Orphans 9 Film Symposium









Amsterdam March 31st – April 3rd 2014


The future of Cinema may well look like the EYE in Amsterdam. All windows, views, vistas, angles, exploded shapes, discovery, a perfect staging of Cinema and Architecture.

Once in Cinema 1 though its clear that the basic same arrangement is the same wherever we are;  screen, rake, projected images.


I’m here at the 9th Orphans Film Symposium. A meeting of film archivists, artists and technicians, historians, philosophers and preservationists. Orphans events up til now have all been held in north America  and that’s because they grew out of the activity of various departments and people at the University of South Carolina. This Orphans is the first one in Europe. The theme this year is :

The Future of Obsolescence

The event begins on the Sunday with a screening of East is West, 1922. Fully restored and presented digitally in 4K (more later on watching [old] film material presented this way) the screening was accompanied musically by Stephen Horne who was on hand during the whole event and did a great job playing along to just about everything.


The main symposium starts on Monday the following day at 9:45 with introductions by Dan Streible [NYU] , Giovanna Fossati [EYE] and others. There is a screening of a short news clip ‘Jospehine Baker Visits Volendam’ from 1928 which becomes a typical offering of the event, moving image material presented that has been forgotten, abandoned or neglected but that shows great history, meaning and value in any field of study.


Thomas Elsaesser presents a talk on Obsolescence that was impossible to take notes to. Read his books and you can get an idea of his areas of specialty.

After a break there are a series of talks with screenings. Giovanna Fossati presents 2 clips of ‘A Pretty Dutch Town’. One a fully digital, cleaned, restored version that impresses most people. The second one a photochemical restoration of the same film, presented on film. The difference is marked. The original clip  had been hand coloured with stencils and in the digital version this process achieves a kind of ‘modernisation’ where the process is perfected, hidden, realised. In the celluloid version, besides the obvious grain and more contrasty image the actual stencil process is evident by the clear areas that are coloured.

Simona Monizza [EYE] presents a very interesting project about how electronic, or code based moving image work by the late Bart Vegter needed to be reassembled from obsolete hard drives and computer programs thus demonstrating the increased need to approach ALL media forms from the perspective of restoration and preservation.

After lunch there is a performance presented by various people from University of Groningen and Luxembourg and Maastricht called ‘Staging The Amateur Dispositif’ wherin various decades and eras of family home movie usage are humorously staged by an assortment of amateur players [drawn from the symposiums atteendees by the looks of it].

The later afternoon session sees presentation about lost leaders by Matt Soar. A talk by Benedict Olgada and Bill Brand about the restoration of ‘Tabula Rasa’ by the enigmatic Henry Francia 1968 and a colourful and hilariously surreal performance by Walter Forsberg and John Klacsmann from Anthology Film Archives where they do an improv noise soundtrack over one reel of a misregistered  technicolour western where colour layers are out of synch producing a psychedelic blurry ghosting.



After dinner everyone returns to have the treat of seeing a large table on stage full of some pieces from Werner Nekes amazing early cinema collection with optical curiosities and  toys. He is the Orphan9 recipient of the Helen Hill award and receives the award from Jodie Mack and Becky Lewis humbly.



Bill Morrison shows some beautiful super8 footage from  a train ride in South America and Doug Goodwin [CAL Arts] shows a film about Ted Serios and Thoughtography.

After Werner had talked and toured  everyone through some of the collection there was a screening of his early experimental film ‘Start’ 1966
restored from 16mm and presented digitally.


In the morning we are treated to an amazing piece of footage. Scanned from its original 35mm,  a film called ‘Radio Bonfire’ can only promise something quite spectacularly peculiar and unbelievable. The sheen of its restored black and white and the sharpness and gritty aura of its analogue soundtrack all add up to something so good that one could almost imagine that it is a restaging, an Artists performance event. No, its a Fox-Movietone news reel from 19?? that shows exactly what it says on the tin.  We see a  big pile of old valve radio sets and a gathering crowd of people as more sets are unloaded off a van onto the am Mountain. A cluster of kids sit around one and discovering that it  works  talk  about  taking it home.

Then a burning rag appears and torches the whole lot! The crowd cheers and wails as the crackle and imploding furnace of radio electrics rages on into the night. If only they realised that each set would be worth hundreds of dollars today!

Perhaps one idea how to approach obsolete media??




This mornings proceedings kick off with a talk about Metadata by Mark G Cooper from U of South Carolina. This is interesting and dense and
there are many useful initiatives going on to help link Cinema related data together like the excellent Cinema Context and the US based Going To The Show.

Another thing interesting here is an example of ‘edge to edge’ scanning of film elements in order to reveal meta-data that is evident on parts of the film strip typically not visible during/on projection.


Karen Cariani from WGBH Archive presents a talk about obsolescence in tape formats and shows the kinds of material available on pre-broadcast recordings that never made air time due to limited scheduling and strict editorial.



Mark j. Williams from Dartmouth College finishes with another dense,  database, meta-data driven talk/demo about the Media Ecology Project that seeks to provide more and better scholarly access to historical media.


After a welcome break we return to hear Bill Morrison talking about a piece of Fox-Movietone film from 1928, Egyptian Dancers (Whirling Dervishes) that he has used in his films.


This leads into a lively show by Evan Meany about his residency at a nuclear research facility. He talked about  Bit Rot and Gravity Wells which ultimately effect the loss of electrons that constitute data and data storage. Addressing the idea and notion of obsolescence and preservation he and a team at the Oak Ridge facility developed a project called  ‘Big Sleep’ where material digitised as data have an infinite storage life but the condition is that it can never be accessed again. Ever!

