Tuesday, October 21, 2008


The selections have been made!

new actualities for a new world

Premiering brand spankin' new silent documentaries
ALL ONE-MINUTE LONG for your amusement & educational import

Featured Artists


FREE Screenings for ONE & ALL in OCTOBER 2009


Presented by COCA Center for Outdoor Contemporary Art

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


COCA Center for Outdoor Contemporary Art presents

Minutopia new actualities for a new world

project summary
Minutopia new actualities for a new world celebrates the magic and mystery of our viewable world through new artist-made documentaries that creatively explore in minutiae the familiar marvels of our contemporary age. Extending the rich legacy of cinema’s earliest documentary achievements, these new “actualities” offer vivid examples of the hidden poetry and lyricism found in our waking life. Crowds, street-scenes, animals, tasks, transportation, nature, art and architecture – plus curious oddities and events all unfold to offer unexpected insight or passing fancy to audiences of all ages. Minutopia visitors may enhance their viewing experience through a customized viewing port stationed within the glorious rustic setting of the historic Presidio of San Francisco. Viewings are ongoing and free – with additional educational presentations, materials, and special events included. Minutopia is central film programming for Silver Sun Illuminating the Splendor of the Silent Screen presented by COCA Center for Outdoor Contemporary Art www.cocanow.org

call for new actualities!

1 minute maximum duration
documentary, journalistic, reportage, experimental/personal-poetic documentary ok
digi, video, or film ok
color, toned, tinted, or black & white ok
intertitles or subtitles optional
silents only
new works only, to be premiered through minutopia
open to artists from all countries

All new works selected for minutopia to be part of ongoing screenings and central film programming for Silver Sun Illuminating the Splendor of the Silent Screen. Selections are based on artistic quality, innovation, composition, and fluidity. Special attention will be paid to works that display strong connectivity to minutopia source material, chiefly: turn-of-the-century actualities. Names of artists will be included on all outgoing promotional and educational materials for Silver Sun. All new works will be sequenced and edited to one disc with credits and subtle ambient soundtrack provided by COCA. Selected artists will receive free promotional materials before project launch, plus a complete minutopia disc to produce your own optional minutopia screening events during the month of the September. Scheduling information/details for all minutopia screenings will be listed on the silversun blog http://silversunscreen.blogspot.com and promoted through various means

For inspiration and info regarding actualities, see

· minutopia format: DVD, region1 (up to 4 different submissions per artist accepted)
· title
· subject matter (4 sentence max)
· duration
· artist name
· artist location & bio (4 sentence max)
· artist website (if any)

mail your minutopia DVD & information to

Ellen Lake
609 56th Street
Oakland, CA 94609

For return of any items, please include a SASE (self-address stamped envelope)

postmark deadline
May 31, 2008

notification date
July 15, 2008


Minutopia new actualities for a new world is an original project developed by Elliot Lessing & Ellen Lake for COCA Center for Outdoor Contemporary Art as part of Silver Sun Illuminating the Splendor of the Silent Screen featuring a new placemaking sculpture by Scotland-based artist Emma Butler-Cole Aiken

COCA Center for Outdoor Contemporary Art
everything is possible


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Terror Symphony

I recently viewed Nosferatu for the first time. What a remarkable gem (with gem-like colours gracing this toned silent horror), and I am so grateful for finally experiencing its creepy majesty. Very moody and well-told tale, easily living up to its reputation. Note: I wonder if the tavern scene where the townsfolk suddenly stop what they are doing, turn morose, and inform their newest customer that to venture in the woods (where werewolves dwell) would be fatal -- sets a precedent that, jumping forward, would find its homage in a similiar scene in An American Werwolf in London by John Landis? I love this film too since it first splattered the big screen. In any case, Nosferatu is ghastly and wonderful!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Laughing Gas

And here are my favorite boys -- who always astound me with their masterful timing, idiosyncratic mannerisms (Oliver Hardy's hands and fingers are characters unto themselves!), and, of course, their off-kilter genteel relationship to each other and the baffled world around them. Boy, do they have heart -- and genius to burn!

