The Order of Things / Program


12, 19, 26 september 2008, Muhka_Media, Antwerp

Film program in the context of the exhibition with the same title at MuHKA, Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp (11th September 2008 > 4th January 2009). Curated by Stoffel Debuysere and María Palacios Cruz.

From September 11th until January 4th MuHKA presents The Order of Things, an exhibition about the uses of image archives and other manifestations of a classificatory or “encyclopaedic” impulse in contemporary art. Within this context, MuHKA_media will host six screening programs dealing with the recuperation and reconfiguration of “found” images in film and video. The makers of these works use bits and scraps from the media reality surrounding us as a basis for the construction of new meanings, in search of a poetry of movement, a syntax of fragmentation, bringing divergent elements together in a system of construction in which they belong: cinema. Based on a series of codes and axioms, cinema can be subject to multiple forms of ideological appropriation, both cinematographic and meta-cinematographic, as well as on a micro-level – each shot is itself a succession of frames. In these film and video works the meaning and the hierarchy of images become subordinated to a new logic, a subversive, narrative or totalizing order taken out of the ‘infinite cinema’, the world in/as images.


  • 12.09.2008: THE ORDER OF THINGS 1
    Arthur Lipsett retrospective

    Introduced by curator and filmmaker Brett Kashmere

    Canadian filmmaker Arthur Lipsett (1936-1986) is a key figure in post-war avant-garde cinema. Through his kaleidoscopic collages of “found” images and sounds, he configures his reluctant vision of the ‘condition humaine’ – a view of the world scarred by the alienating effects of science and technology. The juxtaposition of divergent pieces of socio-political history and popular culture of the 20th century unfolds itself as a symbolic representation of the collective (sub) conscience of Western society.

    20:00 LOST & FOUND

    This program brings together Arthur Lipsett’s first, and better known, five films, produced at the National Film Board of Canada across the 1960’s. His stimulating collage strategies, associating image and sound in both ironic and ambiguous ways, would become a source of inspiration for filmmakers such as Stanley Kubrick, George Lucas and Stan Brakhage.

    Very Nice, Very Nice
    1961, 16mm, b&w, sound, 7’

    Lipsett’s first film received an Academy Award nomination in 1962. A collage of sounds and images, found as well as shot by Lipsett himself, which reads as a sardonic interpretation of 1950’s consumerism, mass media and popular culture, punctuating the often over-looked damage left by both war and technological progress.

    A Trip Down Memory Lane
    1965, 16mm, b&w, sound, 12’

    A surrealist time capsule combining fifty years of newsreel footage, this film constitutes a brief, but explosive, tour of post-war technocracy. Lipsett’s first pure collage film, composed exclusively from stock image and sound from the National Film Board archives.

    1964, 16mm, b&w, sound, 10’

    A wry comment on a machine-dominated society, filled with dystopian symbolism. This film conveys Lipsett’s concern for an increasingly de-humanized civilization, foreshadowing his embryonic agoraphobia and subsequent withdrawal from public life. The title would be cited more than once in George Lucas’s work, serving, for example, as Princess Leia’s cell number in Star Wars.

    Free Fall
    1964, 16mm, b&w, sound, 9’

    Using a brisk “single-framing” technique, dazzling pixilation effects, in-camera superimpositions and syncopated rhythms, Lipsett attempts to create a synesthesic experience through the intensification of image and sound. The soundtrack was intended as collaboration with composer John Cage, who withdrew from the project fearing Lipsett would attempt to control and thereby undermine the aleatory organization of audio and visuals.

    1968, 16mm, b&w, sound, 24’

    Lipsett completed this film during a period of declining institutional support and increased psychological stress, which would result in more pessimistic, diffuse work. A “phantasmagoria of nothing”, based on a series of creative frictions between military motif, religious rhetoric, newsreel footage and obscure science fiction film dialogues.

    ** 65’, prints courtesy National Film Board of Canada



    Two seldom screened works from Arthur Lipsett’s late-career, closer to the Beat ethos of previous decades than to the acerbic collage style that made him famous. The title of the program is borrowed from the fragmentary notes and diagrams that Lipsett made for Strange Codes, evincing his debilitating paranoia and isolation, as well as an urgent faith in magic.

    1970, 16mm, b&w, sound, 43’

    Lipsett’s most personal film and a departure from his associative montage style. Found images are alternated with scenes of Lipsett and his friends alone and in casual conversation, enacting an unspoken confrontation between unbridled individuality and social conformity. Whereas his older works shaped the dull remains of documentary outtakes into a razor-sharp satire of Cold War suspicion, repression and nuclear escalation, N-Zone documents a private quest for spiritual transcendence.

