Girl About Town #2 Analogue Recurring, 18.01.2015 (Blog)
I confess no technical knowledge of an analogue projector. I, however, eagerly read around debates of what makes film film and whether digital film is, in fact, film at all, or a completely separate thing. If the idea of this piques your interest, I’d recommend the essay “Lives of Cinema: Against its ‘death'” by Niels Niesson. Or else, commissioned for the 60th anniversary of Cannes Film Festival, a compilation of short films by the world’s 35 renowned auteurs, Chacun son cinéma ou Ce petit coup au coeur quand la lumière s’éteint et que le film commence, “To Each Their Own Cinema” (2007). The theme that visibly stands out in Chacun is death and disintegration of the cinema as a material being and a cultural entity.
Death occurs on a material and physical level; movie theatres need considerable restoration work, the projection lights fade, the projectors themselves break down and film stock decays. It is also a sociological and cultural happening; cinema is considered obsolete, irrelevant, is forgotten and abandoned. The vision is particularly, however ironically, too, dramatised in David Cronenberg’s phenomenal, and my favourite, segment At the Suicide of the Last Jew in the World in the Last Cinema of the World.
Digitalisation has been the biggest and most invisible transformation in cinema production, distribution and exhibition history. It shook no worlds outside the one of film industry and narrow cirlces of film academia, unlike the previous revolutions of sound and colour which caused a stir or even waves of hysteria amongst the audiences, critics and scholars alike.
“Analogue Recurring”, the closing event of London Short Film Festival at ICA, evoked all my purely romantic ideals of an analogue. Five 16 mm projectors behind me and one in the middle of the room, the event set itself to be a feast unique in its performance, using physicality, materiality and fragility of a film tape.
I will reverse the order of the evening and start with its closing and most phenomenal performance of Greg Pope’s “Scoreline” (2013).
The equipment used included a “16 mm projector, black film, contact mics, guitar pick-ups, engraving tools, loop station, hobby grinder, scratch board, mixer, amplification”.
The programme notes stated that the outcome was Texture and Noise.
“Scoreline” stretched the limits of working with analogue to the point of its destruction. We saw the projectionist pull abruptly on the tape, punch it, drill it, stab it, all to the sounds of the amplified noises, accompanied by the constant shimmer of the moving tape.
It felt extraordinary to see the film being “performed” live in all such contradiction; the mechanical process completely dictated by the author-artist-projectionist, making the the live performance of “Scoreline” infinitely variable. However many times the performance follows the same pattern and rhythm, the integration of the human factor into the screening makes “Scoreline” emerge as a different creature each time it is performed.
Another phenomenal curiosity was that the room was set up in a way that the projector was positioned in the middle of the room, invisible to the audience sat in the front (who were only able to see the film projected on the screen), whereas the projectionist with all his equipment was integrated into the performance for the viewers at the back. Such set-up created a dual performance offering a drastically different viewing experience. To me, sat at the back of the room, it offered another dimension.
As we observed the artist stab and drill the tape, we saw the result of these actions later, undermining the “live” quality of the performance. The performance as a whole brought to mind abstract expressionist painters and the mechanical means of producing the painting, however, unlike in film, to immediate effect.
The outcome visible on the screen is delayed, the punches, stabbings and merciless drilling emerge on the screen a good few seconds after – when the light shines through the tape, bringing film to life. I couldn’t help but feel there was something very cold and calculated, lying in the mechanical nature of a projector, in the film’s delay of passionate, violent actions.
The outcome was destruction. The black tape was ultimately invisible, completely covered in scratches and punches, the abused film ran to its end. The performance finished and amongst the loud applause, the analogue seemed more alive than ever.
The remaining favourite analogue experimentations of the evening were:
- Vicky Smith’s “Noisy Licking, Dribbling and Spitting” (2014) – 16mm, colour, 3 mins, optical sound
With movement created in a diegetic space only through employment of patches of colour “hitting the screen”, the movement seems so strongly visceral we immediately think of the coloured patches as physical objects.
- Katie Miller’s “Paper Line Red Ball” (2014)
Interesting juxtaposition of size and space against stillness and movement in a moving image. This probably can be carelessly written about most if not any piece of abstract film making. However this is sincerely what I enjoyed most in the film’s quirky employment of a human body, an apple and a moving channel splitting the screen in half.
- Nicky Hamlyn’s “Rue St Pierre” (2013) – 16 mm, colour, 3 min
A little gem, beautiful in its very simpliciy in both a chosen object and an execution of the topic.
- Louise Colbourne’s “Anger Management, Revolver, Re-verb” (2006-2014) – 16 mm, black/white, 3 min
- David Leister’s “Bubble Dance” (2014) – 16 mm, double projection, sound, 3 min
Sally Rand’s Bubble Dance routine recreated and re-printed in a 3-Dish effect, with two screens overlapping, the classic Hollywood score was underpinned by hilarious noises of the bouncing and screeching ball
Girl About Town #1 DIY RIOT, Amy Spencer “DIY: The rise of LO-FI culture” – Quotations
“The Desperate Bicycles formed the Refill label in May 1977 and released their first single Smokescreen Handlebars’ – an unusual EP featuring the same tracks on both sides (to cut mastering costs in half), recorded in mono with a breakdown of recording costs on the back. Recorded in just three hours it cost just £153 for five hundred copies. An amount that John Peel said any band can afford if the bass player sold their motorbike and the rest of the band robbed a few telephone boxes”
RIOT GRRRL & FEMINISM
“Huggy Bear’s Chris (featured in Libeller’s Almanac): “I am a riot boy… People would say, “Are you a riot grrrl?” and they expect you to say riot grrrl’s finished, But, it’s like it’s onlya phrase and the things it stands for are the coolest things ever, and if I’m associated with that in a productive way then, yeah, I’m a riot grrrl.”
“All you can do is exist, in your own gang or in your own space and cause as much trouble, in terms of provoking things, provoking yourself, as possible. And keep on doing it, don’t get lazy. Like pick up on stuff, stir stuff up all the time… If we’re trying to achieve anything, it’s the destruction of apathy, even if its only for ourselves.”
“Kathleen Hanna in Bust 2000: “I also see (feminism) as a broad-based, political movement that’s bent on challenging hierarchies of all kinds in our society, including racism and classism, and able-bodyism etc.”
QUEER / GAY CULTURE: LaBruce “After AIDS ceased to be the sole issue for gays in the mid-90s, the movement became about acquiring more and more rights, essentially to become increasingly like the average heterosexual. The gay fight was now for the right to become as bland and boring as the straight community, the very community which once totally despised and rejected homosexuals. The oppressed started to cover the role of the oppressor. The gays started to become much more bourgeois and materialistic (the early underpinnings of the gay, black and feminist movements were decidedly Marxist-based), the thereby much more superficial and reactionary.”