As I have made a few site-specific installations over the years, i.e., works shot and projected in the same space, sometimes onto the exact same part of the space, as, most recently, at the Whitstable Biennale 2016, I thought I would post an essay I wrote for the catalogue for a show at University of Westminster in 2004, curated by Steve Littman and the late great Jackie Hatfield.
My new four-projector 16mm film loop performance, Quadrants, was premiered at the wonderful S8 Periferico Festival in A Coruña, Galicia, Spain, on Saturday 4th of June, 2016. Thanks to Elena Duque, Àngel Rueda and others for inviting and hosting me. Below is the text of the essay I wrote for the festival blog, along with some photos from the performance and at the bottom of the page a link to a short film of the day, which includes some shots of my performance.
Quadrants is the third in a series of occasional four-projector loop works. The first one, 4 X LOOPS (1974) arose out of work I was making using Standard / Regular 8 film, which when projected in its original 16mm width, before it is split into two 8mm lengths, yields four 8mm frames within a single 16mm frame.
The next step seemed to be to make four independent image sequences, hence the need for four projectors. 4 X LOOPS was the result. It was shown at the Festival of Expanded Cinema at the ICA, London, in January 1976. However, I felt I’d reached a dead end with this way of working, and didn’t make another such piece until 2012, when I was invited to EXIS festival in Seoul. Rings was made especially for that event. Like 4 X LOOPS, it also has a structure of four identical short loops that generate a repeating one second long pattern of twelve two-frame ‘shots’. (According to Werner Nekes’ theory of the kine, a shot must have a minimum of two frames). In both Quadrants and Rings, I am partly interested in an image rate of twelve per second, just around critical flicker fusion rate. Thus the work aims to revisit some of the basic conditions and principles of filmmaking and viewing, partly in order to engage with the way our physiological responses consistently override what we know to be the case, and to try in some way to foreground and explore these strong effects, which are comparable to the way one’s body involuntarily reacts when stepping onto a non-moving escalator.
Both Rings and Quadrants present a kind of quasi-movement, visibly made of discrete, static images that nevertheless generate apparent movement. This principle is derived from the way a lot of Christmas lights work, whereby a string of bulbs switch off one by one in turn, creating a move along the line.
Quadrants has an almost identical structure to Rings: four identical loops, each of four two-frame shots that repeat, thus an eight frame (1/3rd of a second) unit. As with Rings, the projector arrangement is fluid. Following 4 X LOOPS, which has a number of precise projector positions, I tried to do the same for Rings, but discovered that the in-between positions were often more interesting than the planned, set positions, so Rings is much more improvised than 4 X LOOPS. Quadrants will sit somewhere between the two. I like the fact that the film image in itself is fixed, but when presented in a performance situation in which projectors are re-aligned and the images superimposed in various ways, a unique experience, in some ways the antithesis of film, is created. The lack of synchronisation between the projectors generates unexpected conjunctions and interactions between the loops, whether superimposed or adjacent to each other, recalling in some respects Steve Reich’s early phase pattern compositions. Potentially, flicker rates of higher than 24fps are also possible.
In each of the three four projector works the form of movement is very different: a regular flashing on and off in 4 X LOOPS, a linear, serpentine movement in Rings and a simple rotation in Quadrants. In all three, though, the frame-by-frame fact of film is inscribed in the structures, and is reinforced by the whir of the projectors in the room. The repositioning of the projectors complicates and reveals, generates and dissolves the basic patterns of frames in motion.