Andrew Noren - a Poet of Cinema





At the time Andrew Noren wrote the following notes, he was about to begin work

on Part VII of the Adventures of the Exquisite Corpse, “Time Being,” released in 2001

in digital, color, black & white, and sound.


"Begun in 1968, “The Adventures of the Exquisite Corpse” is an epic film

in the classical sense, ultimately many hours long. The making of it will continue

throughout my life. Each of the individual parts of the work, most of which are

approximately one hour in length, are a complete and separate film in itself,

each with its own title, and each can be seen and appreciated by itself.

Yet each part is designed to reflect, echo, rhyme, recapitulate, and transform

all the other parts. The individual parts move as lesser wheels

within the great wheel of the total work.


The new section will focus on “time,” specifically how light and shadow “create” time even as they exist within it. What is time? It does not exist. We imagine it. Our human sense of time is created by memory, by imagination, and by the illusory sense of the present moment. Past, present, and future are not separate things: they are simultaneous. We live in a dream of time. Film by its nature is uniquely suited to this kind of inquiry since its essential nature is LIGHT IN TIME.


I also plan to enquire into how the inherent fact of cinematic narrative works, especially in extreme forms: how the physical fact of one frame inevitably following another in time leads inescapably to “story”, no matter how diverse the elements. I want to work with and against that human mental hunger that seizes on the most wildly disparate images and makes a narrative of them, forcing real chaos into “imaginary” order, as we all do, moment by moment, and frame by frame, in our comprehension of what we see.


I want to do this using certain film techniques in a far more radical and sophisticated way than I have been able to in previous work: time-lapse, single and multiple framing; mattes, extreme motions of camera, lens, and focus; intense alterations of light and shadow; alterations on the film emulsion itself, and eradication of the frame line. All of which is designed to maximize, release, and transmit the energy inherent in the image itself.


I will continue to work with the most common and humble things of my daily life; its creatures, textures, lights and shadows, and will attempt to sing of them with eyes and brain and film emulsion, to attempt to evoke their essential mystery. Finally, it will be a celebration of time and of the light and its phantoms, trapped in the frames and grains.


I see “The Exquisite Corpse” as a kind of cinematic alchemy, the goal of which is the revelation of the ordinary, as being in fact, extraordinary and magical, for anyone to see if they have the eyes for it. In a way, it is the world’s oldest story: the Fool’s progress around the wheel of the world of appearances and illusions. Starting from nothing/ darkness, becoming something/light, ending again in darkness, moving from the small to the large, the particular to the whole.

In the end, the finished work will incorporate my entire life, and will contain all that I was ever able to think, feel, know, see. It will end at the last moment I am able to register light on the ghostly flesh of film, bringing the circle to a close."

-Andrew Noren



Laurence Kardish,

Senior Curator, The Museum of Modern Art, New York,

Department  of Film & Media


"Andrew Noren (born 1943, Santa Fe) has been making moving image art for

the past 40 years, and is perhaps cinema's greatest practitioner of light, shadow,

visual texture, and velocity.  His recent digital work celebrates the primal nature

of vision and the mind's construct of duration."


March 3rd, 2004


Scott MacDonald

“It is with profound sadness that I tell you that filmmaker Andrew Noren died on May 2nd, after a bout with cancer.

Andrew was a remarkable moving-image artist. His series of films made under the general title, “The Adventures of the Exquisite Corpse” (including Huge Pupils, False Pretenses, Charmed Particles, The Phantom Enthusiast, The Lighted Field, Imaginary Light, Time Being, Free to Go, and Aberration of Starlight) are among the most accomplished films and digital works produced during these past decades.


One can hope that Andrew’s passing will instigate opportunities for screening the remarkable body of work he lived to produce.

Andrew was the instigation for “David Holzman” in Jim McBride’s canonical “David Holzman’s Diary” (1967)--though he was a far more complex and interesting person than the fictional David Holzman.


Noren worked as a news archivist for Sherman Grinberg Film Library for many years, then left to form his own company, where he did film research for documentaries.  He had recently moved from New Jersey to western North Carolina and was loving the mountains. He is survived by his wife, Rise’ Hall-Noren.


