Jerome Hiler’s Words of Mercury

Jerome Hiler, Words of Mercury, 2011, still from a color film in 16 mm, 25 minutes.

Light, seeking light, doth light of light beguile

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Varying in subjects as the eye doth roll

To every varied object in his glance . . .

—William Shakespeare, Love’s Labour’s Lost

JEROME HILER belongs to that rare company of significant if almost invisible filmmakers of the American avant-garde cinema who have hidden their light under a bushel: For decades, Joseph Cornell was reluctant to show his films; Gregory J. Markopoulos withdrew his work from circulation for the last three decades of his life; Wallace Berman would not exhibit his sublime Aleph, which became available only after his death; Dean Stockwell still does not permit screenings of the films he has made. The very few people who have managed to see any of the handful of works Hiler has filmed over the past forty-eight years have praised his cinema highly—most

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