The Teaching and Learning Cinema presents ’16mm from the ’70s’, a screening of films by artist Malcolm Le Grice at Belconnen Arts Centre, 13 April, 6pm.
On Saturday 13 April, 7 artworks on 16mm film by Malcolm Le Grice will screen at Belconnen Arts Centre.
The works are on loan from the National Film and Sound Archive and the Lux in London.
In the 1960s, some artists started experimenting with film. They explored the medium in new ways, thinking about what happened if you threw the pieces of cinema in the air – the projector, the screen, the room, the audience – and reorganised them. Malcolm’s work explored the physical aspects of the film strip – what happens when you use a film printer to reprint, recolour in lots of permutations. What happens when you think of film as an event and a performance – when the attention of the audience is drawn to the time it actually took for the film to be exposed to light – a very slow cinema. What happens when the film in the projector is just one part of the experience for the audience?
The films demonstrate to us the power of cinema when it turns its back on narrative.
These works come to us from a time when telephones had bells in them and typing pools prepared letters that travelled only by post. Yet these concerns of real time vs mediated time, the physical foundation to the image vs its power to transport us had a lucidity and an urgency about them that is as relevant now as it was then.
On the bill are:
Academic Still Life (Cezanne)
Blind White Duration
L’arroseur Arrose = After Lumiere
Little Dog for Roger
Total running time 80 mins.
Entry by gold coin donation.
For further info contact Louise Curham
0412 271 612
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.
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.
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.