This program, curated and presented by Mark Toscano of the Academy Film Archive (Los Angeles), offers a selection of artists’ films which proposes the idea of what could be called an experimental home movie. These are not “home movies” in the usual sense of the term. But the home movie impulse, to record and share a subjective depiction of the photographer’s life, experiences, memories, and desires is vividly at work in these films. These artists have infused and dimensionalized a home movie perspective with various interventions into the film material, to create a powerful and artful evocation of experience and memory.
Experimental filmmakers have for many decades explored the materiality of film as a rich source of expression and meaning in their work, connecting ideas of form and content into an inextricable whole. At their least interesting, films engaged with their own materiality can be fetishistic, indulgent, and no more than decorative. But at their most interesting, they can work in profound and complex interaction with an artist’s vision to create works that employ the physical qualities of the medium itself as a crucial and expressive component in the film’s meaning.
Chick Strand’s Anselmo (1967) re-enacts the giving of a gift as an ecstatic, impressionistic celebration through original and found footage, multiple film stocks, and kaleidoscopic editing. Scott Stark’s Back in the Saddle Again (1997) simply and fascinatingly recreates for the audience the artist’s own experience of encountering a home movie from the mid-1940s like a message in a bottle.
Nazlı Dinçel employs incredibly elaborate hand-scratched texts and even sews the film strip with fishing line in Solitary Acts #5 (2015), allowing youthful memories and desires to confuse and intermingle in a virtuosic, sensual reverie.
John Price expresses the emotional and physical intensity, not to mention the profundity, of childbirth in his Naissance #2 (2013), a rapturous collage of hand-processed and manipulated film stocks which exists as a one-of-a-kind film object, suggesting a connection with the delicacy and ephemerality of existence.
Finally, J.J. Murphy’s Print Generation (1974) is a structuralist film masterpiece, in which a complex and affecting metaphor for memory, experience, and loss unfolds as we watch one minute of personal memories travel across 50 film printing generations, the images emerging from abstraction to clarity before they dissolve again to oblivion.
Films in the screening:
Chick Strand, 1967, 16mm, sound, 4′
Back in the Saddle Again
Scott Stark, 1997, 16mm, sound 8′
Solitary Acts #5
Nazlı Dinçel, 2015, 16mm, sound, 5’30”
John Price, 2012, 35mm, silent, 10′
JJ Murphy, 1974, 16mm, sound, 50′
Anselmo, Back in the Saddle Again, and Print Generation were restored by and are courtesy of the Academy Film Archive and the artists. Solitary Acts #5 courtesy of Nazlı Dinçel. Naissance #2 courtesy of John Price.