Thursday, January 05, 2012

Esperanza Collado on DARK, PLASTIC, REVERSAL

Esperanza Collado wrote the following very insightful review of my my Super-8 film Dark, Plastic, Reversal. It first appeared in the winter issue of Experimental Conversations.

Last November, coinciding with the 56th Cork Film Festival, a series of three screenings extended the concurrent exhibition 'Seeing the Light' that took place at Cork's Sample Studios/TACTIC Gallery. Curated by Maximilian Le Cain, the show featured contemporary experimental film works by Michael Higgins, Rouzbeh Rashidi, Chris O'Neill and myself, among others.

From what I saw, the screenings didn't attract large audiences, even though some interesting work recently produced in Ireland outside the frame of commercial cinema was shown. And I can clearly recall that the members of the audience all appeared to be artists and filmmakers, including the lively and stimulating presence of Ivan and Igor Buharov, indicating that such an event doesn't seem to draw regular festival-goers. After all, there's not much film festival glamour associated with an event like this. It brought to mind a text Michael Snow wrote in honour of Hollis Frampton in 1984, in which he reminded us that before Warhol gave experimental film 'glamour', for years the underground was ignored and looked down on as poor, grungy and inbred.

But that's not the subject I wanted to write about here...

I wanted to write about Dark, Plastic, Reversal, an ephemeral work Maximilian Le Cain performed at the end of the first screening in Sample Studios. Without announcement and in a rather intimate environment, Le Cain switched on a Super8 projector and a small tape recorder/player. In addition to the phenomenological situation of the spectator in the filmic space of projection, this work also thematized the economy of the technological apparatus in ways that revealed an attempt to see what the fundamentals of cinema are.

The film projected was a meticulous exercise in montage, a sort of terrorist action performed on a strip of celluloid on which a series of images had been previously captured. By inserting long fragments of black leader between very short bursts of images, these images only appeared at regular intervals, wrecked, scratched or hand-painted. This created a strong sensation of rhythm, which harmonized extraordinarily with the steady pulse that came from the tape machine.

The importance of the time element and the possibility of an alternative form to narrative construction were given in Dark, Plastic, Reversal by structuring the duration of a cinematic experience for the spectator. If there was suspense, which of course also exists in experimental film, it was provided by the form in which images had been assembled and, most importantly, by the extremely short spell, between 3 and 10 frames, they remained on the screen, as if imploring in pain to be allowed to escape their surrounding blackness. Their brevity made it almost impossible to discern the original content of the images, but had a strong effect on perception and memory that I wouldn't just associate with persistence of vision, but to more complex processes of cognition.

In fact, one of the most beautiful aspects of Dark, Plastic, Reversal, in its reduction of filmic presentation to elementary determinants like light, screen, pulse, and the cut, is the reversal aspect of it. The black leader fragments presented a film ‘in reverse', or ‘in negative', that it only occurs in the spectator's mind. Perhaps for that reason Le Cain ended this happening handling out to the audience fragments of celluloid torn from the projected film, black leader mostly.

It would be interesting to relate this kind of work to the Lettrist actions of the 1950s and the sort of ‘suicidal cinema' (‘contemplate my word talking about cinema and you will see my film', proclaimed Roland Sabatier) that claimed and requested the dissolution of film into situations in which an understanding of cinema as a collective experience of exchange and participation is prioritised.


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