1965. Item #4598
New York, 1965.
Filmmaker and writer Barbara Rubin was born in the Cambria Heights neighborhood of Queens. At
the age of 17, shortly after being released from a period of institutionalization in Connecticut, she
began working for Jonas Mekas at the Filmmaker’s Cinematheque, a fortuitous development that
allowed her to begin working on her erotic and transgressive first film, Christmas On Earth, filmed
in the Lower East Side apartment of Tony Conrad and John Cale on Ludlow.
There had never been a film like Christmas on Earth before, not least for a degree of sexual
explicitness rarely seen before in a film by a woman. Mekas stated “as the film goes, image after
image, the most private territories of the body are laid open for us… a syllogism: Barbara Rubin has
no shame; angels have no shame; Barbara Rubin is an angel.”
During the next few years she was an active participant in the New York underground art scene,
where she introduced Allen Ginsberg to Bob Dylan, and Andy Warhol to the Velvet Underground,
at whose Exploding Plastic Inevitable Performances she both participated and projected her film,
as well as organizing some of the first light shows in New York City. Rubin filmed the Velvets in an
early performance in 1965, however, the footage is now lost. She drew up plans for sequels to her
film - Christmas On Earth Continued, and Christmas on Earth Continued Again, neither of which
was filmed, making the scripts included her valuable documentation of unrealized work. One of
her synopses, sent to none other than Walt Disney, proposed a film in which Jean Genet, playing
himself but as a Bowery Bum, is rescued by fairies.
After joining a Hasidic sect, Rubin instructed Mekas to destroy her film. Thankfully he did not,
and later Rubin gave her blessing to allow Christmas On Earth to be shown again. After giving up
filmmaking Rubin married and moved to France, where she died tragically at the age of 35 after
giving birth to her sixth child.
This comprises 9 items related to Rubin’s activities, displaying the freewheeling virtuosity behind
Christmas on Earth, and the ardent planning of future projects that were unfortunately never
realized. Along with film-scripts for Christmas on Earth Continued and Trip Alongside Christmas
on Earth, it also includes related ephemera, as well as instructions for the projection of the film. In
Rubin’s work the interdisciplinary ethic of the times came to the fore, and these scripts and letters
show a remarkable example of intermedia work, in which a film-script can be read as film, diary,
narrative, and poem. Item-level inventory available upon request.