Film Night at Elizabeth Street Garden

Written by Daniel Lowe, CIMA’s Summer-Fall 2021 Intern

Art met arcadia last night as CIMA once again teamed up with Elizabeth Street Garden to host a screening of the 1964 film Round Trip, by Mario Schifano. The event, officially titled “Beyond the Canvas: Schifano and Film”, highlighted Mario Schifano’s artistic activities beyond painting and drawing by showing the 22 minute film, shot during the artist’s New York visit in 1963-64

As the sun set upon Elizabeth Street Garden, and as the guests flocked to find the best seats in the house, one could hear murmurs speculating about the film, and passionate conversations about Italian contemporary art. The crowd of more than 70 guests came to a hush, however, when current CIMA fellow Marica Antonucci rose to deliver her introductory remarks to the film.

Antonucci underscored Schifano’s fascination with America and its films. In a letter to his friend and fellow artist Franco Angeli he wrote:  “Here what is far more interesting than painting is the theater or the cinema, a certain kind of theater and contemporary cinema that you can only see in the Village or nearby…In New York the most modern thing is cinema.”

Schifano’s desire to capture the modernity of the American postwar cultural milieu is quite evident in Round Trip. Rather than a conventional travelogue, he presents the spectator with jarring angles of the New York city skyline, close-ups of advertisements, and shots of his trip to Veracruz. Schifano juxtaposed fragmented shots of American modernity with audio excerpts. At times one could hear Schifano’s muffled Roman accent as he speaks to his friends about travel plans, while at other times, Schifano fills up the audial space with a pop song repeated on a loop. Schifano presents the essence of 1960s America to the spectator, without any concrete plot to sully the pure sense of modernity that he himself felt. Schifano’s impression of America wasn’t completely uncritical, however. Perhaps the most powerful section of the film is a shot of youths dancing on television as a news bulletin about the Vietnam war plays in the background.

As the film came to an end, guests lingered to decode Schifano’s intentions and to discuss what they had seen. The film allowed many members of the audience to live (or for some, relive) the electric feeling of the 60s through the eyes of a foreigner coming to the USA to experience the American myth first-hand.

A special thank you to Elizabeth Street Garden for teaming up with us to create such an unforgettable night!