Louise’s Commentary on Long Film for Ambient Light

12 pm Fri Mar 16 to 12 pm Sat Mar 17E-mail to Cynthia today with some thoughts on the Long Film:

The Long Film was a very intense experience – my head did very strange things. It was unrelentingly social which I found very, very difficult. The intensity of such focus on a single space over such a time span was intense in the
extreme. Interesting that the 24 hours McCall framed was darkness book ended by light.

My best discovery was a very clear mental image of the sun in the sky acting like a bellows creating these fluctuations in the room [so in the end for me, this is a landscape film, how curious!]

I found the light bulb almost intolerable, it came to invade the room, a ‘tense object’ as one visitor described it even in daylight. At night, it felt like an attack. There was a sense at about 1am of being in solitary confinement without the benefit of being alone. I sat outside the room for many hours there – still in the building but just outside, trying to keep myself calm and as present as possible.

The effect of the work for me was ultimately a kind of concrete poem – by having this vast slice of space set aside for nothing other than the passage of time within it, there’s something incredibly seductive about this right at this moment in time. I think we all had a sense that we would like this kind of space to be activated at all times.

We chose to make media documents (16mm time lapse film, 35mm slide, 30 second video time lapse) and this proves to be the undoing of the piece really because it in effect entirely undermines what McCall was attempting to do. This is a juicy part of the experience for me as it seems the most problematic choice we made yet reflects something very real about the ‘productivity’ age we’re in where we’re programmed to find outcomes and outputs. My problem here is this wasn’t really an active decision on our part, we just ‘did it’ without really mulling over the implications, yet we mulled over many other details very attentively. We were very clear about our aim to access people’s ‘mental residue’ but this pictorial documentation is another issue.

Another key problem was attentiveness. At times the room disintegrated into chat and gossip and human business. Nothing wrong with that. The experience would have been richer however had we had someone in the room being utterly ‘present’ with the work. This happened in the early evening and again in the morning.
Another discovery was that the experience of sleep is not dissimilar to the drop off of the light from the light bulb – a kind of fuzzing out, haziness on the edges.

Reflections on Saturday night (night after)
Discoveries in general
Increasingly irritated by the didactic matter in the room – the bulb and the papers. Denis uses the word ‘tense’ to describe the bulb – it is a tense object. Seems very true.

Ambivalence about resonance of this piece. Does it need 24 hours concentration 32 years after the fact? Doesn’t need it but is it worth it? Probably. But I don’t like it. Why? Because I don’t like how I behave within it. I don’t know if this is because I have to see myself so sharply in 24 hour span.

I can’t see that its resonance to film is really rich enough for me as a film maker. It is frighteningly simply. All it does is to make the subject/content of the film the events/actions/interactions in the room. This is throwing humans mightily on to themselves and I seem to be lacking in resilience. 24 hours in a room full of interacting people – just thinking about it stresses me (yet I looked forward to it as I had thought everyone would have the activity of experiencing the room to take care of and direct their social relations. To an extent this happened but I found myself constantly being a ‘talking head’ which made me want to withdraw from the room.)

So by making the subject of the work the room which is what happens in the dark and this is the focus of the cycle, book ended as it is by two slices of day.

A detail in the McCall notes we have overlooked is the importance of Warhol’s solid time films for him. Those are kind of like generated/filmed found objects. In a sense this is a super important precedent for these non-indexical films and these are non-indexical. Yet oddly this one might be the most indexical. It is like … church, monastic [but this is because of the vaulted room].

The performance aspect was inadequately attended to as George K so rightly identified. Needed some one to be 100 per cent committed to the work from start to finish to set the tone, show others how to be in the space.
So making the subject of the ‘film’ the room but titling it so that we think it will be light, this does something. I did not/was not able to think through how the piece would actually ‘edit’ before hand. In film making, previsualisation is usually very detailed and thorough and even with my ludicrously abstract work, I still previsualise in my head and usually in drawings. I did not do this. I had no real idea of what it would be. In part because these live pieces do not have this enframing that allows me to previsualise as I would with other film work.

I suppose I am in a sense in awe of the complexity this ridiculously simple set of conditions creates. By about midnight I was feeling that the resonance from the conditions was too poor. This was from repeating several times the way the piece interrogates cinema – the day/night function of the window – pellicula in day (rear projection), screen at night (front projection).

We impacted/changed conditions from the original in several crucial ways:

– vaulted space made it an experience of transcendent space [must re-read Gans on this. Matching frames – dumb muteness which bans irony and returns to the pre-language ‘uh’ that actually means something in itself – it does not stand for something else. Link here to non-indexical language, non-indexical film, if you like ‘core’, ‘foundation’ experiences, experiential states, FACTS]. This room is a totally different experience from the Ideas Warehouse.

– presence of image capture tools especially Bolex totally against McCall idea of attention in the present, no reference to other space, time [oddly, by masking other space, we think about that a lot eg windows]. Denis B for instance thought the ‘film’ was in the film camera, a totally logical and fair assumption and one we just really did not give thought to. Issue for Curham, had an internal reservation about this that I did not take further.

– Because so few elements in the space, have to think very very very carefully about what these are because they are all read very strongly as the work [a function of Broodthaer’s ‘figs’ is to locate the work from within a plethora of ‘stuff’]

– Some people really did not get it that it was a re-enactment or what that means. They needed really clear interpretive panels or information and needed the things that the work consisted of made really obvious to them. Our information booklet and table was still too obscure for people who really did not know about this whole concept.