    Strange Codes
    1972, 16mm, b&w, sound, 23’

    Lipsett’s last completed project is both a riddle and “an index to his other films”. The artist’s apartment becomes the stage for a disjunctive, live-action self-portrait, intensified with numerous costume changes, masks, constructed props and sets, as well as references to his earlier films. The result is a looping concoction of serious play and light mysticism.

    ** 70’, prints courtesy National Film Board of Canada & La Cinémathèque québécoise


  • 19.09.2008: THE ORDER OF THINGS 2
    Poetics of Collage

    A series of films in which found footage – submitted to various realignments, interruptions and interpolations – has been reorganized in a poetical form. How can putting together fragments of the world create new meanings, new ways of thinking, looking and listening? For what purposes were these images originally created and constructed, and what new vitality, force and desire might erupt by deconstructing them? How to connect elements distant in time and space, in an attempt to take a grasp on the world we live in, dig below and behind the surface, in search of the unspoken, the suppressed, the innate?


    Abigail Child
    Surface Noise

    2000, 16mm, colour, sound, 18’

    Abigail Child’s complex audiovisual sonatas investigate, interrogate and interpret contemporary social realities; mainly the construction of gender identity and behaviour in public and private spaces. Deploying a number of strategies – vertical montage, asymptotic convergence, sound and noise juxtapositions – she recycles meaning out of the informational chaos and dismantles predetermined notions and narratives, drawing the attention to what happens in the margins, the gazes, poses and gestures we ourselves are hardly aware of. The sound montage was created in collaboration with New York musicians Zeena Parkins, Christian Marclay, Shelley Hirsch and Jim Black.

    Alan Berliner
    Everywhere at once

    1985, 16mm, colour, sound, 10’

    A musical montage, a synchronised symphony composed from an infinity of elements taken from Berliner’s own personal archive of cultural artefacts and residues: piano cords and cable cars, cocktail jazz and broken glass, loony tunes and telephones, elephants and xylophones, violins and vultures, orchestras and roller coasters… A journey in images at the rhythm of sound. With this sort of “bricolage”, Berliner attempts to bridge a wide range of poetic horizons: the actual with the possible, pre-history with science fiction, magic with science fact, the medium with the message.

    Frank & Caroline Mouris
    Frank Film

    1973, 35mm, colour, sound, 9’

    Frank Mouris’s animated autobiography composed of more than 11.000 images collected from magazines and catalogues, which shift and mutate across the screen as Mouris recites a list of words beginning with the letter ‘f’. The words bounce off the images and generate an associative flow of memories, which Mouris recounts on a second track, interwoven with the recitation. The result is an obsessive and mesmerizing collage, which film critic Andrew Sarris described as “a nine-minute evocation or America’s exhilarating everythingness”. This film won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 1973.

    Bruce Conner
    A Movie

    1958, 16mm, b&w, sound, 12’

    The debut film of Bruce Conner, recently deceased, and an undeniable cornerstone in the art of collage filmmaking. Inspired by the surrealist poetry of zapping, the aesthetics of film trailers and the use of archive material in the Marx Brothers comedy Duck Soup, Conner spent many years working in what he would call a “universal film”, the world reflected in a compendium of symbolic images from newsreel, fiction films, educational material and softcore porno. As Patricia Mellencamp has pointed out, it’s “a history of cinema as catastophe” that “becomes the history of Western culture or the United States – a history of colonial conquest by technology, resolutely linking, sex, death, and cinema – questioning our very desire for cinema.”

    Chick Strand
    Loose Ends

    1979, 16mm, b&w, sound, 25’

    A collage film about the process of internalizing the information that bombards us through a combination of personal experience and media in all forms. These fragmented images of life, sometimes shared by all, sometimes isolated and obscure, but with common threads, speed through our senses in large numbers and complicated mixtures of fantasy, dream and reality. Chick Strand leads us to a state of psychological entropy tending toward a uniform inertness … an insensitive lack of involvement in the ‘condition humaine’ and our own humanity.

    William Farley

    1986, 16mm, b&w, sound, 7’

    An affirmative vision of life and death, in memory of the artist’s brother, built entirely out of archive images from the 1950’s and 1960’s – a ship launching, a tree falling, a woman dancing, …, impersonal subjects that become icons and metaphors for our most personal thoughts. Image after image emerge from darkness, reminding us of the purity and conflict that are always part of our collective experience of existence. The Music is by David Byrne.

