Re-Enacting Expanded Cinema: Three Case Studies

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.

You can download the pdf of the paper here.

PS: Some of my earlier thoughts on re-enactment as a strategy are here.

Xavier Garcia Bardon’s essay on “Man with Mirror”

xavier garcia bardon essay clip

Xavier Garcia Bardon, a film curator from Brussels, has written a book chapter all about Guy Sherwin’s Man with Mirror.

Excitingly (for us), his essay also includes a consideration of Louise Curham and Lucas Ihlein (Teaching and Learning Cinema)’s re-enactment/extension of Sherwin’s piece, entitled(Wo)Man with Mirror, which was first performed in 2009.

Xavier’s chapter is in the following book:

Philippe DUBOIS, Frédéric MONVOISIN, Elena BISERNA (ed.), Extended Cinema. Le cinéma gagne du terrain, Campanotto Editore, Pasian di Prato, 2010. ISBN: 88-456-1171-1

With Xavier’s permission, we’ve posted a link to the pdf of his chapter here.

It’s in French. If anyone can do a translation for us, we’d be eternally grateful.

Malcolm Le Grice Screening in Sydney

Moving Image Art
by Malcolm Le Grice
at Performance Space, Carriageworks,
245 Wilson Street, Everleigh NSW 2015.
Friday 5th November
6 – 8pm

Malcolm Le Grice will introduce a program of films and video, from 1 to 16 mins in duration, made between 1966 and 2009. Malcolm Le Grice started as a painter but began to make film and computer works in the mid 1960’s. He was a founding member of the London Filmmakers Co-operative and has made works collaboratively with other artists and performers including Brian Eno.

Program to include:

Little Dog For Roger, Wharf, Horror Film 1 documentation, Berlin Horse (sound with Brian Eno), Again Finnegan, For the Benefit of Mr K, Unforgettable, Beware, Critical Moment, Threshold, Neither Here Nor There, After Monet, Digital Aberration.

On the following day, Saturday 6th November, an associated event, Expanded Architecture – International Architecture Film Night.

Australian International Experimental Film Festival launched


Sue K & the Nanolab gang have announced their collaboration in presenting the Australian International Experimental Film Festival

Put this one in your diaries! Festival dates Melbourne, 30th April, 1st-2nd May, 2010. Submissions mid Dec 2009 to 15th Febuary 2010.

Conceptual Paradise: There Is a Place for Sophistication

conceptual NZ Film Archive
The fabulously energetic Mark Williams at the NZ Film Archive is poised to screen the documentary essay Conceptual Paradise: There Is a Place for Sophistication. Unfortunately this screening is in Wellington, NZ, not much good to us at present but maybe someone in the community will be spurred to show it! Hope so!

The film is directed by Stefan Römer traces out the debates that allowed the intellectual art movement of conceptual art to emerge in the 1960s, and which has subsequently led to the most relevant questions in contemporary art.
As Mark’s e-mail today said, it features some of the most interesting and dynamic artists and art theorists alive today, presenting a diversity of voices to show conceptual art as a socio-historical development of various movements; that it has no one valid definition. Yet there are several ideas that are framed throughout the documentary; the fiction and ideal of art as political engagement; the history of art as a history of struggles around strategies of representation, and, in making a film about conceptual art, the trope of reflexivity that produces a study on the documentary as a genre in itself.

Vito Acconci, Art & Language (Michael Baldwin, Mel Ramsden), Michael Asher, John Baldessari, Robert Barry, Hartmut Bitomsky, Mel Bochner, Gregg Bordowitz, Klaus vom Bruch, Daniel Buren, Victor Burgin, Luis Camnitzer, Jan Dibbets, Mark Dion, Sam Durant, Valie EXPORT, Stano Filko, Andrea Fraser, Liam Gillick, Dan Graham, Renée Green, Shilpa Gupta, Hans Haacke, Július Koller, Joseph Kosuth, Sonia Khurana, David Lamelas, Sol LeWitt, Thomas Locher, Marcel Odenbach, Yoko Ono, John Miller, Adrian Piper, Yvonne Rainer, Allen Ruppersberg, Ed Ruscha, Martha Rosler, Allan Sekula, Peter Weibel, Lawrence Weiner, Stephen Willats, Heimo Zobernig

Alexander Alberro, Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, Sabeth Buchmann, Charles Harrison (Art & Language), Geeta Kapoor, Geert Lovink, Seth Siegelaub, Gregor Stemmrich.

workshop 27 April 2009 – Louise’s notes

TLC workshop Monday 27 April 2009 – Working towards a re-creation of Guy Sherwin’s Man with Mirror.


10.35 am Lucas collects Louise from Central.
10.45 am arrive Petersham.

Discussed contribution of new iteration given Guy is still performing this work – discussed the value of ‘slips’ in our iteration, and the significance of transmission of the work to a new generation, both contributions we hope we are making.

There was lengthy discussion about integrity in re-enactment, informing audiences where work knowingly departs from the form and/or intention of the original. Also a long discussion about William Raban’s Diagonal, recently shown in Canberra by our Brisbane colleagues who brought Guy out last year, Otherfilm. Noteworthy that this film was made as a single film that runs concurrently through 3 projectors, ie one film, laced to run through 3 projectors one after the other.

Reviewed Lynn’s YouTube documentation of a London performance of Guy’s along with our ‘gash’ telecine (ie very rough video tape of projected film) of Guy’s 1976 super 8 that we made in Brisbane last Aug. We checked out the timings of the three cycles and the position of the roll changes. We double checked our understanding of how the actions unfold. We studied the actions that occur around the roll changes.

12.30 pm
We loaded the camera, measured focus, set tripod, set sun/shade/dapple position on the mirror, set the framing. We selected to wear singlets as the tension in Guy’s body in performing with the mirror is noteworthy. For me, I pondered the implications of the pregnant body by June when this work is shown.

1pm ate minestrone with rocket salad from Petersham garden

Framed up Lucas so we might detect a neighbour in the background. Discussion of where Louise would be visible when the mirror side faced out.

Discussion of the role of the second person turning the camera on and off – not sure if Guy had a helper, we think we detect a second person in the 1976 footage.

We checked the duration of an S8 reel at 18FPS. We enlisted a timer to help with the choreography – a word I really understand now as the placement of action in time.

We filmed Lucas, a most exciting development. Questions about whether the sun moved too far during the 9 mins as by the end the dapple was quite subtle and his face may be darker than we’d like. The dapple of the clothes line and the mulberry leaves was very beautiful and such a sharp autumnal Sydney day.

c. 2 pm
After filming Lucas, we went up to the glazier to get my mirror cut down. We had a long chat with the glazier, who explained the difference between a glazier and a glass cutter, separate trades in the UK but rolled up here in Australia.

We then filmed me. By the third roll I found the mirror very heavy – felt like I had no real control over it, mostly desperation at the weight and lack of inspiration as to what to discover with it given the battle to hold it.

4 pm
We concluded with discussions about staging the work.
– immovable requirement seems to be clear floor space
– discussed possibility of four performance pairs – Louise, mother of Louise, Lucas, father of Lucas
– requirement to carry through commitment to construction of this performance as the work we are exhibiting.

5.18 train Petersham to Central