There will be projections in all directions...

Bradley Eros

Printed in MFJ No. 43/44 (Summer/Fall 2005) Paracinema Performance

Private [ ] Investigator

“I'm just interested in exploring the apparatus I'm being threaded through…”
-Robert Smithson

The primary motivation for an artist's paracinema is the profound desire to investigate the properties of the medium-by that I mean, the materials, the apparatus and its operation, the technology and its infrastructure-as fully as possible, without taking anything for granted. This urge may come from a need to know the way things work, the chemistry, the optics, and the mechanics. It may come from a deep respect for the physical materials, their source and transformation: the flexibility of plastic, the reflectivity of silver, or the spectrum of color dyes. It may come from wanting to dismantle or deconstruct the devices of illusion. It may come from a mystical belief or a metaphysical conception of the matter involved, and its effect on human consciousness, from the vibrancy of sound waves, the charge of magnetic fields and the transmission of light and shadow.

Attractions are proportional to destinies.”
-Charles Fourier

These private investigations, a kind of philosophical detective work, often originate from questions of being, basic inquiries, of intuitive curiosity, into the function of objects and what they reveal to us. In the field of film, and its truly experimental branch, or rhizome perhaps, of paracinema or expanded cinema, this artisanal exploration of materials and machines, and the challenge to the fixed assumptions of their proper function, opens the parameters of what can be done with, and what can be known about, film. Here we find that certain paths, those abandoned or rarely taken, or certain models, those utopian, protean, problematic, or simply difficult, are being re-examined, invented anew or discovered for the first time, by irrepressible poet-scientists, mystic-materialists, or tinkering-philosophers.

Filming a once invisible world with a once only imagined instrument.
-Jean Painlevé

“The cinema would become the perfect instrument for the revelation of the possible worlds which coexist right alongside our own.”
-Raúl Ruiz

“The moods of the octopus are revealed in her changing hues: she will turn red, black, purple, or yellow.”
-Jean Painlevé, in The Love Life of the Octopus

“Nikola Tesla claimed that in moments of heightened creativity he was radiating a blue light. Wilhelm Reich explained that all living creatures radiate a blue light. He observed couples making love on the beach, in darkness. He asserted that the blue radiation, which becomes more intense during the sexual act, can be observed by the naked eye.”
-Dusan Makavejev

Far, far way, Jules Verne floated in the dark sky, disguised as the Moon, and very lonely.

Parable of a parallel universe

When a finger points at the moon, the fool looks at the finger.”
-Ancient Chinese proverb

Paracinema is the 'invisible ray' that allows us to shift perception by adjusting the lens of conception (or vice versa). By tampering with the mechanism, the mercury switch that maintains the barometric pressure of illusion trips the conscience to illuminate a change of context. We see differently. Paracinema is nothing less than the key to the glass door through which we look, but are rarely brave enough to walk through. Like the uncanny act of peeling the silver backing from a mirror, it overturns the imaginary solutions of life and death. By providing us with a method of peering into the workings of the mind, both dreaming and fully awake, it analyzes the tools and the poetry of concreteness. It does this quite simply by posing questions of ontology and by reflecting the consciousness contained in the expression, 'Existence is elsewhere.' Paracinema knows this, here and now, and admits as much!

Cinema lives under the sign of relativity.”
-Georges Méliès

To Einstein, the universe is “a scenario of non-simultaneous and only partially overlapping transformative events.” And cinema, expanding and contracting time, sought forms of visual language to complement this consciousness. With non-linearity, atemporality, and non-topological spatial compositions, the art of film, in the laboratory of experimental works, approached the conception of quantum physics.

Emerging with [the new cinema] is a major paradigm: a conception of the nature of cinema so encompassing and persuasive that it promises to dominate all image-making in much the same way as the theory of general relativity dominates all physics today. I call it synaesthetic cinema.
-Gene Youngblood, “Synaesthetic Cinema: The End of Drama,” in Expanded Cinema (1970)

Since the architectural limitations from which its physical parameters derive were often not sufficient to match the new perceptual paradigms of this radical conception of cinema, not engendered from a traditional theatrical model, experiments with other screening environments were demanded. Pioneers of paracinema, with varying degrees of complexity, subtlety, and effectiveness, created imaginative alternatives to the rigid standard of the popular moviehouse. These reconfigurations were often utopian projects meant to revolutionize, through concentration or immersion, our mind-body relation to the projected image. Temporary autonomous zones, from Peter Kubelka's intensely focused, 'distraction-proof' Invisible Cinema, now vanished, to Milton Cohen's multi-directional Space Theater that attempted “to free film from its flat and frontal orientation and to present it within an ambience of total space,” and Stan VanDerBeek's multi-media Movie-Drome are historical examples. Most paracinema practitioners today create even more temporary zones, rather than actualized realizations of visionary blueprints, that is, ephemeral events of film installation or performance in restricted spaces, rather than
(semi-)permanent structures. Where are the prototypes and epiphanies of subterranean science and future cinema that link the lighthouse of film to the exploded cave of radical theater?

Specula(tive) film/imaginary cinema(s) [fig. 1]

What I would like to do is build a cinema in a cave or an abandoned mine, and film the process of its construction. That film would be the only film shown in the cave. The projection booth would be made out of crude timbers, the screen carved out of a rock wall and painted white, the seats could be boulders. It would be a truly 'underground” cinema'.”
-Robert Smithson, A Cinematic Atopia

Breathing Film: Expanding & Contracting

“[M]y aim is to develop under these concentrated circumstances a sort of kernel of infinite expansion
- Claes Oldenburg, on Store Days

Film is plastic. It is an elastic material that can actually stretch and shrink. Its flexibility is both physical and metaphorical, with a mutable form that inspires supple thought. This malleable material, this sculptural aspect, combined with its translucency, is what gives it the great potentiality to mutate as an art form and cultural tabula rasa. It has qualities of the tantric (tan/tra, to stretch/beyond all boundaries) and the precise (as in Duchamp's 'precision optics'). It mirrors both the mind-expanding and the concise-focused in human consciousness.

Even though, as Roland Barthes states in his essay on the mythic material, “plastic is the first magical substance which consents to be prosaic,” he also adds: “It is in essence the stuff of alchemy.” It is this dual quality of the common and the poetic, the transmutable, that makes it the perfect invention for metaforms & metaphors.

“to open out & close in: IN SPIRATION- what you breathe in.” -Brion Gysin

But it is the breathing, the inspiration, the aspiration and the modern conspiracy, of paracinema as living cinema on which we want to focus. This “flight from the terms of aesthetic convention” 1 that has opened the cinematic into its most radical forms, from the so-called 'structural/materialist' to the so-called 'expanded cinema' (both contested terms with well documented histories), is a vital trajectory that continues to resuscitate the avant-garde that has died so many times. A veritable Lazarus-machine of the eternal return in the loop of desire

this cinematic blossoming…

… of 'principal freed forms'2 has opened us to the fluctuation of expanding and contracting formal and conceptual experiments in film:

“Cinema…as a desiring-machine, the productive unit of the unconscious…is characterized by connection: the production of flows and their break or interruption. Desiring-machines are binary machines…: one machine is always coupled with another…There is always a flow-producing machine, and another machine connected to it that interrupts…”3

Since all standard film projection employs this intermittency between motion and break and is usually imperceptible, to amplify this cinematic aspect by transforming it into a performative action of playing the machine as an instrument, used in both concentrated and extended works, gives back the live element to what was normally fixed and hidden. This is but one example of paracinema in action meant to stimulate the presence of film. Film as material, film as time, film as lived experience, film as actuality, film as present consciousness. This operation embodies a kind of breathing film, expanding and contracting with the moment, as well as, the composition of both subtle and elaborate constructions of expanded and contracted cinema.

