Archive for November, 2014

CONTACT – 1st October/3rd November

Posted in Film, Literature, Music on November 21, 2014 by lukeaspell

A report on the first two screening events in the CONTACT series, programmed by Andrew Vallance and Simon Payne. Both screenings took place at Apiary Studios.


1st October:

The programme began with three films by Neil Henderson. First, Tidal (2005), in which developing Polaroids of the sea, both composed to exclude shore or sky (limits restored by the edges of the frame), and filmed along both halves of a split 16mm reel, appear and disappear simultaneously, creating a kind of visual pun indicated by the title. This was followed by Portrait of Evan Parker-Silver (2011), an integral recording of a performance, the light movement we see from the camera’s locked-off low-angle shot being the action of the playing we hear. Finally, Tidal Island (2014). A new departure for the filmmaker, this edited, scored film investigates an artificial island reclaimed by sea birds. Viewed in various registers, from the cartographic to the zoological, reflective of the intrinsic variousness of a process of longitudinal, cumulative noticing, the environmental influence of its alien regularity is twinned with the moon’s on the tides.

John James read selections from Cloud Breaking Sun, Collected Poems, and In Romsey Town, ending with Songs in Midwinter for Franco in its entirety. In James’ reading this sequence was a stream of steady pace and regular pauses, with humour. Songs about watching and waiting, in expectation (of a crowd, the sun, a crop), with reference to what sustains, never out of the presense of history – Resistance fighters killed providing a distraction for D-Day; a recent, record-breaking viaduct which ‘defies/the skies’ – and memory. Two kinds of territory, terroir and the counter-country formed with allies in temporary autonomous spaces (particularly those of drinks and meals), between places and times, whose citizenship can help us to do more than hibernate, even to sing.

The programme concluded, after an intermission, with eight films by Nick Collins: Three Silent Films (2001-2005) (comprising Early Morning, Bathroom Mirror and Flyscreen), Garden (2009), Frost Table (2009), An Afternoon (2012), Temple of Apollo (2012) and Square and Mountain (2010). The freedom of these films, and their openess, makes them difficult to discuss singly. While none of them would need any other to make its impact, the arrangement of these eight films made a cohesive experience, following a growing warmth of light from winter to golden dawn light across frost, through afternoon sunlight, to Greece. I can’t recall any discernible restrictive frameworks other than those provided by locations or occasions (that is, the films are each of one place or time and place); the films obey their own rhythms and Collins’ sense of rightness, his eye and editorial ‘ear’. The combination of rigour and plenitude in the images and cutting put me in mind of Straub-Huillet. In the Greek films that concluded this programme particularly, the sense one has in films like Othon and Too Early/Too Late of being in history by being in the present, in images ‘documentary’ yet of a materialist fullness, is present, though Collins’ films create this sense without sound.


3rd November:

The Object Which Thinks Us: Object 1 (Samantha Rebello 2007):
The use of the threshold of focus (that is, approaching and departing focus) and the threshold of legibility, legibility attained intermittently through the shimmer of printed gate slipping or for an instant before the image is illegible or cuts to black, mean that the bright white space of the images can be ‘resolved’ as bathroom, kitchen or laboratory, and is thus unresolvable, itself subject to slippage, taking us to the material roots of all three, the point at which they resemble each other. The tongue’s motion is compared to that of earthworms; a glass of water is compared to a petri dish. One element I had forgotten and was grateful to be reminded of by this viewing is the use, as in the later Forms Are Not Self-Subsistent Substances, of images from books, in this case photographs of bacteria and what appear to be charts of the moon (though it may be the filmmaker’s reference to medieval thought and beliefs in other works, and the apparent appearance of blood in this film, which leads me to interpret them as such).

Rectangle Window/Arch Window (Jennifer Nightingale 2013):
The first of two films each made of paired reels, shot with hand-cranked pinhole cameras made from 16mm magazines. The filmmaker has described this mode as ‘tak[ing] cinema back to its origins’. As the organic kinetic texture of the image’s tumble forward into streams of light was reminiscent of manual pre-cinematic devices/toys, the ‘camera’ distance and position of the windows (particularly the first), as well as their leading, bring to mind Fox Talbot’s first Lacock Abbey picture.

West Window/East Window (Jennifer Nightingale 2013):
In her introduction, the filmmaker noted that the Venetian blind used in the second reel introduces the lateral divisions not present on the film strip. It also renders the streams, when they are broken into, dimmer and purer, creating a steeper falling-off from light to darkness, and a starker metric of the action of filming. The reversal of the motion of the sun – west first, then east – echos the inversion of the camera obscura image.

There followed a performance of Alvin Lucier’s Opera With Objects (1997) by Tim Parkinson. The objects used in this performance included a 450g yoghurt pot wrapped in printed foil; a 250g polypropylene tub; a shallow round gift box presumably made of reinforced card, a tin and a jar.


not far at all (Peter Gidal 2014):
This is the longer film to which the previously released Coda I and Coda II are pendants. Like those, it refers to the filmmaker’s history, in this case recalling Clouds (1969) in moving between unrecognisable images of clouds, and images recognisable as clouds and a plane, with the striking difference (along with being in colour, with a soundtrack ‘concrete/abstract without language’ [Gidal]) that in not far at all some of the recognisable images of clouds are filmed from above, framed by an aeroplane window (the inclusion of the window’s frame, and the enforced perspective of the air traveller, makes the zooms-outs from this position, at least on a second viewing, less fleeting in the legibility of their distance and scale cues than is usually the case in Gidal films). Remarkably, some of the shots also appear to record a meterological event. The title is a quotation from the Burroughs recording used in Coda I and Coda II, a phrase repeated in the latter.

Cut Out (Simon Payne 2013):
Unlike in Test Cards and Twice Over, the space between the camera and the object/monitor surface is not immediately apparent, as sunlight in the former, and the reflected light on the monitor in the latter, made it in those works. In Cut Out the lighting, and possibly the texture of the cards’ surfaces is closer to matte colour than the textures (in daylight) reminiscent of sugar paper used in Test Cards, the proximity of the surface cued by the presense of the filmmaker’s thumb. The smooth sine tones of this video provided an aural recalibration after the staccato of the Lucier piece and the Gidal film’s mono soundtrack, bringing us out again to the silence of the concluding video.

Not And Or (Simon Payne 2014):
As Cut Out follows Test Cards, this video follows Twice Over. A sequence of shapes’ movements in virtual space, reversed then re-filmed repeatedly, until the shapes are almost entirely reduced in complexity into an alternation of light and relative darkness, although flashes of phantom colour enter, red and blue.