SD video . 5:35 . 2000
. 4:26 . 2000
SD video . 9:20 . 2000
Transfigure, Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne, 8/12/2003
Electro-matic: film and video retrospective, Dlux, Sydney Film Festival,
These three pieces represent the results of a process in which a collection
of found film, including 1950s home movie footage, out-takes of an industrial
film, out-takes from some of my own films, and some hand-painted and scratched
film, were spliced into short loops, re-filmed and superimposed over each
After cutting the loops to various lengths the images were re-shot with
a video camera. They were then processed with different devices and combined
by a process known as non-additive mix. In video terms, a non-additive
mix differs from the standard additive mix, or dissolve, in which the
luminance value, or intensity, of the A and B image is mixed proportionally
(E.g. 50%:50%, 60%:40%, etc.). A non-additive mix blends the lighter parts
of one image into the darker parts of the other image in such a way that
the full intensity of each image is maintained at 100%.
Some of the loops were also processed through a Michael Cox 'Cox Box'
colour synthesizer and, in some instances, were combined with screen captured
random video noise and computer animation. This process resulted in several
hours of material from which the three pieces were selected.
The methodology of the production of these pieces was decidedly analogue.
In one way it was a final attempt to fully utilise some of the old analogue
broadcast video equipment that I had been collecting and restoring over
the years (namely the Cox non-additive mix module that I had salvaged
from an ancient and water damaged production switcher, the Cox Box and
a downstream keyer unit).
The idea was to work fast, without the hindrance of too many options,
and with the instantaneous hands on approach that real-time processing
affords. I also wanted to allow some degree of randomness to enter the
process (the results of which were to be final and not open to correction),
and, at the same time, to capture the peculiarities of these old technologies.
For this approach digital methods (of that time period and within my budget)
were out of the question.
Working with found film permits me to work entirely within what Jean Louis
Comolli describes as that which has been generally relegated to the 'unconscious
of cinema': the editing, chemical processing, the black between frames,
the sound image relationship and to extend video processing and digital
media techniques. The working limits imposed by a 'cameraless' video practice
establishes a certain freedom: a release from the conscious decision making
of camerawork, direction, etc. The use of found home movie footage also
allows me to work with, hat is ostensibly, the private recorded memories
of others completely detached from my own or from public memory (history)
in a sense, forgotten memories.
Although the works superficially resemble a video clip for three pieces
of music, this was not the intention. Rather it was to create a series
of electronic/chemical/optical moving paintings that also contained the
added dimension of sound. It is, in a sense, an extension of certain process
based minimalist musical compositions, yet the work is not concerned so
much with the foregrounding of filmic representation as such, which was
the focus of the structural-materialist filmmakers of the 1960s and 70s.Soundtrack
I have tried to break down the opposition between, on the one hand, music
that builds, and on the other hand, music that seems to go nowhere. I
have tried to incorporate both aspects, to achieve this quality of nowhereness,
or equilibrium (steady state), while at the same time, allowing a subtle
under play of slowly building textures and tensions. The music is minimal
and of modular construction in which a diverse range of background elements
revolve around an empty centre: clicks, pops and crackles; short one note
(or one chord) samples from easy listening records such as skating rink
and theatrical organ records; tight jabs of sound over reverberating tones
and asymmetrical basslines.
Part 1: Jumpcut
Two pieces of found footage were used to produce Jumpcut: a series of
frames cut from the head and tails of various takes of a talking head
shot for a 1970s industrial film or commercial; and a piece of 1950s/60s
home movie footage depicting a jumping child interrupted by the perforation
marks at the end of the reel. Both images are processed through the Cox
Box. The loop of the jumping boy had developed, over time, a network of
miniscule cracks in the emulsion which were further emphasised by the
increased contrast of the processing and the slow motion.
Part 2: Equalibrium
One of the layers of this piece consists of an image of a Sufi like spinning
dancer in a white lab coat. This out-take from an earlier film, Phonogramme,
had somehow become splattered with a kind of mould that formed small flower
like shapes in the frame. It is combined with a loop of hand-painted film
which deteriorates slowly each time the loop repeats. The accidental misspelling
of the title was retained as a piece of word play.
Part 3: Departure
Departure examines a single moment expanded in duration and repeated.
The loop depicts a rather banal scene: a man walks past a small and informal
gathering of people. There seems to be a photographer and an official
of some sort, yet the reason for the man's journey is missing. If the
shot had been allowed to continue we would have seen the aeroplane that
the man was attempting to board, waiting on the tarmac. This cut, the
removal of one of the most important narrative elements in the shot, allows
its meaning to drift into ambiguity. The shot becomes a blank slate, or
an open text. Each time the loop repeats it becomes possible to inject
new meaning, Nothing is determined and the central figure remains anonymous.
Throughout the succession of loops the image of the central figure drifts
in and out of focus. Our view tracks around within the frame of the original
footage, as a result of the re-filming, so that the distinction between
the original camera movements and those added later in the process becomes
Here the distinction between figure and ground breaks down. The establishing
data of the shot fails to emerge from the hazy blank background so that
the figures float in an indeterminate semiotic field. What then comes
to foreground is the grain: the physicality of the material substrate.
But, unlike the self-reflexive strategies of structural/materialist filmmaking
and minimalism, these material artifacts are not permitted to dominate
the piece to the exclusion of all other content, but instead, interact
with the iconic elements in a undecidable and uncanny oscillating movement.
The grain is further emphasised by the superimposition of additional layers:
a loop of handpainted film (composed of ink, salt and dirt) which slowly
disintegrates each time it repeats; and an intermittent layer of random
video noise. Both create a patina of noise particles (optical and electronic).