Radical Sex Education: Sexuality, Pedagogy and Avant-Garde Film

Herb Shellenberger, Alice Anne Parker
16th March 2019

Radical Sex Education: Sexuality, Pedagogy and Avant-Garde Film is a screening and seminar programme exploring radical experiments with avant-garde film and sex education from 1960s-70s west coast US curated by Herb Shellenberger.

Session 1 – Human sexuality films from the Multi-Media Resource Center
Saturday 16th March, 12pm
Free to attend. Book your ticket via Eventbrite here

Founded in 1968 at the height of the sexual revolution by Methodist ministers Rev. Dr. Ted McIlvenna and Rev. Dr. Laird Sutton, the National Sex Forum/Multi-Media Resource Center was an organization invested in teaching sexual health and wellness through the production and distribution of films, tapes, slides, books and other educational materials.

Originally based at the Glide Memorial United Methodist Church, they produced their own sexually explicit films—most often directed by Laird Sutton and Constance Beeson—which were “accurate documentaries of [participants’] sexual patterns”. These films showed “ordinary people, doing what they do sexually”.

Their films were produced with the hallmarks of contemporary independent filmmaking: multiple exposures and superimposed images, variable frame rates producing slow or fast motion, and psychedelic visual effects and soundtracks. In addition, the MMRC distributed films by artist filmmakers like Barbara Hammer, James Broughton and Scott Bartlett, giving these aesthetic creations a utility as objects of sex education and sex therapy.

In this session, curator Herb Shellenberger will discuss his research on the films and persons behind the Multi-Media Resource Center and screen a selection of rarely-shown short films on 16mm.

Session 2 – Every Body Together: the films of Alice Anne Parker
Saturday 16th March, 3pm
Free to attend. Book you ticket via Eventbrite here

Alice Anne Parker is a pivotal feminist filmmaker whose output totals seven short films made between 1969–1974. Each of her films is a sensitive and caring document of humans or animals showing their bodies, their movements and relations. In particular, the films Riverbody and Near the Big Chakra (both 1970) are important documents of the era, showing a mass collective of bodies dissolving into and out of one another.

While the films were creative expressions, their significance is also in bringing a mass of people together to express sexual freedom and liberation. Made in the era when Alice Anne said “we [in the Bay Area] were all nude a lot then”, there is something that remains radical and significant about Parker’s films, which could be considered significant forerunners to the concept of social practice art.

Following a screening including Riverbody and Near the Big Chakra, Alice Anne Parker will join via Skype for a conversation with Herb Shellenberger.

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Alice Anne Parker
is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from Hunter College in NYC and holds a Masters Degree from Columbia University. She has taught at Rutgers University, The School of Visual Arts, The University of California at Berkeley, and for six years was a Professor of Humanities at the San Francisco Art Institute. She is an award winning filmmaker, whose seven short films have been honored at the Cannes Film Festival, the New York Film Festival, the Venice Biennalle, at a one-person show at the Whitney Museum of American Art and at a retrospective at The Pacific Film Archive. Two of her films are included in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institute.

Herb Shellenberger is a curator and writer originally from Philadelphia and based in London. He has curated screenings at institutions such as Arnolfini, Light Industry, Lightbox Film Center, LUX , New York University and Taipei Center for Contemporary Arts. Since 2016, he has been Associate Programmer for Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival (Berwick-upon-Tweed, UK). He is a graduate of the Central Saint Martins/LUX MRes Moving Image programme, has lectured on film and contemporary art at museums, universities and art spaces, and has written for publications including Art-Agenda, Art Monthly and The Brooklyn Rail. He curated the series “Independent Frames: American Experimental Animation in the 1970s + 1980s” which premiered at Tate Modern and is touring internationally. In 2018, he curated an exhibition at The Maslow Collection (Scranton, USA) and co-programmed (with Almudena Escobar López) the Flaherty Seminar series Common Visions at Anthology Film Archives, New York.

Image credit: Eyetoon (1968), Jerry Abrams