When we started thinking about re-enacting Malcolm Le Grice’s Horror Film 1a 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”
Wednesday June 12, 4-5pm
ISEA, New Law School Lecture Theatre 106, University of Sydney
Lucas is presenting (via Skype from London), speaking briefly about our work re-enacting Expanded Cinema from the point of view of medium and materiality. You can read the abstracts and the panel synopsis here.
Friday June 14, 2:30pm-4pm
Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL
Lucas and Louise will be performing (Wo)man with Mirror and engaging in discussion afterwards, at a conference in London. The conference is called “Museum Futures in an Age of Austerity” and the details are here.
Here’s the draft conference schedule.
Tuesday June 18, 7pm onwards Apiary Studios, 458 Hackney Rd.
Louise and Lucas are performing (Wo)man with Mirror and engaging in discussion afterwards, together with Dr Patti Gaal-Holmes & Dr Kim Knowles. Guy Sherwin “himself” will be there, along with his partner and collaborator Lynn Loo. All the details are here.
This event was kindly organised by Sally Golding and is an Unconscious Archives Salon.
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. Here is a flyer from ACME studios as a PDF.
Wednesday June 19th, 7.30pm onwards Cafe Oto
18-22 Ashwin street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL
Tickets : £8 adv / £10 on the door
Louise Curham will be showing her handmade super8 films in collaboration with musician Alison Blunt. The evening also features the work of Karel Doing and Pierre Bastien. This event is number 8 in the Unconscious Archives series organised by Sally Golding and James Holcolmbe. All the details are here.
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]
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.
CRITICAL PATH PRESENTS
ARTISTS’ SALON: MOVING IMAGE 1 installation works by Sam James, Louise Curham and Lucas Ihlein
SATURDAY 11 MAY 2013
4.00 – 6.00 pm
at THE DRILL
1c New Beach Road
Darling Point (Rushcutters Bay)
The Drill Hall will be open from 3.00 pm for viewing of Sam James’ installation.
Free public event Continue reading “Artists’ Salon: Moving Image 1 at Critical Path, Sydney”
About Primary Sources and the 2004 screenings (page 1, page 2) – a manifesto!
Screening #5 Lanfranchi’s 3 Feb 2004 inc. Takehisa Kosugi’s A Film & Film #4. (Side 1, side 2 of A4, triple folded)
The screenings continued for some time. We’ll put up more archives soon. It’s important to point out that Tony Woods, Al Young, Dan Edwards and (Lanfranchi’s) Brendan were critical in establishing SMIC.
Never bowing to overtly conventional cinema, this modest, knowledgeable and catalytic artist absorbed the history of the avant garde in Europe and became a lifelong avant gardist himself, with a uniquely Australian taste.
Before funding was provided to some filmmakers by state and federal government, Thoms and his mates, like Bruce Beresford, Garry Shead, Aggy Read, David Perry and others, grabbed 16-millimetre cameras, trekked into the landscape and aggressively started filming. The critic Charles Higham immediately praised the first films. This resulted in an uncensored Australian cinema in aesthetic and moral synchronisation with a worldwide ”underground” film movement.
Danni Zuvela did an extensive interview with him, back in 2003, on Senses of Cinema. Here he is, reflecting on the development of a proto-expanded cinema / light show event:
The Ubu lightshows grew out of the happenings staged as part of “Theatre Of Cruelty.” In one of those we projected a film over an actor being disrobed as he recited a poem. The interface between moving actor and moving film image was fascinating, and recurred when we projected films over rock bands. Then the bands began reacting to the films, resulting in improvisations between musicians and lighting operators, and soon we were making films expressly for such performances, scratching and handcolouring black leader and painting onto clear leader. Eventually they were projected on the audience as well as the musicians, creating a mass performance (in one case with 4000 people) in which cinema had expanded to fill the room.
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.
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.
Louise Curham and I were really pleased to be involved in this publishing project, which places the work that we are doing with “researching Expanded Cinema via live action” alongside many other attempts by artists and curators to revisit performative works of the recent past.
In 2009, Lucas Ihlein and Louise Curham presented a paper at the Re-Live Media Art Histories conference in Melbourne.
There seem to be some problems accessing the proceedings online, so we’re posting the paper here on our own website in the spirit of collegiality.
It’s entitled Re-Enacting Expanded Cinema: Three Case Studies.
Here’s the abstract:
Since 2003, the practice of Sydney’s Teaching and Learning Cinema has involved the re-enactment of Expanded Cinema performances from the 1960s and 70s. As artists, we have discovered that direct access to the work of our aesthetic precursors is essential for understanding, and building upon the work of the past.
However, since many Expanded Cinema events were ephemeral and situated in time and place, they do not easily lend themselves to documentation and archiving. As a result, the works are poorly represented in art history. Re-creating them in our own ‘here and now’ is a creative pedagogical process, in which the works become available once again for first-hand experience.
Clearly, these re-creations are not ‘authentic’ or ‘correct’ – rather, the very concept of authenticity and the integrity of the bounded art event are brought into question by this unique form of practice-based research. In this paper, we touch on three three Expanded Cinema works we have re-created – William Raban’s 2’45” (1973); Anthony McCall’s Long Film for Ambient Light (1975) and Guy Sherwin’s Man with Mirror (1976).
We discuss the dilemmas that emerge from such a process. Geographical distance, cultural context and technological developments all make significant demands on the resourcefulness and wit of the re-enactors. Emerging from this process, our re-enactments generate an organic living history, in which the works are ‘kept alive’ through the practice of passing them from one generation to the next.