Two Paths: 'Cool (contracted), but White Hot' (expanded)

Cinema has evolved in two paths.

“One is spectacle. Like the Phantasmagoria, its
goal is the creation of a total substitute
sensory world.

The other is peep show, which claims for its
realm both the erotic and the untampered observation
of real life, and imitates the keyhole or
voyeur's window without need of color, noise,
-Jim Morrison, THE LORDS Notes on Vision (1969)

Two paths seem to be open to the cinema right now, neither of
which, undoubtedly, is the right one.
On the one hand there is the pure or absolute cinema, and on the other there is that kind of venial hybrid art.”
-Antonin Artaud, Cinema and Reality (1927)

For paracinema explorations, these two principal radical positions, these two diverging paths, seem to be the fork that cuts deepest. Which utensil, or conceptual tool, serves best?

1) the hybrid, magma, synaesthetic
expanded, multiple, mixed, tending towards the maximal

Everything that can be projected on the screen belongs in the cinema.”
-Robert Desnos, 1923

dissolving boundaries between genres and forms, creating an immersive combinatory, enveloping environment including vast differences into a 'total art' or utopian whole: Treating cinema as the art that incorporates all the others

2) the pure, absolute, essence
contracted, singular, distinct, tending towards the minimal

Nothing except a beautiful Nerve Meter.”
-Antonin Artaud, 1925

intensification of cinema's specificity. focusing on the essential qualities of film as a material or support, rigorous and fundamental distinctiveness, separating and magnifying exclusive aspects and elements: How it differs from the other arts.

This may be a false dichotomy. Let's examine them separately and look for divergences and confluences, crossing paths and overlaps.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
-Yogi Berra


Every fork in the road of thought demands its knife.
-Franklin Rosemont, Arsenal/Surrealist Subversion

Specula(tive) film/imaginary cinema(s) [fig. 2]

What is now proved was once only imagined.”
-William Blake

[Kinéma Lepidoptera]

The screen appeared to be trembling. It seemed to quiver slightly at various points, like a wall overgrown with verdant moss in the gentle breezes of Beaulieu, as the filtered daylight sculpted its plush contours. But this wall was chalk white, a calcified tint, and it was late evening in the small, natural amphitheater. Now, it was as if the screen had been powdered and was beginning to vibrate with a subtle breathing, its flaky skin, or rather scales, composed of a kind of hand-made paper, hundreds of small scraps of dusty parchment that fluttered and pulsed with a delicate, almost imperceptible presence. We anticipated the first film as the moonlight cast its own glow upon the mysteriously reflecting skein. Suddenly, when the intense white rectangle of projected light struck the seemingly palpitating frame, the entire surface came alive. The audience quickly realized that the screen was composed of a thousand white moths, startled into flight. They dispersed into a cloud of chaos filling the cone of light carved into the nocturnal air, shattering the mosaic into a flurry of living fragments.

Into that arena of radiance, moths would come drifting out of the solid blackness around me…”
-Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory

[Chuang Tzu's butterfly]

Paracinema is a kind of butterfly in the mind of Chuang Tzu,4 that is, it is the butterfly, the dream, the mind dreaming, and the man with the mind. It is an ideal and a materialization. The perception of the materialization of the ideal. And the idealism of the material.

It exists as the term n in an infinite temporal series, between n-1 and n+1. We can speak of objects and subjects that fall into an impure mythology.5 Of mental processes, both of eyes and of things. For the paracinema both is and is not. It will be and will never be. It is outside time and now. In the pre-history of cinema and in future cinema. But most importantly, it exists. As a speculation and a maverick act. In an imaginary field and as an intervention. As a proposal, a blueprint, a scheme, but also as a strategy, and invention, a realization. It is a theorem and a proof.

Every Revolution* Opens Space

There will be projections in all dimensions…”
-Brion Gysin, Brion Gysin Let the Mice In, 1960

This means inner and outer space in every imaginable dimension: collapsed forms, permeable spaces, formlessness, molecular cinemas, astrological cinemas, digital reconfigurations for future cinemas, pix that plug in directly, fiber optics and wireless transmissions with dangerous and libratory effects (there's always control and there's always resistance.)

There exists a machine to record divergences.
Their movements are translations, transmutations.”

-Monique Wittig

Yes, more divergence and radical alternity. Less co-optation, reification, and the franchising of consciousness.

The culture that's going to survive in the future is the culture that you can carry around in your head.”
-Nam June Paik

Yes, a paracinema of portable, ephemeral, self-manipulated interactivity. A visual ipod (recorder/mixer) composed of found, pirated, self-recorded, memory-stored material for real-time computer remixing.

Films have a certain place in a certain time period. Technology is forever.”
-Hedy Lamarr, icon & inventor

Yes, like Huck Finn, if we want to throw off the sivilizin' shackles and resist the widening of prior restraint, a resistance to the systems of Capital, if we want to continue to 'xperiment avant-(un)gardedly with the new mediums, the new forms, new inventions and instruments, then, “I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest.”

* Revelation, Reflection, Reverberation
. Revolution Opens Space

This utopian cry or conceptual conceit, whether macrocosmic or microscopic, artistic, political or technological, urges, or promises, 'expansion is the credo that rocks the cradle.” Each leap in consciousness, each gyrate of the spiral, each return of the sun, turning of the earth, overturning of the old ways…apertures out.

But some gyrations are self-consuming producing psychic energy, not spatial release…or perhaps, as flames rise skyward, in this alchemical palindrome, space is opened:

in girum imus nocte et consumimur igni.

(We turn in a circle in the night and we are consumed by fire)

. . Opens Space
We must not forget the expanded innerspace, the space between, the infinite distance, beyond the thresholds of perception, molecular space, subatomic space, the space between the grains, the physically intimate cinema of light particles moving from the projector to the screen and reflected back to our eyes….

. . . Space

The frame has been populated by an overwhelming profusion of spaces, as its rectangle has become that indivisible point, the Borgesian aleph within which we see all the universe, that blank arena where in converge at once the hundred spaces.”
-Hollis Frampton

All that is necessary is an empty space of time and letting it act in its magnetic way.”
-John Cage

Ultimately, there is a politics involved, a politics of self-determination, that some call creative control, and others call 'the politics of creating a space for the sacred.'”
-Leonard Crowdog

“and who split the cross so that
the spaces of space
will never again
meet or join”
-Antonin Artaud, To Have Done With the Judgment of God

Quasi-Infinities and the Waning of Space

“For many artists the universe is expanding;
for some it is contracting.”
-Robert Smithson

Extractions Reduce Our Spectrum

1. “…we suddenly comprehend that there are ecstasies of restraint as well as
ecstasies of abandon.”
-Hollis Frampton, “Impromptus on Edward Weston:
Everything in its Place”

2. “'imago lucis opera expressa,'; which is to say:
image revealed, 'expressed,' 'extracted'
(like the juice of a lemon) by the action of light.”
-Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida

3. “Only the hand that erases can write the true thing.”
-Meister Eckhardt

4. Subtracting elements from the basic assumptions of 'what makes it cinema'
Subtract: image. motion. frame. focus. emulsion. celluloid. flicker. projection. light.

