Peep Show #2

Amos Vogel – Seeing Films Is a Way of Thinking

On display from December 16, 2020 to February 27, 2022

Curated by Tom Waibel and Elisabeth Streit
With his provocative assertion of film as a "subversive art," the curator, critic and indefatigable educator Amos Vogel (1921–2012) violently challenged the common understanding of film, championing a cinematic cosmos rich with disapproved, forgotten, defiant and censored works. In 2021, this figurehead of curatorial rebelliousness would have celebrated his centenary. The Austrian Film Museum paid tribute to the Vienna-born Vogel through a series of activities and projects taking place throughout the year.

"Subversion in cinema starts when the theater darkens and the screen lights up."


"The more I upset the audience, the happier I am."

Amos Vogel, 1956 © Estate of Amos Vogel
Amos Vogel
Amos Vogel was born on April 18, 1921 in Vienna as Amos Vogelbaum. He had to flee from Austria in 1938 and reached New York via Havana. He lived in New York City until his death on April 24, 2012. Vogel was the founder and curator of Cinema 16 (1947–1963), one of the most significant film societies in the USA focusing on independent cinema. Together with Richard Roud, he founded and programmed the New York Film Festival (1963–1968) emphasizing contemporary avant-garde cinema. Vogel is the author of the provocative book Film as a Subversive Art (1974) and was professor of Film Studies at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania for more than two decades. Until his old age he remained active as a lecturer, critic and consultant for numerous international film festivals.

"Seeing films is not a passive experience, but a way of thinking."

Viennese Children 1st Book
Written by Amos Vogelbaum
An Andalusian Dog
Tim and Tom in the cinema
Teddi in the cinema
Vienna Ice Skating Club season 1930/31
M – A City Searches for a Murderer
Night Mail
For my friends Pa and Ma
Be unconfortable, be sand
Cinema 16 Pamphlet One
Amos and Marcia Vogel
Alfred Hitchcock and Amos Vogel
Yes, I want to join CINEMA 16
How Little Lori
Blow Up
The New Radicals
Hasta la Victoria Siempre
Early Works
Film as a Subversive Art
In the Realm of the Senses
Dear Amos
Amos Vogel and Alexander Horwath
You Have to Survive
Note inserted in The New Radicals (1966), Amos Vogel Library/ÖFM
It was not until 1993 that Amos Vogel was officially invited back to his native Vienna on the occasion of the symposium Departure into Uncertainty, organized by SYNEMA as part of the Viennale Film Festival headed by Alexander Horwath and Wolfgang Ainberger. The Austrian Film Museum has committed to explore Vogel's crucial role in the comprehension of our audiovisual present and has opened his private library to the public.
The Austrian Film Museum pays tribute to the Vienna-born Vogel through a series of events taking place throughout the year: The Amos Vogel Atlas charts a map of Vogel’s notion of subversiveness through screenings, exhibitions, talks and performances. In autumn, an extensive film retrospective will explore the outer limits of the Amos Vogel Cosmos, interrogating the political, the social and the aesthetic potential of the last five decades of film and audiovisual practices.

"In the last analysis, every work of art, to the extent that it is original and breaks with the past instead of repeating it, is subversive."

With thanks to Santiago Álvarez, Sabine Breitwieser, Luis Buñuel, Christian Cargnelli, Michael Chaiken, Paul Cronin, Günter Eich, Andrea Glawogger, Jack Goelman, DeeDee Halleck, Ed Halter, Werner Herzog, Alfred Hitchcock, Alexander Horwath, Christoph Huber, Egon Humer, Martina Kudláček, Christiane Kuhlmann, Jennifer B. Lee, Scott MacDonald, Peter Martin, Brigitte Mayr, Andrea Mayer, Jurij Meden, Michael Omasta, Nagisa Ōshima, Jake Perlin, Rick Prelinger, Regina Schlagnitweit, Peter Schreiner, Maurice Sendak, Susan Sontag, Parker Tyler, Marcia Vogel, Loring Vogel, Steven Vogel und Želimir Žilnik

Exhibition View

Ausstellungsansicht (Foto: ÖFM © Eszter Kondor)
Ausstellungsansicht (Foto: ÖFM © Eszter Kondor)

Further Reading/Resources


Be Sand, Not Oil

The Life and Work of Amos Vogel

The volume Be Sand, Not Oil, published by Paul Cronin in 2014, collects selected essays and documents by Amos Vogel as well as essays about him and his mulitfarious lifework.
Resonanz von Exil, Ausstellungsansicht, Museum der Moderne Salzburg, 2018 © Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Foto: Rainer Iglar

Amos Vogel Library

The Amos Vogel Library contains more than 8.000 books, journals and Juvenilia. Despite some rare books with autographs, it is a work and research library. Its special feature lies in Vogel's numerous annotations, which bear witness to his intensive reading.