    ** 81’



    Simon Pummell

    2003, 35mm, colour, sound, 83’

    Simon Pummell’s first feature film is an epic story of love, sex, violence, death and dreams: the story of human life, told by means of an impressive collage of images from around the world and across 100 years of cinema history. A seemingly endless succession of fragments of silent films, newsreels, documentaries and home movies serves as a meditation on the micro and macroscopical order of people’s lives. The hypnotic soundtrack is by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood. An interactive version of this work is available on

    ** 83’


  • 26.09.2008: THE ORDER OF THINGS 3
    On Axioms and Images

    A series of films that explore the conceptual space of “compilation films” at the same time that they question the conventional ordering principles of montage. How does meaning result from a linear organization of images? Is there such a thing as a logic of chance? Does every random succession of film bits imply a unity, an order within chaos, a secret route to the imagination? Is narrative, as Hollis Frampton suggested in his so-called “Brakhage’s theorem”, a fixed axiom in cinema? : “For any finite series of shots (‘film’) whatsoever there exists in real time a rational narrative, such that every term in the series, together with its position, duration, partition and reference shall be perfectly and entirely accounted for”.


    Thom Andersen & Malcolm Brodwick
    — ——-

    1966-67, 16mm, colour, sound, 11’

    Images from the rock ’n’ roll world of the 1960’s, organized according to a predetermined structure. A sequence of picture-sound equations with randomly chosen terms: vertically, it is completely structured, horizontally, it is completely random. « A pastiche of cinematography, a parody of montage ». With this film Thom Andersen demonstrates the power of a rule as a constructing principle, thus undermining the conventional codes of montage and documentary filmmaking. The result is a stimulating mosaic that ignores the urge for representation and topic information, but instead, as crystallization of an era, tends towards the functioning of the human memory.

    Morgan Fisher
    ( )

    2003, 16mm, colour/b&w, silent, 21’

    A film that originates in Morgan Fisher’s fascination with inserts: close-ups of newspaper headlines, letters and similar sorts of significant details that have to be included for the sake of clarity in narrative films, indispensable and marginal at the same time. With () – the title is a reference to — ——- by Thom Andersen and Malcolm Brodwick – Fisher has made a film entirely composed of inserts, as a way of making them visible and releasing them from their ungrateful instrumental role. The shots, extracted from a variety of films, were organized according to an arbitrary (and never explained) rule. Freed from their servitude to stories, the inserts are given a new freedom, as components of a fictitious array, an organizational model that attempts to escape the linearity of cinema: like an arrangement in space, which is scanned in time.

    Norbert Pfaffenbichler
    Mosaik Mécanique

    2007, 35mm, b/w, sound, 9’30”

    The third part of Pfaffenbichler’s ‘Notes on Film’ series, which borrows its title from a combination of Fernand Leger’s Ballet Mecanique and Peter Kubelka’s Mosaik in Vertrauen. All the shots of the slapstick comedy A Film Johnnie (USA, 1914) are shown simultaneously in a symmetrical grid, one after the other. Each scene, from one cut to the next, from the first to the last frame, is looped. Spatialization takes the place of temporality, synchronism that of chronology. A polyrhythmic kaleidoscope is produced as a result (reflected in Bernhard Lang’s music), tearing the audience back and forth between an analytic way of seeing rhythmic patterns and the impulse to (re)construct a plot.

    Christoph Girardet
    Random Cuts

    1993, video, colour, sound, 3’20”

    This video work is composed of 12 film clips, each 1.6 seconds long, cut and mounted according to a certain mathematical principle. The images show “cuts” of a cockfight, a samurai duel, a cartoon battle – signs of aggression, which simply flashed up in the original material, gradually reveal their violent content. As the segments unfold in 12 consecutive phases, a certain logic is formed. Everything is assigned its place, and order is re-established.

    Lenka Clayton
    Qaeda Quality Question Quickly Quickly Quiet

    2002, video, colour, sound, 20’

    Lenka Clayton’s work is an exploration and interrogation of the “natural” order of things. Using organising systems and interventions to disrupt accepted modes of language and behaviour, she questions the authority of all forms of documentation as a referent of the original events. The concept for this ‘mash up’ video is a simple one: Clayton took the 4100 words from George W. Bush’s infamous ‘Axis of Evil’ speech and edited them in alphabetical order. The result is a powerful dissection of the posturing, rhetoric and obsessions dominating the post 9/11 American politics.