“I like to reveal the mechanics of illusion.”
-Joan Jonas, The Encounter with the Gaze behind the Mask

“I no longer wish to be possessed by Illusions.”
-Antonin Artaud, The New Revelations of Being

5. Restricted perceptions:
a. Ask audience to stare at the screen until it becomes black.
-Yoko Ono (cf. 'Paint it Black.' Rolling Stones)

b. A black screen, like Ad Reinhardt's paintings
“is at once both memory and forgetfulness, a paradox of darkening time.”
-Robert Smithson, Quasi-Infinities and theWaning of Space

c. “The rest is demotion.
Like the moon when she is full.
When she is a slender crescent,
When she is black theoretical night.”
-Marcel Broodthaers

d. “…a coherent portion of a hidden infinity.
'weak signals' from 'the void'”
-Robert Smithson, Quasi-Infinities and the Waning of Space

e. “For a long time now I have felt the Void, but
have refused to hurl myself into the Void.
For I know that this world does not exist and I know
how it does not exist.
The Void was already within me.”
-Antonin Artaud, The New Revelations of Being

f. “what the black of the shutter carves into the white of the screen”
-Bradley Eros, atomic cinema

g. “To be Looked at (from the Other Side of the Glass) Close to,
with One Eye, for Almost an Hour.”
-Marcel Duchamp

h. “I have made a simple flicker machine…You look at it with your eyes shut and the flicker plays over your eyelids.”
-Brion Gysin, Dreamachine

“Experience other than by the senses.
Things not seen with the eye but perceived under stimulations of flickered light.”
-Brion Gysin, 'Star of the Dreamachine'

i. Projecting thoughts. images. visions:

“Working in darkness,
I have discovered lightning”.
-André Breton, Art Poetique

“Imagination is human radium”
-Saint-Pol-Roux, The Treasure of Mankind (Le Trésor de l'homme)

Contracted Cinema

“Ed Sanders (of the Fugs) said that what is needed is a consciousness contracting drug. The mind is too expanded.”
-Harry Smith in a rare interview with John Cohen 1968
[reprinted in American Magus]

“Separate, purify, reunite. The formula of
Ars Magna, and its heir, the cinema"
-Jim Morrison, THE LORDS Notes on Vision

A separation (or purification) of medium-specific filmic elements
To concentrate on a singular material or mechanical property.
The elimination of superfluous or extraneous means. Precise focus.

An experiment:

“The invention of any technology effectively contains its own accident.”
-Paul Virilio

Developed from a Robert Beck Memorial Cinema (RBMC) program called 'Mistakes (everything you can do wrong)' in which we attempted failure with every possible projection or presentation act. In this situation, we tried to thread or feed all the incorrect gauges (8mm, super-8, 35mm plus slide film) into the gate of the 16mm projector, or in improper ways (upside down, backwards, sprockets reversed, etc). One result was the burning in the gate of 8mm film (actually, each example burned). Since the smaller film is not engaged by the claw mechanism, the emulsion-coated celluloid lingers momentarily before the bulb, heating rapidly and melting first into jewel-like crystallizations, then bubbling and eventually charring, all reaching the screen in a repeated sequence of this tiny supernova of destruction.

An example:

burn (or, The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics)
(super-8 mm in a 16mm projector, color, sound, hand-manipulated in the gate, approximately 7 minutes. found footage, 2004, BE)

The work derived from these 'intentional accidents' uses a short strip of super-8 film of the 1970s bondage porn pulled through and burned frame-by-frame, while a soundtrack fragment of Scorsese's Taxi Driver with DeNiro's methodical rant and the haunting Bernard Herrmann score seeps beneath the disintegrating images.

An exegesis:

Here the fragility of the plastic material is both magnified and transformed
serving as a physical fact of film and a brutal metaphor.

“:No image satisfies me unless it is at the same time knowledge, unless it carriers with it its substance as well as its lucidity.”
-Antonin Artaud, Manifesto in Clear Language

Actualized paracinemA [Nº 1]

MovieHeadBox (super-8, sound, color, approximately10 minutes, 1983. BE)

“screens in your own head. I am better than Transducer
for I show you own Interiour Space.”
-Brion Gysin, Brion Gysin Let the Mice In

'This appetite to penetrate, exceed, and ruin representation while filling the field-of-view through projection was appeased in inverse micro-fashion (to Stan VanDerBeek's hemispherical, communal, 'multi-plex' Movie-Drome) in a one-on-one interactive assisted film performance called MovieHeadBox (presented as part of the Extremist Show at ABC No Rio in NYC in 1983)
Simply a cardboard box that fits snugly over the head, extending approximately 12 inches in front of the eyes with a small translucent screen (an 81/2 x 11 sheet of white typing paper) used for rear projection;
The viewer sits in a chair wearing headphones for the cassette sound track6 played on a walkman, while a color super-8 film7 is projected onto the immersant's head-screen's façade, thereby over-flooding with simultaneity as the images seeped into the box, overlapped, and were reflected off its inner sides.”
-Joseph Nechvatal, review of Dorthea Olkowski's
Gilles Deleuze and the Ruin of Representation

It is a home-made prototype of a Virtual Reality headset, like a primitive head-mounted-device; a do-it-yourself pseudo space-age immersion helmet; a visual isolation tank; a portable micro-Movie Dome; a prosthetic inflatable-skull Movey House; a solitary Invisible Cinema; an orgone box inaugurating a pleasure dome; an avant-garde stereophonic peepshow; a private sensaround camera obscura/intimate cinema that makes your head feel like Gulliver in the land of the Lilliputians.

Mental booths brainwaves wrote the flickering message-new patterns headset immersive magnetized-sound and image flakes falling luminous.”
-William S.Burroughs, The Ticket That Exploded (1962)

cinéma Concréte

“discovering the means to let materials be themselves rather than vehicles”
-paraphrase from John Cage's Silence (on 'sounds')

= film as film.8 quoth the Raven, “Nevermore”
or 'Nothingmore' : 'the thing-in-itself'

I could say 'concreteness'. I could say 'material', I could say 'object.'
'Equivalence' is a beautiful word. A one-to-one correspondence.

I had not anticipated when I wrote this that I would open a book (Structural Film Anthology) just a moment later and find Michael Snow's thoughts on Wavelength:

“I was thinking of, planning for, a time monument
in which the beauty and sadness of equivalence would be celebrated,
thinking of trying to make a definitive statement of pure film space and time,
a balancing of 'illusion' and 'fact, all about seeing.”

No, instead I was concerned with a metaphysics of presence and a denial of semiosis. No signs. No metaphors. A one-to-one equivalence of concrete fact.

Unrealized paracinemA [Nº Ø]

kinoSonik's pilgrIMAGE aka Apparatus
'the apparatus speaks for itself'
'the material just is'
'the beauty of the thing as thing'

pilgrIMAGE aka Apparatus

This chamber piece of cinéma concréte, deconstructs the elements that constitute the cinema i.e.: the screen, the projection booth, the theater, the projection equipment including the lenses, shutters, bulbs and the film strip and reconstructs them in a multi-image kaleidoscope of intersecting and fusing visual elements on the screen. The mechanics and materials of the cinema are turned into image via a self-reflexive composition utilizing in addition a live digital camera feed to record and play live the cinematic instruments and apparatus that create its existence.

kinoSonik (2000-2004) was a performative multiple projection film group out of Ocularis whose core trio was Gregory Baird, Bradley Eros, and Donal O'Ceilleachair producing ambient, improvised and composed projects using found and original films, video, slides, and loops, creating installations, environments, performances and events often working with live musicians, djs, as well as live mixing and tape compositions.

