Friday, April 07, 2017

Cut-up incantations over different grades of electronic mudslide

Review in the May issue of the Wire magazine of No No No No, a download release that came out late last year. 

Philip Sanderson was first musically active as part of the duo Storm Bugs on the early 1980s cassette scene, a DIY scene predicated on cheap reproduction, and the Bandcamp era offers such micro-cultures an ideal second life (for now.) So as well as making the original output of Storm Bugs’ Snatch Tapes label available, it’s also given Sanderson an outlet for a run of new tapes. No No No No, on which Sanderson mutters cut-up incantations over different grades of electronic mudslide, doesn’t sound out of place in 2017 either; like Mordant Music, Ship Canal or Hacker Farm, it’s a very English sound. Made with the means to hand, and completely unafraid of grime or decay; these are sounds left out of the fridge, pulled out from under sofas, disinterred from lofts with a dusting of fibreglass. Sam Davies 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

History of the London Filmmakers Co-op (in French)

In the early 1990s I was rooting round in the the LFMC cupboard and came across a somewhat unloved wind-up Kodak Standard 8 camera. Unlike Super 8, Standard 8 can be passed through the camera several times to create superimpositions. If you underexpose the first layer you get a degree of latensification, enhancing the shadow areas ins subsequent layers. In practice with the Standard 8 camera I was using it is all a little hit and miss but does work as can be seen in the water ripples half way through. The footage was shot mostly in and around the Gloucester Avenue LFMC building and on the Regent Canal next door. There were also some shots from my then home in Forest Hill and even a touch of Whitewall Creek down in Strood. The footage was transferred to Umatic and then to digital in the late 90s. I still have the reel of film so should get a decent transfer done sometime. The tongue in cheek soundtrack is contemporary.  

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

I Haven't Stopped Dancing Yet

In narrative film, synchronised sound is linked causally to onscreen action or dialogue. Even when the source of the sound is not immediately visible such as approaching footsteps behind a door, the dynamic is such that the short term absence of the visual is designed to create anticipation that is then dramatically and visually resolved on screen by the sound source becoming visible. The addition of wild track sound, such as say birdsong on a country scene helps to further cement the hermetically sealed narrative construct, papering over edits and providing continuity between disparate shots. Add in music and one has a self- contained story world.

Outside of this narrative go round filmmakers such as Guy Sherwin in his optical film series including Railings (1977) and Musical Stairs (1977) use the footage itself transferred onto the optical track as a sound source. It becomes literally the manipulated image of the railings and the stairs that produces the sound rather than the representation of onscreen action. This process helps to break open the hermetically sealed sound and image film world.

I have been experimenting for sometime, across a number of pieces with using digital techniques that mirror and extend these optical sound experiments. In the case of I Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet (2017) an image taken back in the early 80s when visiting my parents in Kent is manipulated in various ways. The image flips from side to side and twists in a crude and humorous approximation of dancing. Unlike optical sound here it is the data from the digital manipulations of the image that are then numerically turned into audio. So when the image flips from side to side a steady rhythm is created but then as the image is stretched one gets a sound similar to that from a scratched record. Humour aside all of this helps the viewer question audio-visual causality. Is the man dancing to the music or being danced by it? In practice it is somewhere between the two.

Monday, January 02, 2017

Towards an Asynchronous Cinema

One of the things that happened in 2016 was I finally got to complete my PhD. I say finally as I had been umming and ahhing over doing one for some years; initially wanting to do a practice based PhD, but never quite finding the right supervisor or setting. A chance conversation with Michael Szpakowski at a screening of Kerry Baldry's One minute programme at Furtherfield led to Westminster University where Michael was completing a PhD by publication. The publications being not texts in the traditional sense, but videos made in the last ten years. This seemed an ideal pathway and I signed up as well.

For a PhD by publication, alongside the work, one writes a paper of anywhere between 12 and 60,000 words.  Reflecting on one's own practice turned out to be tricky, talking about one's work in the third person as if one were reviewing it is best avoided, and locating the videos in a critical context informed by other artists' moving image pieces can both exaggerate their influence and/or appear as if one is trying to insert oneself into the canon. For example a strong parallel with my own use of sound  is John Smith's The Girl Chewing Gum (1976) and this is cited at numerous points in the thesis. However it would be very hard to make any work if one was constantly referring back to some seminal piece, rather a number of influences and ideas tend to circulate, often in some unspoken way in one's brain before morphing into a new idea/piece. So the thesis in part makes explicit what was at the time implicit or internalised.    

Theoretically I found myself being drawn back to the Eisenstein (et al) Statement on Sound (1928) and the dangers of adhesion between sound and image as potential illusionist mutual reinforcement. It was not Eisenstein however, but one of the other signatories to the Statement, Pudovkin and his nuanced use of asynchronism in a document a year later which proved more useful. For Pudovkin asynchronism implies a careful jaxtaposition of soudn and image not wilful non-synchronisation. Key to this is that the asynchronous use of sound is punctuated with moments of adhesion, creating a push-pull dynamic that questions causality between the visual and the auditory and leads to dialectic. 

In the coming year I shall try and unpack and extend some of the ideas in the thesis, for now here is a link to the paper.