    ** 65’



    Hollis Frampton
    Zorns Lemma

    1970, 16mm, colour, sound, 60’

    Zorns Lemma is arguably the veritable master piece of American filmmaker Hollis Frampton. It combines a number of intellectual and aesthetic issues that Frampton had already explored in his earlier films and photographic work, especially his fascination with epistemology and set theory – the title is a reference to mathematician Max Zorn’s equivalent to the Axiom of Choice. The film is structured according to an axiomatic system, expressed both in ontological and structural codes. The central part consists of images of words, assembled in alphabetical order – a reference to the Encyclopedic movement and the arbitrary tendency to categorize the World on the basis of the first letter of the object name. The ideograms gradually make place for arbitrary images, as a result of which an ingenious game between language and image is installed, inciting the audience to dismantle the control structures and discover the logic of chance.

    ** 60’

    Thanks to : Brett Kashmere, the National Film Board of Canada, the Belgian Royale Film Archive, Mike Sperlinger & Benjamin Cook (LUX), Christophe Bichon (Lightcone), Lauren Sorensen (Canyon), Michaela Grill (Sixpack), Tessa Williams (Pathé UK), Ann Schepens (A-film), Janine Marmot (Hot Property Films), Morgan Fisher, Simon Pummell, Frank & Caroline Mouris, Abigail Child, William Farley, Edwin Carels, Pieter-Paul Mortier (STUK), Dirk Deblauwe (Courtisane).

    Ghosting the Image / Program


    The recuperation and citation of images is a film practice as old as cinema itself, and one of the principal strategies within the traditions of avant-garde film and video. In so-called «found-footage films», bits and scraps from the media reality surrounding us are not only taken out of their context and accorded new meanings, but also serve as a basis for critical reflection and analysis. For recycled images call attention to themselves as ‘images’, as products of the cinema and broadcasting industry, as part of the endless stream of information, entertainment and persuasion that constitutes the media-saturated environment of modern life.

    The film and video works featured in the programme Ghosting the Image disrupt the usual rhetoric of the media spectacle, characterized by stability and linearity, and turn it against itself. By destabilizing dominant narrative structures and exploring the limits of representation, these works reveal how time, perception and memory are organised. By dismantling the illusion, these films and videos unmask the ambiguity and vulnerability of images, revealing what is being systematically ignored, repressed or left out. As if for a moment the veil of our eyes was lifted, only to find a world of images staring back at us.

    Curated by Stoffel Debuysere and Maria Palacios Cruz for the Courtisane Festival, Ghent, Belgium (21-27 April 2008). A selection of these films will also be shown at WORM, Rotterdam, the Netherlands (8-9 May 2008).

    1. Thu 24.04 23:00 (Cinema Sphinx) // LATE NIGHT TALES

    Peter Tscherkassky
    Outer Space

    AT, 1999, 10’, 35mm, b/w, sound
    Fragments of a Hollywood horror movie were recycled, recaptured and re-exposed frame by frame, resulting in a disquieting confrontation with the codes of narrative-representational cinema and the unearthly qualities of the film apparatus. This is a penetrating cinema that tears itself apart, a journey of self-destruction exploding into unimaginable beauty.

    Pere Portabella
    Vampir Cuadecuc

    ES, 1970, 67’, 35mm, b/w, sound
    A hallucinatory reflection on the conventions of horror film. Portabella, a key figure of the Spanish underground film scene, not only documents the shooting of Jesús Franco’s Count Dracula, but also creates, by the means of for instance eliminating colour or using an eerie electronic soundtrack, an alternative version of the original story, revealing at the same time the ways cinematographic illusion is constructed.

    2. Fri 25.04 23:00 (Cinema Sphinx) // DISSONANT RESONANCE

    Ken Jacobs
    Perfect Film

    US, 1986, 22’, 16mm, b/w, sound
    The rushes of a news report on the assassination of Malcolm X, just as they were found on a bin. Jacobs: “A lot of film is perfect left alone, perfectly revealing in its un- or semi-conscious form. I wish more stuff was available in its raw state, as primary source material for anyone to consider, and to leave for others in just that way, the evidence uncontaminated by compulsive proprietary misapplied artistry, ‘editing,’ the purposeful ‘pointing things out’ that cuts a road straight and narrow through the cine-jungle, we barrel through thinking we’re going somewhere and miss it all.”

    Arthur Lipsett

    CA, 1968, 23’, 16mm, b/w, sound

    Lipsett unfolds his pessimistic vision on the ‘condition humaine’ in an associative jigsaw of found footage. The juxtaposition of divergent episodes of history and popular culture of the 20th century culminates into “a phantasmagoria of nothing”, a somber but urgent reflection on the alienating effects of science and technology, the ruling religions of the Western world.

