Orphans 9 Film Symposium

frontier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amsterdam March 31st – April 3rd 2014

IMG_5328

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.

IMG_5701

I’m here at the 9th Orphans Film Symposium. A Biennial  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.

DAY 1

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.

JB2orpans9

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 print of The Ride To Hangmans Tree 1967   where colour layers are out of synch producing a psychedelic blurry ghosting.

Capture

leader09

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.

nekesnekes2prax

 

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.

DAY 2

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??

 

IMG_5356IMG_5357IMG_5358

IMG_5359IMG_5375IMG_5380

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.

IMG_5385

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.

IMG_5388IMG_5423IMG_5413

 

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.

dervishes

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

lead_image

————–

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.

IMG_5459

 

 

 

 

The Film Studio of Ironworks Eisenhuttenstadt were amazingly well organised being equipped with film stock, cameras and other facilties by the state. Archeo-logical stuff 1966 sets out to explore’ permissable ways of using humour and satire to respond to the conditions of state socialism.  The film  looked at the publics widespread use of ‘short cuts’ in navigating the housing area portrayed.

The technique of first seeing footage with most info in the soundtrack (the voices of people being questioned about their use of short cuts reveals alarming degrees of ‘guilt’ at their crime) and then footage of the use of paths by pretty much everyone set to eerie music demonstrates a considered film form designed to highlight the absurd nature of such rules and the adherence (or not) to them.

IMG_5460walks1

 

Some Czech anti-war shorts by contrast where an animated puppet girl looses here ball on the militarised border of some unspecified regimes makes less effort to conceal its possible dissident stance and has the girl, after befriending the soldiers, swinging on the tank barrel and  playing ball with the army. A clear anti-war message.

IMG_5496IMG_5499

 

 

 

 

A session highlight was the 1976 ‘On The Same Earth’ from People’s Film Studio at DK Proftekhobrazovania, Leningrad. A small liner ship sets sail for Canada and the ambassadorial Russian passengers produce a very personal account of what they find. At times melancholic and at others confused and skeptical , the portrait of the ‘West’ uncovers a deeper humanity as they ultimately realise that there is not that much difference between them except ’8000 miles of ocean’.

IMG_5534IMG_5521IMG_5535

The late afternoon session focuses on Transportation Technologies and sees May Haduong from The Academy Film Archive screen some of the reels produced from the 1935-37 To See The World By Car.  The anthology travelogue documents the young Aloha Wanderwell, a canadian born internationalist, adventurer and film maker on her epic car journey in a model T ford (the expedition had 5 in total) .  She was a teenager when she started the adventure which drove through 43 countries and earned her the title ‘The Worlds Most Travelled Girl’.

IMG_5540IMG_5554IMG_5565

Yvonne Zimmerman (Philipps-Universitat Marburg)  talks a bit about the link between the Avant-Garde via Hans Richter and early Cinema in the form of his meeting with George Melies and shows one of his later sponsored films ‘Conquest Of The Sky‘ 1938.

The legendary Paul Spehr and Mark-Paul-Mayer show some great Biograph 68mm films (digitally of course).  That some audiences got to watch these films projected in the 1920s is food for thought as this format offered brighter, less-flickering and much higher resolution moving images than 35mm. It could never enter into a deserved popular use though due to the extra size and technical difficulty of operation.

IMG_5585IMG_5602

 

DINNER

Ron Magliozzi and Peter Williamson of MOMA  present the unreconstructed RUSHES from the never released 1914 ‘Darktown Troubles’ featuring (then) famous actor, comedian and entertainer Bert Williams. Wearing his makeup ‘as if’ a white (he was Black African American) ie like a B/W minstrel he affords himself a unique caricuturisation. Although his performance is understatededly deadpan and masterly. Another interesting layer in this screening though is the nature of seeing rushes where all kinds of on set dynamics can be seen to exist and the overall impression, where each shot is free of its final narrative context, is of a series of unique performances where we are witness to the actors craft, seeing them make adjustments and variations between takes etc.

bert

The final screening here and another standout event  is Jacqueline Stewart’s  (Uof Chicago) presentation of the Fox Varieties 1925 ‘A Frontier Post’. A beautiful, tinted day in the life document about the 9th/10th Cavalry Regiments. Aka the Buffalo Soldiers, the all Black horseback soldiers are seen displaying their equestrian mastery with formation riding, jumping obstacles and the eye catching (symposium logo/graphic) ramp traversing.

frontier

Never screened before this clip embodies many of the Orphanistas project goals  to celebrate the lost, neglected and abandoned.

