From Canberra Contemporary Artspace, June 2014. Performer is Louise Curham.
Archive for the 'Malcolm Le Grice' Category
Performance Matters is a new journal published by the Simon Fraser University (Canada). The journal is especially interested in:
work that focuses on the materiality and the consequentiality of performance: the objects that comprise it, the labour that goes into it, the physical sites that give shape to it, as well as the effects it has — what, in short, performance does, and why that is meaningful.
Teaching and Learning Cinema has contributed an article to the first edition of the journal which is themed “Archiving Performance”, and edited by Peter Dickinson.
Our contribution is entitled “Reaching Through to the Object: Reenacting Malcolm Le Grice’s Horror Film 1“. The article begins like this:
In July 2014 Teaching and Learning Cinema, an Australian artist group coordinated by Louise Curham and Lucas Ihlein, presented a reenactment of Malcolm Le Grice’s Horror Film 1 (1971) at Canberra Contemporary Art Space. A key work of Expanded Cinema, Horror Film 1 involves a live performer playing with shadows, interacting with the overlapping beams of three 16mm film projectors. Our reenactment was the first time in the work’s 40 year lifespan that it had been performed by anyone other than Le Grice himself. In this paper we offer some reflections on the process of making our reenactment, which we regard as ontologically double: simultaneously “the original object” and an entirely new entity. We discuss our methodology of tending the archive–an activist strategy for operating at the borders of archival and artistic practice. And we suggest that reenactment, as a creative practice, can be a way of “reaching through to the object” which sheds new light on the artwork and its cultural-technological context.
OK – this blog entry is dedicated to exploring the fleshy world of Malcolm Le Grice’s Horror Film 1. If we are to plunge further into the project of re-enacting this work (and it seems that we are!) then we need to have a think about some corporeal issues.
Continue reading ‘Pants off, Party on’
By 450pm today we had a rough sketch of the work running in the space. We relied heavily on the audio recordings of our conversations with Malcolm last year for this (audio file 2). Still lots to do – key is finding zoom lenses for the projectors. We also hope to try a lapel mic for the breath track.
Numerous small hurdles encountered on the way today – not least battery terminal issues on the 1985 Toyota Corolla and of course friends help us out – Danny (Wild) and Jess loaned us not just a projector but also a car.
Achievements: 3 x 16mm projectors running in roughly the correct alignment with breath track on mono speaker. This allowed us to both pace through the c. 30 metres from wall to projectors in the main gallery at CCAS.
Tasks carried out today: looked at the loops, projectors running the loops, projection frame sizes and height. We had a cursory look at the breath track.
Continue reading ‘Horror Film sketch No. 1’
Oliver Thomas practicing Horror Film 1 at CCAS
Between 23-28 June, the Teaching and Learning Cinema (Louise Curham and Lucas Ihlein) is in residence at Canberra Contemporary Artspace.
We’re continuing on with the research we began last year in the UK, towards a re-enactment of Malcolm Le Grice’s Horror Film 1 (1971).
We’re not sure how far along we’ll get this week, but on Saturday June 28, at 3pm, we’ll be presenting a work-in-progress showing of this piece.
There’ll be cups of tea, and discussion about re-enactment of performance and expanded cinema, and the particular projects we’ve done in this area.
It’s free and all are welcome. The gallery is nicely heated, thank goodness.
As a bonus, we’ve got all our Super 8 gear with us, so we’ll be presenting a performance of (Wo)man with Mirror – our re-enactment of Guy Sherwin’s Man with Mirror (1976-now), and we’ll have some of our (Wo)man with Mirror Users Manuals to hand out too.
Here’s the event on Facebook, in case you lean that way.
Notes in response to specific questions have been started by Lucas and we will continue them but it seems important to capture what’s stayed at the top of the mind after visiting Malcolm:
– we covered a lot of ground!
– Malcolm says that when he made these performance film works (eg Horror Film, Gross Fog, Matrix, 4 Wall Duration), his orientation was cinema rather than live art as we now think of it (eg performance art, happenings), the dialogue/position was with/against screen and film culture. This is true for his film works of this era too.
– in a conversation about the context for making his work around the time of Horror Film, Malcolm made the point that at the time and in the whole era, experimentation in media other than film drew upon long lineages. He used the example of music where things have seemed strange and new to makers and audiences many times before. As a young form, cinema didn’t have this lineage and so things really could be new in this form, energising and exhilarating in its newness, difficult in the lack of context and language for audiences.
– Malcolm advises that the first performance of Horror Film 1 (1971) was at Arts Lab – an interesting question because we found nothing about it in the files we have consulted to date at BAFVSC about Malcolm, Filmaktion and London Filmmakers Coop 1966-74.
– White Field Duration is effectively a scratch film where transparent leader is slowly marked with vertical scratches until it is evident they are intentional. Then horizontal scratches emerge. In the end the two fields of scratches seem to be rain over a body of water. The image is then reprinted in neg/pos. The sound is created by the image which runs into the optical sound track space. We understand from Lux that as Malcolm told us, there is just one print of this and no neg.
When we started thinking about re-enacting Malcolm Le Grice’s Horror Film 1 a year ago, several questions popped up straight away.
These were mainly technical issues about the source material for the three colour projections, and how the audio is produced while the piece is being performed. Some of these questions were answered by Malcolm here – but it’s only now that we’ve spent several days hanging out with him that we begin to understand these answers.