    Abigail Child

    US, 1989, 10’, 16mm, colour, sound

    The last chapter of the series Is This What You Were Born For?, Child’s investigation on the cultural construction of gender identity, sexuality and voyeurism. Through a rhythmic collage of industrial and self-made recordings, pieces of dialogue, music and noise, she dissects the games the mass media play with our private perceptions, drawing the attention to what happens in the margins, the gazes, poses and gestures we ourselves are hardly aware of.

    Peter Kubelka
    Unsere Afrikareise

    AT, 1966, 13’, 16mm, colour, sound

    In 1961 Kubelka was hired to document the African Safari of a group of European tourists. Afterwards he hijacked the recorded material and edited it into an analysis of the many layers of violence present in the hunt, the gaze of the hunters and the film itself. The fragmentary and asynchronic montage of images and sounds generates a multitude of connections and associations which, in their turn, evoke a number of metaphorical interpretations.

    Stan Brakhage
    Murder Psalm

    US, 1981, 17’, 16mm, colour, silent

    A filmic exorcism of a murder fantasy, drenched in repressed memories and fragments of violent media culture. Brakhage combines educational film footage, television war coverage and Disney cartoons and creates a silent meditation on the world of children today; a world fully surrendered to the mercy of destructive forces. Inspired by some passages of Dostoevsky’s The Diary of a Writer.

    3. Sa 26.04 15:00 (Cinema Sphinx) // REMEDIAL RESPONSE

    Luther Price
    Jellyfish Sandwich

    US, 1994, 17’, S8mm, colour, sound

    A hypnotic pattern juxtaposing shots of Hawaiian beaches, Chinese ideograms, aerial bombing footage and American football reads as a vague dream sequence, reinforced by a slightly accelerated medley by the Carpenters. With his films Price tries to take a grasp on the breaches, breakdowns and eventual collapse of family, society, body and life itself, in the face of unstoppable philosophical forces.

    Naomi Uman

    US, 1999, 6’, 16mm, colour, sound

    Using nail polish remover and household bleach, Uman erased the female figures from an old and forgotten porn film. The wriggling holes in the film become erotic zones, blanks on which a fantasy body is projected, creating a new pornography.

    Cathy Joritz
    Negative Man

    DE/US, 1985, 3′, 16mm, b/w, sound

    By drawing directly on the celluloid, Joritz comments sarcastically on the speech of an American TV presenter. In a time span of a few minutes he becomes the object of a continuous transformation that is draped on him like a second, celluloid skin. Joritz’s drawings not only serve to adjust the image but also as a way to unmask the representation of authority.

    Owen Land
    Fleming Faloon

    US, 1963, 7’, 16mm, colour, sound

    The first 16mm film by Land (formerly known as George Landow) is told to be a source of inspiration for Warhol’s Screen Tests. The image of a staring TV presenter is subjected to a series of manipulations, questioning the optical ambiguity of cinema. Land suggests that if we accept the reality offered to us by the illusion of depth on the flat plane of the screen, we can then willingly ascribe anything as real.

    Maurice Lemaître
    Un Navet

    FR, 1976, 31’, 16mm, colour, sound

    A sparkling example of Lemaître’s ‘anti-cinema’, in which he exhorts the audience to revel in cinematographic disgust. He comments tongue-in-cheek on a series of outtakes of commercial films, provocatively summoning the audience to react, and at the same time creates a sensual experience by manually colouring and drawing directly on the film.

    4. Sa 26.04 16:30 (Cinema Sphinx) // STORIES UNTOLD

    Robert Ryang

    US, 2005, 2’, video, colour, sound

    A remixed trailer for Kubrick’s The Shining that adds a totally new meaning to the original, turning the horror classic into a romantic comedy family flick. In doing so, Ryang dismantles the strategies used in conventional Hollywood trailers, revealing them as torturing pretexts and false promises in a tight narrative corset. This video also set a trend for the wave of mash-ups on the Internet.

    Matthias Muller
    Home Stories

    DE, 1990, 6’, 16mm, colour, sound

    A collage based on clichés and stereotypes of 1950’s and 1960’s Hollywood melodramas. Muller transforms a range of female gestures and movements into a grammatical construction of paradigmatic elements and condensates them into an elegy of fear. The film does not only comment on the gender politics of classic cinema, but also exposes our own voyeuristic gaze.

