Photo: Still from Musical Stairs, Dir. Guy Sherwin

Guy Sherwin, Takehisa Kosugi, Thomas Köner & Various Artists

Film Programme 4: Space

A programme of short films, each looking in their own way at landscape, filmic or architectural spaces and at how the fixed stare of a camera frame only captures so much reality; here we focus on how filmmakers structure our relationship with that reality and at how they relate it to or interpret it through sound.
 
Meet Me (T)here, Dir. Judit Kurtag, The Netherlands, 2004, 4 mins, DVD
 
This video is like a quartet, consisting of the following instruments: the choreography, the camera, the editing and the music. The video obeys the musical principal of the counterpoint and can be seen many times. The synchronisation between sound and image is dependent from the viewer, who thus becomes part of the creative act. (International Film Festival Rotterdam)
 
 
Nuuk, Dir. Thomas Köner, Germany, 2005, 6 mins, DVD
 
Thomas Köner’s current media installations –  Banlieue du Vide (2003), Suburbs of the Void (2004), and NUUK (2004) – thematize, in impressively reduced fashion, acoustic and visual perspectives concerned with traces in urban spaces and landscapes. While the titles of the works point to suburbs and the peripheries of centers and the film sequences at first glance create a special melancholy, these are broken up by broad acoustic passages of a polyphonic white noise and by the sounds of playing children. Köner creates breathing images. Acoustic and visual atmospheres blend over, comment upon, and interpret the almost static images. Their black-and-white compositions cite a historical look. 
 
Köner uses sequences of images from webcams as raw material, which remains constant in his basic focuses. He has traces of people and their vehicles come to appearance acoustically, but not visually. The shift from day to night and the influences of the weather give motion to the segments. In this way, in his shortest work NUUK, which lasts just over 6 minutes, he condenses a total of 3,000 individual web images taken from the Internet into one scene. Despite the cinematic motion of the image, it seems like a still photo.
 
With the raised standpoint of the camera, he places us in the harsh, dry winter of northern Finland, near the Polar Circle. He thereby reminds us of the preconditions of perception and of the interplay between eyes, ears, and the surface of our skin. “Constant cold is associated with the deceleration and sharpening of perception. Hearing, too, perceives tones and sounds more clearly. In this way, a boredom arises that is like a door through which one enters rooms.” The impression of boredom is intended. The aspects of freezing and of reduction indicate intense experiences that move acoustic events in particular to the foreground. Precisely the composed polyphonic white noise offers manifold possibilities for individual listening perspectives that call upon us to hearken beyond our accustomed listening experience. (Christoph Metzger)
 
 
WS. 2, Dir. Seoungho Cho, Korea, 2004, 9 mins, DVD
 
There are many aspects of the act of looking that make the experience of an image subjective. Seoungho Cho highlights a few of the important ones and emphatically omits various others that are also important. We are not offered any narrative, context or extensive colour palette, no 'whole', no 'things'. These restrictions enable him largely to determine the viewer's way of looking as an action in itself. 'WS.2' has a moving framework, which allows the viewer to become conscious of the workings of the eye, of light, distance, space and reflection, and the analogies of these with the camera, registration and projection. The image, shifting at well-chosen moments, causes changes in our spatial experience. This leads to a feeling of transposition, of looking for something - like travelling behind the window of a vehicle being driven by someone else - forwards, then backwards again, as if there has to be a reason to look back at something. The motion is so precise and controlled that it becomes unnatural and unphysical in a robot-like way; as if someone is controlling your head and eyes with a joystick. And yet, what we see refers to the world, to capriciousness and to beauty. Undulating lines reminiscent of dunes, close-ups of bodily curves, micro-shots of textiles or macro-shots of vast landscapes: Cho creates associations that are aroused and intensified by the music, or are sometimes even undermined by it. And ultimately you are helped precious little by language to define this, because the image always remains 'material'. What you see is a reason to give Cho a director's chair in your head. (Vinken & Van Kampen)
 
 
Luukkaankangas - updated, revisited, Dir. Darius Krzeczek, Austria, 2004, 7 mins, BetaSP
 
In Finland, webcams of the Finish Road Administration record permanently pictures of all important roads . These images are then placed in the internet in an interval of fifteen to thirty minutes. Before their departure, the Finns thus first can read back their streets as an image to decide whether they use them or not. 
 
