Last year’s celebrations at the Anthology Film Archives and at Johan Kugelberg’s New York City Boo-Hooray Gallery (specialists in the occluded and forgotten), suceeeded in shining a little light, perhaps, on the perennial “underground legend”, Barbara Rubin, but not so very much. She seems to have retreated once again into her default mode – posthumous mystery and obscurity. [2018 update -This situation hopefully changed now, thanks to the wonderful documentary from Chuck Smith, “Barbara Rubin & the Exploding NY Underground,” – a must-see]
“Barbara was a great bringer-together of people, often for her own projects”, Gordon Ball writes, in his recently-published memoir, East Hill Farm . One of the projects she was key instigator of, it should be pointed out, was convincing Allen, in 1967, that he should indeed buy that (Cherry Valley) farm. Bill Morgan: “(She) (Barbara) was relentless in her determination…and used all her considerable powers of persuasion to convince him..In the end no one ever knew if Allen bought the farm of his own free will or (simply) to appease Barbara”. In 1963, she was 17 when she made her ground-breaking “underground (sex) movie”, Christmas on Earth (see below)
The deep early connection with Bob Dylan?
Perhaps you recall her as the short-haired girl in the striped t-shirt, massaging Dylan’s curly locks, on the back-cover of Bringing It All Back Home?
(an image of Allen in a top hat is placed, significantly, next to them)
Several weeks later, she’s the primary instigator (not Allen, it turns out), of the great (likewise legendary) international poetry reading at that same venue – the Royal Albert Hall – the First International Poetry Incarnation Allen has confessed it: “(It was) all Barbara’s idea”
“When Barbara Rubin asked Gerard to help her make a movie about the Velvets playing at the Bizarre (sic). Gerard asked Paul Morrissey to help and Paul said why didn’t I come along, and so we all went down there to see them.” (Andy Warhol)
Andy: She was “one of the first people to get multi-media going around New York”
Her subsequent utter renunciation of her art and retreat into a Hasidic community child-bearing ritual is a tale unto itself – enigma and erasure.
“Barbara Rubin’s 29-minute Christmas on Earth is the filmic record of an orgy staged in a New York City apartment in 1963. This double-projection of overlapping images of nude men and women clowning around and making love is one of the first sexually explicit works in the American postwar avant-garde…Many consider it to be an essential document of queer and feminist cinema..” (Daniel Belasco in Barbara Rubin – The Vanished Prodigy)
More scholarly observation and contextualization here: “Embodying the Spectator – Barbara Rubin’s Christmas on Earth and the Pornographic Avant-Garde”
and here (so the art outlives the artists) is the film.
and here Allen, 1965, naked with Barbara