Director George Kuchar has relished the “lowbrow,” perhaps even “nobrow,” in decades of playful, innovative filmmaking. A luminary, with his twin Mike Kuchar, in the underground film scene alongside contemporaries such as Andy Warhol, Kuchar has made some 200 videos and 50-60 movies. Special events while he is artist-in-residence at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts through Dec. 5 are related to the exhibit “Tropical Vulture,” his collaborative project with Mexican artist Miguel Calderón. The Examiner spoke with the mischievous Kuchar, a filmmaking instructor at the San Francisco Art Institute since 1971.
What inspired you to collaborate with Miguel Calderón? I just like Miguel, that’s all. I hadn’t even seen his work since he left SFAI, where he was my student years ago. We collaborated on some pictures with the other students and we had a good working relationship. I would just say yes to him, I don’t know why.
Is it perhaps because he, too, has been called “lowbrow” and has been said to “push crass stereotypes and clichés to absurd and provocative extremes”? Sure, I bet. I always enjoyed the cliches, I never minded a sunset over the ocean, and if you push them even further … Stereotypes and cliches are even better if you’re making a short film, because people can read them even easier.
Can you say a little more about your presentation on Saturday of “Secrets of the Shadow World,” your video about the late UFOlogist John Keel, and your lecture on it? It ain’t really a lecture, although Keel lectures like crazy in the documentary — not all the time, we go to the park, he eats a baloney sandwich, and the video is heavily illustrated with visuals and scenes from comics. He investigated all the weird stuff, you know; Richard Gere played him in “The Mothman Prophecies,” which was based on Keel’s book.
You’ll be closing out your residency Dec. 3 and 5 with live video tapings that gallery visitors can participate in — is that part of “Tropical Vulture” or a separate project? Both. “Tropical Vulture” is still in progress, and at the Art Institute, we’re at the tail end of a production class, so we’re making this big film noir. Maybe we’re going to bring our picture that we’ve finished, maybe the crew will be there, maybe an art show, and then concoct a little picture of artists in the gallery. I gotta dream it up.
IF YOU GO
Where: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission St., San Francisco
When: 2 to 8 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays; noon to 8 p.m. Saturdays; noon to 6 p.m. Sundays; closes Jan. 10
Admission: $5 to $7
Contact: (415) 978-2787; www.ybca.org
What: “Secrets of the Shadow World” screening and talk
When: 2 p.m. Saturday