Bit by bit, I’m going to flesh out some of the answers based on notes that Louise and I made while we were in Devon…
THE BREATHING SOUNDTRACK:
Our instinct was that the amplified breathing which provides the sonic undertone of the work would be produced live – a live feed from a lapel microphone, for example. This would seem to fit with the live-ness of the projected shadows produced by the body in front of the three projectors, and could operate as a kind of index of the performer’s own physiological state (calmness, exhaustion etc) during the performance.
Continue reading ‘MLG Questions 01: Breath’
Here we are with Malcolm Le Grice in his studio in Devon.
Louise Curham and I have come to Devon, complete with a big and patient entourage (our families!).
We’re here to visit Malcolm and begin the process of working towards a re-enactment (or an intergenerational handover of sorts) of his Horror Film 1 from the early 1970s. (Here’s a blog post from a year ago where Louise and I ask some questions about this piece and what re-enacting it might involve. And in this page, you can see what we mean by “re-enacting expanded cinema”…)
Malcolm still performs this key work of expanded cinema – in fact there’s been a resurgence of interest and lots of requests for him to do it, ever since the turn of the century.
But in 2010 when Malcolm came to do a screening of his work in Sydney, we started a conversation about his feeling that it might be time to think about turning it over to someone a bit younger. In fact, as early as 2001, he was talking about the need to find an “understudy”:
[source: Malcolm Le Grice, Improvising Time and Image, essay in Filmwaves 14, 2001, p. 14-18]
This project has flowed from the work we did re-enacting Guy Sherwin’s “Man with Mirror”. Our re-enactment of Guys’ piece was first performed in 2009, and we’ll present it in London for the first time very soon – details here.
The Horror Film project, of course, has a range of different challenges and we can’t pre-empt how we’ll resolve them before we jump in and start playing with the work using our own bodies.
However, even before we start, we’ve been really enjoying talking through a whole range of practical and philosophical issues with Malcolm in his studio in Devon – and we also spent some fun days with Steven Ball and David Curtis, in the archives at the British Artists Film and Video Study Collection at Central St Martins College in London.
Here’s Louise in her element rummaging through the compactus with David Curtis, who is the lynchpin of this very important archive:
This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body, with support from ACME studios in London.
This week, in London, I met up with Malcolm Le Grice. Recently, we’ve been pondering how it might be to tackle the re-enactment, or recreation of his Horror Film, from 1971. The piece, for three 16mm projectors, involves a live performer, naked, with his back to the audience. He begins right up near the screen, and during the course of the performance, moves slowly backwards until he reaches the projectors.
I’ve never seen the work performed live, so most of my speculation here is based on video documentation, my imagination, and my experience of working with other expanded cinema projects.
[some representative stills from Horror Film, thanks to the LUX website.]
All the while, the performer makes a series of movements with his hands, arms, shoulders, seeming to feel the boundaries of the projected rectangles of light. The performer’s body-shadows are crucial to the work, and it seems that these shadows, which loom larger and larger as the piece goes on, are what gives it the feeling of an old fashioned “horror” movie. (Some discussion of the use of shadows in horror films here.)
During Malcolm’s Horror Film, the sound of breathing is audible, amplified in the room. Presumably, this is the live microphone link-up of the performer’s own breath while in action (or it may be pre-recorded).
It’s a seemingly simple work. With a bit of practice, and a strong attention to precision, there’s no reason it couldn’t be performed by anyone. I can’t see that it’s necessary for the performer to be male, either.
As for the medium-specificity side of things – how essential is it that the piece is projected from 16mm film? The film strips seem to be large lush blocks of colour, which project over the top of one another. When the performer’s body gets in the way, the shadows allow additive/subtractive colour combinations to emerge.
This is a punt (I’ve not researched it at all yet): the colour 16mm strips might have been made through a ‘pure’ process, using light exposure onto the celluloid without a camera, and cross-processed (not sure of the correct term) in some way on the London Film-Maker’s Co-op’s developing machine.
Would the process of re-creating this work involve following similar photo-chemical procedures to manufacture new 16mm strips?
Or, would it involve making similar colour sequences, using video instead?
And what about the projection event? What is essential to the event about film-versus-video? The central projected image seems to be white. Does that mean the central 16mm projector was actually empty of film? Ie – just the direct light from the projector bulb running through a lens. If so, how can an equivalent whiteness be produced by a colour video projector (which uses a combinatory light system to ‘produce’ white).
In our meeting, Malcolm and I spoke about issues to do with medium authenticity. In general, he’s not particularly concerned with staying true to the original medium, preferring to be pragmatic about what is currently available, and easier to use. I tend to agree – however, it could be interesting in Horror Film, to try a ‘compare and contrast’ approach (making a film and a video version) for the purposes of looking into how each of these generates a different kind of experience. (Other matters to consider include issues like the “presence” of the projectors in the room, and the sounds they make – video has a very different feel).
Malcolm’s ideas about media were very stimulating. He talked about his notion of ‘discourse’ rather than medium, to describe our experience of the digital world. I’ll be interested to read more about that, and I’m sure when we get a chance to work more closely on Horror Film, we’ll also delve more deeply into live experience and ‘present-ness’ – two areas which we both agree are at the core of the sort of thing which makes expanded cinema what it is.