The rising local scene of experimental filmmakers in New York City offered a vision of how to move forward. “Film offered a much broader, wider spectrum of possibilities,” Rainer says of her choice to leave dance, a decision which would dominate the next two decades of her career. The results were seven feature films and a smattering of shorts—the subject of a recent, comprehensive retrospective at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
Film wasn’t a completely new medium for Rainer by the early ’70s. While bedridden at the hospital following one of her surgeries, she made Hand Film (1966), a five-minute silent piece composed solely of finger gestures; she later projected the piece as a backdrop for certain dance performances. Following that experiment, she began to incorporate more moving images into her practice.
This coincided with a growing awareness of the exciting and innovative ways other artists were beginning to cross disciplines. “The art world and film world were smaller in the 1960s,” Rainer recalls. “You found yourself going to everything—gallery openings and experimental film screenings.”