Sunday, December 21, 2008

Monday, October 06, 2008

Expanded Browser Cinema

Here is a cut-up waterwork. Entitled Diced & Sliced. It is an expanded browser version of Row Row. Just how the piece looks and sounds depends on your browser, the speed of your broadband connection, amount of RAM and the general state of your computer. Its different on every set up and slightly different every time you load it.

If you are on a Mac use Safari, Firefox loads movie files in a different odd way that privileges one file over the others and here the browser is showing 16 movies at the same time. Also tested on a PC with IE where it seems to work fine.

If you feel so inclined you can stop and start any slice by clicking and double clicking. Reloading the page will also shake things up. Now and then your browser may crash. Diced & Sliced

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

About Turn – Tate Modern

When Tate Modern opened it decided to eschew the accepted narrative of chronological isms pioneered by Alfred Barr at MOMA in favour of thematic hanging designed to create interesting and new juxtapositions between artists who would normally inhabit different parts of the museum.

Arguably such a strategy has been a success with many major galleries worldwide adopting a similar approach and of course the ever-increasing visitor numbers would suggest that the public if not applauding the hanging policy are not staying away.

This morning on a visit to the Tate, I was struck by what random attractions the thematic Tate now offers. Re-hung many time since it opened I found myself on level 5 in States of Flux. A space “devoted to the early twentieth-century movements Cubism, Futurism and Vorticism”.

Ok so far so good but what do we get at the entrance to Sates of Flux but a Lichtenstein namely Whaam!. Hang on we must have taken a wrong turn and be in Pop Art? Ah but read on “Cubist innovations such as collage were central to the emergence of Pop Art which combined high and low culture, art and commerce into forceful, celebratory and sometimes critical visions of the post-war consumer era“. Well yes in a way, but this a possibly tentative connection and one, which is not really so robust on close scrutiny.

Elsewhere in States of Flux we find a room with a projection by Jonas Mekas, some Fluxus works (In a Sate of Flux(us) get it?), an After Impressionism room, a Pop Art room and so on. In other words it is a little all other place. Perhaps consequently so is the audience. The more informed can perhaps try to put the pieces of this tentative jigsaw together but most seemed happy to walk very quickly from room to room looking for the next attraction. Few if any were stopping to ponder or contemplate instead they wandered in and out of the rooms at speed looking pleasantly bewildered.

Part of me feels that this re-hang approach should be applauded; that to break away from the conveyor belt of art history is in many ways a positive thing. Certainly its nice to see something like a Mekas given the same weight and space as a Picasso. Too often though the thematic Tate Modern does not suggest a major reappraisal of art history or a studied re-valuation of works by lesser known artists it is all a little too tentative in its connections a little too pix and mix for that.  

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Voice Box

Tune in this coming Friday the first of August at 5.30 to Resonance FM and the Sound Projector radio show for 1 hour 30 minutes of Voice Box; a montage of spoken word ill matched and yet perfectly set to music and/or vice versa. All selections by Ed Pinsent and Philip Sanderson.

Update on August 6th: a full track listing is now up on the sound Projector site.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Multi Faceted Cinema

When musing a couple of weeks back about Le Grice I began looking at the painterly aspect of such practice. Cautious as one is about the term painterly there is definitely something in Le Grice’s work which is reminiscent of forms of depiction associated with early 20th century oil on canvas practice and in particular cubism.

In Le Grice's a Lecture to an Academy (10 min, video, 2005), different passages from a lecture by Peter Gidal in Karlstad Sweden are mixed together so as to create a multi faceted representation of the talk. The more usual cinematic and sequential nature of depicted time and space are replaced by a simultaneity of perspectives.

Its easy to see how both conceptually and visually this relates to cubism. The difference of course is the factor of time; on a basic level Le Grice’s piece is time based and a cubist painting is static. However an element of cubist painting was that not only does it present a complexity of viewpoints upon the subjects but also that these viewpoints are also an expression of a disrupted and fragmented time frame. These time frames are effectively unlocked by the viewer as their eye moves across the painting reading the painting. In other words the cubist painting is essentially a distilled time based piece. The idea of compressed time in a painting is of course not unique to cubism indeed the very trajectory of painting up to modernism was associated with narrative and the “telling” of biblical, mythological or everyday stories. The difference with cubism is that there is no order or sequence to the timing, and no story to unfold or read. This avoidance of narrative is a central value of Le Grice and other materialist filmmakers practice.

