By Toni D’Angela
The texture of Robert Todd’s Still Waters (2016) is branched, an image-silvae that recalls Brakhage and a certain Jack Smith. The still-life of still images slip in the cross and black fades. Beings of being. The watery mirror sparks imperceptibly, a pointillisme of the slightest difference. Vision is obstructed, between the eye and nature, a net, an opacity. Then, the camera starts to move down the vertical axis. Static images stretch on the slowness of motion, while moving ones seem to stand on the immobility of the landscape. Movement and stasis. Again: immobility and water.
Physical Responses (2016), another work by Robert Todd, resonates with this dialectic of stasis and movement. The black and white at the beginning, still vague and undetermined, then takes shape. It even becomes a sort of ornament. It returns into itself unfolding the plays of water and of light, light waves, a brightness/foam: the being. The silence of a crash between water and rock, a primordial constellation. And then a hint of movement that palpates at a distance, a meadow of grass moved by the wind, almost in an elegy for Sokurov. The being appears into the ripples, in the waves of the First Day. The voice of silence. Finally, the movements and “monuments”: the appearance of man and of his life forms. Nature and culture, in comings and goings, a mutual recollection, a carnal membrane between them – such as the game between the sea and the beach. Slowness of nature and movement of culture. As if culture was the escape of nature, not centripetal, but on the spot.
Stephan Broomer’s The Bow and the Cloud (2016) is a c(a)osmic phenomenology of alterations, processions, accelerated and agitated movements, multiplied superimpressions. The ramifications found in Todd’s films explode here, like a rhizome. A stratified geology of the image that echoes (once again) with Brakhage and with the “strange code” of Canadian experimental filmmaking – to quote Broomer who, deservingly, restores and promotes the works of experimental Canadian filmmakers. The Bow and the Cloud is a swirling and stormy image. The natural abundance is as overwhelmed as by the artistic one. A superabundance. A flight of the images. The landscape is a battlefield between the cosmos and chaos, crossed by scratches, jets of water, electron discharge, human signs, and “solarized” cities. Abstraction and figuration. This is a landscape innervated by escape lines.
Eva Kolcze – also a Canadian filmmaker – in her short Facing the Waves (2016), naturalizes and tears the light from its usual and functional solidity through its anamorphosis and cristalization. Cement is used as a canvas or a screen. The reflecting slabs of the skyscrapers capture the light of the sun the same way plants capture oxygen, to breathe, to move. The crack of a beam between two buildings introduces a pause. The city pulsates in the rhythm of a movement, that of the moving image. The birds are perched on the corniches like tree branches. The image of the city is a movement of escape.
Scott Barley’s The Green Ray (2017) brings to light hiding, and brings hiding to light. Being is suspended on the threshold, between hiding and appearing. A flow of being, to the point where it can express itself, thundering in the silence of the evening. The earth, with its elements, rises up in the world (of gestures) and the world is rooted in this earth. The night comes out, it raids. Barley’s landscape can be usual, it could have a familiarity, but in the frame, it becomes unusual. The earth becomes the world and the world reveals the earth. Barley’s film is a langue de bois that refers to Rousseau’s La Vallée close, a finesse, a flow that sculpts the landforms and the rocks, echoing in the darkness. An avalé of the source of being, perhaps the encounter and the resistance born from watching the thunder and listening to the darkness. The Green Ray shapes the disorder, the fall, the current of being and the flow of time.
