January 17 at Anthology Film Archives: Ralston Farina Performance Tapes

by jhoberman.


Tonight we premiere a number of recently unearthed and newly digitized videos that capture this mysterious performance artist in action. Over the decades, Farina has fallen into near-complete obscurity, in large part because he did not want his work documented. Writing about Farina in a recent ARTFORUM feature article, J. Hoberman noted that:

“Steven Robert Snyder (1946-85), aka Ralston Farina, is simultaneously the Zelig and the Invisible Man of old SoHo. He began his anti-career around 1969 at the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church, performing under the name Steve Raven, a pseudonym he had taken as a twelve-year-old in Philadelphia, where he played the Elks Club circuit in a mentalist act with his father. Stage magic predated poetry and performance – as Ralston Farina, he branched out into the alt-space art world in the early 1970s, appearing in downtown lofts as well as in the occasional store window. Short and wiry, with a mass of dark curly hair and a trimmed Zapata mustache, he had a look and an attitude as well as a name. His performances (or visitations) were advertised with cryptic collage posters. His persona was easily recognized but his pieces were not easily described. Throughout the 70s, Farina played 112 Greene, 3 Mercer Street, Artists Space, Idea Warehouse, and the Kitchen as well as several of the original SoHo galleries (OK Harris, Paula Cooper, Holly Solomon).” –J. Hoberman, from “I Remember Ralston”, ARTFORUM

Ralston Farina TIME//TIME (1977, 24.5 min, video) The audience is amazingly quiet in this performance which features Ralston painting (in disco) using a can of Campbell’s soup and Elvis performing “Rock a Hula Baby” projected on the wall; it was taped in Antwerp, most likely at the Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst.

RUBBER NOVEMBER #1 (1975, 17 min, video) & RUBBER NOVEMBER #2 (1975, 24 min, video) Excerpts from what might have been a series of performances at the Holly Solomon Gallery in November 1975. The camera seems disoriented, but in #1, Ralston appears to be sharing the bill with Taylor Mead, who reads from and riffs on DEAR THEO.

RANDOM EYE-ROLLING EXERCISES FOR AESTHETIC IMMORTALITY (1978, 26.5 min, video) Object theater at its purest, this manic one-man show using a slide projector as a spotlight, was recorded at 112 Greene Street, on the evening of April 1, 1978.

Total running time: ca. 100 min.