Dariusz Krzeczek designs a singular cinematic dramaturgy out of them. The serial montage of the individual images, their disfunctionalizing and gathering lets these become readable as completely different images. Through the study the streets experience a peculiar animation, inspiration. They are perceived as organisms that are changing with the play of ligths and shades, with the weather conditions and seasons. The streets pulsate, vibrate, mutate according to seemingly mysterious laws. They impress, since often no cars are seen, as a formation with self-referential character.
 
Positioned in elevated locations, the recordings fabricate a distanced, controlled vizualization of the street blocks. Foucault says: "The more anonymous and functional the power becomes, the more individualized become those who are subjected to this power". The more intense the Road Administration's power controls the streets by means of webcams, the more these appear as individuals, as unique organisms, claiming each on its own a particular aesthetical way of existance. Perhaps, the country roads and highways are given proper names, in order to do justice to their individualization. (Marc Ries)
 
 
horizon, Dir. n:ja, Austria, 2005, 4 mins, BetaSP
 
A city’s horizon. In violent movements, first left, then right, a pan across the horizon, it is scanned, searched, the movement stops abruptly, then accelerates, zooming into the city’s core. But the city does not become visible, remaining unrecognizable behind the image. This is the perception of an apparatus making innumerable attempts to capture, recognize and possibly understand, all of which fail. The gaze of the apparatus systematically obstructs itself, its electronic field of view is subjected to interference from the material, frequency interference, static, an absence of information. 
 
Shannon’s law concerning entropy and information may be applicable: A maximum of information entails/creates a maximum of interference. Likewise the peeping sound is familiar with only two states, fast and dotted. It seems to drive the image and its search on, in vain. When the movement slows near the end and the veiled city almost completely dissolves into a diffuse grey, the viewer’s own perception may be overcome with a certain uneasiness, a product of the uncertainty felt when wondering who made an attempt to recognize something. (Marc Ries)
 
 
Overture, Dir. Power Boothe, USA, 1986, 7 mins 30 secs, 16mm
 
A meditation on the interwoven nature of music, perception and experience. Images are built from superimposing exposures in the camera to form a kind of dream narrative which has its own logic. (Filmmaker’s Co-op)
 
Overture recalls old silent movies with its piano playing accompanist on screen (there's a stunning sequence with lamps that rivals David Byrne's lamp dance in 'Stop Making Sense' for most lyrical use of a house lamp). (Katherine Dieckmann)
 
Performers - Power Boothe, Lenna Kitterman. Music - A. Leroy.
 
 
Cinema Metaphysique Nos 1 - 4, Dir. Jud Yalkut, USA, 1966-7/72, 13 mins, 16mm
Co-made with Nam June Paik.
 
CINEMA METAPHYSIQUE NO. I: Silence and sound. A video-film concerning the questions of 'scale.' On a large film projection screen, the video image is monitor life-size.
 
CINEMA METAPHYSIQUE NO. 2, 3 and 4: Sound 'Manodharma No. 8' by Takehisa Kosugi, and the Zen monks of 'The Way of Eihiji.' Cast: Nam June Paik and Takahisa Kosugi. These films are based on the premise of the 'safe'area of film when transferred to video, with the majority of action taking place in the 'unsafe' area which would disappear on a video screen.
 
 
Musical Stairs, Dir. Guy Sherwin, UK, 1977, 10 mins, 16mm
 
One of a series of films that uses soundtracks generated directly from their own imagery. I shot the images of a staircase specifically for the range of sounds they would produce. I used a fixed lens to film from a fixed position at the bottom of the stairs. Tilting the camera up increases the number of steps that are included in the frame. The more steps that are included the higher the pitch of sound. A simple procedure gave rise to a musical scale (in eleven steps which is based on the laws of visual perspective. A range of volume is introduced by varying the exposure. The darker the image the louder the sound (it can be the other way round, but Musical Stairs uses a soundtrack made from the negative of the image.) The fact that the staircase is neither a synthetic image, nor a particularly clean one (there happened to be leaves on the stairs when I shot the film) means that the sound is not pure, but dense with strange harmonics. (Guy Sherwin)
 
 
Exit Right, Dir. Chris Garrett, UK, 1976, 5 mins, 16mm
 
A one second shot of me walking into the shot wearing a striped jersey was printed repeatedly, this strip of negative was moved laterally across the printer every 10 seconds of film time, so that the image of the piece of film material, containing its figurative image moves into the projected frame from the left, across the frame and out across the optical soundtrack area to the right. Featuring a New Line in musical pullovers. (Chris Garrett)
 
Below are some online links which you can use for reference. To see the films in their original glory, check with the distributors of the films for their terms and conditions.

 

  • Nuuk, Dir. Thomas Köner