Unrealized, some works germinate as idea.

Actualized paracinemA [Nº 2]

screen 2 16mm projectors: 1 lens-less with no film; 1 with clear leader, super-8 projector

with black leader, 8mm projector with no film,
slide projector with dust on clear slide, spotlight, flashlight, anamorphic lens,
glass, matches, white, black & sliver 8 x 12 boards, gels & fliters,
aperture plate, screen, streetlights, carlights, shadows, reels,
soundhead, microphone, contact mic, performance demonstration, fingers& blink, 2004, BE

motor. gears . hum & click

a didactic deconstruction (an apparatus stripped bare)
of a multi-medium plastic polymorphic cinema concrete

screen was the very last work performed at “Collective:Unconscious” by BE at RBMC


a reduction to a denser state
compression into a more concise form
'subatomic cinema'

Actualized paracinemA [Nº 3]

The (Incredibly Shrunken) Incredible Shrinking Man (super-8, b&w, 10 minutes, 1998, BE)
A condensed version to begin with, being a Castle Films super-8 digest edition of The Incredible Shrinking Man, a 1950s atomic sci-fi fantasy, shown on the side of a dollhouse, with the variable-speed projector on a dolly-slowly moving closer as the character begins to shrink-thus reducing the image size incrementally until it is smaller than a postcard, and the hero barely an inch (his actual size in the drama)…matched with live musical accompaniment (to this silent print) on toy piano. Finally, the projector lens touches the screen surface and the image is obliterated.

“the state of greatest condensation or involution is also the state of maximum potency for evolution or expansion.”
- Yogic painting illustrating a cosmic event
Rajasthan, c. 17th century. Ink on paper

Chamber piece for projectors

“When film melts, I wax philosophical.”
-Jeanne Liotta

Subverted Horseplay (16mm projectors, b&w 16mm films, external lenses, tape sound, book, live performance, 20 min., 1994-97, Jeanne Liotta& BE)
Below is a description for a collaborative composition for film performance enacted and observed in the midst of a small audience, involving 3 discreet, but interrelated, projection events or movements, much like chamber music for a small ensemble of instruments in a private room.

The work uses found footage focused on elements of the mythology of 'cowboys and Indians' derived from Hollywood movies, television and photography. Each involves a manipulation of the projector thus altering its normal operation and affecting the film image itself. This alteration implies a critique or subversion of the image content, opening these fixed iconic pictures to a shifting resonance within their cultural reception.

1) ghost dance [invisibility] The first act. Silent except for the projector sound, utilizes a
6-minute digest version of the (Hollywood) western Chief Crazy Horse, shown so extremely out-of-focus that the figures appear as vague phantoms in motion, barely recognizable shapes at the threshold of perception and only slightly flickering into recognition when the projector lens is gently rubbed with fingertips, thus pulling the ghosts momentarily into closer focus before returning them to the fog of oblivion

A brief musical interlude of fiddle and cricket sound, a Circle X field recording mixed with a string adaptation of a Lakota traditional lament called “They Come Prancing.”

2) horse opera [inversion] The second movement uses a brief black & white film loop from a
TV western of an exquisitely choreographed balletic fragment of a mounted cowboy
guiding his horse halfway into a stream then pirouetting the animal and exiting in reverse direction. This filmic action, framed on the lower half, thus emphasizing leg movement and water motion, is slowed on the analytical projector to a glacial pace and played at various speeds to the band Circle X's turbulent rock ballad “Tell My Horse” (“my horse comes out to meet me”) a philosophical ode to impending absence. An external lens is held horizontally against the projector beam, creating a reflected image rising ghostlike out of the frame, thus mirroring the equine circle dance on the screen in a hypnotic inverted double.

3) mistaken identities [disintegrate] The third part involves storytelling from a large black
book. The text is condensed from Native American novelist Leslie Marmon Silko's fantastical account in Almanac of the Dead of Matthew Brady's legendary photograph of the renegade medicine man Geronimo and questions its authenticity and the difficulty and probability of capturing such an image. As the live reading proceeds, a filmstrip, with negative and positive stills of this alleged photo, is pulled frame by frame through the projector gate as each frame melts and burns, dissolving and destroying the image, as the poetic fable constructs the condition of its mythic appearance and dissuades one of its veracity.

“On each thing in matter I meditate to disintegrate…” -Bruce Witsiepe, Celestial

theory of Delicacy

A) both (spatial) object & (temporal) experience: when the individual frame surface is worked on with precision instruments or approached as a tiny drawing or painting; or a small sequence of contiguous frames is treated as a miniature collage to be examined by close inspection. But also experienced as time-based projections with subliminal, elusive or meticulous* operations at the threshold of perception.

B) An almost imperceptible shift or alteration produces a radical change in the reception of an idea or a thing.
(by changing or adding a letter or a word, a sound or a tonal shift, a line or a color, the meaning is inverted or subverted, the script is flipped, or the connotation is modified or adjusted, blurred).

[a delicate instrument. delicate essence. psychic delicate]

o subliminal - outside of conscious awareness
o elusive - that which evades easy detection or perception
o meticulous - excessive care in the treatment of details
see: night of extreme subtlety (below)

The 'ory of O

Bataille speaks of the eye as a cannibal delicacy, an exquisite object of such anxiety that we will never bite into it. This oneiric oral ocular object is so odious & obviously outrageous that even the occult occlude it from our ornamental ontology of optics. I, on the other hand, oscillate, but include it optimistically, as an oxymoronic oracle of the obscure.

a delicate détournemont

Actualized paracinemA [Nº 4]

Prefer (super-8 sound at 18fps, color, 10 minutes, 2001, BE)

A subtly 'altered readymade' of a near 'perfect film'. This is a modification of the condensed cream version of (Marilyn Monroe's) Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, in which I merely queered the sound by flipping the switch of the film speed, thus slowing & lowering the voices a gender, turning the femme-drag of the original into a telling gesture of camp. “Prefer is détourned into a compressed bauble, evoking gay men's historic (hysteric?) identification with MM while magnifying the self-conscious dimension of her performance. Comedic moments are rendered strangely poignant, and the nearly intact “diamonds are a girl's best friend” number is made to suggest a sly critique of the commodity fetishism enshrined in gay, and gay-targeted, media.”
- Mix, the New York Lesbian & Gay Experimental Film Festival

theory of Détournemont

“Where there was fire, we carried gasoline.”
-Guy Debord

The theft of aesthetic artifacts from their contexts and their diversion into contexts of one's own devise.
A critical demystification: a technique that could not mystify because its very form was demystification.
To insist simultaneously on a “devaluation” of art and its “reinvestment” in a new kind of social speech.
A “communication containing its own criticism.”
A politics of subversive quotation.
A critique so magically true it would turn the words of its enemies back on themselves.
Social symbols yanked through the looking glass.
A distortion of the images everyone took for granted.
'Any sign is susceptible to conversion into something else, even its opposite.'
The détournemont of the right sign…could spark a reversal or perspective.
-A Situationist idea*, still alive today, perhaps…
(from Greil Marcus, Lipstick Traces, after Guy Debord and Gil J. Wolman)

