New York — As an independent filmmaker, Ken Kobland has directed such memorable efforts as the deeply personal ``The Communists Are Comfortable (and 3 Other Stories)'' and the more abstract ``Landscape and Desire.'' He has also been associated with the Wooster Group theater company, meanwhile, contributing film segments to their mournful ``Point Judith'' and their explosive ``Nayatt School,'' among other pieces.
That troupe has slated a major New York retrospective to run from this month through February, and to help launch it the Kitchen arts center is screening three of Kobland's videotapes daily (through Nov. 29) in its video viewing room. Each was made to be part of a Wooster Group mixed-media collage, yet each has artistic interest of its own.
The simplest and most touching is a tape that's usually seen on TV sets dangling from the ceiling in ``Route 1 & 9,'' a bizarre but powerful Wooster essay on life, death, and racism. Interrupted by static views of urban landscapes, the performers give earnest speeches on homey topics like marriage and farming, always seen in extreme closeup. Their voices are deliberately flat, yet the feelings they express are so urgent that their words become unexpectedly moving.
``Miami Man in Landscape,'' from the Wooster show called ``...Just the High Points,'' again features urban vistas and people dislocated from a sense of normal environment, this time with a more formal and less emotional effect.
Also shown is ``Flaubert Dreams of Travel But the Illness of His Mother Prevents It,'' made for a new Wooster piece due early next year. It depicts an assortment of arbitrary actions, some grisly in tone, sleepily performed by a weird crowd of people (and a pig) in what seems to be a mysterious motel room.
The deliriums of Flaubert's prose poem ``The Temptation of Saint Antony'' apparently inspired the dreamlike doings, which are long on atmosphere, short on logic and good taste.
Perhaps it will take on new meanings when seen as an integral part of ``The Road to Immortality,'' the trilogy of new and revived works that's the main event in the Wooster retrospective.