    Luther Price
    The Mongrel Sister

    US, 2007, 7’, 16mm, colour, sound

    A handful of unrelated scenes from obscure instructional and fiction movies were edited together into an intense and shocking psychodrama. In his works – very often unique prints – Price creates a staggering universe of penetrating images, insistent rituals and disrupted film material, in which he deals merciless with his obsessions; hermetic but visceral evocations of emotional disturbance on the verge of psychosis.

    Martin Arnold
    Alone. Life Wastes Andy Hardy

    AT, 1998, 15’, 16mm, b&w, sound

    Third part of a trilogy in which Arnold deconstructs a series of classic Hollywood films, through a process of compulsive repetition. Scenes and gestures are surgically dissected and moulded into neurotic rhythms, turning the hidden messages of sex and violence inside out. The stuttering sounds raise the underlying tensions until they are on the verge of bursting out.

    Nina Fonoroff
    Some Phases of an Empire

    1984, 9’, S8mm, colour, sound

    A reconfiguration of images from Quo Vadis, the 1951 epic Hollywood spectacle, rephotographed and edited into a densely layered contemplation of themes such as power, sexuality and aggression. The soundtrack, which includes a spoken version of the children’s book “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm”, accentuates the subjacent tensions in the original film.

    Ken Jacobs
    The Doctor’s Dream

    US, 1978, 25’, 16mm, b/w, sound

    A reinterpretation of a 1950’s television drama. Jacobs reedited the film radically, starting with the shot that was numerically the middle shot, followed by the shots that came inmediately before and after, only to continue skipping back and forth. The deconstruction of the linear structure unravels a strong sexual echo, hidden in the triviality of the original story.

    Maurice Lemaitre
    The Song of Rio Jim

    FR, 1978, 6’, 16 mm, b/w, sound

    A homage to Hart and Ince, mythical ancestors of the Western film. The narrative structure on the soundtrack develops as a traditional cowboys-and-indians tale, but the spectator is denied any access to a visual representation of what is being heard. The screen remains black, leaving us to our own memory and imagination. The radical use of monochrome images questions the basic conditions of cinema, exploring the relation between hearing and seeing.

    5. Sa 26.04 19:30 (Artcentre Vooruit) // TIME AFTER TIME

    Saul Levine
    The Big Stick / An Old Reel

    US, 1973, 11’, 16mm, b/w, silent

    Levine spent six years reediting 8mm prints of some of Charlie Chaplin’s shorts which he juxtaposed with television images of an anti-war protest. A self-study in montage, narrative ascesis and the amazing power of caustic rhythms, it serves at the same time as a a subtle comment on the duality of society in North-America, torn between passivity and activism, privilege and exclusion.

    David Rimmer

    CA, 1984, 11’, 16mm, colour & b/w, sound

    A reflection on the nature of the cinematographic image and the quality of perception, based on a diverse range of television footage. Rimmer isolates specific passages, intervenes radically on the texture and structure of the film and explores the relation between statis and movement. The repetition, deceleration, and spatio-temporal dislocation of images and sounds provoke the building of a metaphysical tension.

    Keith Sanborn
    Operation Double Trouble

    US, 2003, 10’, video, colour, sound

    A “détournement” of a propaganda film produced by the American army. By repeating each shot twice, Sanborn pushes the strategic manipulations of the original, both in terms of montage and ideology, bare to the surface. The echoing effect destabilizes the transparency of the narrative codes and provides an insight into the functioning of audiovisual media and our way of relating to it.

    Kirk Tougas
    The Politics of Perception

    CA, 1973, 33’, 16mm,colour, sound

    Segments from the trailer of The Mechanic, an action flick with Charles Bronson, are continuously repeated over a period of a half hour. The sound and image quality constantly deteriorate until both picture and sound assume the status of “noise”. The “mechanic” Bronson, as a protagonist of destruction caught in an endless loop, is a metaphor for mechanized perception, photographical reproduction, cultural production and consumption.

    6. Su 26.04 16:30 (Cinema Sphinx) // GLANCING BACK

    Vanessa Renwick
    Britton, South Dakota

    US, 2003, 9’, 16mm to video, b/w, sound

    An intriguing film built out of portraits of children on the streets of a deserted city in the 1930’s. Their brutally honest staring gaze betrays an image of a world without images, as well as the perspective of an uncertain future that already belongs to the past. James Benning: “Not only found footage, but a found film made 60-some years ago directly addressing contemporary structural concerns.”

    Brian Frye
    Oona’s Veil

    US, 2000, 8’, 16mm, b/w, sound

    A short screen test of Oona Chaplin, her only film-record, is reconstructed into an intense meditation on seeing and being seen. The original shot was rephotographed, mutilated, exposed to chemicals and even buried. The result is an unearthly film portrait, with occasional spots of black emulsion, creating a continuously shifting exchange of glances between the image and the spectator.

