The Cinema of Transgression
is a term coined by Nick Zedd
in 1985 to describe a New York City
, United States
based underground film
movement, consisting of a loose-knit group of like-minded artists using shock value
in their work. Key players in this movement were Nick Zedd, Kembra Pfahler
, John Waters
, Casandra Stark
, Beth B
, Tommy Turner
, Richard Kern
and Lydia Lunch
, who in the late 1970s and mid 1980s began to make very low budget films
using cheap 8 mm cameras.
An important essay outlining Zedd's philosophy on the Cinema of Transgression is the Cinema of Transgression Manifesto , published pseudonymously in the Underground Film Bulletin (1984-90).
Perhaps the most famous transgressive artist, Richard Kern, began making films in New York with actors Nick Zedd and Lung Leg. Some of them were videos for artists like the Butthole Surfers and Sonic Youth.
We who have violated the laws, commands and duties of the avant-garde; i.e. to bore, tranquilize and obfuscate through a fluke process dictated by practical convenience stand guilty as charged. We openly renounce and reject the entrenched academic snobbery which erected a monument to laziness known as structuralism and proceeded to lock out those filmmakers who possessed the vision to see through this charade.
We refuse to take their easy approach to cinematic creativity; an approach which ruined the underground of the sixties when the scourge of the film school took over. Legitimizing every mindless manifestation of sloppy movie making undertaken by a generation of misled film students, the dreary media arts centers and geriatic cinema critics have totally ignored the exhilarating accomplishments of those in our rank - such underground invisibles as Zedd, Kern, Turner, Klemann, DeLanda, Eros and Mare, and DirectArt Ltd, a new generation of filmmakers daring to rip out of the stifling straight jackets of film theory in a direct attack on every value system known to man.
We propose that all film schools be blown up and all boring films never be made again. We propose that a sense of humour is an essential element discarded by the doddering academics and further, that any film which doesn't shock isn't worth looking at. All values must be challenged. Nothing is sacred. Everything must be questioned and reassessed in order to free our minds from the faith of tradition.Intellectual growth demands that risks be taken and changes occur in political, sexual and aesthetic alignments no matter who disapproves. We propose to go beyond all limits set or prescribed by taste, morality or any other traditional value system shackling the minds of men. We pass beyond and go over boundaries of millimeters, screens and projectors to a state of expanded cinema.
We violate the command and law that we bore audiences to death in rituals of circumlocution and propose to break all the taboos of our age by sinning as much as possible. There will be blood, shame, pain and ecstasy, the likes of which no one has yet imagined. None shall emerge unscathed. Since there is no afterlife, the only hell is the hell of praying, obeying laws, and debasing yourself before authority figures, the only heaven is the heaven of sin, being rebellious, having fun, fucking, learning new things and breaking as many rules as you can. This act of courage is known as transgression. We propose transformation through transgression - to convert, transfigure and transmute into a higher plane of existence in order to approach freedom in a world full of unknowing slaves.
"We propose that all film schools be blown up and all boring films never be made again." - Nick Zedd in the Cinema of Transgression Manifesto
The Cinema of Transgression shares a legacy with underground film-makers Jack Smith
, Andy Warhol
, John Waters
and Kenneth Anger
. It evolved directly out of the New Cinema
or No Wave Film
movement, which was related to, and the cinematic extension of, the then thriving New York Punk
and No Wave
musical movements. Often, although by no means exclusively, musicians of the period, including Arto Lindsay
, Pat Place
, Klaus Nomi
, and Lydia Lunch
, acted in these films.
No Wave Cinema
's Deathtripping: The Cinema of Transgression
, is a comprehensive account of this movement.