Jud Yalkut

Jud Yalkut, born 1938

1964: makes 16mm films, starts working with the USCO collective.
1965: works with Nam June Paik.
1969: shoots The Aquarian Rushes, the only underground film that documents the Woodstock Festival.
1972: leaves USCO.

Born in 1938, Yalkut grew up in a Jewish/Italian neighborhood in the Bronx. He says his mother was a teacher and “a Sunday painter” and his father was a dentist and “weekend classical pianist.”

Realizing his son’s love for motion pictures, Yalkut’s father gave him a gift that would subtly alter the course of his life. “The present from my father for my Bar Mitzvah was an 8 mm movie camera,” Yalkut says. “Of course, the first thing that happened with the camera was that my father filmed the Bar Mitzvah, then he gave it to me. I actually made a few films with it that are now long gone ... more like expressionistic kinds of films,” Yalkut says.

In 1956, after two years in Montreal, Yalkut dropped out of McGill. Knowing that he had money from his family’s estate waiting for him when he turned 21, he moved back to New York where he found an apartment in Greenwich Village.

The New York Yalkut returned to was pulsing with bohemian energy and artistic creativity. “It was the early stages of the beat scene,” Yalkut says. “I knew a great many of those people - I knew Allen Ginsberg. Hugh Romney, who later became Wavy Gravy, was one of the poets; he and I and a number of other people used to read in the coffee shops down around MacDougal Street. There was one place called the Gaslight that was a regular hang out; there was another place across the street called the Fat Black Pussycat where people like Moondog and Tiny Tim played. It was a crazy scene going on all over the place. Things would go on all night long.”

After only one year at City College, Yalkut transferred to McGill University in Montreal. He explains that his transfer to McGill was fueled more by wanderlust than academic pursuits. “It was great getting out of the country,” Yalkut says. “At that time, Canada was realizing that they had to get their own identity and move away from being absorbed in American culture and English culture. They were starting to appreciate what they had and there was also a big renaissance going on there in the Canadian poetry scene and Montreal was the center of it.” (...)

Despite the creative energy of the city Yalkut was bored. He and a traveling companion left New York in 1957 on an un-intrepid journey toward the West Coast. “I wanted to travel,” Yalkut says. “Go ”˜on the road’ as it was. “

(Louisville - California - Big Sur - San Francisco...)

In 1959, at the age of 20, Yalkut went back home to New York where he remained for 14 years. He worked more odd jobs at the Discophile record store and the 8th Street Book Shop, a beat mecca. Then, in 1961, a friend he had met in Montreal (and who later became his first wife) gave him a new, 8mm camera. Yalkut started making films again. “I hadn’t really focused on any particular medium up until that point, but film became the thing,” Yalkut says: “I made a lot of films at the time in 8mm. Then in 1964 I got .enough money together to get my own 16 mm camera, a Bolex, a great Swiss camera that made the independent film movement possible all over the world.”

Soon after, Yalkut began working with a multi-media group called USCO, or the Company of Us. It is the work he did with USCO that won Yalkut his first recognition as a filmmaker. “The work (USCO) did together was anonymous,” Yalkut says. “You did not know who did any particular, thing. We had a poet, a painter, an electronics engineer - and I was the filmmaker. We did shows in museums and we did shows with Marshal McLuhan and Timothy Leary. We toured all over; we were the entertainment at the LSD conference at the University of San Francisco; we did a show called “Us Down by the Riverside!” at the Riverside Museum in New York, which was the first time the term ”˜be in’ was ever used.” Honing his skills through USCO, by 1966 Yalkut had created 10 films, which he premiered at the New York Filmmakers Cinematheque.

In 1969, Yalkut made The Aquarian Rushes, the only underground film that documents the Woodstock Festival. The 50-minute, film was picked by Martin Scorcese, who was then finishing his degree at NYU, as his official 16mm selection for a film festival in Sorrento, Italy.

It was also through USCO that, in 1965, Yalkut first met composer and video artist Nam June Paik. Together they made several films, including Beatles Electronique, a mesmerizing, three-minute series of images taken from the band’s performance at Shea Stadium and clips from A Hard Day’s Night. “Paik was an early pioneer in turning television and video into art,” Yalkut says.

Yalkut remained with USCO through 1972. One year later he was asked to come on board at Wright State’s Department of Art to set up experimental media classes. After starting in the fall of 1973, Yalkut’s tenure at the university lasted four years, until the department was abolished in 1977.

Jud Yalkut made nine short films from the late 60s and early 70s:

”¢ US Down by the Riverside (1966), combining USCO light with Beatles music, this film was a visionary realization of the Riverside Museum installation exhibition that first introduced the word “Be-In”;
”¢ Diffraction Film (1965), a kaleidoscopic “trip” through city streets;
”¢ Turn, Turn, Turn (1965-66), a kinetic, alchemic exploration of the effect-versus-content thesis of Marshall McLuhan’s “medium is the message/massage”;
Ӣ Le Parc (1966), a four minute abstract light tribute to Julio Le Parc, the first artist to be awarded a prize for Kinetic Art at the 1966 Venice Biennial;
Ӣ D.M.T. (1966), a multimedia filmic translation of the work of poet Jackie Cassen and illuminist Rudi Stern;
Ӣ Moondial Film (1966), an innovatively filmed collaboration of dance, music and light premiering at an Electromedia Theater event;
”¢ P + A ”“ I (K) (1966), honoring Nam June Paik in a three part documentary of his legendary electronic arts;
”¢ Clarence (1965-68), a poetic montage of the ”˜sculpture garden home’ of hermit Clarence Schmidt that was tragically ruined by fire in 1967;
Ӣ China Cat Sunflower (1973), a journey through the images and sounds produced by the Grateful Dead;
Ӣ Planes (1972), the filmmaker delves into psychic space and physical escape of a theater as a vertical tunnel.

http://www.ps1.org/(external link)
http://www.experimentaltvcenter.org - interview by Keith Pandolfi, April 2000(external link)

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