So we could say Le Grice is pursuing and expanding upon representational and depictive problems or issues first encountered some hundred years previously. Bald as such a statement might be there probably is some truth to the notion that a great deal of experimental film practice did indeed struggle with problems that their predecessors had grappled with on canvas. One could ponder for example Brackhage’s preoccupation with Turner and so on. Productive as such a comparison might be perhaps there is something potentially more interesting going on if we were to look at the relationship of cubism to early cinema.

Pablo Picasso. Woman in a Chair, 1910

In an exhibition last year entitled Picasso, Braque and Early Film in Cubism at the PaceWildenstein gallery in New York the influence of early film on cubism was explored. Alongside visiting the cinema being part of the cultural backdrop that informed cubism more arrestingly the exhibition investigated the idea that “the two artists were just as taken by film’s processes, its camera angles, lighting, shadow patterns, fades and dissolves, and editing techniques, especially time lapses and overlaps that followed the principles of segmentation, division, and alternation to create a unique pattern of scanning within the frame” (extract from press release).

The argument that cubism was effectively responding to cinema’s depiction of time and space by focusing on the “segmentation” and “division” would chime with the work of Tom Gunning, who in his 1986 essay, "The Cinema of Attractions: Early Film, Its Spectator and the Avant-Garde" argues fro the non narrative uses to which editing, time lapses and so on where used in early cinema. In other words tools and techniques that would later be used to create seamless narrative flows initially were in early cinema only to pleased to draw attention to themselves. Here for example is a Georges Melies, Un homme de tetes - from 1898.

This then presents a potential conceptual flow from the early cinema of attractions or what might in this context be called disruptive cinema through a distillation in cubism of the multi faceted and a re-exploration in structural materialism of such concerns once again within the time based.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Oramics Live

Last night went to hear (and see) The Life and works of Daphne Oram at the Purcell Rooms. Oram is a little like Delia Derbyshire’s maiden aunt; older, rather primmer in appearance and voice.

Things kicked off with Snow the Geoff Jones film for which Daphne did the soundtrack. Snow deserves the term “classic” a masterpiece of cross cutting and on the beat edits of locomotives pitted against the winter elements all set to Daphne’s slowed down and treated version of a Sandy Nelson number. The lights were then dimmed for the playback of a number of Daphne’s works. This was altogether quite odd; after the screening of Snow this was very much music with the picture turned down as we were now as an audience in a cinematic mode of reception. Surprisingly it was actually highly effective. There was no sense of feeling cheated that we were just listening to a playback with no one on stage even pretending to tweak the EQ or stare at a MacBook. It created a perfect space for concentration and the space for visualisation was left purposefully empty.

The music itself was quite a revelation. The Oramics CD released last year suggested Daphne’s music to be more of historical interest than delivering actual musical pleasure but hearing Four Aspects, Episode Metallic and Pulse Persephone (which are included on the CD) in this context made one aware of just how subtle the works are. The CD mixed such pieces in with some of Daphne’s more commercial work; electronic jingles for power tools and so on and left one with a feeling of quirkiness without substance. This notion was quite dispelled by this playback.

Perhaps less mesmerising was From One to Another  for viola and tape. This reminded me of those rather worthy pieces one used to sit through at St John Smith Sqaure which combined tapes with a classically trained musician’s bowing. Things were to go further downhill though for there followed a 30-minute live remix in which a selection of tired beats and buzzes were overlaid with samples of Daphne's music, which seemed to bare little resemblance to anything Daphne originally recorded. Accompanying this was some basic video manipulation that did little to enhance the music. Many of the audience left for the refuge of the bar.