Heidi Rae Cooley then gives a presentation about a project that uses GPS and image tagging to create a distributed network of pictures labelled ‘Augustus’ after an amateur photographer in the 1950s who was obsessed with the word ‘Augustus’, the name of his home town and who travelled the land photographing anything called Augustus. see  Augustus App



To DO:

After lunch (provided by EYE and the symposium, many thanks) we come back to an afternoon programme of films and talks about amateur films and workshops from the Eastern Bloc.

The Film Studio of Ironworks Eisenhuttenstadt were amazingly well organised being equipped with film stock, cameras and other facilties by the state.

Useful Humour and satire under socialism

Czech anti-war shorts.

Soviet amateurs and the trip to Canada.


Transport and Technologies.

May Hadoung AFA. Aloha Wonderwell. To See The World By car. 1935-1937

Hans Richter

Paul Spehr and MPM, Biograph 68mm films.


Jeff Lambert (NFPF)

Ned Thanhouser introduces Clarence Cheats At Croquet.

Bert Williams – Darktown Troubles

Jacqueline Stewart (Uof Chicago) introduces A Frontier Post, Fox Varieties 1925





















Light Show table of junk

Heres the light show as we ended up setting it up. On several tables infront of the stage, effectively as the front row. Operating the OHPs meant standing up and this probably caused some obstruction to visibility for some of the audience. At the bottom left of the picture is the 16mm modified to hand cranked which featured in the track known as ‘Environments’ alongside James manipulation of acid soaked slides through various glass lenses, prisms and mirrored devices.



Half way house

Holding up in woodbridge at the half way mark for the tour. Its been impossible to blog because of time restraints, internet scarcity and mammoth workload and show schedule.

I can offer here but a mere sample of this tour in photo form. Its been an amazing journey so far, mentally, emotionally, phsyically, creatively. Erica, Matt and Tall have been awesome.




Preparations for tour

Here are some images of stuff in studio in preparation for the MV / EE tour which we start next week. I will be posting blogs for each show hopefully.

Our basic set-up consists of 4 x kodak 35mm slide projectors on dimmers, 2 Epidiascopes using various lights/lamps as projections, a prism beam splitter and prism (in reverse), 2 OHP projectors using various water trays & foil effects, 16mm projectors both hand cranked and on dimmers, special ACID slide machines and various light and shadow mechanisms.

Shooting on the Bolex

Here are some frame grabs from Esther Campbells film working of a James Blackshaw track. Was shot on an Arri for first 2 days, then I used a Bolex on the last day. I will post a link to the finished piece when its available. Really happy with the results especially this shot where we crane down from high in the trees, using Talls great heath-robinson crane following Esthers mum, shot at 64fps. The footage was telecined off the neg and its a shame we couldnt see a transfer of print stock.


Cinema Nova and Kino Climates

Recently went to Cinema Nova in Bruxells. Been waiting to see this place for ten years. They were hosting a Kino Climates meeting and it was a great event with lots of meetings, dialogue, screenings and socialising.

The Kino Climates network has great potential. One thing I will be pushing now is proclaiming a ‘CELLULOID’ movement to foreground the deliberate and  explicit use of Film presentation in Cinematic events. In a non-malicious way I want to divide the network in order to first gauge how important this aspect is as a common ground.

Is there a movement towards more Film presentation for instance in organisation playing off digital and electronic formats?

What is the essential meaning in adherence to celluloid as a material for presenting moving image works?





Phantom Walls

The finished installation consisted of Sculptural element, sound playback and low frequency presence.

The darkended room provided an ideal setting and a false wall behind which to install the CD and cross-over electronics as well as the sub bass cabinet and tone machine.

Named ‘Phantom Walls’ after a book by Oliver Lodge, one credited inventor of the moving coil speaker, the looping voice is a recording from 1966 of a medium channeling Oliver Lodge.

The 3 cell horn mounted on the industrial tripod forming the main sculptural part is aimed at a candle at an angle which produces the illusion that the candle is talking. The above recording is infact playing back through the driver and horn.

The bass sine wave produced a tone around 35hz which was selected as it was found to be the basic resonant frequency of the space. Low frequency hums and tones have been associated with reportings of the paranormal and ghosts, etc.

In this environment and throughout the building the bass wavelengths produced some seriously unpleasant focal points and intensity areas.



Exhibition preparation

Im preparing for an exhibition at the Backside Space in the motorcycle showroom. The space is a blackened room with no light. I have been preparing a vintage Vitavox N-series compression driver and a square 3 cell horn and along with a large set of legs for a 35mm camera these will constitute the sculptural parts of the sonic work.

The show is on Friday 23rd March, BacksideBlackHole, 15-19 Stokes Croft. 7pm-10pm.

Travel Film Kit

This is the kit I’m currently carrying with me in Haiti.
I’m here as one of a three people team from the Cube Cinema
forming the current field team for HKKP.

I’m planning on using the free time I have here to document what I can about
the people and places we see, a people struggling to rebuild their lives after
2009s devastating Earthquake.

The kit consists of:
A Nizo Super 8mm, 3 rolls of Ektachrome, 2 rolls of Tri-X, an Olympus PEN 35mm half frame, 2 rolls of Fuji Neopan 100, 2 rolls of Kodak Ektar 100, an Olympus MD90 sound recorder, a lunasix light meter, a Bolex RX4, filters, 3 rolls of 7222 (Double-X).

Alltogether its quite heavy.

The plan for the PEN is to shoot turned, thus giving me an approximate landscape 35mm picture as the PEN is a half frame and affords twice as many shots per roll. These frames will then hopefully be able to be refilmed in the printer the same as rolls of 35mm motion stock.

The sound recorder means recording mediums seperately and this effectively frees each medium from the other.