Tag Archive for 'Horror Film'

After meeting Malcolm – top of mind

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.

Malcolm Le Grice’s Horror Film

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.

le grice horror film stills
[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.

-Lucas