Cinema + Light: Film Performances by Alex Mackenzie and Heidi Phillips

Cinema + Light: Film Performances by Alex Mackenzie and Heidi Phillips
Saturday, March 6, at 7:00
Winnipeg Cinematheque

Part 1: Alex Mackenzie

Periphery (Part 1) – Performance-based and hand processed in black and white, this piece is inspired by remote mountain observations; an exploration of the broad surfaces and invisible minutiae of an island, and a looking out and inward. This work premiered as a part of the Damp: Contemporary Vancouver Media Arts book launch at the Pacific Cinematheque in Vancouver.

Goldenfleaf 2 – Initially borne of the visual and mechanical potential of a regular 8mm analytic projector that projects a double-width image of unsplit 16mm gauge film. This is the first of two hand-processed pieces made for this projector (the second being Loom). Edited entirely in-camera, the piece was shot on outdated Kodachrome 40 and hand-processed in black and white, then left to lie, half buried, in the backyard where it was shot for a week. Originally commissioned for the PDX (Portland) Experimental & Documentary Film Festival, the film is an exploration of the still-standing last season dead plants mixed with the newly blooming of the current season, the backyard transformation embedded in and on the film’s surface.

fixed: view | sky | rail – Hand processed and treated live using both looping and lens manipulations on two 16mm projectors. This triptych reframes frames, flattens vies and exposes surfaces in order to see through and beyond the moment. Three distinct moments are used as starting points, each simultaneously static and in motion. Sound is drawn and manipulated from the 16mm hum and clatter, along with the emulsion elements which find their way onto the optical audio track.

Part 2: Heidi Phillips

Residual is an improvisational live performance whereby Phillips uses experimental darkroom techniques to manipulate footage of abandoned farmhouses, shacks and churches. Several projections accompanied by multi-channel sounds transform the desolate prairie landscape into a wasteland that verges on apocalyptic. Declining physicality also occurs in the film medium itself, as Phillips includes her own process as part of the work. The roughened textures, scratch marks and chemical spills are a deliberate move to contradict the slick production values in contemporary media. Residual invites the viewer to re-experience forgotten prairie dwellings as our own haunted, soulless spaces.


From Uptown Magazine March 4, 2010:

Stimulating cinema
Cinema + Light turns Cinematheque into a veritable laboratory for experimental film

It’s an approach to cinematic presentation meant to keep a film ‘alive’ – or, one might say, have its life prolonged.

That’s how filmmaker Alex Mackenzie characterizes the upcoming Cinema + Light program at Cinematheque, featuring performances by himself and fellow media artist Heidi Phillips. It’s an example of what Dave Barber, program coordinator at Cinematheque, calls “expanded cinema.”

What’s in a name? Expanded cinema, Mackenzie says, is shorthand for any film-based exhibition requiring the presence of the artist to manipulate various elements of presentation.

“Basically, I’m treating film as live performance,” Mackenzie says. In his case, he uses the projector as an instrument by adding lenses, running loops and fiddling with the focus.

Where her own work is concerned, Phillips admits to questioning Brown’s characterization: “Even though some of my past works were described as ‘expanded cinema,’ I don’t think that Residual – the particular piece in question – qualifies. I see my art straddling installation, new media and experimental film.”

Whatever label one cares to apply, Mackenzie says such unorthodox treatment comes out of the ’70s avant-garde movement in cinema. Back in the day, he chuckles, a presentation like this would have been considered a real “happening.”

What’s Mackenzie after? “Something that will stimulate us in a way we’re unaccustomed to,” he says. “And avant-garde cinema can be a very sensual, aesthetic experience.”

For her part, Phillips deliberately tries to contrast with the finished quality of most media by hand-processing her film, creating scratch marks, textures and an overall rougher feel.

Beyond aesthetics, however, Phillips says images can hold meaning for themselves; they can be symbolic instead of narrative and thus create a certain mood that brings the viewer through the piece.

“Personally, I’m looking for an antidote to narrative,” Mackenzie says, explaining that he introduces certain cues that might seem to point in obvious directions, even though, in fact, he’s not pursuing any obvious arc.

Is some loose narrative necessary to hold a film together? “I think I am becoming more literal as I try and to get my ideas across to the audience,” Phillips says. At the same time, however, she likes to keep images open for individual interpretation.

“Here’s the thing,” Mackenzie says. “We tend to naturally apply narrative to anything that moves through time, like a film, because anything time-based has a beginning, middle and end.”

More than conventional cinema, however, Mackenzie’s approach requires the audience to “put more into it” – that is, invest what it’s seeing with its own subjective meaning.

“My work is really more poetry than prose,” he says. “Hopefully, meaning will seep in the audience over time.”

Mackenzie adds that people may be more open to receiving such work than some may think.

“We’re saturated in media these days,” Mackenzie says. “And the kind of aesthetics in question here are, in fact, used within mass media – including mass cinema.” He cites the grainy dream sequences or flashbacks in more conventional films.

His advice? “Just let go of what you think a cinematic spectacle should provide.”

– Kenton Smith


~ by cineflyer on February 27, 2010.

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