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.


Screenscapes in Nicosia

Posted in Film on August 29, 2014 by lukeaspell

On Friday 5th September, the Collective-iz programme Screenscapes, which includes my film To Pass and Repass, will be screening at Ground in Nicosia, Cyprus.


Posted in Film on March 23, 2014 by lukeaspell

On Friday 28th March, my new film To Pass and Repass will be projected as part of Screenscapes, a Collective-iz event, at Apiary Studios.

FILM|PERFORMANCE|SPACE – Collective-iz at Summerhall, 22nd November 2013

Posted in Film, Other on November 26, 2013 by lukeaspell

The FILM|PERFORMANCE|SPACE programme presented by Collective-iz at Summerhall in Edinburgh comprised three performance pieces and three films, executed and projected in two spaces.

The event began with Signals II, by Karolina Raczynski in collaboration with Deniz Johns, in which mirror signals were exchanged via Skype between Johns in Ankara and the audience in Edinburgh. During this piece, which was first performed at the Roundhouse in August, a third performance space is created virtually between the collective space of reply and the domestic space of transmission. Cutting across clock time in two cities, an appointed time of action takes place, between participants of no country. The explicit themes of this work are ‘time, location and light’; the process of their exposition is an expression of solidarity.

After a screening of Neil Henderson’s Candle (2006), a film well-known enough not to require discussion here, the audience were led to the Demonstration Room.

The second section of the programme began with Maria Anastassiou’s Deniz: bir, iki, üç, a silent record of verbal counting in which the act is visually divided and obscured by a fan in the hand of the speaker (Deniz Johns) as the camera’s shutter divides (and, imperceptibly, omits) fractions of the shooting time’s seconds. This divided time is looped, the loop projected for an unannounced duration by the filmmaker, begun on this occasion as the audience entered the space. This document, which at first resembles a simple film portrait, demonstrates the plasticity of film duration. This was the first of two films projected onto a blackboard from within the performance space (that is, the projector was positioned in front of the seated audience), and this surface paralleled the black, shallow screen space created by the descending fan.

Amy Dickson’s Light Time followed this. Behind a screen dyed with black thermochromic ink, candles are lit by the artist. As they burn, they return the area of the screen reached by their heat to its fabric’s original colour. The arrangement of the candles behind the screen, and the pace and repetition of the action, foreshadows the moment when all candles will be lit; a moment which, once reached, is not the completion of the action but its mid-point, to be followed immediately by the first candle’s quenching. Once all the candles have been lit, and as they are extinguished, the screen’s serial heat images recall, with its dimensions, a set of film negatives; a fading light if ‘read’ from left to right, and from top to bottom, the image of a pulse.

Dickson’s performance was followed by Rosemary, Again and Again (Cathy Rogers 2013), projected from the same position and on the same surface as Deniz: bir, iki, üç, and another film which uses the double time of looping projected for a defined duration, in this case permitting the viewer’s eyes to confirm the instability of all physical bearings in the rush of images, in which the film ‘intermittently’ (as it seems in projection’s simulated sequentiality) captures its own straight, sharp image among the organic shapes of the rosemary bush it was draped on.

The programme concluded with Glass by Jamie Jenkinson, in which the projection of an electronic light source, a white digital frame, is refracted by the interposition and motion of a selection of glass objects made by Shelley James into the most essential pre-cinematic forms. For this performance, the height of the space, position of the projection and reflectiveness of the walls’ surfaces permitted a sharply defined portrait rectangle of light (a graphic echo and negative image of the screen used in Light Time) into which the artist’s hand reached to place each object. Between each object’s turn in the light, there was an interval of darkness, during which the winding of the turning mechanism was heard.

In contrast to The Horse Hospital, where Collective-iz presented the related but different Now and Here programme in February, both spaces used for FILM|PERFORMANCE|SPACE were loosely theatrical; a converted lecture theatre and ‘demonstration room’, with audience seating oriented towards a central focal point. Much of the effect of the work on these spaces was to de-centre them, shifting audience attention – sometimes physically, as when Candle‘s projection followed Signals II on a screen at a diagonal angle, and in the transition from the first to the second space – and to accentuate their specific qualities, as in Glass‘s use of the Demonstration Room’s stark, untheatrical wall textures, and the film loops’ blackboard projection. The 16mm projector and the thermochromic screen of Light Time had been placed before the programme began and remained in position throughout.

