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Presented in partnership with the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center

Raphael Montañez Ortiz: Chopping Up the Classics

A man striking a piano with an axe.
December 8, 2023 -
December 10, 2023

Raphael Montañez Ortiz’s film, music and video art represent a missing link in the history of experimental media in the post-WWII era that helped redefine the idea of modern art after Abstract Expressionism. Born in 1934, Ortiz is a key figure of the 1960s international “Destruction in Art” movement, U.S.-based Guerrilla Theater and Latino art (including as founder of El Museo del Barrio). His object-based work is in the permanent collections of major U.S. and European art museums. But Ortiz’s turn to destruction in art started by way of film in the late 1950s with his use of ritual and shamanic approaches to the destruction of 16mm films sold for home viewing. These recycled films are concurrent with similar work by Bruce Conner and other avant-garde filmmakers around the world, but they signal a distinct alternative to traditionally modernist work relying on classical music composition and “diagnostic” editing as a critique of media culture. Ortiz extended his work from ritual destruction to performance-based editing in the 1980s and 1990s through what he called “scratch videos.” His extensive media collection — archived at UCLA — includes footage documenting the emergence of performance, installation art and experimental music in New York City. This two-night program surveys the full scope of his media art since the late 1950s.

Series curated and notes written by Chon Noriega, Distinguished Professor, UCLA School of Theater Film and Television.

Special thanks to our community partners: Echo Park Film Collective, Puerto Ricans in ActionUCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance, UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.


Past Programs & Events

Title Date and Time Location
A distorted image of women at the beach.

Program 2: Scratch Videos

Sunday, December 10, 2023 - 7:00 pm Billy Wilder Theater
A strip of film with holes punched in it.

Program 1: Taking an Axe and Hole Punch to Celluloid + Filming Destructions

Friday, December 8, 2023 - 7:30 pm Billy Wilder Theater