    Lewis Klahr
    Her Fragrant Emulsion

    US, 1987, 10’, 16mm, colour, sound

    An obsessional homage to Mimsy Farmer, a 1960’s sexploitation movie star. Strips of cut-up 8mm film are glued into a collage, projected and re-photographed. Klahr’s internal montage emphasizes the materiality of film and uncovers the subtle incisions and gestures of the not-too-subtle narrative original.

    Morgan Fisher
    Standard Gauge

    US, 1984, 35’, 16mm, colour, sound

    An autobiographical account of Fisher’s experiences as an editor in the commercial film industry during the early seventies. Filming a succession of divergent film scraps rejected at the editing stage, Fisher comments on the origin and meaning of each image, thus exploring the mechanisms and conditions of film production, in both its materialistic and institutional aspects.

    Thanks to Dominic Angerame (Canyon), Martin Arnold, Joke Ballintijn (Montevideo), Christophe Bichon (Lightcone), Brigitta Burger-Utzer (Sixpack), Abigail Child, Pip Chodorov (Re:voir), Benjamin Cook (LUX), Xavier García Bardon (Bozar Cinema), Morgan Fisher, Nina Fonoroff, Brian Frye, Helena Gomà (Films 59), Michaella Grill (Sixpack), Will Hanke (, Ken and Flo Jacobs, Brett Kashmere, Richard Kerr, Helena Kritis (MuHKA), Saul Levine, Marie Losier, Mark McElhatten, JJ Murphy, Mark Nash, Pieter-Paul Mortier (STUK), Pere Portabella, Luther Price, Vanessa Renwick, William Rose, Robert Ryang, Keith Sanborn, Mike Sperlinger (LUX), Astria Suparak, Peter Taylor (Worm), Anabel Vázquez, Mark Webber, Karl Winter (FDK)…

    ARTIST IN FOCUS: Ben Rivers


    ARTIST IN FOCUS: Ben Rivers

    21 Apr 2008, Sphinx, Gent.
    Program produced by Courtisane as part of the Courtisane Festival 2008 (21-27 April 2008)

    At the 2008 edition of Courtisane, British film director Ben Rivers is placed centrally. Rivers is the co-founder of the Brighton Cinematheque and has been making movies since 1999. His recent works are mysterious impressionist films in which loners, abandoned places and memory play the leading roles. Ben Rivers’ films are drenched in a spooky spiritualism, like bits of dreams that find their way into your consciousness. Rivers documents his subjects carefully. Abandoned buildings illustrate their own decay, landscapes draw themselves, stories from the past come in a shade of mystery, a cocoon breaks gently and becomes a subtle poetic portrait of an Einzelgänger. He hand-processes film and prefers black and white film stock with a thick, tactile grain, that’s why his films bare resemblance to documentaries from decades ago. Ben Rivers kicks off the festival with a compilation of his own work and a selection of his favourite filmmakers.

    Old Dark House
    2003, 16mm, b/w, 4′

    “Rooms in an abandoned, burnt out house revealed by multiple in-camera superimpositions of a single torch-light. This marked the start of my hand-processing film, which I continued to use from then on.”

    2005, 16mm, b/w, 5′

    “My first sequel. Another old dark house, where only fragments remain of a once animated domestic history, reoccupied by a history of horror films. Crumbling interiors. Stained, peeling walls and forgotten furniture. Dust sheets on rotting floorboards. The unfolding process of abandonment, decay and renewal. All made on a 1:12 scale.”

    The Bomb with a Man in his Shoe
    2005, 16mm, b/w, 15′

    “The closest I’ve come to doing a commercial – commissioned to show in fancy boutiques in Japan, USA and Europe. Initially supposed to be a few minutes long, the film began as a very loose kind of documentary, where I would turn up with my bolex and lights once a week over a two-month period, filming the various stages of making 400 pairs of shoes. All the superimpositions were done in-camera on out-of-date stock, hand-processed as I went along. As the filming progressed I felt we needed to get outside, to see what would happen on a few walks in the great outdoors. It’s pretty senseless.”

    The Hyrcynium Wood
    2005, 16mm, b/w, 3′

    “I found the title in an out of date Thesaurus looking up the word ‘mystery’ – which is essentially what this film remains to me.”

    The Coming Race
    2006, 16mm, b/w, 5′

    “A film in which thousands of people climb a rocky mountain terrain. The destination and purpose of their ascension remains unclear. A vague, mysterious and unsettling pilgrimage fraught with unknown intentions.”