As an anarchist-american who is not sentimental about the spectacle of power, I present:

Actualized paracinemA [Nº 4]

JFKFJ (double projection performative film, 8mm, b&w w/gels, silent, usually less than 10 minutes, 1999, BE-original footage from Man and President, A Commemorative Motion Picture from Castle Films)

One is a lie. The other, the death of a lie. 2 exact prints, exact copies of a short memorial to Kennedy, projected side-by-side, at the beginning and then one on top of the other. The projectors are not reliable. They are trouble, faulty. The films begin together, but after a brief time, they begin to falter. Failure is eminent. ('Fail. Fail again. Fail better,' says Beckett.) One struggles to continue, as shiny, glossed-up bathetic history is marched out. The other film is obstinate…jerking…fluttering…clugging in the gate…freezing the image. Beginning to burn as JFK's casket is paraded. Both films, now filtered with red & blue gels, sputter, quit, lurch, melt & disintegrate gloriously. The machines have done their duty, to God & to country. The lie is dead. Amen.

night of Extreme subtlety

“I must live in my lantern
Trimming subliminal flicker”
-Mina Loy, Love Songs (circa 1914)

A unique event of the 2000 New York Underground Film Festival took place in the basement gallery of Anthology Film Archives, organized by RBMC, in a pitch black, near silent space, with 10 makers and a select audience of 23. In this dark chamber with such concentrated focus, any and every stray light or sound mattered. Works unfolded with precision, exactness, finesse, and a surgical touch, where the smallest gesture registered with magnified intensity. Films of abstract light and color, hand-processed chemical experiments with subliminal sound or the slightest motor hum, or near static analytical studies were the subdued spectrum of selections.

The program document describes it this way:

a salon of the shimmering chimera. an intimate cinema at the threshold of perception,
nuance & numinescence. a lichtspiel of the spectral and 'the barely-there'.
image-less projections, phantom-chroma, halo, radiance. ghost-cinema in a micro-cinema environment.
amplified delicacy. crystallizations. luminosity in essence. seeking the faint mysteries of ephemerality.

“Aeroliths dissolve, lubricating membranes turn to dust, the mirage becomes manifest,
in bacterial swirl, as the gelatin of a shadow world.”
-Goethe, The Theory of Colors

Works by Boue, Eros, Fieber, Fogel, Frye, Liotta, McClure, Murray, Polta, Recoder.

An extreme example of Actualized paracinemA [Nº 5]

“Q: Is it real? A: It's an image. A picture made of light.”
-Jan Vermeer

Liquid Crystal
(8mm projector, flashlight, cut crystal drinking glasses, lenses, whiskey and
water, approximately 5 minutes, 2000, BE)

'cinema but not film'?

pulsating and flickering from projector strobe, moving projected light without celluloid or filmstrip. Light beams through glass as liquids (water then whiskey*) are poured into and out of translucent vessels projecting clear and colored images and prismatic refractions onto the white wall of an unframed screen surface.

*incidentally, that year's festival sponsor was Jameson's Whiskey

Actualized paracinemA [Nº 6]

(super-8, color, hand-pulled, approximately 10 minutes, a found, water-damaged single roll of film, 1999, BE)

'film but not cinema'?

“…that detailed critique of illusionism which marks the passage from cinema to film.”
-Annette Michelson, Paul Sharits and the Critique of Illusionism: An Introduction

transactions of retina and movie screen create virtual volume;
the space between screens is filled with actuality without recourse to phoney densities.”
-Paul Sharits

This filmstrip is projected without the use of the shutter. It is pulled through the projector by hand at an irregular speed, moving ahead (or backwards) slowly or quickly, sometimes stopping, altering focus, and at times allowing the deteriorated emulsion and celluloid to burn in the gate.

It is a film without flicker and no fixed time frame. It has continuity without intermittency, challenging a given notion of cinema. The usual intermittent intervals of darkness and light produced by the revolving shutter opening and closing that normally animates still frames into the illusion of moving images is absent, the static, material object of the strip, in this case, is something like a tanka (“a thing rolled up”), in Tibetan scroll painting, or a very long, miniature Chinese landscape, threaded into a partially dysfunctional mechanism more closely resembling a magic lantern (but without filmstrip projector, individual frames, slides, or 'pages') than the claw & shutter apparatus associated with the cinematograph, that methodically snakes through the film path and across the screen in a slow procession of abstract colored textures, resembling decayed tree bark or butterfly wings under the microscope. It magnifies what Rosalind Krauss calls the “film in potentia because film not-yet-projected,” nature of the thing in hand. An objet trouvé transformed by a (revealed) trompe l'oeil.

make the secrets productive
-Joseph Beuys

contamination. chemical corrosion. ocular decay. a sedimentary
meditation… a film upon the film.

contact miked projectors. live digital manipulation.
transducer. flanger. echo delay.

Film as film

Let me refer you to this irrefutable classic:

Film als Film 1910 bis heute, edited by. Birgit Hein and Wulf Herzogenrath (Cologne: Kölnischer Kunstverein, 1977)

And the bibliography of this recent reflective and provocative publication, with a twist of lime:

A History of Experimental Film and Video (From the Canonical Avant-Garde to Contemporary British Practice) by A.L. Rees (London: British Film Institute, 1999)


Let me refer you to this brilliant book on the flicker phenomenon & especially Brion Gysin:

Chapel of Extreme Experience: A Short History of Stroboscopic Light and the Dream Machine, by John Geiger, (Brooklyn: Soft Skull Press, 2003)

“The true story of how the discovery of flicker potentials, and scientific observations about strange patterns, organized hallucinations, and even the displacement of time derived from stroboscopic light,
very nearly resulted in a Dream Machine in every suburban living room,
William S. Burroughs said: “Flicker administered under large dosage and repeated later could
well lead to overflow of brain areas…Anything that can be done chemically can be done in other ways.”
Aldous Huxley called it “an aid to visionary experience.” -The book jacket exclaims

Gnostic* cinema, or 'amplifying a magnifying glass'

“When we say expanded cinema, we actually mean expanded consciousness.”9 But this aspect of expanded cinema or the paracinematic does not mean, necessarily, multiplying elements, but rather, consciously magnifying a filmic element to emphasize the cinematic concrete, an awareness of its presentation or nature. This formal approach may draw attention to the materiality of the film, its plastic strip, chemical emulsion, sprockets (the material support of the image) or perhaps the photographic record within the frame (the image itself). It may draw attention to the apparatus itself, its mechanics and optics, examining the frame rate, shutter, gate, aperture, projection frame, lens, focus ring, the motion of the gears, or the optical or magnetic sound head (the mechanical support of the experience of film). It may draw attention to the site of cinema, its environment of projection practices and the screening situation with its usually hidden projection operation, by foregrounding or exposing the performance activity or participatory event, the projection booth or stand, the seats or viewing area, including the screen, the “theater,” and the audience (the physical and social infrastructure of cinema).

“Though the reflection in the pool
often swims before our eyes: Know the image.”
-Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus

Each of these elements brings into focus an often hidden or invisible aspect of the cinematic experience or the knowledge of film's nature. By amplifying any of these properties, (excepting the tendency of aesthetic fetishization, for instance, the artistic beauty of hand-processing, or the use of negative or slow motion in a dream-sequence, or soft-focus for a love scene, etc. where these practices have been adapted stylistically as coded clichés or simply 'cool effects' as is usual with the surface aspects of radical formal innovations, what I'd call 'the trickle-up theory' of superficial assimilation of the avant-garde…) a philosophical dialogue comes into play between existence and matter. Film becomes the lens of this metaphysical debate, as art and culture has the ability to pinpoint the crux of aesthetic, personal and political issues.

