Thursday, March 10, 2016

Space Is the Place. Restored Psychedelia from the Academy Film Archive (curated by Mark Toscano)

Pat O'Neill: 7362
Space Is the Place. Restored Psychedelia from the Academy Film Archive (curated by Mark Toscano)
Tampere Film Festival (TFF)
    Curated, introduced, and program notes by Mark Toscano.
    All films in 16 mm
    10+12 March, 2016, Plevna 6

Pat O’Neill | United States 1967 | Experimental, Avant-garde | 11 min
    Mark Toscano: "Pat O’Neill’s formative classic, named for the high-contrast film stock it generously employed, exists at some previously uncharted nexus between sculpture, animation, photography, and design. By transforming various organic and inorganic forms via hand-processing and contact-printing techniques, O’Neill renders an otherworldly, uncanny space in constant tension between abstraction and figuration, flatness and depth."
    AA: A voyage of exploration beyond the Herculean Gates of perception and consciousness, a fantasy of colour, a rhythmic experience, a sensual movie with a throb evoking intercourse, with flicker elements. There are images resembling Rorschach tests, mirror images, complementary colours, and ultra fast colour changes.

Robert Nelson: Grateful Dead (1967)

Grateful Dead
Robert Nelson | United States 1967 | Experimental, Avant-garde | 9 min
    Mark Toscano: "Like a number of filmmakers at the time, Bay Area legend Robert Nelson was given some free color film stock by the Gevaert film company in 1967, with their request that he use it to make a new film. Desiring an appropriately energetic subject matter, Nelson asked his friends The Grateful Dead if he could film them, to which they readily agreed. They gave Nelson a tape copy of their just-finished debut album, and he cut it into a climactic 9-minute collage, influenced in part by another friend at the time, Steve Reich. The picture was then precisely edited to the rhythms of the sound collage, and the resulting film won multiple awards and was subsequently shown by the Dead at countless concerts in the ensuing years."
    AA: Robert Nelson's Grateful Dead is a fascinating entry in the history of the music film, an impressive contribution to the pre-history of the music video, a film by a leading experimental artist which became a part of the corpus of the band itself. Devices include blurred vision, time lapse, extreme close-ups, negative footage, graphic inserts, rhythmic editing, superimpositions, neon flashes, and concert light show approaches. A solid Grateful Dead score.

Dana Plays: Grain Graphics
Grain Graphics
Dana Plays | United States 1978 | Experimental, Avant-garde | 6 min
    Mark Toscano: "Repeating human movements are multiplied with rephotography techniques in various configurations until what seem like millions of little film frames fill the screen. As simple gestures are magnified and multiplied, they seem to form ripples across the frame, a visual echo of the film’s gamelan soundtrack."
    AA: Another precious contribution to the canon of "visual music". The sound of the manipulated gamelan seems to evoke this elaborate study of multiplied motion. Visual means include split screen, negative, disintegrating image, image turning into ever tinier bits of mosaic, purple haze, Gestalt patterns, and graphic approaches. Interesting music.

Adam Beckett: Evolution of the Red Star
Evolution of the Red Star
Adam Beckett | United States 1973 | Experimental, Avant-garde | 7 min
    Mark Toscano: "Incredibly, this early masterpiece from Adam Beckett was made from a basic set of only six animation drawings, which were made increasingly more complex as shooting progressed. By employing his characteristic ‘infinite loop’ technique with a masterful integration of optical printing, Beckett leads us through his vast extrapolation of a single red star form into a pulsating, complex universe."
    AA: A mesmerizing work in Adam Beckett's unique and original "infinite loop" mode. Mao Zedong is crying tears in the shape of little red stars. There is a movement towards the core of the star. The animation covers continuous transformations of forms: swelling tubes, squares, circles, opening forms, including an opening star, inside which there is a film. Musique concrète.