I look forward to seeing "Liberty" again (if I can ever find another copy), and some of the other silents they created, as many contain some wonderful views of old Hollywood and LA! Here's to Laurel and Hardy! (I wish their works was more available on DVD. Umph!)


My senses are becoming cinematic! Light is at this project's core -- setting everything afire. I look forward to the time when sunlight, glass, and cinema meet! History, the power of the present, and the future of new ideas beaming forth in one long warm glow -- a Silver Sun!

Mae Marsh seen here capturing the light fantastic

Lover Man

Fiery passion, romance, primal force, animal grace -- and even occult power come together in this one man. Behold, Valentino!

Good Soldier

2008, and a global war is raging. Some live on the virtual side of the war, like those of us on the West Coast. Some are not as fortunate. Like in past times of dramatic global upheaval, arts, culture, and sciences have been there to provide a welcome distraction to troubled times, healthful perspectives -- and when on point, canny insight into our complex nature and the condition of person-hood.

I am so proud to be part of arts culture. I consider it not only a delight, but an abolute responsibility to show creative civic leadership -- in whatever ways that I can.

Today and everyday, I applaud those working in all creative fields. Those who work tirelessly, whether in private or in the public eye, to put our species on a positive track, expanding our awareness of ourselves -- and of other worlds. The creative fields of arts and sciences are armed with the best minds and hearts, poising our lives for new worlds of exploration, extending hope and new forms of humanity.

I often tell people "It may look like I'm in the business of art ..but really I am in the business of Hope." Everyday is an opportunity to transform our lives into something better -- and inspire others to do the same. Onward and upward!


Moving steadily on the project details for Silver Sun, as Emma works on some design solutions. Soon, we'll have a full project summary in place, a call for *new* silent film submissions for program inclusion, a budget proposal, and some design renderings from Emma.
My research continues forth, and much of it involves simply immersing myself in the subject matter -- visually, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually. Sometimes, I end up connecting some dots to my personal past. Such as the time I saw a re-release of "Wings" as a kid at a theater in Torrence, California, w. live organ music. Or seeing "M" for the first time as a teen starring the magnetic yet lurid Peter Lorre, or "Metropolis" (also by Fritz Lang), w. its inspired retro-futuristic sets.

I have not seen many silent films. So, like many of my projects, Silver Sun is an opportunity for me to grow and learn... as I hope it will be for everybody involved.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Hue and Eye

Hand-tinting to highlight a scene or object, bringing color to specific elements, while leaving other parts of the scene in glorious black and white. We are transported to a film world with its own logic, rules, and outer nature.

Seen here, The Great Train Robbery (Griffith, 1903) gets a fanciful makeover -- each cell tinted by hand!

Color Wheel

Little did I know that the majority of silent films were tinted or toned with vibrant colors. Hand-tinting processes were employed, or bathing black and white positive film in dyes for toning. Colors were chosen to fit a mood or location, such as blue for a seaside scene or red for action sequences, shown here.

The marvelous colors offer a magical, often dreamlike lyricism, inviting audiences to bask in an otherworldy glow -- or contemplate their own personal psychotropic terrain. I wonder what colors Silver Sun will produce?

Friday, February 15, 2008


Oo la la. The Silent Screen is otherworldy, dreamlike, and thrillingly decadent, with set and costume design so central to cinema's development as an art form.

Seen here, Salome, 1922, directed by Alla Nazimova, w. costumes/sets evocative of Aubrey Beardsley.

Friday, February 8, 2008


My guiding light and terrifically entertaining research material for this project is Seductive Cinema: The Art of Silent Film by James Card. Vastly informative and written with heart, I recommend this book to those who have even a passing interest in Film and Cinema marginalia. His insights are informative and at times -- daring!

"I will even go so far as to suggest that there has never been a great film without close-ups. In fact, a great film was never made until close-ups came into general use. ...In the close-up the motion picture is in its own world." -James Card, Seductive Cinema

Seen here, Gloria Swanson exuding her emotive charm.

