Inescapable Anxiety
The Films of Paul Sharits
Declarative Mode / Rapture / Tails

  • Declarative Mode

    Directed by Paul Sharits.
    US, 1976, 16mm, color, 39 min.
    Print source: Anthology Film Archives

Created in the bicentennial year, Declarative Mode was conceived in a similar revolutionary spirit and functioned as Paul Sharits’ own “declaration of independence from the tyranny of preconception of working from an overall structure of logic.” Sharits created eighteen scores on giant graph paper that were hand-scored and color-coded to map out the entire film—every frame, fade-in, fade-out and sequence—in advance like a music composition. Intending to transform the daily routine of life into a diary of consciousness, Sharits translates his experiences into hypnotic color rhythms. Declarative Mode is a dual 16mm projection of two identical film prints with one image projected onto another image that is slightly zoomed in and slightly smaller, creating an image within an image. The inner frame pulses with flickering frames of light, and, when combined with the outer frame, the bleeding of hues createsunique sequences of vibrating colors, the complex effects reminiscent of an Albers or Rothko painting.

  • Rapture

    Directed by Paul Sharits.
    US, 1987, digital video, color, 17 min.

Ignored by curators, rarely screened and frequently omitted from many retrospectives of his work, Rapture remains significant as the only video work Sharits completed during his lifetime and his last moving image piece before he committed suicide on July 8, 1993. Sharits uses an Ampex Digital Optics (ADO) computer and early video editing techniques to make a quasi music video with a soundtrack by his friend’s band, appropriately named Hemorrhage. The result a fascinating mess, Rapture is, in Sharits words “an exploration of the similarity between ‘religious’ and ‘visionary’ ecstasy and psychotic states” and includes scenes of him writhing around on the floor in a hospital gown. Battling a lifelong bipolar disorder, his body broken down from several near-tragic incidents, and in the midst of a rather self-destructive streak, Sharits finds himself literally at a dead end in this final work.

  • Tails

    US, 1976, 16mm, color, 4 min.
    Print source: Film-maker's Cooperative

After a several-year hiatus, Sharits returned to representational imagery with Tails. Featuring a series of the tail ends of shots dissolving into light flares and appearing to run right through the film projector into eternity, Tails is a play on language and form, beginning with the title: “tails” is a term that may indicate the end of an entire film, one reel or a single shot. Rephotographed and edited together by Sharits, the result is a rather striking work of simplicity that taps into the psychological, ephemeral and nostalgic elements inherent in all endings. 

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Inescapable Anxiety
The Films of Paul Sharits

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