The evening rounded off with another Geoff Jones film Trinidad and Tobago; a documentary funded by BP that avoided using an overbearing commentary but just combines beautiful footage with an Oram soundtrack. The film helped to restore the mood somewhat and sent us off into the night.

Friday, June 27, 2008


There was a time in the great hegemony of mainstream musicalsim when only one or two tags were needed to categorise music "file under progressive or popular" was all that most record shops needed with a smattering of spoken word, country, jazz and misc. Tags as a way to define or carve out a musical territory are now so prolific as to be all but absurd. Here for example is just one group's tags from Last FM: alternative rock ambient electronica contemporary electronica dark electro dark pop depeche mode downbeat downtempo dreams and fantasies electro electro psychedelic electro-acoustic electro-psychedelic electro-rock electronic electronica electropop elektro elektro-indie full-on indie electronica instrumental intrancewetrust progressive trance psy-trance psychedelic psychedelic trance psytrance retro electro...

Tags though date faster than Nike trainers and all of the above already seem a little past it. "Anyone for trance, one lump or two" they murmur in the retirement home disco. So we need a new supply of tags to keep us box fresh. Being prompted yesterday to tag some of my own tracks I responded with nu-bleep, downdrone, avantient, sickstep, homesung, duityorself, fadfleet, voodle, etc, etc.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Reflecting on Le Grice

On Friday went to an interesting screening of Malcolm Le Grice’s digital works at the Birkbeck cinema in Gordon Square. I had seen some of Le Grice’s digital pieces at a Cog Collective screening about a year ago but this turned out to provide a far more rounded view and one of Le Grice’s comments afterwards was quite illuminating.

Almost the first thing Le Grice said was that he had been wrong to deny or ignore the overtly personal nature of the footage used in Little Dog for Roger. At the time of its making and for a number of years afterwards the choice of footage of family members and pet had been presented as almost random; a matter of chance that this old 9.5mm home movie footage happened to be hanging round and so was used to make the piece. It seemed now however that Le Grice was acknowledging that the choice of footage was not just a random selection and that the personal nature of the subject matter was in some way integral to the piece.

This is not to say that somehow Le Grice is re-branding himself as an artist home move maker in the manner of Derek Jarman but there is a recognition that the interaction between materialist strategy and subject matter is a far more complex one than was presented at the time. Over and over again materialist filmmakers chose what in any other context would be seem as overtly romantic things to film. Ponder for a moment Fog Line by Larry Gottheim or Le Grice’s own Whitchurch Down or Gidal’s Clouds. Read the accompanying texts and polemics and one learns much about process, about disrupting any sense of naturalistic representation and so on but scant attention is paid to what was in front of the camera. By reconnecting to the subject matter of these films whilst not denying the material process what emerges is an alternate form of depiction. Alternate and in opposition to the narrative impulses of the mainstream cinema of the day but a depiction nonetheless. A depiction whose material process and processing is in many respects stylized and painterly.

Attempting a reconsideration of Le Grice’s work in the context of a reconnection to the subject matter of the films and digital works is simultaneously straightforward and highly complex. Straightforward in the sense that those of us who came to such pieces after the first flush of polemical materialism often took for granted that the subject matter was integral to a reading of the work even if it was often played down or unrecognsied by the filmmaker. Complex in that a complete reinterpretation of an artist’s work that runs counter to most of what he himself has written (and said) is naturally problematic.

There is a further complication of a purely personal nature as well in that for some time I had been aware that the descriptions of my own work on the Psouper website are similarly process descriptive and avoid much if any investigation of the subject matter. “Digital videos that upset the hierarchy between sound and vision resulting in unexpected synchronisations, sonifications and visualizations.” Or “A white square is animated by a quasi-random score of electronic sequences generated in max/msp, causing it to contract, expand, duplicate and in so doing perform a series of performative movements and steps “…tells us very little about what we might expect to see and to an extent parodies the process led descriptions of structuralism.