Strong words from the heart. And who can blame him? The close-up is quite magical and profound, bringing an intimacy to that special relationship between our heroes and ourselves.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


Quiet evocations of mood, spirit, and pathos

Liberty Bell

My research for Silver Sun brings me to all manner of "places" within my experience and my psyche, reminding me of the richness one can tap into when developing a project full of unknowns. Today, I remember the impact Luis Bunuel had on me ala his most hilarious autobiography, "My Last Sigh", when I read it, oh... about 20 years ago. What a fun read for anyone interested in Film, Surealism, and Freedom. Speaking of which, I'm certain my research will require me to revisit his filmic tour-de-force, "Un Chien andalou" (1929, Bunuel/Dali). I viewed this outrageous masterpiece, oh, about a dozen times in my late teens/early 20's via the many midnight screenings at various film arthouses in LA, my hometown. The slice through the eye, the crawling ants, the decaying cows in the pianos, the characters (and audience!) inexplicably locked into situations that followed a jagged unknowable logic -- a filmic realm of hidden desires and mindbending juxtopositions. To view this film is to take part in a strange liberation of the senses!


Recently, I screened "Pandora's Box" (1928, Pabst) as part of my research. Brilliantly directed by G. W. Pabst, the film introduced me to the charismatic & luminous spirit of Louise Brooks. The film drew me into the sordid world of grimey players, underground misfits, and desperate hearts. A serial killer even figures into this spoiled stew. Pathos, drama, suspense, and intrigue ensues -- with poignant moments of comedy. But, it is Louise Brooks' captivating performance as Lulu which is transcendent and quixotically powerful. Her unbridled innocence with which she imbues her character is matched only by the marvelous way she embraces this new medium... Film! The silver nitrate simply loves her. I was transfixed -- and you will be too!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Silver Sun
Illuminating the Splendor of the Silent Screen
Presented by COCA Center for Outdoor Contemporary Art
May 2009, VARIOUS Weekdays, Saturdays & Sundays, noon-5 PM, FREE

featuring FREE PREMIERE viewings of
new stained glass sculpture by Scotland-based artist
Emma Butler-Cole Aiken
new silent documentaries in
Minutopia new actualities for a new world
new artist-designed slideshows with LIVE chamber music in
Magic Lantern
Silver Sun developed and curated by Elliot Lessing
Minutopia developed with Ellen Lake

Silver Sun: Illuminating the Splendor of the Silent Screen is a placemaking art project that celebrates the power and magic of Silent Film
Set within the rustic charms of San Francisco's green and urban outdoor spaces, visitors of all ages will explore the richness of silent cinema in an entirely new way. Through a robust collaboration with COCA Center for Outdoor Contemporary Art, Scotland-based artist Emma Butler-Cole Aiken is creating a fascinating stained glass sculpture designed to celebrate the rich history of silent film while highlighting the California landscape as a natural hub of meditative beauty and healing quietude. Project and city visitors are invited to wander through and around the sculpture’s arch-shaped design – exploring its nuances as a beacon for contemplation and study. Phantasmagoric images and iconic moments from the golden age of silent screen are reflected in dark hues that are richly innovative for the stained glass genre. Much like film technology, the stained glass imagery is brilliantly illuminated by the sun, stimulating dialogue and wonder about film art, sculptural form, and natural beauty
Silver Sun’s innovative film programming includes
Minutopia new actualities for a new world. With a modern spin on the nickelodeons of yesteryear, visitors will view free ongoing screenings of new minute-long silent documentaries by local and global artists via a nomadic viewing port designed by a Bay Area artisan. Spanning back to cinema’s proto-film history, our program also includes a premiere performance event called Magic Lantern, featuring a new series of artist-designed slideshow projections presented with an evocative soundtrack performed live by San Francisco’s finest musicians. Free artist-designed info brochures will offer insights into the Silent Film history, Silver Sun, and the vibrant connections linking nature and art. Free all-ages workshops, talks or presentations from local film groups, stained glass societies, homegrown film enthusiasts, and our lead visiting artist will deepen the educational and community-building dimensions built into the project. And Discovery Tours of San Francisco's unique open spaces will highlight Silver Sun as a holistic cultural experience that is both timely and unique
Through a refreshing fusion of art, technology, and nature, Silver Sun quietly unveils a captivating new world of fresh possibilities for film and outdoor spaces, while casting a prismatic light onto the timeless wonders of cinema's golden legacy!