Having never put on a film event before, let alone an experimental/expanded cinema – I was nervous. This was a first and a true experiment inside the NOT JUST ANOTHER SAINT exhibition at Hardy Tree Gallery, in keeping with the rule: No academic bullshit.
Experimenting with film has really got me excited. The use of common and mundane technologies like mobile phones, the exposure and reliance of YouTube, re-visiting/imitating analogue devices and processes, throwing the rule book out the window. E x p a n d e d / e x p a n d i n g cinema. I really have to thank the work of Phil Solomon for really kick rolling this excitement in me & more recently, the work of Karolina Racinkski (who unfortunately couldn’t make this event but I will be sure to get her on board for another!) and Josh Alexander.
The evening started with Provokief (Alex Kell) and his film Fish Soup which he accompanied on keyboard et al. For me this felt like the best way to start – clear referencing to early silent film, when film and film makers were at their most experimental. Provokief constructed an improvised soundtrack, looping vocals, breaths and keyboards -my Brighton armadillo on his table. The chopped up vocals, exhales, became rhythm and wrapped the popping/fish visuals with sound poetry. Fish Soup is poetry.
Next was Molly Beth White and her Conduit films. These films were made with the intention as being shown on constant loops within exhibitions, the second Conduit was actually designed to be watched through a crack in the wall. You can read more about their original exhibiting (s) here: http://www.mollybethwhite.co.uk/#/conduit/4541963597
I felt it important, in the context of this event where the idea of loop and drone permeated, to show these films…out of their original looped context. These are brilliantly macabre films that explode with Rorschach and weave in and out of each other. Everything Molly does is brilliant.
After a quick technical blip came a film by Josh Alexander & myself. We made this silent film very recently in and around the Lea Marshes. I am incredibly proud and moved by this piece so I was of course very excited/proud to present it at Saints on Film. The white nylon sheet the film was shown on didn’t quite do it justice but we will show it again somewhere – in all it’s glorytasia. This film is a portrait of marsh magic & Erkembode – rambling through brambles to standing in still-peace amongst spirits and heffas. She paints herself in order to set the layers alight with subversion.
experiment experiment experiment & love.
We took a break. The portal opened wide.
Marcus Slease is now dressed in a white cloak, he stands on a step-ladder and he becomes our new screen and much much more…
I made this film ‘Lahore‘ to continue a three-way shapeshifting story Chris Gutkind, Marcus Slease and I are writing and responding to after a mind-bending trip searching to find a drone-doom-metal pub gig in Leyton…or maybe it was Leytonstone? Or Letley? My main influence in producing this film is actually from outside the filmosphere. I took a route usually travelled by drone musicians, taking inspiration from the music of Earth / Dylan Carlson.
to quote from Marcus’ NEVER MIND THE BEASTS blog:
YOU’VE BEEN PUSHING SINCE LAHORE
A COLLABORATIVE POST SURREAL TRAVEL STORY OF THREE SAINTS ON A MISSION!!!
MARCUS SLEASE, DAVID KELLY-MANCAUX, CHRIS GUTKIND.
BASED ON A TRUE STORY!
The Mimi Spirits mischievousness introduce us to a drone garbling for Marcus to storytell: You’ve been pushing since Lahore. Subtitles give back key points/words from the story, repeated, through new directions, alternate dimensions, comments, questions. Whilst watching I realised this was really how I imagine ‘expanded-cinema’…we, the audience, had actually become fellow alter servers with Marcus. It felt ceremonial as Marcus read Lahore facing the window on to Pancras Road, his voice echoing…this was a journey to another realm, the underside of reality.
Lahore was an easy ride in comparison to what was to come. & what came was The Cut-Ups (from 1966) by William Burroughs/Anthony Balch.
Yes. Hello. hELLO. Yes? Hello? Does it seem to be persisting? L0ok at that picture.
You’ll know what I’m talking about if you have seen it. At 5 minutes people are giggling. At ten they are despairing. At 15 they believe it will never end. Here is an article from Dangerous Minds:
It caused nausea and vomiting when first shown at the Cinephone, Oxford Street, in London. Some of the audience demanded their money back, others hurled abuse and shouted “That’s sick,” and ““Its disgusting.” This was the idea, as writer William Burroughs and producer, Antony Balch wanted to achieve a complete “disorientation of the senses.”
Balch had a hard-on for the weird, unusual and sometimes depraved. It was a predilection born from his love of horror films – one compounded when as a child he met his idol, Bela Lugosi, the olde Austro-Hungarian junkie, who was touring Britain with the stage show that had made him famous, Dracula. Film was a love affair that lasted all of Balch’s life.
He also had a knack of making friends with the right people at the right time. In Paris he met and hung out with artist Brion Gysin and druggie, Glaswegian Beat writer, Alexander Trocchi, who was then writing porn and editing a literary mag called Merlin, along with the likes of poet Christopher Logue. Through them, Balch met the two men who changed his life, Burroughs and Kenneth Anger.
Anger helped Balch with his ambitions as a cinema distributor, getting him a copy of Todd Browning’s classic Freaks, which was banned the UK, at that time. Balch paid Anger back when he later released his apocalyptic Invocation of My Demon Brotheras a support feature.
Burroughs offered Balch something different – the opportunity to collaborate and make their own films. This they did, first with Towers Open Fire, an accessible montage of Burroughs’ routines, recorded on a Grundig tape recorder, cut-up to Balch’s filmed and found images of a “crumbling society.” Put together stuff like this and the chattering classes will always take you seriously. But don’t doubt it, for it was good.
But it was their second collaboration, Cut Ups which for me is far more interesting and proved far more controversial. Cut Ups was originally intended as a documentary called Guerilla Conditions, and was filmed between 1961 and 1965 in Tangiers and Paris. It included some footage from Balch’s aborted attempt to film the unfilmableNaked Lunch. The finished material was collated and then conventionally edited – but the process didn’t stop there, no. For Balch divided the finshed film into four sections of equal length, and then:
…assembled into its final state by taking one-foot lengths from each of the four sections that were cut together with mathematical precision — 1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4 etc. Variations to this structure occur randomly when a shot change occurs within one of the already edited one-foot lengths.
Balch faced very difficult grading problems. “Twenty minutes with one change every foot was just too much, what we did was to have a graded fine-grain print made of the edited sequences and then chop up the fine grain and make a dupe negative from it, so the film prints at one light.” The film was cut into exact lengths by none of the actual artists. “The actual chopping was done by a lady who was employed to take a foot from each roll and join them up. A purely mechanical thing, nobody was exercising any artistic judgement at all.”
The idea was to achieve an effect akin to Burroughs cut-up technique, and cause a complete disorientation of the senses. This was aided by an audio track created by Burroughs, Gysin and Ian Somerville, which consisted of mind-numbing permutations of just four phrases: “Yes, Hello?”, “Look at that picture,” “Does it seem to be persisting?”, and “Good. Thank you.”
When all put together, the film achieved its intended effect, as Roy Underhill, assistant manager at the Cinephone told Balch during the film’s initial run:
…during the performances an unusual number of strange articles such as bags, pants, shoes, and coats were left behind, lost property, probably out of complete disorientation.
Mission accomplished. Burroughs and Balch didn’t collaborate again until 1972 on the rarely seen 70mm Bill and Tony in 1972, which had the pair endlessly fuck around with each other’s dialog. Well, if you’re going to make a statement, make it on 70mm..
Thanks to all those that came along for this journey.
thanks to TjaKM for the photographs.
thank you Solaris.
videos to come.