*Gnostic = recognition or self knowledge through direct experience, to emphasize the material, to arrive at something beyond the physical; to overcome matter.

physician, reel thyself
- (after Paracelsus)

the (g)no(sis) show: each artist is to watch or examine his or her own film work in a private space, totally alone, and report afterwards. An actual event after an Ocularis/Robert Beck Memorial Cinema concept at the New York Underground Film Festival.

Split the stick, and there is Jesus.”
-a Christian gnostic saying

“Scratch the emulsion, and there is Film.”
-a cinematic gnostic saying

If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you.
If you do not bring forth what is within in you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you
-Jesus, The Gnostic Gospels (Saint Thomas)

Expanded Cinema, or
Expanding Elastic (in)Evitably

[polymorphous light projections]

LSD = 'longated spatial dimensions
lengthened screen diameter

“Early in life I experimented with peyote, LSD and so on. But in many ways my films are ahead of my own experience. The new art and other forms of expression reveal the influence of mind-expansion. And finally we reach the point where there virtually is no separation between science, observation and philosophy.”
-Jordan Belson
The expanding universe. The central point representing zero dimension is the fundamental point from which emerges transformation. From this ultimate integration, space unfolds, extending to infinity.


A) “Phantasmagoria, magic lantern shows, spectacles
without substance. They achieved complete
sensory experiences through noise, incense,
lightning, water. There may be a time when
we'll attend Weather Theaters to recall the
sensation of rain.”
-Jim Morrison, THE LORDS Notes on Vision

B) Specula(tive) film/imaginary cinema(s) [fig. 3]

picture this! if you can: [Kinema Meteorologica]

“the system of tears which fall between the stars
crosses the veins and the lungs of God.

The Vortex lined with an element that has been

Like a flight of bells or of birds the translucid
snowstorm begins to water the surface…

The blue of an invisible earth with unusual
dimensions stretches in sheets of ice, like a rain of
crucified mirrors, …

it grows and settles with a harmoniously
compressed sound,

and, with a single movement, the frozen system
displays its mysteries like the arcades of a bridge
joining two immensities.”

-Antonín Artaud, excerpt from Respiration Which Returns to God…

C) This expanded cinema would include all possible cinemas in all possible worlds, an Ur-cinema expandio ad infinitum derived from Harry Smith's claim of Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) as the inventor of the cinema, based on the latter's thesis “that there are an infinite number of universes, each possessing a similar world with some slight differences-a hand raised in one, lowered in another-so that the perception of motion is an act of the mind swiftly choosing a course among an infinite number of these 'freeze frames' and thereby animating them.”
-from P.Adams Sitney, Visionary Film

Imagination is a magnet--drawing things of the external world within”'

This function of correspondences, assembling mental connections based on this oscillating principle, is encountered in the depths of quantum mechanics (subatomic cinema) yet is dependent on observation itself. It reunites the fragments through synaptic leaps, the spark-gaps in the mind that bridge analogies and hold dissimilarities in tandem. Re-membering the dismemberments of Osiris, Orpheus or Dionysius. Bringing polymophous light phenomena or multiple images back into concert.

Actualized paracinemA [Nº 7]

the ensemble of subterranean science

“It would never have occurred to the pioneers of cinema to dissociate research on film from research by means of film.”
-Jean Painlevé, Scientific Film

In 1998, in the first month of the first season of the Robert Beck Memorial Cinema, Brian Frye, its initiator, casually asked me if I wanted to do a show. Since I had recently acquired a few 'old' science films (from the 1950s to 1970s) for my growing collection and had reserved a few others in circulation from the Donnell Media Center, I thought, why not watch them all there with the audience 'sight unseen'. As the date approached, I borrowed the library prints, and out of curiosity, took a peek at them in advance. They were each compelling in their way, as were my private acquisitions, but somehow I thought each could use an additional 'element' or 'twist' to increase its appeal. Thus I conceived of a kind of synaesthesia concept for the program, mixing other sense impressions (gustatory, haptic, olfactory) with the cinematic sight and sound.

For one, Carnivorous Plants, I added taste: a fleshy piece of mango held in the mouth while watching the plant's trap mechanism from an insect's point of view, and replacing the didactic soundtrack with a hypnosis tape.

For another, Crystallization, I added smell: burning crystal incense to match the substance and atmosphere of this vibrant visualization using photomicroscopy and polarized light to achieve a psychedelic abstraction with its electric soundtrack and my aromatic ambience.

The third work, called perception & paramecium, had a touch element and altered sound: A lecture, using subtones and language by the theoretically-inclined Hafler Trio, played, while projections reflected by mirror onto a circular floor screen, created a microscopic pool that the audience was invited to surround in order to 'pet' the images of the magnified protozoans.

A fourth work in this interactive ensemble, this temporary laboratory not of experimental films, but experiments with films, is one I've come to claim as a creation, inspired by a speculative idea, a conceptual conceit come to fruition. I call it
X times X (or X x X), an x-rated x-ray film, a kind of multiple layered 'what if' posing the childhood question germinated by the comic book fantasy of x-ray glasses and sexual curiosity. This reconfigured sight test superimposed live-action electromagnetic radiation footage on grainy black & white porn with red and blue colored gels, to produce a delightful but haunting view into what appears to be the erotic coupling of ghostly skeletons. A lubricated science-friction.

“The science I am engaged in is a science distinct from poetry. I am not singing this latter. I am trying to discover its source. Through the helm that steers all poetic thought, the billiard-teachers will distinguish the development of sentimental theses.”

First I experiment, then I compose.”
-Edgard Varèse


“Now, (on the other hand), times have changed, [ ] has changed, and I no longer object to the word 'experimental.' I use it in fact to describe all the [ ] that especially interests me and to which I am devoted, (whether someone else made it or I myself did…) Many people, of course, have given up saying 'experimental' about this (new) [ ]. Instead, they either move to a halfway point and say 'controversial' or depart to a greater distance and question whether this '[ ]' is [ ] at all.
-John Cage, Experimental [Music], 1957

permanence is not experimental
- Billy Klüver

“If an artwork represents the already known it voids its own necessity.”
-Peter Gidal, preface to Andy Warhol, Films and Paintings: The Factory Years

olfactoy film: experimental cinema

Once, at a film show in London, at the beginning of the program, I distributed among the rather large audience, small amounts of spearmint and cinnamon, for their aromatic enjoyment. After a few minutes of this activity, someone questioned “What is the meaning of this?”, to which I replied, “From now on, when you smell these, especially together, you will be reminded of what we love: (ex)'periment(al) cinema(-n).”