    2006, 16mm, color, 8′

    “A portrait of Astika, who lives on an island in Denmark. He has lived in a run down farm house for 15 years and his project has been to let the land around him grow unchecked, but now he has been forced to move out by people who prefer more pristine neighbours.”

    This Is My Land
    2006, 16mm, b/w, 14′

    “A portrait of Jake Williams – who lives alone within miles of forest in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Jake always has many jobs on at any one time, finds a use for everything, is an expert mandolin player, and has compost heaps going back many years. He has a different sense of time to most people in the 21st Century, which is explicitly expressed in his idea for creating hedges by putting up bird feeders.”

    Dove Coup/Greenhouse
    2007, 16mm, b/w + col, 2×2′

    Two sketches

    Ah, Liberty!
    2008, anamorphic 16mm, b/w, 20′

    “A celebratory portrait of a family’s place in the wilderness – living, working, playing on a farm throughout the seasons; free-range animals and children, junk and nature, all within the most sublime landscape. The work aims at a sense of freedom, the scale of which is reflected in the hand-processed Cinemascope format, and focuses on the youngest of the family to show us what’s what. There’s no particular story; beginning, middle or end, just fragments of lives lived.”

    Laurel & Hardy
    Big Business

    US, 1929, 16mm on video, b/w, 19′

    A common routine Laurel & Hardy often performed was a “tit-for-tat” fight with an adversary. Typically, Laurel and Hardy accidentally damaged someone else’s property. The injured party would retaliate by ruining something belonging to Laurel or Hardy, who would calmly survey the damage and find something else to vandalize. The conflict would escalate until both sides were simultaneously destroying property in front of each other. An early example of the routine occurs in their classic short, Big Business, which was added to the Library of Congress as a national treasure in 1992.

    Artavazd Pelechian
    Obitateli ou Bnakitchnère (Inhabitants)

    URSS, 1970, 8 min)

    “Pelechian’s films are remarkable because they stare upon fundamental and cosmic themes, edited with a
    mastery of scale and rhythm which makes all life on earth swarm and bloom through the celluloid. Inhabitants in 1970 is a hymn to the animal world which aspires to formal abstraction, clouds of silver birds pulverising the light.” (J.S.)

    George Kuchar
    The Mongreloid

    1978, 16mm, color, sound, 10′

    “A man, his dog, and the regions they inhabited, each leaving his own distinctive mark on the landscape. Not even time can wash the residue of what they left behind.” (G.K.) “The Mongreloid explores at the problems and joys of human-pet relationships from Kuchar’s typically cracked perspective. He engages in what appears to be a one-way conversation with his dog Bocko, his reminiscences intercut with photos and film footage from the times in question. Kuchar’s companion Curt McDowell also makes an appearance, albeit at one level of remove from reality.” (J.S.)

    Walerian Borowczyk
    Les Jeux des Anges

    FR, 1964, 16mm, 12′

    “Walerian Borowczyk was a twisted man whose films were infused with a unique cruelty and weirdness. He started out making extraordinary animations, graduated to directing classics such as Goto, Island of Love and La B te, and then ended up directing Emmanuelle 5, which I think is a perversely fitting end. Les Jeux des Anges was my first experience of animation that was utterly impressionistic. It didn’t show me anything specific, just sound and movement from which you create a world of your own.” (Terry Gilliam)

    Margaret Tait
    Portrait of Ga

    UK, 1955, 16mm, 4′

    A Portrait of Ga was the first of many portraits made by the Orcadian artist Margaret Tait during her long life of filmmaking. A portrait of her mother, it was shot on a visit home from the Film School in Rome. It signals the beginning of her commitment to making simple films about real life and real people.

    Lewis Klahr
    Daylight Moon

    US, 2002, 16mm, 13′

    “There are things I could say about Daylight Moon, but very few I want to before someone sees it. But I will say this: of all the films I’ve made using collage to muck around in the past, this one gets the closest to what I’m after.” (Lewis Klahr)

    Luther Price
    Same Day Nice Biscotts

    US, 2005, 16mm, 5′

    “A mournful dissolving jewel set in bruised magenta sends out votive glints of dying light. A lone bird chirps and branches cover our eyes. Working from a stack of abandoned multiple film prints (nearly identical and close to thirteen in number) Luther Price makes reiterative loops that underline futility, echo hope, and mark every camera movement with the vain promise of fresh outcome and inevitable predestination.” (Mark McElhatten)