Silvestri presents historical research on unlikely Kinsey contributor

Kara Williams • Dec. 4, 2018

Human sexuality researcher Alfred Kinsey and experimental filmmaker Kenneth Anger collaborated for seven decades to curate archival content now housed in IU’s Kinsey Institute, doctoral student Anthony Silvestri said in a research colloquium presentation Friday.

Doctoral student Anthony Silvestri (Courtney Christensen | The Media School)

His talk, “The Filmmaker as Archivist: Kenneth Anger and the Kinsey Institute,” described the challenges Anger, a counterculture icon know for films such as Scorpio Rising, Fireworks and Lucifer Rising, and Kinsey overcame while trying to preserve these artifacts.

Anger’s films and interests aligned with Kinsey’s and the human sexuality research being done at the Kinsey Institute.

However, “Anger was no stranger to censorship,” Silvestri said, and he faced challenges with his work in the United States. As a result, he moved to France, which was more open to his work.

While there, Anger worked as a paid researcher for Kinsey, from 1954-57. He collected books, photos, magazines, articles, news clippings and film, and attempted to ship them from Europe to the United States.

“During the 1950s, the Kinsey Institute was locked in a well-known battle with the United States government,” he said. “Both Anger and Kinsey were wary of seizure from customs.”

Many materials were taken by customs, deemed obscene and scheduled for destruction, especially those that depicted homosexuality, he said.

Eventually, the Kinsey Institute won the legal battle, which made it easier to transport items, as long as they were properly marked and addressed to the institute.

Silvestri also talked about the importance of looking at archives as a whole, rather than solely as individual items.

“These items could be understood as part of an archival montage,” he said. “They are transformed by the context, montage and gaze.”

Many of these archived items can be seen as part of a political resistance.

“The Kinsey Institute is a powerful example of what an archive can be and what kind of humanitarian work can be accomplished,” he said.