Connections: Ray Johnson On-Line

Lars Movin, Steen Møller Rasmussen

2001 | 00:41:00 | United States | English | Color | Stereo |

Collection: On Art and Artists, Single Titles

Tags: Artist Portraits, Literature, Visual Art

A portrait of the American artist Ray Johnson (1927-95), driving force behind the New York Correspondence School of the early 1960s. Ray Johnson was mainly known for his numerous mail art projects, involving artistic strategies like networks and collaboration. Key terms in his mail art activities were ADD TO AND RETURN, or SEND TO, inviting recipients to contribute to his work. Besides mail art, Ray Johnson worked on collages, assemblages, and performance throughout his life. In the 1940s he attended Black Mountain College in North Carolina, and in 1948 he moved to New York where he joined the American Abstract Artists group in the early 50s. Later in the same decade he was associated with the first generation of Pop Artists. When he jumped from a bridge in Sag Harbor, Long Island, in 1995, his death was considered to be something of a mystery.

The film is based on personal interpretations of Ray Johnson's artistic strategies, using the telephone and the Internet as primary sources for sound and image. The film includes statements from William Anastasi, Mark S. Bloch, Dot Capuano, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, John Giorno, Coco Gordon, Helen Harrison, Jon Hendricks, Les Levine, Kalie Seiden, Lawrence Weiner, and John Willenbecher.

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Exhibitions + Festivals


Athens Int'l Film/Video Festival (OH), 2003


Stream Single Title

Title Awards Image Major Exhibitions/Festivals Description
Sea in the Blood

Equal First Prize for Best Male Short, Inside Out, Toronto Lesbian and Gay Film Festival

Sea in the Blood

OutFest (LA, CA.), 2001

Rotterdam International Film Festival (The Netherlands), 2001


Athens Int'l Film/Video Festival (OH), 2001



Sea In The Blood is a personal documentary about living with illness, tracing the relationship of the artist to thalassemia in his sister Nan, and AIDS in his partner Tim. At the core of the piece are two trips. The first is in 1962, when Richard went from Trinidad to England with Nan to see a famous hematologist interested in her unusual case. The second is in 1977 when Richard and Tim made the counterculture pilgrimage from Europe to Asia. The relationship with Tim blossomed, but Nan died before their return. The narrative of love and loss is set against a background of colonialism in the Caribbean and the reverberations of migration and political change.

"Sea in the Blood was to be a meditation on race, sexuality and disease, but after working with the material for three years, it was the emotional story that came through. It's hard to work with such personal material, but in the end the work takes on a life of its own. 'Richard' is a character. Because of the subject matter — disease and death — I wanted to avoid sentimentality. I'd like the audience to think as well as feel."

— Richard Fung