The Pace of Time: A Contemporary Interruption

Posted in Film on July 30, 2013 by lukeaspell

On Sunday 4th August my new video Towards ‘To Pass and Repass’ will be screened at the Roundhouse as part of The Pace of Time: A Contemporary Interruption.

Film Movement in Light: A Contemporary Expression

Posted in Film on April 16, 2013 by lukeaspell

On Thursday 18th April a new video, Luminance Gradients, will appear at the National Portrait Gallery, as part of Film Movement in Light: A Contemporary Expression, a programme of work responding to themes raised in the NPG’s Man Ray season, curated by Ben Pritchard.

New Contemporaries 2012 at the ICA

Posted in Film, Other on November 29, 2012 by lukeaspell

Some first thoughts on five videos included in this year’s show.

Untitled (Ready for a Fight) (Anita Delaney 2011, HD video):
Looped video, in portrait orientation, of an unresolved moment. A figure stands, face covered by a ragged cloth, fists raised. Through a hole in the cloth, a cigarette blows, its animation a further index of the shaking figure’s agitation. The space in which this happens is something between a cubicle and a yard, with features of both exterior and interior. Camera distance and lighting are theatrical; this is a space we look into, an impression accentuated by the screen’s own setting, behind a rectangular window (the piece was reportedly shown in Liverpool as a projection). The setting, the figure’s isolation and the predicament, on the brink of action, put me in mind of Beckett (the stance and dress reminiscent of Catastrophe), and this is one of the two videos I saw in which the looping seemed intrinsic to the piece’s meaning. Speaking with the artist later, I discovered that I had misread the sex of the figure. Knowing this, I’ll revisit the piece when I go to see some of the work I didn’t get a chance to spend time with on Tuesday night.

Coast to Coast (diptych) (Polly Read 2011, video):
A church interior in sunlight at Whitstable in Kent, a house exterior at night at Seaford, in Sussex. These locations are the coastal limits of a diagonal line of longitude. The two monitors are synchronised, and display the same input; along the line of a journey and a duration, we can only be in one place at a time. Bars of mild noise move up the image, two in the frame at any time, bringing to mind analogue tracking or detuned television reception; the movement of videotape over the head and the distance covered by a transmission. The shots, the axes of which shift gently with hand-held lightness, appear to have been slowed, creating the sense of a dialectic between remaining and departing.

73 (Piotr Krzymowski 2012, HD video):
A video based on a mathematical structure or grid. Numbers, white on black, are followed by a shot repeated that many times. The simplicity of this is filled by a kind of imagery never previously, to my knowledge, used in a work constructed on such lines. Bright sunlight; blue water; pétanque balls on sand. The images and sounds point up the fun of the structure; the structure points up the attention behind the captured instants. Our own durational attention is crucial to what this is doing, and like Polly Read’s video, it has a defined beginning and end. That, and its use of sound, makes me hope it will be possible to see it soon in a screening space more conducive to such attention.

Strolling (Tony Law 2012, video):
A compilation of interstitial moments in narrative films; moments in which narrative is composed of star acting, music, gesture and camera movement. A number of Asian actresses, in clips from compressed, low-definition sources, walk away, or to, or between, the stories. The sound has been removed; perhaps this combines with the compression to create a melancholy that the original soundtracks would have complicated. Perhaps, because the melancholy of silenced screens, readily apparent in the public spaces where we usually see them (a train station concourse, a pub), is, for me, less acute in an environment in which silent images are so often complete ones.

Circumspects (George Eksts 2011, HD video):
Horses exercising in a kind of circular enclosure whose name for the moment escapes me. The repetition of their motion becomes itself the repetition of watching a closed loop. It could be taken to say something about how installation video uses (and abuses?) duration; the horses walk endlessly forward in their prison. The piece is 16:9, exhibited on a wall-mounted flat-screen television on a corridor, in the way an equestrian or hunting scene might be placed on a landing or staircase. Its position invites a quick look, too quick to take in what it seems to suggest after having been seen in full several times over. Circumspection is, etymologically, looking around; we look around as we look cyclically, on a treadmill of seamless repetition, pitiless as surveillance.