Thanks to the lobbying influence of the Carnegie Museum's Sally Dixon and newspaper photographer Mike Chirikis, in 1971 Stan Brakhage was able to make three films that look behind the scenes of a trio of normally opaque state institutions in the city of Pittsburgh: the Pittsburgh police, the West Pennsylvania Hospital, and the Allegheny Coroner's Office. More akin to Frederick Wiseman's documentaries of the same period (e.g., Law and Order  and Hospital ) than the frenetically expressive explorations of Brakhage's earlier films, the resulting "Pittsburgh Trilogy" — Eyes, Deus Ex, and The Act of Seeing With One's Own Eyes — nevertheless brought Brakhage's unique visual language into these rigid, controlled environments, opening them up to his poetic questioning of what (and how) we see. The Act of Seeing in particular has become a touchstone of the artist's oeuvre, as the frisson of the subjective experience of vision (both Brakhage's and the viewer's) confronted with the objective reality of cadavers in a morgue introduces the potential of freedom from taboo and fear.
Eyes (dir. Stan Brakhage \ USA 1971 \ 35 min. \ 16mm)
Deus Ex (dir. Stan Brakhage \ USA 1971 \ 32 min. \ 16mm)
The Act of Seeing With One's Own Eyes (dir. Stan Brakhage \ USA 1971 \ 32 min. \ 16mm)