pretension of youth with the growing cynicism of middle age.

Larson, J. (Book, Lyrics, Music). (1994). Rent [Play]. United States: New York Theater Workshop. DVD: ASIN:140498304X

Rock musical which tells the story of a group of young friends living in downtown NYC’s Alphabet City during the 1980’s. Their lifestyle includes art, sex, drugs and music, and the threat of AIDS. The Off-Broadway show won a Pulitzer Prize and moved to Broadway’s Nederlander Theater, where it won a Tony Award for Best Musical. In 2005 it was adapted to a motion picture, directed and produced by Chris Columbus.

Mandy Stein, M. (Producer & Director). (2009). Burning Down the House: The Story of CBGB [Motion Picture]. United States:

Maripol (Producer), & O’Brien, G. (Producter & Director). (2000). Downtown 81 (a.k.a. New York Beat Movie) [Motion Picture]. United States: Zeitgeist Films. ASIN: B00006GF6H

The film opens with Jean (Basquiat) in the hospital with an undisclosed ailment. Jean-Michel Basquiat was homeless at the time the movie was shot, and slept in the production office during most of the shooting. Legend has it that he used the money he got from the movie to buy canvas and paints. The paintings that appear in the movie belonging to Basquiat’s character are by Basquiat himself, and among his first canvases. This film is a bizarre fairy-tale, shot 20 years before its completion and release, it gives us all a glimpse of the great extremes of the ’80s.

Mitchell, E. (Director & Producer). (1980). Underground USA [Motion Picture]. United States: New Cinema.

Mitchell, E. (Director). (1985). The Way it is or Eurydice in the Avenues [Motion Pictures]. New York : Spring Films Inc.

The story of a group of actors who have been rehearsing Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus in New York City’s East Village. On a warm summer afternoon, the body of a young woman is found on a grassy knoll in Tompkins Square Park. Eurydice, the lead actress, is dead. At her funeral, the actors examine their relationships with her in order to unravel the mystery of her demise. Each actor is also a suspect. The actors’s memories, the underworld of Cocteau’s play and the East Village milieu become inextricably entwined. Play becomes life: seduction, betrayal, death. Final scenes underline the tragedy of Eurydice, as well as the end of an era in the East Village: scorched tenements, the Mudd Club, and “new wave” punk.

Nozik, M., (Producer), & Silver, J. M. (Director). (1988). Crossing Delancey [Motion Picture]. United Stated: Warner Bros.

Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle

Phillips, J., Phillips, M. (Producers), & Scorsese, M. (Director). (1976). Taxi Driver [Motion Picture]. United States: Columbia Pictures.

Set in NYC after the Vietnam War, De Niro plays Travis Bickle a lonely and depressed cab driver. His inspired performance, along with those of co-stars Jody Foster , Cybil Shepherd, and Harvey Keitel, create a brilliant film which portrays the gritty angst of the era. The film gained notoriety when John Hinckley, Jr. confessed that it was his obsession with Foster’s role that made him attempt to assassinate Ronald Reagan in 1981.

Pillsbury, S., Sanford, M. (Producers), & Seiselman, S. (Director). (1985) Desperately Seeking Susan [Motion Picture]. United States: Orion Pictures.

Pressman, E. R. (Producer), & Stone, O. (Director). (1987). Wall Street. United States: 20th Century Fox.

Weintraub, J. (Producer), & Friedkin, W. (Director). (1980). Cruising. [Motion Picture]. United States: Warner Brothers.

Loosely based on the novel by the same name, Al Pacino plays Officer Steve Burns, who goes undercover to catch a serial killer who is targeting gay men in the 1970s. His undercover work takes him to S&M Leather bars in the Meatpacking District of the West Village like the Eagle’s Nest, The Ramrod and The Cock Pit.  Through the filming and promotion the film was dogged by gay right protesters.

Wishnow, A. (Producer), & Danhier, C. (Director). (2009). Blank City.

