A rare screening of some of Pat O’Neill’s short films, followed by Water and Power (1989), his masterpiece on the industrialization and desertification around Los Angeles. Pat O’Neill (1939, Los Angeles) will be present this evening to reflect on his remarkable oeuvre, a selection of which is presented by EYE.
Pat O’Neill’s rarely screened masterpiece Water and Power (1989) is a technological feat on the terrifying desert created by Los Angeles’ enormous water consumption. O’Neill focused intently on the industry that sprang up around Los Angeles, ‘the city that changed land into desert’, which he filmed with the use of time-lapse photography and optical printing and animation. In this way he managed to expose the inexorable conflict between industry and nature.
O’Neill conceived the film partly in response to Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi (1983), a hypnotic compilation of touristy landscapes showing a world out of balance. By contrast, O’Neill created images full of internal contradictions. Footage of Owens Valley Desert dissolving into footage of Los Angeles by night serves to highlight cause and effect: the city was only able to flourish by devouring the land. Using time lapse to make weather changes visible, O’Neill renders people as fleeting shadows. Although we are capable of altering the landscape beyond recognition, he also shows our vulnerability, and the frailty of human life on a geological scale.
Water and Power is preceded by a selection of O’Neill’s work from various periods:
– Extra Wander: For Chickie (2016) (7′, HD digital video, loop)
– Trouble in the Image (1996) (37′, 1 channel 35mm)
– Runs Good (1970) (15′, 1 channel 16mm)
– 7362 (1967) (9′, 1 channel 16mm)
Programme in English, with a break.
All images are courtesy Cherry and Martin, Los Angeles.