Ten Mornings Ten Evenings and One Horizon (2016) is an essay on the coalescence of time and duration. Distinctive rhythms, layers, expansions and distances. The six sections in which the frame is divided correspond to the phases of exposure of the film, from morning to evening. These sections present the becoming of time, instead of its linear unfolding. The sun rises and rises through the different perception-durations. Nevertheless, the horizon is always the same. The frame-like horizon is one. Time is this horizon that takes charge, carries on its shoulders the different durations and the twenty points of view from which the bridge over the river is framed. The spatial juxtaposition is also temporal, a construction that reminds us of Hokusai and his thirty-six views of Mount Fuji, and also of Cézanne and his different points of view of Mount Sainte-Victoire. A (re)construction that is marked by image sectioning and abrupt cuts. The space is layered. It is perceived according to different durations on the background of a temporal horizon that is unique. But the visual space is no longer simply Euclidean, but becomes an escape. It flees, escapes (to) itself. A space that folds and unfolds. A temporalized space, a temporal landscape: cars come out of nothing and (re)enter into nothingness (from one section to another). Each section is a black hole that swallows everything. The landscape, natural and human, is an infinite escape, and this infinity is an escape in itself. Thus the landscape is natural but also de-naturalized. The durations are blocks, becoming, that de-compose the fabric of time. But the escape of the durations, of the sections, is articulated by the only landscape left: that of the horizon.
Ana Vaz’s ethnographic excavation continues with Há Terra! (2016), in which she pursues her involvement in both formal and field research, aimed at deconstructing the archival image of the colonialist past and of the postcolonial present. The film orchestrates a heterogeneity of materials, starting with the filmic elements themselves: the materiality, the carnality of the film, of a medium that is felt, one that becomes a body, a “body” in which the almost frenzied machine movement is inscribed. The body of the film is scratched, as is the Brazilian and South American earth, raped by Europeans. There is a frenzy of the subjectile, the support onto which the violent history of the conquerors is written. A support that is impacted by the static nature of the repertory images, a contrast that tears away those images from their peaceful historicity, to which they have been assigned to by a linear representation. Ana Vaz’s linguistic experimentation is this attempt to criticize the training of the subjected body (colonialism) and of the subjectivated body (postcolonialism): the earth escapes, it trembles. Through the flight, the irreducibility of a poetic policy is never reduced to a mere pacifying representation.
Kelly Sears’ In the Vicinity (2016), is an essay on the logistics of perception, on the observation techniques developed to intersect and organize the territory, to make it a picture, a map, to control it, to map it out as territory, to organize it as an instrument of power. A codified landscape within a topology of control. An operation that brings the cinema back to its origins, to its historical, ambiguous and viscous link with industry and war. You learn to see a territory, you make it a target in order to occupy it. The deconstruction of repertoire images denaturalizes this device of subjugation, and tends instead to dis-occupy the territory that is now increasingly subjected to the strategy of fear deployed by the security state.
The Watchmen (2017) by Fern Silva dialogs with the film of Sears. A palaeontological and palaeological landscape alternates with some marginal urban spaces. The skeleton of a Benthamian prison, like a mammoth, is held with the chimneys of an infernal industrial landscape, a land of Mordor, a tourist village encapsulated in the images of a seaside screen and corners of cities emptied from other images. All the visual landscape is inflated, worn out. It only returns ghosts, like the remains of abandoned prisons. From the panoptic discipline to the spectacle of images in which the reality degrades. The escape is the circular and centrifugal movement always on the verge of crashing, a short-circuit that cuts the walls of the prison and the schizoid paranoia of surveillance.
One the latest works of the collage artist/(re-)animator Lewis Klahr, this film is a composition of beauty and insight. Highways, cars, nights, and especially these (magic) pills that soften and camouflage what is intolerable. These are the motorways of a paranoid and schizophrenic nervous system. Circumstantial Pleasures (2015-17) is an ambitious film, a constellation of reasons assembling the typical refrains and signs that characterize the American consumer society. The film is an exercise in high style and, at the same time, a large tableau mourning the American “pharmacologos” (phármakon is both medicine and poison). A millstone of different elements are combined and incorporated into a collage, a trademark of Klahr’s style, representing the landscape of the American image(ina)ry (going back to Spinoza’s imago, fictio, fingere, doxa). This is a cross-section of profiles and objects dotted around and informed by an “American Romance”.