– Bulb: brightness and colour temperature. Would be different experience with these changes. The bulb we had was not generously functional (eg couldn’t read wall material by it nor read in sleeping area) or human enabling, was very very harsh. [Method note for Lucas and Louise, try out elements individually before hand. If you like ‘shot list’ the film/work so that we actually make decisions about these aspects rather than just doing as an action with them.]

– Curatorial notes: some aspects have to be mimesis, emulation without real comprehension although comprehension feels like one has more agency to present the work because the understanding is thorough. So with this piece, I have spent 3 years thinking about the experience of that time block and of the light but I did not put 2 and 2 together about its actual focus which is on unchanging darkness. Works like this where the score is very open or requires interpretation, I don’t see how they can be mounted in any other way than as an art practice in itself as the decisions are not those within museum studies they are expressive and thus creative/generative decisions ie it could be this way or this way and these decisions impact integrally on the experience of the work eg vaulted space makes the piece entirely new.

– Importance of sound in space eg Sherre DL, her first comment was about the ‘sound track’ of the fan and its base frequencies generating an unnecessary eeriness in the dark (c. 9pm) yet earlier in daylight Russell E (c. 6.30pm) commented that the fan gave a cladding that allowed conversation to take place. Reinforces that all sensory aspects are integral to the experience because there are so few aspects.

Query the whole real time capture: writing, documentation et al.

Peter S (taking photographs) and Lizzie M (recording interviews) okay because not inside the structure of the piece but actions by Lucas and Louise are inside (for me). In a way to record ‘mental residue’ so quickly is NG.
Curham note: I did not really grab hold of the intention to really mount this piece for the purpose of capturing people’s experience. I can see that for LI this was really an integral action. Although we discussed it and we laid the ground work to do this together, it did not really penetrate for me. My observation was that the interviews worked really really well because they cemented for people the experience they had/were having and the motivated conviviality of that exchange made people feel their participation was crucial and highly valued (which it was). The extreme gift of this exchange leaves me overwhelmed in some sense. So in this way, the event was a catalyst for reflection and the interview was a tool for capture of that reflection. I have a question around this sense of achievement or satisfaction in this ‘productivity’ however. I think this is a very current experience – a need to somehow measure/record our experience or it will slip into that zone between the light bulb’s pool on the floor and the wall, so to speak.

I am afraid to think too deeply about the attack on the analogue aspect of film, its indexical, representational aspect. Question for Bec D, is there a related piece in photography? Or is this non-indexical ‘primary colour’, fact too banal in photography? What would it look like?

So we are talking about claims to forms that detach the elements so far that they no longer have that physical form.
Relational aesthetics link in Expanded Cinema is the ‘score’ of cinema re-worked with emphasis on relationships between the elements.
I found last night (Fri 16th during Long Film) that attempts at deep thought went nowhere and I was left simply with the room and the people in it. I could not get at the significance of there being no pictorial representation. But in a sense there is because there is the time schema and the light bulb which has this ability to be symbolic, irritatingly so.

– I found the frosting and paper on the windows had no [real] symbolism for me – or none came to mind.
– In the dark, it came to feel like solitary confinement without the benefit of being solitary

Interesting sense to go outside at 5.03am and sense the relief of a vast big space beyond that room. The room came to have the same kind of enscribed intensity as that in 55 Seconds where the space between the wall and the machines feels very intense/intensified.

Physical Discoveries

1. That the pulse of the light from the ‘bellows’ of light in the sky when my eyes are closed is not dissimilar to sleep. An awareness of impact of external environmental conditions not controlled by man ie nature on my body. So I was very energised as the light started to fade (Fri c. 6pm). I was out of the liminal sleep zone with a snap at c. 7am (although awake from 5am), 25 mins after sunrise. The border of sleep is very much like the ill-defined border of the light bulb in the room. That light is a serious attack on my sleepfulness, it stimulates me a great deal.

2. Despite decision to cultivate stillness, generally this was an emulation and my front brain was continuously suggesting activity which I did not discipline myself to resist. At times I did eg thought that I should turn camera over. Decision not to. But then a logic chain to the role of me contributing actively to the work and role of me ‘honouring’ my artwork by doing it as well as it demands rather than allowing it to reflect the other emphases of my life. So logic would lift my arm and turn the camera over.

3. Desperation. More an emotional state than physical. But discovered generation of tears is tension around sinus band in face and then heat on planes of upper cheeks below eyes and then on planes of nose near bridge and then welling which is felt in sternum. Cannot be talked down from this point. Sensation of tears on cheeks very unpleasant, quite slow. Strong sense of track of tears.

4. Fatigue. Experience of fatigue very curious. I have no active emotion other than a kind of claustrophobic desperation. I experience a visualisation of whitening. Like my limbs are becoming transparent. I start to have a visualisation of my body being hammered flat, like I am more 2D than 3D, a ‘Flat Daddy’ (life size cutouts for families of US soldiers on service). I hear my voice very flat. In this flatness, I have flashes of white irritation like sparks in a sense. If I am really honest I can feel the aches in my body at this point and there are lots of them.
Considering a Long Film study group day, collate comment, findings, arrive at some analysis. So much material generated, good to attend to it soon.

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