In part this was intentional as during the 90’s when making installations and simultaneously reviewing for Art Monthly I tended to write at some length about my own work in press releases that accompanied the exhibitions. After a while this seemed, well, just a touch vainglorious and I erred on the side of letting people watch the work and hopefully on some level it would be self-explanatory. On some level it is obvious what the subject matter is and yet I would struggle to put my finger on it.

In other words I think the time is ripe for a real re-assessment of materialist filmmaking that re-connects with the subject matter and perhaps for myself to also attempt some declaration with regard to subject. These two projects are of course quite distinct but also inextricably linked.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Traffic Calming Measures

Further adventures in pursuit of the roundabout; this time down in Wainscott in Kent. To see the suitably spun movie click here

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Hair of the Dog

If by some chance you find yourself in Santa Fe today then why not visit the exhibition Hair of the Dog where you will find work by yours truely in a gallery show that: "investigates the vocabulary, limitations, and mythology of the medium of painting through modern art history and into the 21st century." Rest assured "no artists in the exhibition will apply pigment to canvas in the traditional manner; some will not use paint at all. Portraiture, landscape, and narrative are some of the structures within the language of painting to be engaged." Having been screening for the last 5 years it will be nice to be exhibiting again.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Instant Kitten (The Application)

Today a piece of software no less! This is the Instant Kitten Application I built in Max/Msp/jitter a couple of years ago and which is the brains behind Fleshtones and SkyPoint.

Basically the app provides an instant audio accompaniment to any movie. So how do you use it? OK firstly download the zipped file here.. Unzip it and then double click on the Instant Kitten application inside the folder. It takes a moment or two to warm up. Once going switch it on using the big blue button. Click on the "read" button to open a movie file. Ideally the film should have no soundtrack. It doesn't matter if it does just the existing soundtrack and the new one might get in each others way. OK so the movie is playing. Next click the midi button and change it to QuickTime (unless you have some fancy midi app you want to drive instead). The sound defaults to piano but you can change the instrument in the "change instrument" box to xylophone, flute etc. The duration of the note is set to standard decay but if you want long sustaining notes in the "dur" box enter say 1,000 or even 2,000. You can slow the movie down using the speed box. 0.5 is half speed etc.

Sensitivity sort of controls the response; experiment. To get full screen mode hit the escape button, hit escape to get out of full screen mode as well.

OK it only works on Macs. I've tried it on both PPC and Intel and it seems to function fine though no doubt your computer will immediately break down and crash when you try it.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bathing Beauty

The third and final of the Standard 8 films shot in 1990-1991 finds us in Cornwall with a little Bathing Beauty.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Old Poster

In the late summer of 1981 to coincide with the release of Snatch 3 an A2 poster was screenprinted. My design was heavily influenced by Theo van Doesburg's cover for the Dadaist magazine Méecano. It was around this time that I started recording with Michael Denton and much of the the execution of the poster (done at the Albany screenprinting workshop) and especially the colour selection was down to him. The pink and turquoise inks were subsequently used for the labels for Snatch 3. Here is the last known remaining example.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Fishing line

For a short while in the late 1990's and early naughties I sent out an occasional fax sheet called Fishing Line. The subject of this one sheet newspaper tended to be fine art topics of the day combined with scratchy drawings. The faxes were sent unsolicited to various art mags and galleries. All looking rather quaint now here is an example or two.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Quadrangle (unedit)

Slightly to my surprise I am still getting requests for the Quadrangle video. Paradoxically the piece was not originally conceived as a stand-alone piece of fixed duration but as an installation. The synchronised music and image movements are produced by a quasi-random algorithm (quasi random in that its output is more akin to an improvisation based on certain parameters). Once running the piece will produce variations indefinitely with no obvious beginning, middle or end. Some intervention on the part of the artist was required to change the visual parameters on the fly, though with some max/msp jiggery pokery these too could be randomised.

I had the work running in such an ongoing fashion when visited one day by Prof Cheese who being in the throes of programming for the Island festival asked for a small slice. I duly obliged recording a section, taking some choice cuts and very quickly assembling a short self-contained piece. Here today though is the whole cut. This is in itself really an extract from the infinite unseen but gives a feeling for what an installation version might be like.