“…and here the word “experimental” is apt, providing it is understood not as descriptive of an act to be later judged in terms of success or failure, but simply as of an act the outcome of which is unknown or not foreseen.”
-John Cage

“The relationship between art & technology should be experimental & intuitive, in the same sense that scientific research is….”
-Billy Klüver, 1966

Actualized paracinemA [Nº 8]

Open Sesame a mediamystic collaboration performed with Jeanne Liotta & BE in 1989. The live version was a dynamic shadowplay performed at the old Gas Station, an art space converted from an actual pump station garage and lot-home to metal sculptors and an illegal bar at the corner of the most notorious drug intersection in the East Village. When we raised the metal gate, the opening to the cave-like interior was fitted with a screen made of fabric behind which we enacted a ritual shadowplay in 7 hieroglyphic movements, as two creatures, minotaur and sphinx, telegraphing their actions, in conflict, creation, communication and with the urge to liberate, wove through the riddles of the LAByrinth. We used slides, film, a strobe, flashlight, spotlight and welding torch light (the latter produced a kind of x-ray effect with our bodies). A recorded soundtrack of insects, birds, machines, weather, gunfire, piercing screeches and creaking sea vessels matched each section. The shadows created 3-D effects with moving foliage, pouring colored liquids, tinted smoke, glass beakers, a plexi window pane, translucent masks, a spinning cage and diaphanous costumes. At the finale, we destroyed the illusion by cutting open the screen and exiting through the slit into a labyrinth constructed on the ground in the space between the scrim and the audience, where our actions continued in full view….

Actualized paracinemA [Nº 9]

Luminous Space a kinoSonik performance based multiple-projection expanded cinema work, developed from a composition for 7 projectors and a live sound mix for 3 players. Its overall composition was built on a structure of 3 movements, much like a symphony (of light), scored with a prelude, 2 interludes and a coda. The layering was based on themes and concepts that include the investigation, exploration and experience of cosmology and space travel, as well as the aesthetics of rhythm, color, shape, duration, texture, contrast and movement. These forms interlaced through qualities of transparency, density and opacity as well as idea and subject. The work was structured as a journey from sun worship to scientific investigation to planetary exploration and space travel, with both utopian and dystopian implications. This scored composition was performed once only, using 35 mm film loops, 16mm film (original and found materials), extended edited sequences, inserts and loops, video sequences (as a base canvas for rhythmic accent and tonal coloring), live digital camera feed and slides as a focal point or stationery grounding. These source images were further manipulated through the use of special lenses, gels, and filters. The audio elements included live and pre-mixed cassette tapes, CD's and optical film soundtracks ranging from electronic sound, pulse, spoken text, musique concréte and samples of classical music, and music from horror films and science documentaries. An essential element of this realization was conceiving of the projection booth as an instrument, as both technical nexus and space capsule. This one-time-only performance took place on March 7, 2003 at Anthology Film Archives. The total running time was 33 and 1/3 minutes.

Specula(tive) film/imaginary cinema(s) [fig. 4]

3 operations of optics
screen was made of metal, copper.
the film was a projection of liquids:
tears, rain, stream & sweat. this montage,
this frottage. collision of elements,
caused rust to form before the eyes.

a second screen made of glass or mirror.
projection, a series of sediments: dust,
soot, magnetic filings. producing ghosts,
shadows, hieroglyphs of shifting sands.

third screen was night sky. projection
was clear jewels & internal organs: uncut
diamonds, eyes, crystallized; veins of ice.
they formed moving constellations, a
thousand points of opiated light.

[2 or 3 screens I know about…]

A spectrum of my own two and three projector works,
or double & triple screen films: some layered, superimposed, refracted;
others complementary, simultaneous, contradictory.
Expanded cinema& ephemeral performances, including both fixed & precise
and accidental & improvised compositions.
paired, echo, split, & dual;
tri-sected, 3-way, trilogy, & trine;
doppelgänger, binocular, mirrored, & twin;
triptych, third eye, mirage a trois.

“It possesses a portion of the essence of the sun.
The whole ceremony pivots about the ritual of
the omelette: 2 eggs or 3, 2 suns, 2 eyes or more…
reverberations, juxtapositions, prismatic ghosts.
The splintered gaze rhymes images across parallel thought,
panoramic shadows & poly-rhythms.”
-Bataille + Eros


“The mystery of cosmology is consummated in the harvest of its fruits”'

Ocula is a trilogy of subterranean science films, each fabricated from exploratory and observational footage. This imagery, whether microscopic, telescopic, laboratory, or nature, is re-configured into a dream language of re-enchantment and mystery.

The first and third works, spidery and Deliquescence, are subtle performative films, examples of ephemeral cinema, that emphasize the unfixed essence of the medium, both in terms of the fragility of the plastic and chemical materials, and the fleeting, always changing nature of the moving image. They use variable speed projectors, scored and often improvised film, both original and found footage, and are presented as live performances that are always different and unique.

Aurora Borealis, the middle work, treats the laboratory as a theater of metamorphosis, a magic show for staging transformations, with technicians as prestidigitators, performing conjuring and vanishing acts on elemental materials of solid-liquid-gas, using prisms, crystals, dyes to invoke the phantasmagoric and the sublime.

Confusions of scale, where the microscopic is analogous to the astrologic, and vice versa, provoke the latent force of displacement and imaginative disorientation in these seemingly hallucinatory parallel universes. Nebula or protozoa? Galaxy or cell? These sci-fi landscapes compel a fantastic voyage to distant, perhaps, infinitesimally inner, spaces.

Created primarily from found footage acquired from a Texas school library, Aurora Borealis is an homage to two lyric surrealists of the cinematic collage, Joseph Cornell and Jean Painlevé. To Cornell, in his irrepressible wonder at the marvelous made manifest in the mundane, where common objects reclaim their mystery through subtle juxtapositions and revelatory tangents. And to Painlevé, in his own subaquatic science of marine biology turned wonderland and his poetic junctions of the subversive and the submerged.

From the collection of detritus to the construction of oneiric and obsessive templates, I composed this film through a process of subtraction of the original expository devices, and the insertion of unexpected diversions and creatures - the caterpillar's slothful opacity, the jellyfish's phantom transparency and the sudden terror of the octopus' whiplash emergence - excavating nocturnal associations and triggering the uncanny perception of hidden worlds within worlds.

A re-enchantment of the basic elements, through the hypnotic build of Messiaen's Turangalîla-symphonie fragment 'The Garden of Love's Sleep' - appropriate to this amorous dream of flora and fauna - with the eerie quiver of the ondes martenot's electronic sounds creating a utopian gothic, where the invisible spectrum masks a fierce and powerful universe of decay and regeneration, hidden in the dark matter, but finally eclipsed and unveiled via the instruments and apparatus seemingly more alchemical than clinical.

Functioning as prologue and epilogue, or initiation and extrication, to the more elaborate centerpiece of the trilogy, both Deliquescence and spidery display a more singular focus, next to the myriad associative links of Aurora Borealis. Both use watery templates to create aquatic environments that emphasize the liquidity of projected light. Deliquescence employs a hand-manipulated external glass lens, plus violet and rose-tinted gels, and strategic hand-masking to interlace the figures in a sexual mélange, amplifying the sensuality of the erotic coupling co-mingled with the amorphous undulations of the marine flowers. For spidery, mixing original shot material with colored filters, shown through a prism of water and cut crystal, to elongate and splinter the angular animal grace of the arachnidan limbs and elegant web, giving the appearance of a spider trapped in a microscopic pool or suspended within the actual projector lens. The music box soundtrack of Stockhausen's Zodiac rhymes the anthropomorphic notion of the plucked web as a sensitive stringed instrument.

All of these illusory hieroglyphs of marvelous creatures, human and other, in their aquatic ambience, are bent through the play of anamorphics, curved optics and refraction devices, extending beyond the normal screen space. These surrogate lenses, extending the ancient, pre-cinematic, proto-scopic, explorations of the water lens for magnification, and my own earlier experiments in bended light, projecting through whiskey and wine, to produce 'drunken' distortions and 'intoxicated' refractions.

