|era erera baleibu izik subua aruaren (José Antonio Sistiaga, 1970)
||[Jan. 20th, 2011|03:10 pm]
Reality on the run
It's always interesting to me when avant garde works are feature length. Joyce Wieland's Reason Over Passion, made around the same time, comes to mind. In a sense it's almost a provocation to present somewhat disembodied, non-narrative works in a time-frame normally alloted to conventional western stories. Since the format (or lackthereof) is wide open - works can be just a minute or two. Warhol's Sleep (1963) was 321 minutes long. So the use of the feature length points to a number of possible motivations. It could be for the viewer to ponder the length of time itself as if to ask 'this is the amount of time it takes to tell a story, I am asking you to take this time to consider these images and perhaps the span of time itself in relation to how you process ideas.' It could be the legitiamcy of the format: perhaps Sistiaga for some reason wanted his film to be considered on par with commercial releases. The latter could be part of a more financial consideration, perhaps to secure funding or guarentee exhibition. It could just be to discourage passivity of viewership. In more than an hour you can either tune out or be forced to seriously consider what you are seeing.
It's obviously worth noting when this was made: between 1968 and 1970, basically a pretty exciting period for avant garde film. I read comparisons to Stan Brakhage but I would consider Norman Mclaren as a more obvious reference point (though my limited knowledge of experimental film and animation is unfairly skewed toward Canadian works). In particular the work of camera-less films or manipulating the film itself for an effect. It's usually an experiemnt with animation, but in era erera… it seems more painterly - essentially a painting using celluloid as the substrate, or more accurately, 24 paintings a second amounting to about 100,800 paintings each exhibited for 1/24th of a second.
I enjoyed the lovely analog look of it all. Wild splashes of colour. But there was something stilted in the pacing of the imagry. Unlike a Norman Mclaren film, there was no rhythm. No beat. Every image went by with the same indifferent hurry dictated by the projector. As such there was no punctuation. I thought to myself, should I be looking at this as a painting? That's sort of what it is. But paintings are exhibited without a temporal component. You look at it, you look away. You look close. You look far. But a 70-minute theatrical presentation prescribes the terms of looking for you. So despite it's irreverent use of colour and the warm beauty of analog it was far to rigid to enjoy. It was too much, too fast, too many times.
A generalization occurred to me when I was thinking about the shift that occurred with the arrival of video in the seventies. Based on what little I've seen, the supposedly warm and natural analog film format feature works that are more disembodied and abstract: such as René Jodoin's Rectangle & Rectangles (1984) or this. Yet with the advent of video one of the first sites for avant garde users to turn this medium to was the body (Lisa Steele, Colin Campbell, etc).