A quick take on this years fps experimental film night, which finished moments ago.
Abject Leader presented three performances in what was my standout act of the night. The Australian duo of Sally Golding and Joel Stern combined a range of digital and analogue hardware to stage three mini-shows, Bloodless Landscape, The Gospell According to Johnny's Ghost, and Henri's Hallucinations across Time and Space. Joel provided the soundtrack, running sound from a laptop through live effects, with some a surprise coming from a trumpet he played at random intervals. Sally frenetically worked a group of five 16mm projectors, loading film, skewing and reflecting it off mirrors, and even tinting it via coloured rotating on a household fan. The performance was magical and surprising - frames drifting off into corners of the room, buzzing synths mirroring onscreen insects, it was expanded cinema at it's best.
Next up Stella Brennan showed South Pacific, a long researched (18 months she mentioned) digital video work exploring the legacy of WWII on the region, especially that of island culture. Much of the video plays out as you see below - blown up shots of ultrasounds, ocean waves, and bombs with typewritten text animating across the bottom. More poetry or commentary than any video work I've seen recently, for me it was mixed. Each word and phrase was plucked carefully, delivering a strong statement which was at times poignant (describing how efforts to replant war runways failed), and funny (riffing off pacific myths of steel guitar and khakis) but always retained a personal naturalness ("I'm going to land now"). But the visual side let me down, why use video for a poetic/text based piece? Like a computer or a mobile phone, text isn't particularly suited for the medium. Doable, but not easy.
The next act started mysteriously. The audience came back after the interval to find the chairs and mattresses moved, creating a diagonal aisle down the middle of the space. Loren Chasse, a San Francisco artist, proceeded to unfurl a giant paper banner down this, then scatter a collection of rocks, pebbles, and sand down it, recording the process with a MiniDisc. Loren then moved to creating sound with stones while the recorded sound played back. A colleague (unnamed in the programme) manipulated ferns, twigs, and other NZ flora over a OHP projector, mirroring the sound created by Loren. These two phases were repeated again, with variations - simple shadow making reflecting live sound creation. The piece was interesting, but I was so surprised they didn't do the obvious I became a little disappointed. Why not use concrete, physical actions - like tossing stones down on the ground - to create a live soundtrack? Sand washing down the paper would have been beautiful with effects applied, or as a trigger for other instruments. Instead, the record/playback process was slightly laborious, and the overlong piece - after the main action occured - grew tiring.
Finally we were up to Matt Brennan's Cardboard Cinema, an intriguing piece that was meant to finish up the programme. It never occured. Due to technical difficulties or breakages of equipment, Matt was stuck. Through some tremendous last-minute effort he submitted a short DV piece titled something like 'Matts great movie'. Consisting of a barrage of echoing yells, blasted trumpet and cymbal crashes, the video was fun, and funny. Matt appears in face masks -beating drumkits, running down stairs and playing lead guitar riff next to a toilet. A heroic effort and an easy end to the night, although it would have been interesting to see his billed act - where "audio visual collages emanate from cardboard machines".