Flesh Cinema

The corporeal turn in American avant-garde film

By Ara Osterweil

Flesh Cinema


  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-9191-9
  • Pages: 304
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £18.99
  • Published Date: August 2014
  • BIC Category: Art History, History of art, Electronic, holographic & video art, ART / Film & Video, The arts / Films, cinema, The arts / History of art / art & design styles, Electronic, Holographic & Video Art
  • Series: Rethinking Art's Histories


Flesh Cinema: The corporeal turn in American avant-garde cinema explores the groundbreaking representation of the body in experimental films of the 1960s and 1970s. Focusing on sexually explicit films by Andy Warhol, Barbara Rubin, Stan Brakhage, Carolee Schneemann, Yoko Ono and Paul Sharits, this book demonstrates how experimental cinema not only transformed American visual culture, but also the lives of those who created it. By situating these films in relation to the civil rights and sexual liberation movements, Flesh Cinema investigates how social politics continue to inform their meaning.

Drawing upon unpublished archival materials, this book provides a rich account of the intimate artistic collaborations that inspired these films. Merging close readings with historical and biographical analysis, Flesh Cinema argues that queer forms of friendship were essential to the innovative representations of bodies on-screen. In doing so, it provides a fresh take on avant-garde cinema for film and art scholars and students.


'Delving into the familiar and the more obscure works of the American avant garde film of the 60's, Ara Osterweil's Flesh cinema offers an entirely new take. Love, friendship, sex are the key components of this study which revels in the messy and interconnected lives of its film artists. Writing with joy and verve Osterweil brings this period wonderfully alive.'
Linda Williams, Professor in Film & Media and Rhetoric at University of California Berkeley

'The cornucopia of ideas and insights emanating from Flesh Cinema should inspire the work of other scholars, although few are likely to have Osterweil's literary talents or intellectual range..her extraordinary book will have to be read.'
P. Adams Sitney , Cineaste, September 2016


1. Saint Barbara: the apocryphal, ecstatic cinema of Barbara Rubin
2. Andy Warhol, porn realist
3. Stan Brakhage, acts of seeing
4. Carolee Schneemann, meat joys
5. Yoko Ono's Body Count
6. Paul Sharits, beyond the pleasure principle


Ara Osterweil is an Assistant Professor of Film and Cultural Studies in the English Department at McGill University

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