Jem Cohen

Born - Kabul, Afghanistan

Jem Cohen is a New York-based filmmaker/media artist whose works are built from his own ongoing archive of street footage, portraits, and sound. His films and installations often navigate the grey area between documentary, narrative, and experimental genres. 

His feature film Chain premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, was broadcast on Arte and the Sundance Channel and won an Independent Spirit Award. Benjamin Smoke, co-directed with Peter Sillen, was selected for festivals including Berlin, Edinburgh, Melbourne, London, and Vancouver. It was released theatrically by Cowboy Pictures, and won First Prize at the Full Frame Documentary Festival. Instrument, the feature-length documentary made with the band, Fugazi, premiered at the Rotterdam Film Festival and was chosen for the 2000 Whitney Biennial. Cohen's Lost Book Found premiered at the Pandæmonium Festival (London), and won First Prizes at Locarno, the Bonn Videonale,  Film + Arc (Graz, Austria), and the Festival Dei Popoli (Florence).

Earlier works include This is a History of New York, Just Hold Still, and Buried in Light, which was originally commissioned by the High Museum in Atlanta as a 3-channel video installation. Amber City, an Italian city portrait, won a First Prize at Locarno ’99. Other films include Blood Orange Sky, another commissioned portrait of a city in Sicily, and the shorts, NYC Weights and Measures and Little Flags. Chain X Three, a three screen, 40-minute projection, showed as an installation at Eyebeam (New York) and the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis) as well as in a Museum of Modern Art series of Cohen’s works.

Cohen has had retrospectives at venues including the NFT in London, Buenos Aires Independent Film Festival (BAFICI), the Gijon Film Fest (Spain) and the Oberhausen Film Fest (Germany).  Cohen curated the Fusebox Festival at Vooruit in Belgium in 2005, and directed an evening of film with live music, EVENING'S CIVIL TWILIGHT IN EMPIRES OF TIN, at the 2007 Viennale Film Festival. He did a series of collaborative films and installations with Patti Smith for her recent show at the Fondation Cartier in Paris.

Cohen has worked extensively with musicians including Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Fugazi, Vic Chesnutt, the Ex, Terry Riley, Elliott Smith, R.E.M., Sparklehorse, and the Orpheus Orchestra.

Cohen’s films have been broadcast in Europe by the BBC and ZDF/ARTE, and in the U.S. by the Sundance Channel and PBS. They are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney, and Melbourne’s Screen Gallery. He has received grants from organizations including the Guggenheim, Creative Capital, Rockefeller, and Alpert Foundations and the National Endowment for the Arts.


Artist Collection List

Title Year Runtime Collection
Amber City 1999 48 minutes Single Titles
Anecdotal Evidence 2009 12 minutes On Art and Artists, Single Titles
Ann Arbor 1992 19 minutes Kuchar Archive, Single Titles
Anne Truitt, Working 2009 13 minutes On Art and Artists, Single Titles
Birth of a Nation 2017 9 minutes 14 seconds Single Titles
Blessed Are the Dreams of Men 2006 9 minutes 30 seconds Single Titles
Blood Orange Sky 1999 26 minutes Single Titles
Building A Broken Mousetrap 2006 1 hour 1 minute 35 seconds Single Titles
Buried in Light (Central and Eastern Europe in Passing) 1994 1 hour Single Titles
Bury Me Not 2016 9 minutes 16 seconds Single Titles
Chain 2004 1 hour 39 minutes Single Titles
Crossing Paths with Luce Vigo 2010 12 minutes Single Titles
Drink Deep 1991 10 minutes Single Titles
Gravity Hill Newsreels: Occupy Wall Street 2011 1 hour 5 minutes 14 seconds Single Titles
Half the Battle 2008 11 minutes 30 seconds Single Titles
Helianthus Corner Blues 2013 2 minutes 48 seconds Single Titles
Jem Cohen: Early Works 1999 1 hour 15 minutes Compilations, Single Artist Compilations
Just Hold Still 1989 31 minutes 50 seconds Single Titles
Le Bled (Buildings in a Field) 2009 12 minutes 58 seconds Single Titles
Little Flags 2000 6 minutes 30 seconds Single Titles
Long for the City 2008 9 minutes 10 seconds Single Titles
Lost Book Found 1996 36 minutes 48 seconds Single Titles
Lucky Three 1997 11 minutes 30 seconds Single Titles
Music Works 2005 56 minutes 47 seconds Single Titles
Night Scene New York 2009 9 minutes 30 seconds Single Titles
NYC Weights and Measures 2006 6 minutes 15 seconds Single Titles
On Essex Road 2016 12 minutes Single Titles
One Bright Day 2008 17 minutes 44 seconds Single Titles
Opus Luminis et Hominis (Works of Light and Man) 2010 14 minutes Single Titles
Real Birds 2011 11 minutes Single Titles
Spirit 2007 7 minutes 37 seconds Single Titles
The Passage Clock: For Walter Benjamin 2008 10 minutes Single Titles
This Climate 2017 2 minutes 32 seconds Single Titles
This is a History of New York 1988 22 minutes 36 seconds Single Titles