Kathy Rose: Mirror People
Mirror People
Kathy Rose | United States 1974 | Experimental, Avant-garde | 5 min
    Mark Toscano: "This iconic, absurdist animation features numerous grotesque characters noisily inhabiting an uncertain and uneasy environment. Rose drew the entire film upside-down and lit the artwork from underneath instead of above, to achieve its subtle and strange appearance."
    AA: A truly original animation which fleetingly reminds me of the much later work of James Rizzi for Tom Tom Club, including their animated music video "Genius of Love" created by Cucumber Studios.  Based on drawn animation this is a work of miraculous transformations. The music is wonderful.

Daina Krumins: Aether
Daina Krumins | United States 1972 | Experimental, Avant-garde | 5 min
    Mark Toscano: "A sci-fi/occult/psychedelic performance film set to an original soundtrack by Rhys Chatham. This lesser-known student film from the maker of The Divine Miracle and Babobilicons marked the first time Krumins felt she had arrived at a cinematic language and process that she could use to express the otherworldly inventions of her fertile imagination."
    AA: Means of expression include abstraction, negative, superimposition, dance, and stylized colour, and motifs of imagery a snake, fish, swimmers, and a naked man. Like a musical dance choreography number executed in experimental film mode. Mark Toscano characterized Rhys Chatham's music as post-minimalist.

Skyworks: Wind + Fire
LeAnn Bartok | United States 1975 | Experimental, Avant-garde | 8 min
    Mark Toscano: "Bartok, at this time known more as a performance and conceptual artist, had begun to film her ephemeral Skyworks events, which involved the choreographed release of colored streamers and other objects by skydivers out of airplanes. Not content to limit the films as mere documentation, these records were transformed by her into something like kinetic time sculptures, via rhythmic rapid cutting, juxtapositions with related symbolic imagery, and allegorical performances by the artist herself."
    AA: Based on skydiving performances, an experimental film based on natural elements (the sky, the ocean, the beach), the colours red, white and blue, flames, flicker, firecrackers, flower forms, large petals, superimpositions, and time lapse. There is a strange tension. It ends with a woman lying on the beach lifting her arms towards the sky.

Chick Strand: Waterfall
Chick Strand | United States 1967 | Experimental, Avant-garde | 4 min
    Mark Toscano: "A gorgeous and delicately haunting film that uses hand-processing, solarizing, and contact printing techniques to transform various sequences of found footage into an ethereal and sweetly enveloping experience."
    AA: A film with an affinity with the first movie of this program, Pat O'Neill's 7362. Found footage inserts include skating, Olympic diving, goldfish, and somersaults on a trapeze. There is some Busby Berkeley style pattern choreography. This is a kinetic experiment with footage in negative, repetition, looping, abstraction, multiple superimposition, and flicker.

Will Hindle: Later That Same Night
Later That Same Night
Will Hindle | United States 1971 | Experimental, Avant-garde | 10 min
    Mark Toscano: "This little known gem from Will Hindle connects with and radically amplifies all of the disaffection and disenfranchisement he perceived in late ‘60s youth culture. Feelings of rootlessness, sadness, and a deep yearning is woven throughout the work via Hindle’s inspired shooting, editing, and inventive audiovisual techniques."
    AA: A sympathetic outsider's look into the contemporary counter-culture. Mark Toscano told us that this was the first film made in Alabama's Utopian film community. There are views of the free, alternative lifestyle of the young people. Inserts of animation, DNA, chromosomes, a passing train. Fascinating music, also incorporating "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child".

Peter Rose: Incantation
Peter Rose | United States 1968 | Experimental, Avant-garde | 10 min
    The original 8 mm footage has been digitized.
    Mark Toscano: "A miraculous, ecstatic meditation filmed entirely in-camera in 8mm, Peter Rose’s first film employs a variety of shooting techniques, including single-framing, superimpositions, color separation filters, and calculated zooms. The discipline and rigor of the shooting, far from stifling the material, serves only to heighten the hypnotic audiovisual experience to a level of pure kinetic energy."

AA: An Islamic chant from Muslim liturgy launches the score. There is a track forward to the nature imagery with superimpositions, flicker, a simultaneous movement back and forth, between the trees, towards lucidity. An adventure in psychedelic colour. An enchanting painterly colour world.

A rewarding and inspiring show, each film introduced by Mark Toscano. All in original glorious 16 mm except the last one, shot in 8 mm, seemed to be in digital here.

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