Re: Burying Film

From: Tom B Whiteside (email suppressed)
Date: Fri Oct 30 2009 - 13:03:29 PDT

 I want to put film in my barrel-style composter. Any suggestions?

For one thing, I can't see how it will help your compost. As for the
process of making experimental film, there are all kinds of ways of
torturing and distressing film to see what it will yield, a lot has been
done with this and surely a lot more will be done. But isn't it true that
in most cases the material that is buried (abused, abandoned, whatever)
is, for the purpose of making art, rephotographed or copied onto fresh
stock that will run more smoothly on a projector?

In these cases, why is the distressed material film? Why not photograph
the mold on old shower curtains, or the surfaces of well-circulated coins?
Why not let a plateful of spaghetti rot and photograph it with a camera
each day for a month (yes, I know it's been done before) or let some odd
pieces of lumber sit out in the weather for twenty years and make an image
every week, or bury some handmade paper and then make a film of
that......... Is it simply that people are interested in watching a record
of violence against the emulsion (and base) itself? Why do we have to
continue to kill the old medium, or draw attention to the fact that it is
decrepit? It's not just experimental film - I can't believe how many faked
out "distressed film" looks I see on teevee.

I suppose there is economic sense in making what we might call "reversal"
distressed film, where the material that is buried is the same material
that you put on the projector - you don't have to pay for anything. This
can work fine if you clean it up and keep the perfs reasonably intact.
Most people can lay their hands on SOME kind of 16mm film absolutely free
of charge, any previously recorded image can be erased and you start again
on blank plastic, there are no lab fees, you don't need a camera or a
computer or anything. But how many people are making truly unique films -
in the sense that there is no copy, only the distressed original?

As many have pointed out before - for decades already ! ! - we are
working in the age of the pathology of film. This notion of burying film
is so pervasive. Where does this impulse originate? Interesting to note
that for most of film history, MUCH more film has been cremated than

I don't want to be a voice saying "Don't do it," as I have nothing against
anyone burying film, or developing film in strawberry jam, or anything
else they want to try. I myself have not tried those two things, but I've
done plenty else. So please, do compost your film if you want. At this
point the whole enterprise reminds me of a curious nine year old who,
having buried a family pet three years ago, wants to dig it up and take a
look at the skeleton. He will probably learn something from it, and it
might well be worth doing, but how many times?

        - Whiteside North Carolina

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