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multiplying screens & means

chirstinn whyte at moves 08 in manchester

Copenhagen Cycles Copenhagen Cycles

Now in its second year as an independent entity, Moves has nurtured a strong participatory element. Over and above the traditional baseline of screenings, a week-long filmmaking lab and networking and discussion forums provided the opportunity for artists from sound, animation, digital arts, short film and screendance to come together, exploring areas of commonality in their creative processes.

A three-day conference focused on this year’s festival theme—the interaction between sound and image. A series of eight, wide ranging, stand alone forums connected back to examples of individual practice, from Elinor Pearson’s examination of the gestural content of Maya Deren’s output, as situated within a “space beneath sound”, to Birgitta Hosea’s experimentation with synaesthetically oriented digital media. Billy Cowie’s deconstruction in Motion Control, co-created with Liz Aggiss in 2002, foregrounded the complex layering of aural input within the piece, while Donald Glowinski’s outlining of the EyesWeb application, analysing the affective content of movement patterning, elicited comparisons with the work of pre-cinematic moving image pioneers Eadweard Muybridge and Jules-Etienne Marey, their creations traceable as antecedents common to aspects of screendance, digital art and new media practice.

In addition, work proliferated in a number of non-traditional screening spaces throughout the city, with Manchester’s central rail station host to a series of luminously colourfilled lightboxes, and Claudia Kappenberg’s Moebius installation (2008) combining arrestingly abstracted stills with archive and newly-generated footage, projected in triptych form within a glass-fronted public building, viewable to passing foot traffic from street level.

In the first of a series of eight individually themed screening programs, work selected from the archives of Canada’s Bravo!FACT foundation included Larry Weinstein’s conceptually dissonant marriage of formal aria to domestic suburban banality in The Argument (2005). This contrasted with Marlene Millar and Philip Szporer’s rigourously claustrophobic framing in The Greater The Weight (2008), which captured the fiercely embodied performative intensity of a lone female, flamenco-gowned within the confines of a boxing ring. Ola Simonsson’s Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers (2002), from a selection of work screened in association with the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival, also conjured an ingenious rhythmic symphony from a series of incongruously domestic settings, offset by the epic sweep of visually sumptuous, butoh-inspired imagery in Alain Escaile’s Le Conte Du Monde Flottant (2003).

In the Subtle Architectures program, animation techniques used in the motion-based manipulation of footage presented a dizzyingly zoetropic challenge to the eye in both Bert Gottschalk’s Bildfenster (2007) and Eric Dyer’s Copenhagen Cycles (2006). Within the former, architectural detail, juxtaposed with materially-based referents, appeared as a constantly shifting matrix of vertical patterning. Here, filmstrip-like skyscraper windows framed viewing access to a series of creatively engaged human hands, while Copenhagen Cycles’ layering of cut-out imagery was reminiscent of a turn-of-the-century toy theatre, as oblivious oarsmen rowed through a kaleidoscopically colour-filled sea of flowers.

Imogen Sidworthy’s 7AM (2006), screened as part of the Visions D’Ailleurs programme, utilised ambient sound to suggest the presence of unseen movement merged with natural surroundings. Here, the careful arrangement of a close framed knee or torso, masked by the trunk of a tree, gradually offers access to fragmented increments of visual and aural material, building towards a slow panoramic sweep of early morning park-based Tai Chi practice. Mariel McEwan mixed animation, live action and faux-naif voice over in Niu Niu’s Story (2007) to slyly subvert traditional narrative tropes, charting through simple, front-on framing a Chinese dancer’s progression from freely skipping child to the infinitely refracted uniformity of the chorus line.

Elsewhere, an evening of work by British-based artist Alex Rueben drew together a number of short pieces, including the gently curving elegance of an animated line, swaying to the rhythm of the title track in Que Pasa (2001), interspersed with episodes from his music-driven road movie Routes (2007). Here, Rueben’s traverse through a constantly evolving landscape of indigenous culture within southern US states threaded together encounters with ferociously dynamic crumping cheerleaders and the whirling ceilidh-like melange of a social ‘contra-dance.’

Differing perspectives on the issue of narrativity were presented as part of the Discovery program where Damien Manivel’s Viril (2007) drew the viewer into an intriguingly paced world of masculine archetypes, allowing narrative threads to emerge from a seemingly unconnected range of otherwise unexplained episodes. A variety of male protagonists, whose mute concentration is punctuated by a bare minimum of ambient sounds, trade encounters in bedrooms and locker rooms, with female representation rendered as a dishwashing, back-facing presence, blankly impervious to the underwear-clad, pole dance of a male partner. Lutz Gregor’s Maps of Emotion (2008) explored territory reminiscent of Mike Figgis’ experimentation with simultaneity and subjectivity in his feature film Time Code (2000). Here, Gregor sets in motion a narrative premise by means of a divided screen. Played out against the nocturnal backdrop of an urban apartment and city streets, outer sections of the screen space are used to track the real-time journey of separation and reunion experienced by a male and female figure, each visible within a single square of personal space. This shared interior region of memory and emotionality, signalled by a range of devices including monochrome footage, night vision photographic stills and luminously graphic motion tracking, occupies the screen’s central section. The interrelation of visual imagery provides a choreographic scaffolding for the work with sporadic movement ‘echoes’ travelling between frames, while precise placement of overlapping footage heralds the couple’s final reconnection, as a photograph, handed across the darkness of the central region, completing the emotional journey.

Maya Deren wrote that the cinematic medium “consists of the eye for magic”, and this indefinable property was explored in a range of work presented in the festival’s final program. The movement patterning of birds in flight, flocking and diminishing in relation to guitar cadences, formed the basis of Marcel Prins’ The Gathering (2006), while Susanna Wallin’s highly original Night Practice (2006, an IMZ winner in the 2007 competition) made reference to aspects of documentary and narrative form, with a near-abstraction of movement content achieved by means of a deftly handled mix of shots. Music, sound and movement are balanced with the formal beauty of clock workings, as a group of teenage boys in an otherwise deserted athletic track inhabit a borderline zone of enigmatically harnessed energy, fluctuating between the exercising of specialist skill and out of hours larking around. A lone runner metronomically keeps pace around the periphery as a central group tumble onto crash mats. Meanwhile, a subtle interplay of gazes, exploring the implicitly heightened emotional territory of watching and being watched, is woven as a choreographic thread throughout the work.

Stan Brakhage has written of art-making as an exteriorisation of internal physiological rhythms, arising from the artist “hearing himself sing and feeling his heart beat.” The thematic highlighting of sonic input added to the relational mix of choreographically relevant raw materials comprising Moves’ signature programming style, with the festival this year consolidating its identity as an imaginative and inclusive platform set within the greater landscape of cross-genre work.

Moves08 Festival of Movement on Screen; Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, April 22-26

RealTime issue #85 June-July 2008 pg. 32

© Chirstinn Whyte; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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