 

DAY 3

The last day and the morning kicked off with a Screening of Can Can Club’s 2009 animation ‘Teclopolis’, shown by Antonia Lant from NYU to illustrate the playful use of obsolete technologies.

Then Charles Musser gave a good talk about the work of Union Films and screened ‘Industries Disinherited‘ 1949 which attempted to document the plight of retiring workers in the USA at a time of huge industrial expansion, rising living costs and unfair spread of wealth.

industry

Dan Streible playfully presented ‘the most boring 10 minutes ever’ and screened ‘Career Of  A Salesman‘, Columbia Pictures 1951 counter-left propaganda made in response to the success and (potentially) critical basis of Arthur Millers play Death Of A Salesman.

A talk about an EU wide legal framework called FORWARD that is addressing rights assessment of orphan films and all kinds of material sees an animated address by Nicola Mazzanti of Belgium’s Royal Film Archive where he extolls highly the essential aims of FORWARD but threw a good few punches at certain organisations (BBC) who deliberately maintain the status quo in order to maximise their capital control of moving image work that might fall near this kind of area. This wraps the morning session.

After coffee we return to see and hear about various restoration projects.

Rob Byrne from San Francisco Silent Film Festival screens some of  the 1925 film’ The Last Edition‘ that uses real locations and characters to great  scenic authenticity effect.

Martin Koerber (Deutsche Kinemathek) and Andrea Kramer (Hochschule fur Technik und Wirtschaft) present attempted Digital restorations of some short films shot using the Gasparcolour process. As this process was chemically unstable and resulted in a varying colour hue between actual frames (so every frame different) the conclusion was perhaps unsurprisingly that even the highest technical scanning and grading could not reproduce the characteristics of a print screened in a 35mm original.

IMG_5637IMG_5636IMG_5633

After lunch there is a programme dedicated to various Archives in Latin America starting with Juana Suárez (Proimágenes Colombia / Fundación Patrimonio Fílmico Colombiano) Outtakes from Gloria Triana’s Yuruparí (FOCINE-Audiovisuales, 1983-86) documenting Colombia’s Afrodescendant and indigenous cultures.

This is followed by a very interesting series of films from Cine Amateur Argentina that includes the wonderful Perros en paracaidas [Dogs in Parachutes, Gustavo Giró, 1963, that shows an Antarctic field experiment where a group of dogs (German Shephards and Alsations?) are seen being bundled into a plane which moments later flies high above. Then to everyone’s amazement some parachutists descend and we realise they are the dogs, on their own, the owners running to meet and greet them across the snowy field!

After another break there is a whole programme looking at Eastern European Archives including ones from Albania.

A striking series of films are shown by Elzbieta Wysocka from Filmoteca Narodowa (Poland) which presents the work of Antonisz. He made ‘cameraless’ newreels which has a ring of the mad and crazy about it but he also invented a truly remarkable technique for drawing on film using a small pantograph making it possible to draw incredibly smooth flowing shapes and scaled objects.

IMG_5658

Dinner was welcome by this stage and everyone returns for the last session in the symposium.

May Hadoung (AFA) shows ‘Autumn Spectrum’ by Hy Hirsch and Jeff Lambert (NFPF) shows a stroboscopic, whip-panning assault on the spacial senses newly restored (AFA, Mark Toscano I think) 35mm print of James Bennings   Chicago Loop.

Locals Frank Scheffer and Paul Cohen show  ‘Zoetrope People’ 1980/2014 a film they never edited or finished. The film was shot during Zoeptrope Studios rise to failure and they give a good account of the interview with Walter Murch where a faulty camera motor (although I wish they didn’t keep saying ‘weak English’ motor) causes several retakes as Murch talks about a film he is due to direct that is about reincarnation!!

