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Radical Light: Alternative Film and Video in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945–2000The BookThe ProjectThe TourPress CoveragePress

A Groundbreaking Look at the History of Avant-Garde Film and Video in the Bay Area

BAM/PFA is proud to present Radical Light: Alternative Film and Video in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945–2000, a groundbreaking project that includes a deeply researched and richly illustrated book, an extensive film and video series presenting both renowned and long-forgotten work, and a captivating gallery exhibition comprising archival ephemera and works on paper commissioned for the project. BAM/PFA Curators Kathy Geritz and Steve Seid and CalArts Dean of the School of Film/Video Steve Anker have drawn on their own expertise as well as the extensive holdings of the PFA Library and Film Study Center and the collections of other institutions and individuals to reconstruct this first large-scale historical survey. I am grateful for their dedication to this landmark project, which has been in the making for more than a decade. It is especially fitting for Radical Light—part exhibit, part film and video series—to be presented in the galleries and theater at BAM/PFA, which has been an important part of the history of Bay Area avant-garde art, film, and video for the past forty years. Explore the information on this site, then read the book, attend the screenings, and see the show!

Lawrence Rinder

The Book

Radical Light: Alternative Film and Video in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945–2000

“Dubbed Radical Light, the history of local art film oddities ends up touching on pretty much every important social movement and technical innovation from the 1880s to the 1990s.”—East Bay Express


This eagerly awaited collection of critical writings, interviews, first-person recollections, film stills, vintage posters, and artist-designed pages chronicles the vibrant and influential history of experimental media in the San Francisco Bay Area. Expansive and multifaceted, Radical Light: Alternative Film and Video in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945–2000 features contributions from seventy writers, curators, artists, scholars, archivists, and activists who explore the topic from historical, cultural, and aesthetic perspectives. The book documents the artists’ groups, artistic movements, film and video exhibition and distribution practices, film schools, publications, and media art centers that were central to the blossoming of avant-garde film and video in the Bay Area. Reproductions of rare period ephemera—posters, correspondence, photographs, newsletters, program notes—punctuate the pages of Radical Light, bringing the era to life with visual immediacy. This groundbreaking, hybrid assemblage excavates the complex history of how and why the Bay Area, a laboratory for artistic and technical innovation for more than half a century, has become a global center of experimental film, video, and new media.

Explore the Book

Browse Selected Pages of Radical LightRead an Excerpt from Radical LightBook Launch Party Radical L@TE: October 15, 2010 Buy the Book  

The Project site

The Total Radical Experience: Film, Video, Ephemera, Art, Performance, and more

“A long overdue reappraisal” – Artforum


Part art book, part film and video history, Radical Light: Alternative Film and Video in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945–2000 explores how and why the Bay Area became a vital center for experimental media. Conceived as a collage-like portrait, the extensively illustrated book features historical essays; critical writings; original, substantive interviews; and first-person narratives. In conjunction with its publication, BAM/PFA is presenting an eye-opening series of experimental film and video, a gallery exhibition that displays many of the archival documents that informed the research for the book, and a series of radical events that bring the project up to the present day.

The film and video series, cosponsored by San Francisco Cinematheque, is organized into both chronological and thematic programs and includes archival prints as well as recent restorations. The series allows for the rediscovery of long-forgotten works and the opportunity to hear from many of the filmmakers in person as they introduce the programs. The exhibition, The Timeline, features posters, flyers, photographs, film stills, and rare ephemera that elucidate the rich history of alternative media in the Bay Area. A sidebar focuses on the microcinema movement that emerged full-force in the early 1990s. In addition, the exhibition features collages and drawings by ten artists commissioned for the Radical Light book that reflect on the past fifty years of Bay Area avant-garde film and video. Rare historical documents relating to key films and filmmakers featured in the book have been added to BAM/PFA’s CineFiles database. Radical L@TE events, programmed as part of L@TE: Friday Nights @ BAM/PFA, include artists who have emerged since the year 2000, showcasing the continuing richness of the alternative film and video scene in the Bay Area.

Explore the Project

Watch the Films @ PFA Theater See the Exhibition Radical Light: The Timeline Attend Radical L@TE Events Part of L@TE: Friday Nights at BAM/PFA Browse Selected Images From the Book/Film Series/Exhibition Research Bay Area Avant Garde Film History on CineFiles Meet the Editors: An Interview with Steve Anker/Kathy Geritz/Steve SeidPrint the Radical Light Poster (pdf)

Radical Podcasts

David Meltzer and Wilder Bentley III

Ernie Gehr and Lawrence Jordan

On the High Line in New York

An Interview with Diller and Scofidio

The Tour

Radical Light Book, Film, and Video Tour

You don’t have to live in or visit Northern California to experience Radical Light on the big screen. The Radical Light Book, Film, and Video Tour will travel throughout the United States in 2011–2012.  As these details evolve, please check back here regularly for updates!


For information about bringing Radical Light to your venue please contact:


Kathy Geritz

(510) 642-1413,


Steve Seid

(510) 642-5253,



Tour Venues 


UC Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive

September 19, 2010–April 3, 2011

Berkeley, California


San Francisco Cinematheque

September 23, 2010–April 22, 2011

Berkeley, California


CalArts/Bijou Theater

December 14, 2010

Valencia, California


Los Angeles Filmforum

January 16 and 23, 2011

Los Angeles, California


REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater)

January 17, 2011

Los Angeles, California


Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE)

January 20, 2011

Los Angeles, California





UCLA Film and Television Archive

January 14 and 21, 2011

Los Angeles, California


Ann Arbor Film Festival

March 26, 2011

Ann Arbor, Michigan 


Images Festival / TIFF Cinematheque Toronto

March 30 and April 7, 2011

Toronto, Ontario, Canada


Anthology Film Archive

May 6–7, 2011

New York, New York


Museum of Modern Art, New York

May 8–9, 2011

New York, New York


Cinema Project

May 17–18, 2011

Portland, Oregon



Northwest Film Center

May 19–20, 2011

Portland, Oregon



September 24, 2011

Boston, Massachusetts


Harvard Film Archive

September 26, 2011

Cambridge, Massachusetts


MassArt Film Society

September 28, 2011

Boston, Massachusetts


University of Colorado, Boulder/
First Person Cinema

October 3, 2011

Boulder, Colorado


The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH)

November 20, 2011

Houston, Texas


Walker Art Center

February 2–23, 2012

Minneapolis, Minnesota


Block Cinema

February 2, 2012

Evanston, Illinois


Conversations at the Edge
Gene Siskel Film Center

February 16, 2012

Chicago, Illinois


Chicago Filmmakers

February 24, 2012

Chicago, Illinois



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