Program diary V: Expanded Cinema

Throughout all these years of ‘expanded cinema’ programme we learned that film does not even need shooting equipment. Actors, editing, screenplay, set… everything is optional. 

A projector + a screen (multiplied to the needs), a lot of will and vision: this is what it takes for the cinephile intelligentsia to accept you as one of the finest and most important filmmakers today and for every essay mentioning your name to include the obligatory bragging of the writer how many times he or she saw your performances. And when they try to compartmentalise you or build you an entirely new compartment – which is for experimental film as good as putting it into a coffin – you just shrug; what you do is simply a performance, which is basically the same as every film before and after you.

Welcome to the world of our master of projectors/-ions, Bruce McClure. Bruce will hold you hostage three out of four festival nights, and present his cycle of performances under the title Rattling the Bones. The first pair of shootouts – two older performances That Spurring Instant – will be fired at &TD theatre. Three projectors, two overlapping screens and metal structures produce powerful optical effects, filtering simultaneously through a system of guitar effects. The result is a captivating, pulsating, deafening combination of optical and audio terror – strictly controlled, but if everything goes well not without consequences. Putting Truth and Untruth Together features his piece Rotorattler for a pair of 16 mm projectors and two loops and is scheduled to take place at the French Pavilion, while Compliments Are Made Darkest by Daylight denote a performance tailor-made for the SC Cinema, using the existing projectors (35 mm), plus the said two (16 mm), plus two stroboscopes. It is utterly senseless to try to capture the essence of McClure’s performances with words, when not even visual or audio records would be able to do the same. If anything, Bruce’s vision of his own practice should attract you, expounded with a manic glow in his eyes the last time he came to visit us (2010): “I’m interested in spectacle. One of the charms of spectacle lies in the fear of your eardrum getting pierced and your eyes flying out of their sockets. Without this, there’s no thrill.”

Four 16 mm projectors, one Super 8 and, as the name tells, a tetraplan systematically multiplying. As the tape crosses its path through each of the projectors, the multiplied scenes frill across the screen, while the sound they emit by constant re-recording literally falls apart. The performer of this demanding and unique film mutation is Amanda Fior Daliso, a member (ambassador?) of the mysterious Slovenian art collective called OM Produkcija, confounding the world for some 40 years. Tetraplan was first performed in 1985 at the Festival of Creative and Amateur Film in Pula, where Ivan Ladislav Galeta called it “one of the most significant cinematic pieces occurring lately not only in Yugoslavia, but also in the global production of experimental film.” This performance is a tribute to him and Tomislav Gotovac, representative classics of Croatian experimental film.

The Japanese-Canadian artist Daïchi Saïto is presenting his latest work, Engram of Returning, comparatively modest in the number of projectors, but compensating this with a spectacular wide-screen 35 mm scenes (Cinemascope), with colour saturation to and over the edge of abstraction. The concept behind Saïto’s procedure is a scientific hypothesis of imprints of memory scattered across our mental map, embossed into our nervous system. The film image is transformed into an engram, a neurological trace of lived experience. The scenes of barely recognisable landscapes appear like panicking flickers of awareness – trying to push out of the darkness and become complete, as the opposing forces are dragging them back to the darkness of oblivion. As the colour saturation (eliminating white and grey from the scenes) reduces the visuals to the elements dying to be noticed and the power of darkness devouring them, the process is organically balanced with the help of the visceral soundtrack provided by the Montreal-based baritone and bass saxophone player Jason Sharp, who will accompany Saïto’s film live.

“I believe that voids between the frames are analogue to the emptiness between words and lines in a poem,” says Saïto, also referring to the power of the projector beam to ‘inspire life’ to a film piece. Projector-fetishists, look no further than SC in these next four days! This is only one of the many tricks behind Saïto’s methods and how he brings together his artistic concepts with the physical properties of the film stock, which he will explain on Sunday at a Cine-lecture at 3pm, MM Centre.