Barbara Rubin’s film Christmas On Earth was shot at 56 Ludlow Street, the Lower East Side apartment of John Cale. Now, it is being projected onto the walls of Boo Hooray Gallery, a short hike from the long vacant apartment where it was filmed. Grainy, sexual, alluring, disturbing images flicker across the white gallery wall: Rubin’s camera captures a sexual tableaux — straight and gay — bodies coming together without care for gender in a tumult of limbs enhanced by Rubin’s decision to superimpose two separate reels of film over each other, with additional lighting effects layered on these images.
Rubin was a downtown scenester, a Warhol approved rock ‘n’ roll film maker and an important hostess at the epicenter of the ’60’s scene (Rubin introduced The Velvet Underground to Andy Warhol and supposedly Bob Dylan to Allen Ginsberg, among others). She projected Christmas On Earth on to the performing Velvet Underground as a part of Andy Warhol Up-Tight, an early version of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable multimedia performance. Indeed, 56 Ludlow would become an address that played home to more legend. Sterling Morrison and Lou Reed moved in and then it was where the first version of “All Tomorrow’s Parties” was recorded in the summer of 1965.
Also on display At Boo Hooray are portraits of Reed and Cale practicing guitar, stunning in their intimacy and immediacy, original pages of Rubin’s screenplay and a list of celebrities she dreamed of casting in her film: John and Cynthia Lennon, Lenny Bruce, Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, Tiny Tim, Allen Ginsberg, Jean Genet, The Rolling Stones.
Articles about Rubin and the film’s release sit behind glass, lengthy pieces from the New York Post, Newsweek and Mademoiselle Magazine; surprising that in the ‘60s such large mainstream publications would devote so much print to an underground sex film. This air of long awaited loosening, morally and artistically, is intoxicating and can be felt through Rubin’s images. Her film stills are also hung around the gallery.
A small, lone Christmas tree stands in the gallery’s corner, twinkling merrily to the moans of long parted lovers. Dirty, delicious, decadent, disgusting, achingly human — Rubin’s work is as doped up and delirious as New York’s Lower East Side streets once were.
Christmas On Earth runs through Wednesday, January 16th at Boo Hooray Gallery. In conjunction with the exhibition, a screening of Christmas On Earth and To Barbara Rubin With Love by Jonas Mekas is scheduled for Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 7:30 PM at Anthology Film Archives.