Los Angeles Filmforum presents
Honoring Peter Mays, Los Angeles Treasure, part 2
Sunday, March 31, 2019, 7:30 pm
At the Spielberg Theatre at the Egyptian, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028
Our friend Peter Mays made films and paintings in Los Angeles since the 1960s, a critical figure in the experimental film scene here. He passed away early in the morning on March 4, 2019. We want to honor him by screening a variety of his works made over the past 59 years. In the second part of our retrospective, we focus on his wonderful video work.
Peter Mays grew up in Los Angeles and attended UCLA where he majored in painting and minored in mathematics. Fascinated by what he read about underground films, he formed a screening society in the Art Department at UCLA to which he brought Jack Smith and other figures of the New York underground films scene. He made his first experimental film while in graduate school, for which he constructed a printer and developing tank. Pat O’Neill and Bob Abel were on a similar path in the design division.
Mays made several experimental shorts in 16mm in the middle 60’s.
Inspired by the emerging counter-culture, Mays directed a 16mm feature film, Sister Midnight, in 1967. Influenced by Warhol's Chelsea Girls, his movie made extensive use of intensely colored gels for lighting. It was structured as a mass dream.
In 1968 Mays was a founding member of the Single Wing Turquoise Bird light show, which performed with 4 to 7 members until 1973. The group re-formed in 2010 to create new live performances as well as museum installations and university residencies.
Mays took a new and unexpected path in the early 80s. He wrote a program for the Atari microcomputer to portray large chapters of history through computer animation of geography, spending eight years on an interactive animated history of World War One. Today he has four animated educational films distributed by Discovery Education. During this time (the structuralist period in experimental film), he also made several long avant-garde films that gave greater weight to the sound track and "meaning." Perhaps the most important is Astral Man, an investigation into the past, shot in the 60s but completed in 2000.
In the 21st century Mays produced numerous digital shorts using the extensive effects available in After Effects, and based on the artifacts and symbols of ancient civilizations and esoteric mystical traditions, including those of the Vikings, Egypt, Hinduism Buddhism, alchemy, Tarot, Kabbalah and the works of Alistair Crowley.
Curated by David Lebrun, with readings from Peter Mays’s filmic autobiography Mouse Enigma.
Special thanks to Paula Achter, Amy Halpern, Mark Toscano.
Filmforum’s oral history with Peter Mays, done as part of Alternative Projections: Experimental Film in Los Angeles 1945-1980, can be read at
Tickets: Free but please RSVP. Available in advance from Brown Paper Tickets at https://petermays2.bpt.me or at the door.
For more information: www.lafilmforum.org or 323-377-7238.
2009, HD video, color, sound, 24 min.
This film, three years in the making, is an exploration of an imaginary dark island of the mind. It might be about religious activity in the jungle, especially dancing. Featuring King Kong, the Buddha, Siva and Shakti, and a tree spirit. – P.M.
A Graveyard Tale
1982, video, color, sound, 7 min.
A walk in a cemetery leads to a small epiphany.
2012, HD video, color, sound, 16 min.
An hermetic alchemical film in three parts.
2015-2019, HD video, color, sound, 8 min.
World Premiere! A journey through the nebulae. TURN, found among Peter’s media files during the recent archiving of his work, was created for light show use but stands on its own as a film.
2010, HD video, color, sound, 16 min.
Using material originally created for Single Wing Turquoise Bird Light show use, this three part film interweaves Tibetan Buddhist yantras and western magic to invoke a Faustian new age.- P.M.
Los Angeles Filmforum screenings are supported by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles. We also depend on our members, ticket buyers, and individual donors.
Los Angeles Filmforum is the city’s longest-running organization dedicated to weekly screenings of experimental film, documentaries, video art, and experimental animation. 2019 is our 44th year.
Coming Soon to Los Angeles Filmforum:
March 17 – Peter Mays Retrospective, part 1, at the Spielberg Theatre
March 24 – Films by Sara Kathryn Arledge, at the Spielberg Theatre
March 31 – Peter Mays Retrospective, part 2, at the Spielberg Theatre
April 7 – Ariana Gerstein, at the Spielberg Theatre
Memberships available, $70 single, $115 dual, or $50 single student
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