Miguel Calderón: On George Kuchar and Tropical Vultures
Thursday, Nov 21, 2019, 6:00PM
Osher Lecture Hall
SFAI—Chestnut Street Campus
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Miguel Calderón: On George Kuchar and Tropical Vultures


Films, stories, and more, followed by a conversation with Julio Morales.

Ten years ago, underground film legend George Kuchar and his former student, Miguel Calderón, took a working vacation to Acapulco. Their goal was to produce a strange and singular film, shot on location in a tourists’ paradise. Kuchar, just as compelling on screen as behind the camera, would play the leading man. The fruits of their labor, Tropical Vulture, combines Hollywood glamour with non-professional actors to reflect on heartbreak and lust on the sandy shores of Mexico. 

On the same trip, Kuchar made Burrito Bay, a video that follows the format of a diary and lends a completely different perspective to their journey. It provides a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the crew and of the boisterous workings of the artist's inner mind.

A decade later, and eight years after Kuchar’s passing, this special 10th anniversary program brings Calderon back to SFAI to reflect on both films, on the harrowing tale of accidentally deleted video footage–weeks worth of filming wiped from a hard drive–and on the profound influence that Kuchar continues to have on his practice and life. The event includes a screening of Tropical Vultureand Burrito Bay, a never-before-seen interview shot by Calderón in which Kuchar reflects on the lost footage, and a presentation of an unreleased book on Kuchar, by Calderón and artist/curator Julio Morales.

George Kuchar (1942–2011) was a key figure in experimental and independent filmmaking in the Bay Area and across the world. He gained prominence through his Super 8 and 16mm films produced throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s. In the 1980s, after more than three decades working with film, Kuchar transitioned to video. He subsequently created hundreds of low-fi, diaristic videos that oscillated between real life and fiction. Many of these camcorder pieces featured Kuchar and his friends as actors. He also regularly collaborated with his students from the San Francisco Art Institute, where he taught for many decades. Throughout his prolific output of over 350 films, Kuchar pushed the limits of film and cinematic tradition, creating his own distinct visual language. Kuchar embedded his eccentric videos with his most intimate and profound self, using strange humor and joyous nonsense - featuring UFOs, weather, defecation and forbidden passions.

Miguel Calderón (b. 1971, Mexico City) explores a broad range of themes, from violence and corruption in Mexico to youth and family dynamics to the supernatural. However, it is unified by an ever-present sense of theatricality, questioning the fine line between reality and fiction. Frequently cast from the perspective of an outsider, his work highlights the macabre complexity of man’s position in the universedeftly weaving together mockery, foolishness, social critique and sincerity of emotion.

Calderón received his BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1994. He has been the recipient of the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation Grant & Commissions program (2013), The MacArthur Fellowship for Film and New Media (2000), and the Bancomer/Rockefeller Fellowship (1995). Calderón has participated in various biennials, including: 7th Internationale Photo-Triennial, Esslingen, Germany (2007); Bussan Biennale, Bussan, Korea (2006); Sharja Biennial 7, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (2005), Yokohama Triennale of Contemporary Art, Yokohama, Japan (2005).

KADIST develops collaborations with artists, curators and many art organizations around the world, facilitating new connections across cultures. Local programs in KADIST’s hubs of San Francisco and Paris include exhibitions, public events, residencies and educational initiatives. Complemented by an active online network, they aim at creating vibrant conversations about contemporary art and ideas.


Image: George Kuchar, Burrito Bay, 2009. (Video Still).