Pleasuredome, Toronto: A Public Conversation on Diverse Media Exhibition + Open Screening July 5th 2014
I happened upon this event last week in Toronto, and was surprised to find myself amidst a diverse and opinionated group of artist -curators, on the verge of reformulating the collectives mission statement of 1993, and it’s now dated idea of artists’ moving image as divided into the two camps of film and video. At issue, how to accomodate and set a future course for the rapidly evolving moving image media landscape, within the membership of the collective. While, I don’t personally subscribe to the superiority of one medium over another, I’m always interested in the unique ways in which artists deploy technology (analog or digital or a combination of both) in order to generate and facilitate ideas and expression.
(The above still is taken from the work that I screened as part of my contribution to the debate)
At Pleasuredome last Saturday, I was brought back to the very same debates at the beginning of my PhD studies in the UK several years ago, at which time the tradition of British Artists’ Film and Video, was enjoying an almost rock star like resurgence of interest in the pioneers of such movements as British Structural-Materialist films, by a generation of artist – academics engaging in practice based PhD’s in art schools and higher education. In one sense, I was very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time, in terms of having the opportunity to see so many retrospectives and screenings of 60’s and 70’s avant-garde filmmakers films, actually projected in the cinema with film projectors. I attended screenings, by filmmakers such as: Michael Snow, Ernie Gehr, Andy Warhol, John Smith, Guy Sherwin, Luke Fowler, Rose Lowder, Chantal Ackerman, to name just a few off the top of my head.
In fact the idea of watching a work of film art through a digital/video platform, as being something of an infraction to the original work and artist really didn’t really hit home for me at that time, until I experienced a masterclass by the Austrian avant-garde film maker Peter Tcherkassky, who took us through his painstaking method of repurposing found footage through a technique of exposing film with a penlight. If I recall correctly, the bit of film he took us through was sampled from a celluloid strip of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western – The Good the Bad and the Ugly (1966). In this workshop, Tcherkassky explained/demonstrated his working method through digital clips, however he also screened the finished film as a projected film. Needless to say, the experience of movement and light and sound of projected film was just incredible. The experience of the digital scenes seemed more on a level of a rhythmic barage of abstract shapes and sampled/electronic sounds, the actual experience of the projected film version opened up an entirely different experience and interpretation – that of a form of hellish landscape, in which contorted melted character’s, are fated to play out and replay the same bloody event over and over again. I’m not sure entirely why the film version was so much better and held this strange narrative? Perhaps because of the original frame rate of film being intact vs digital blending and omission of frames? It was entirely engrossing, and terrifying in the filmic version to feel like I was viewing glimpses of zombified figures being subsumed and slaughtered within and between the flickering shadows and peephole shapes of this faustian world vs the more abstract version of the digtal projection.