1957 - 1965

Dir. Wallace Berman, 16mm (orig 8mm) B/W & Color Silent 00:10:00

Page Contents


This is the only film of the seminal West Coast collage artist who was particularly revered by younger filmmakers fascinated by the possibilities of recontextualizing images from popular culture. As a history of the sixties, the film is both melancholy and optimistic, perhaps naively so.

ALEPH is an artist's meditation on life, death, mysticism, politics, and pop culture. In an eight-minute loop of film, Wallace Berman uses Hebrew letters to frame a hypnotic, rapid-fire montage that captures the go-go energy of the 1960s. ALEPH includes stills of collages created using a Verifax machine, Eastman Kodak's precursor to the photocopier. These collages depict a hand-held radio that seems to broadcast or receive popular and esoteric icons. Signs, symbols, and diverse mass-media images (e.g., Flash Gordon, John F. Kennedy, Mick Jagger) flow like a deck of tarot cards, infinitely shuffled in order that the viewer may construct his or her own set of personal interpretations. The transistor radio, the most ubiquitous portable form of mass communication in the 1960s, exemplifies the democratic potential of electronic culture and serves as a metaphor for Jewish mysticism. The Hebrew term kabbalah translates as "reception" for knowledge, enlightenment, and divinity.

[Source: Scratching the Belly of the Beast Catalogue, 1994]
[Source: The Jewish Museum]