RIP, dear Andrew.”


-From Frameworks, May 25th, 2015



Gene Youngblood


"Those of us who were there at the time can recall the excitement when a new film by Andrew was released.  We anticipated them almost like we did the next Brakhage or Godard.  Andrew was a highly intelligent, discerning and quietly passionate human being.  His interview with Scott MacDonald is one of the most eloquent of them all.  I'm sure Mark Toscano would give anything to get his hands on those magisterial works of art.  I am forever grateful for their presence in our lives." 


-From Frameworks, May 25th, 2015






Steve Polta

Artistic Director & Archivist, San Francisco Cinematheque

“Today I learned that the great filmmaker Andrew Noren died a few days ago from cancer. For those who don’t know, Noren’s films are among the most visually intense and overwhelming films ever created. Noren was a master 16mm photographer, a master of capturing motion and a master of 16mm black & white. (I never had the opportunity to see his color films, but I’m told they were amazing as well). Noren’s films tended to be long-form (30-60 plus minutes) and are (the ones I’ve seen) relentless barrages of imagery, very fast occurring, incredible single-framing and time lapse-that only would pause for the briefest of moments. Generally (the films I’ve seen) shot in cities during the course of daily life, emphasize the passing of time and--in their speed and Noren’s uncanny way of rendering solid forms as fragile and ephemeral--seem to be constantly concerned with not only passing time, but the brevity of life. By the time I came to film, Noren--a contemporary and filmmaker-in-dialogue with Brakhage, Dorsky, Gehr, and all those guys--had largely withdrawn his films from distribution and had done the (probably deliberate, although I don’t know) slow fade into relative obscurity. Each rare screening of Noren’s aggressive (if overwhelming) films was an occasion for one’s personal sense of visuality (as well as filmmaking and film history) to be altered permanently, and for the better, in that these films feel like wake-up call jolts to the senses and made you feel exhilaratingly alive (albeit in intense ways-given that they stressed-to-me-the brevity of life and the non-reality of the physical world, they also really shook me up in ways that few other films have). His earlier films (which I’ve not seen) were attempts to document all aspects of his life on film and were--this is documented--the direct inspiration for DAVID HOLZMAN’S DIARY. It’s really too bad that his films didn’t screen more often, but in later years Noren--a classic intensely opinionated curmudgeonly filmmaker--did not make it easy. I was really glad to have seen him in person (and met him briefly) at Pacific Film Archive in 2005 and to have screened IMAGINARY LIGHT, via San Francisco Cinematheque at SFMoMA in 2012.”


-From Frameworks, May 25th, 2015



Chris Kennedy

Executive Director, LIFT: Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto


“There was a moment in the early 2000’s when Susan Oxtoby brought some of his films (and Andrew) to Toronto’s Cinematheque Ontario over the course of a few years. I likely saw about four or five of his films over that period and still think of them often. A quick description--rich, high-contrast imagery, long point-of-view shots down pathways and evocative time lapses of domestic spaces--doesn’t do them justice; there was something especially stunning about the experience.”


-From Frameworks, May 25th, 2015





"Cinema isn't material. It's refined, imaginative seeing...darkness

made visible.  It existed long before modern devices, since the

first opening of  the first animal eyelid...scene one, take one."


-Andrew Noren



"When solar light (sun’s thought?) and our own light-of-mind meet,

whatever the medium, cinema is possible. This is a spiritual

transaction. Sun’s light emanates, projecting image of “world”

through “eye” and into camera obscura of brain (a “darkened

chamber” indeed).


Mind imagines...forming a scenario of intent and desire...and

projects that light back through “eye” onto “world”. We blink. This

intermittence creates our dubious dream of “time”...belief in sequence of scene becomes “before” and “after”. Sequence requires duration...the rest is history!


The eye you see “it” with is the eye “it” sees you with. Refinement in this area is possible...and desirable. This can be understood magically. This is the great primal cinema of animal of the longest-running movies in show which we are all captive spectators, asleep and awake, from first light to final fade.”


-Andrew Noren



Photo by Jon Sholle

Photo by Alexis Alexandris

Photo by Rise' Hall-Noren

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