Manipulated in plain sight, these chamber pieces form a delicate kind of expanded cinema, a magic lantern performance from inside the camera obscura, demonstrating the workings of the cinematic apparatus manually, externalizing the flicker, the frame and the lens.

In composing these works, I tried to harness some of the chaos of the wilder, improvised multi-projection expanded cinema performances I've done over the years and more recently with Ocularis' kinoSonik group. These open experiments often serve as a laboratory process, revealing methods, techniques and image juxtapositions that seem to drift in and out of focus, discovering momentary gems and often brilliant fragments subsumed in the miasma of the night's phantasmagoria. Here I wanted to intensify specific overlays that fused and resonated, drawing out the subtle confluences, minute synchronicities and rhythmic shapes into a more controlled, intimate cinema.

Over the years, my film work has oscillated between dynamic expansive collage and more subtle, single or paired, 'contracted' image compositions. With Ocula, the trilogy forms a structure of simple/complex/simple, or live/fixed/live, allowing for manipulations and variations played off the 'haiku-like' opening and closing movements, the 'symbiotic duets for liquid lens'. The middle work, though set in its edit structure, is altered in projection by the use of an anamorphic lens, distorting its rectangular frame, abnormalizing perspective, and questioning the limitations of any single interpretation. It is an extended composition, both abstract and concrete, full of analogs and metaphors, linking thought processes, emotional states, and spiritual meditations to the workings of weather & atmosphere, the elements, micro-organisms & cosmic phenomena, plants & animals, gravity & light.

The three connect to one another as an integration of science & poetry, and a model of consciousness that meditates on the wonders of the natural world, as mediated by the technologies that investigate their function and beauty. Both critique and exaltation, question and revelation, these films fit into my body of work as extensions of my explorations of the sources: the erotic, when the physical medium is fluid, and interlaced with regenerative power;.the material, when matter demands its presence, and we realize the temporality of physical existence; the subversive, when you go under the radar to overthrow the value of repressive power; the mystic, when the illusion has no power over being; and the ephemeral, a concept essential to my perception of cinema's true nature.

Ephemeral Cinema

“a fixed image is the basic mortality error”
-William S. Burroughs

Consciousness demanded cinema. This technology is an extension of the mind's awareness. But not of the preservation drive. That was archaic impulse. A tired concept shuttering itself from the inevitable. The mind that created moving visual thinking was cognizant of its mortality. It wanted to create a dialogue with existence, recognizing death and transformation. Consider this the mystic cinema: motion. change. illusion. belief. These are the true subjects of film. Appearance. disappearance. transience. The haunting of the image & its fragile trace. A radically counter, parallel path of cinema: not memory, record or preservation, nor story, history, or narrative, but the living object, aging skin, and decaying body of the material. The unique form that admits its changes. Its scars & discolorations, its degeneration and eventually, its death. But this ephemerality is alive and trembling. It is the phenomenal present. A medium more analogous to human consciousness than we often realize. More responsive to change and reflexive thinking processes. Fugitive and unpredictable. Closer to the uncertainty principle that acknowledges our transitory existence --but with joy--not mournful Egyptology with its investment in a resurrection machine promising eternal false hope. Ephemeral cinema is the flicker of the breathing moment. An expanded cinema that experiences light as a tangible medium, palpable & rejuvenating.

It began with flickering light. All these experiences in the pre-history of technology: Pure phenomena of smoke & fire. Shadows through the fog. The flash of heat lightning and its aftereffects. Or sunlight beaming through moving foliage. The original dreamachine. Reflections from rippling water. Or mirrored in unstable liquid surfaces.

“What I love is the beauty of contradictions.”
-Jean Genet

This begat a consciousness of nature's trickery & perception of its slippery ways. The goddess of accident flirting & teasing with the puck of curiosity. And serious meditation on all the elusive lightplay of the universe: star patterns & meteor showers. Constellations & galaxies. Eclipses & moon phases. Rainbows & solar shifts. Perception and imagination often work in tandem. Not to mention, mirages, hallucinations & hypnagogic visions. And always the sky. The aurora borealis. The metaphysics of ephemera.

This vast perception, in the pre-history of the science of optics and chemistry, before lenses, before cameras, before the fixation on a translucent permanence. Ice crystals & animal membranes. Insect wings & mica. Silhouettes & shadowplays. When kept alive, this perception revolutionizes our conception of the cinema.

“…that splinter of intelligence is substance.
The fire and water themselves:
Accidental, done with mirrors.”

Perhaps, this ephemeral cinema is best experienced as a performative act, where machine and human unveil the operations of optics and mechanics, where the apparatus, material, and manipulations are revealed, standing naked in the chamber of projection, a camera obscura turned inside out, demonstrating the workings and its effects as a magic lantern show with all of the wires and gears exposed. The sleight of hand & trick of the eye examined and scrutinized for the beauty of its possibility, its knowledge explicated, and its reflective vitality celebrated. Its inner workings, proof of the science of sublime insight. Teach the petrified forms to dance by singing them their own song, says Marx. This is us-- and our cinematic prosthesis, reinventing perceptions: lens, shutter, iris / pupil, retina, cornea / flicker & blink. Our sacred technology revealing to us the marvels of our making.

“The history of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living.”
-Karl Marx

Another consciousness desires the stopping of time.The freezing of memory. For it, the appeal of cinema lies in the fear of death. But, nonetheless, every photograph shows us death at work. That which changes reflected in the mirror of our own face. But for most, it doesn't halt the irrepressible urge for a vampire cinema that subscribes to the idea of an infinitely renewable corpse: a cryonic print from the sepulchral, vaulted negative, as eternal as the reborn in heaven. A delusion of the mummy.

No, the true cinema is the living cinema. The cinema of human consciousness that lives as we live and dies as we die. Created from the reflective mind that embraces all change, celebrates accident, believes in chance, nurses wounds, and fears neither death nor decay. This cinema sees the beauty in time. The grace in process. The impossibility of fixing. The material projection is an act of liberation when film is thought of as a medium the way our very existence is a medium. This is ephemeral cinema, what we taught ourselves about being.

The Unanswered Question?

Expanded cinema is an open question: Beyond what possibility did you imagine? With fiber optics in your veins, computer chips in your retina, digital in place of your digits, or an evocation of the dual terms of consciousness that allows for analytical reflection and the drift of experience. Expanded between the mechanism and its effect. The apparatus and its illusion. “Like a patient etherized upon a table” and, at the same time, fully conscious of the theater of operations, a cinema comes into being as a 'form that thinks' constantly re-inventing itself as a neurophysiological, image-restructuring, sonic-synaptic system.

As if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen.”
-T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (1917)

“The true cinema is that which we cannot see.”
-Jean-Luc Godard, Historie(s) du cinema

“Real cinema does not yet exist. It is in a state of becoming. It is potential.”
-Saint-Pol-Roux, Cinéma vivant

haiku aphorism
is. film'

“The eye stops at the screen. It is sheer fantasy to suppose that the mind can be equally obliging.”
-Sidney Peterson, The Dark of the Screen

“Art should raise questions.”
-Bruce Nauman

I tried to create a atext written in the form of its subject - a kinetic compostition - moving like thought across the page, as light moves across the screen...& beyond. A polymorphous projection in all dimensions...

“The eye sleeps until the mind wakes it with a question.”
-Arabian Proverb