First-time helmer Danhier deserves instant street credit for this anthemic, high-octane look at two underground film movements: the No Wave and the Cinema of the Transgression. Born from the muck of downtown New York during the late-70s/early-80s, these we-the-poor groundswells were defined by a DIY aesthetic and the wild fact that every artist in the LES was (or seemed to be) in cahoots. Informative without ever being dry (Danhier weds telltale bits of the era’s films and music to plain-spoken interviews with Jim Jarmusch, John Waters, and Thurston Moore, among others), it’s a marvelous primer that deftly folds 10 offbeat years into 100 minutes. _”One of the 9 Must-See films of the Tribeca Film Festival” by A. Eisenberg


Armstrong, E., & Ivers, P. (Directors). (2009). Nightclubbing [Video Series]. United States: [available from:]

Videotaped performances and interviews from 1975-1980, recently re-edited into five one-hour films, which have been included in many film festivals and museum exhibitions about the era. See also the film’s website:

  • Live From CBGB’s, 1975-77
  • Modern Music
  • Roots of Hard Core
  • Danceteria Video Lounge
  • Greatest Hits, 1975-80

Clory, B. (Producer). (1984). Break Dancing [VHS Video]. New York: NTSC color broadcast system. OCLC Number: 51768607

Harrison, A. (Director). (1992). Guerrillas in our midst. United States: Women Make Movies. [available from

“Presents a savvy exploration of the machinations of the commercial art-world during its boom in the 1980s, and brings the Guerrilla Girls to the screen. This anonymous group of art terrorists has succeeded in putting racism and sexism on the agenda in the art-world since 1985, and their witty and creative tactics have changed the face of political and cultural activism. Interviews with key figures in the Manhattan art scene, record-breaking auction sales, exhibition openings and interviews with the Guerrillas Girls themselves combine to highlight how the myth of the heroic male painter is perpetuated.”

Vinik, D. (Producer). Glenn O’Brien’s TV Party [Video Compilation]. Japan: Brink Films. ASIN: B000CQM2MG

Two revolutionary trends emerged in NYC during 1978, public access TV and punk rock. Glen O’Brian, from Warhol’s Interview Magazine, decided to host a public access program which was a cross between the Ed Sullivan Show and Hugh Heffner’s Playboy After Dark. Co-staring Chris Stein of Blondie, Walter Steding from the factory was the leader of The TV Party Orchestra, and underground film director Amos Poe was the director. This 91 minute film includes clips from 1978 to 1982, weekly shows which featured notoriety from the downtown scene such as Debbie Harry, Basquiat, Fab Five Freddie, and Robert Fripp.

Squat Theater Digital Archive (2010). Retrieved 01/22/2010 from:

In a storefront next to the Chelsea Hotel on 23rd Street, the Squat Theater made its reputation as one of the primary cultural centers of the New York performance and music scene through the late 70’s and early 80’s. During the early 80’s, Squat Theater also functioned as an underground movie theater, as well as a venue for much of the groundbreaking jazz, no-wave, and funk music of the era, serving as kind of home to John Lurie’s Lounge Lizards, Sun Ra, DNA, James Chance and Defunkt, among others. One of the missions of Archive is to digitally preserve visual and text documents of and about Squat Theatre and to make it accessible via this website. For other research materials such as articles, photos, posters, postcards, scripts and Squat related documents in collections, this site provides an overview, bibliography and a directory.

Tschinkel, P. (Producer). ART/New York [Video Series]. United States: Inner-Tube Video. (Available from 138 Prince Street, New York, NY 10012 | (212) 966-7446 | Fax (845) 265-4302 |

  • New York – New Wave at P.S.1, 28 mins., 1981
  • Young Expressionists (Jean-Michel Basquiat, Francesco Clemente, Julian Schnabel), 28 mins., 1983
  • Graffiti / Post-Graffiti (among others interviews with Lady Pink, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring), 28 mins., 1984
  • New Young Painters (Bobby G., Mark Kostabi, Kenny Scharf), 28 mins., 1985
  • Robert Mapplethorpe (1983), 79 min, 2006
  • Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988), 54 min, 1989
  • A Painting Collaboration at Fashion Moda, 28 mins., 2000

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