Blog

January 2021

Current thinking:  How animated film techniques and DIY film processing give form to the otherwise invisible. In Optic Nerve (1985), Barbara Hammer optically prints and layers materials as a means to reflect on aging, family and health issues, deploying film in ways that cross over into medical imaging.  Her Sanctus (1990), ‘reworks x-ray…by elaborate optical printing, use of colour and intense sound’ (Chuck Kleinhans). Meantime, Sandra Lahire’s ecological films, including Serpent River (1989), employ optical printing to manipulate aesthetics of filmic exposure. Both Hammer (US) and Lahire (UK) were, during the same decade, using methods of over-layering and over-exposure to bring form to that which would otherwise remain non-perceivable.  Lahire,  ‘makes visible the invisible menace of radioactivity’ (Lux) [1] and her work is described as, ‘over-exposed like an x-ray‘ (Maud Jacquin, 2019).  This possibility, of using experimental film techniques to bring visibility to aspects of ecological health that might otherwise remain outside of our senses, has recently been the subject of my writing, in  Experimental Time-lapse Animation and the Manifestation of Change and Agency in Objects (2017). [2] It is an ongoing line of enquiry that I’m exploring through writing and film-making.

SANCTUS

[1] https://www.luxonline.org.uk/artists/sandra_lahire/serpent_river.html
[2] https://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9783319738727
 
Thoughts on Re:exposure prompted by recent lecture held by Vienna Film Co-op.
As a part of my lecture hosted by Vienna Film Co-op, I spoke about how having Re:exposure included in the exhibition, ‘A Picture of Health’, stimulated thinking about the ecological triptych by Sandra Lahire. Her brilliant Serpent River (1989) is described as an anti-nuclear film in which the filmmaker, ‘makes visible the invisible menace of radioactivity’ (Lux). This possibility of using film to bring form to that, which would otherwise remain unperceivable, is one aim of Re:exposure, in terms of using caffenol stained negative and ECU macro to convey the harmful effects of climate change on the human skin. Thinking about how to contextualise Re:exposure also prompted reflection on how Barbara Hammer’s use of the optical printer to layer materials to reflect on aging and family in Optic Nerve (1985) resonated with my own concerns and methods.
Thoughts and experiments with stained filmic exposures informed the screen tests in my recent ‘Cartes de Visites’ series with BEEF at Centre of Gravity – October / November 2020.
For BEEF’s Department of Moving Images I conducted a series of long exposure portraits.  These may lead on to future portrait work. “The poor sensitivity to light in early photography meant that moving subjects were required to remain as still as possible for the prolonged exposure times. Warhol appears to reference this dynamic in his 1960s Screen Tests , yet in this series the condition of stillness is placed in tension with the medium of the moving image. The vast quantity of over 500 screen tests is also a seeming nod to the 19th c fashion for collectibles. During the 1850s the socially mobile posed for long photographic exposures and then exchanged these selfie calling cards with other members of the bourgeoisie”

Little Things Rule the World 2019
Little Things Rule the World was a collaborative project between geographer Merle Patchett (UOB), literary scholar, Rachel Murray (Loughborough University) and artist, Vicky Smith (Bristol Experimental Expanded Film: BEEF) supported by The Brigstow Institute. The project was realised through developing a 16mm film Not (A) Part and a video essay describing the collaborative process.
Not (a) part was conceived in relation to both the rapid decline of flying insects and the high recurrence of animation, handmade or contact film that works with the subject and/or material of flying insects. Numerous dead bees found on walks were positioned directly onto negative film and contact printed. Occupying approximately 24 frames they run at a rate of 1 bee per second. The length of the film is determined by how many specimens are found over a specified period of time.
The project addresses the decline of flying insects globally and it focuses this problem through individual found corpses of bees which are dissected and placed, much as Stan Brakhage did with Mothlightdirectly onto 16mm film.  The stock is processed in BEEF darkroom using caffenol.  The discovery and effective use of caffenol as a less toxic developer than the other stuff is reason 1. for feeling okay about using celluloid film once more.
The inaugural screening of Not (A) part, took place at The Cube Cinema, Bristol as part of Little Things Rule the World event in January 2019
Not (a) Part: Handmade Animation, Materialism and the Photogram Film by Vicky Smith was published in the International Journal of Creative Media Research (2019)

Reflections on 30 years of my practice – September 2019

For 30 years I’ve explored methods to express and represent my own body and physicality, whilst avoiding direct self-portraiture. Prior to 2010 I approached this through animated film, where the figure was imagined, often distorted and located in unstable environs. Production of these 16mm animations was dependent on analogue film equipment and laboratories, and so when this industry declined I embarked on phase 2 (2010-20): animation made without cameras by marking directly onto the filmstrip, forcing a focus on movement and rhythm, with the body now inscribed as gesture, pressure and trace. This set of works I termed: Physical Films.
The most recent work, Not (a) part (2019), photo-grams objects that exist in the world, using the method of contact printing to emphasise fragility of materials, and foregrounding dimensions of tactility as a means to consider the body in relation to a broader ecology of vulnerability. The next phase of my practice will progress the photogram method of imagery made through physical contact toward camera/lens-based techniques of proximity, where use of close-up maintains a quality of the physical and gestural in filmmaking.