Denis Dores (Milestone Films) and Mary Huelsbeck (Winsconsin Centre for Film and Theatre Research) show some pieces by Shirley Clarke.

Finally Frank Roumen,  Head of the Collection at EYE gives everyone a surprise by announcing that EYE has found a copy Love, Life and Laughter (1923), starring Betty Balfour, a Silent feature on the BFI’s list of the most wanted films. We proceed to watch 20 minutes or so to rapturous applause.

love-life-and-laughter

 

CONCLUSION.

There was so many varied types of materials and projects that it was hard to understand where the boundaries of the category ‘Orphan’ could be located. A lot of principle material was clearly within known and understood copyright holdings. Nevertheless the ‘Adjectival’ function of the term becomes useful when approaching certain kinds of material and works and in this sense I think its a process that should see further engagement especially from Artists and  Exhibitors, the two areas I would say were lacking presence in the overall programme.

Another notable lack was anyone from the UK;  British Film Institute, National Archives, Production Companies etc. There were a few people there as attendees but an understandable quota of presentations were of North American origin. So I wonder how much interest or engagement there is amongst UK organisations and individuals other than ex-students of the MA programmes in moving image preservation (UofA and NYU) seeing as the call out for proposals was presumably wide open. I for one would love to present something at the next one in 2016!

It was genuinely exciting and stimulating to see projects during the work in progress stage and the overall quality of digital and film screenings was excellent. I can easily imagine a package of works to screen at The Cube Cinema or any independent Cinema or any Cinemas who are interested in presenting important moments from Cinema and TV’s lost and forgotten histories. Although without the  context of a whole symposium like this one works may seem too specialised or particular to certain subjects to find general audiences I still think that a new role of Cinema can be found in the participation IN the process of Preservation by screening works on celluloid wherever possible.

This brings us to issue of ‘Heritage’ material where  Digital developments in Cinema may come into their own. Clearly, with the ease of use and relative widespread adoption of DCI standard projection and the development of scanners that can capture to 2, 4 or 8k plus the efficacy of software to ‘clean up’ moving images and the robustness of the DCP screening file all the parts are there to allow exhibition of historic material on a scale never really possible until now. This isn’t a criticism of the overall standard of 35mm before but rather  the fact that prints made for presentation could never enjoy as intense a use as they can now. It remains to be seen how much interest there is from curators, programer and the public in this kind of material.

And its not just 35mm nitrate material that can get wider access as the example of Werner Nekes’ restored 16mm film above show which looked amazing in its digital projected form.

Digital projection at 2 or 4k is a different experience in many ways from film.  The whole picture is rock steady, there is no discernible flicker, the image has no material trace, something does happen to grain and colour does appear characterless in its  mathematical flatness.

A lot of the time it was like seeing film on a stretcher. Meaning it was like seeing film carried by an invisible scaffold. The film image, after the  processing of removal of material trace (so in a way film in its model form, its unsullied original) begins to actually look like something else. A simulation, an academic comparative exercise. Its feels from this that the future of film is in its AFTERLIFE in the hands and ideas of Artists, Artisans and anyone who favours working with their hands, outside the dominant and domineering functions of computers, who one day will face their own version of obsolescence.

 

Here are some links to other reports about the Symposium

Ian Francis, Sight and Sound.

Julian Ross, Desist Film Blog.

Orphans Film Symposium blog.

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

‘Phantom Walls’ was the title of a piece of work I made for the gallery space run as part of my old studio building on Lower Stokes Croft.

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

The darkened 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 in fact 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.

Several cancellation spots resulted from this set-up. The most auspicious being between the candle and speaker. If you walked around the space the bass fills the room and the voice recording appears to be coming from the candle.

When you find yourself standing between the speaker and candle and thus learn that the source is in fact the speaker as you are now proximate enough to hear it directly something else also happens.

The bass tone is cancelled out and becomes significantly quieter. As if a moment of lucidity also produced calm and peace.

 

 

 

 

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.