Re: [Frameworks] Quo Vadis Celluloid?

From: David Tetzlaff <>
Date: Mon, 22 Aug 2011 20:56:00 -0400

> the one thing I believe needs to be interjected, however, is the rapid evolution of the HD technologies...

Matt's right, of course. The qualities of today's digital projection that so many people find unsatisfactory may go away. It's still, as Ray points out, white light becoming colored and shaded by having frequencies blocked as it passes through a translucent medium and then bouncing back off a screen. I have yet to see any kind of LCD display I like for moving pictures, but I wouldn't be surprised if that changes eventually.

> The more relevant question would be, how would CAT'S CRADLE look if SHOT on video?

Well, Anna, you had made the point about digital projection of celluloid original being lifeless etc. (And for what it's worth, I find the Hollywood films that are all CGI and digital manipulation to be more lifeless when projected from 35mm prints than any classic film shot in celluloid and projected on that Pana 3-chip DLP). And it's overkill to say that re-making "Cat's Cradle" in video would be technically _impossible_. (Never say never.) The point, I think, is that aspects of the work emerge specifically from the film medium, 'organically' as you say, and that even if one _could_ create these elements in video, one is highly unlikely to even conceive of those elements outside of familiarity with photochemical film and its mechanics. So I think you're suggesting that Fred's point about 'dependency' is too limiting. I think you're proposing that it's not a question of what kind of work video can or cannot create technically, but what kind of work it 'encourages' if you wi
 ll. Again, it's simply inaccurate to essentialize all the different tools and lump all the film one in one unified pile and all the video ones in another. But if you make your example more specific, the principle certainly seems valid. That is, Cat's Cradle is not just a work of filmic origin, but of a certain kind of filmic origin (16mm 100' MOS etc. etc.)

For another example, there's no reason technically that "(nostalgia)" or "Critical Mass" couldn't have been made in video, and neither work really suffers in even halfway decent video projection compared to film projection. But neither work WOULD have been made in the same way in an alternate universe where video was all Frampton had had available, as the algorithms in both works derive from physical properties of 16mm film.

Throughout history, new creative tools have appeared, and old ones have waned. Perhaps I am wrong, but what strikes me as different in the case of film is it's dependence on a large-scale industrial process for it's raw material to the point where it may not be possible to sustain it in an artisanal mode - in comparison to painters who can still make frescos if they really want to, or graphic artists who can keep an old hot-type press working to make fine art books.

Thus, the possibility of film tools becoming unavailable really would limit the kinds of inspirations and practices Anna and others (including Fred) have mentioned, and that would be a loss. I do doubt those things would disappear entirely though.

Even if photochemical film tools do disappear, we have over a hundred years of filmic practice as part of our cultural history. The history of art is full of examples of people being inspired by the aesthetic forms of works that have gone before, and, not knowing how they were made, devising entirely new means to achieve similar effects. So some people who have never touched 'real' film or a 'real' movie camera WILL make something that borrows from the filmic origins of "Cat's Cradle" or "Critical Mass" just because they think those works are cool.

An artist always has the option to monkeywrench new technology to make it act more like old technology. I used to give my students an assignment where they had to use a video camcorder as if it were a 16mm MOS camera: no sync sound, everything in manual control, exposure set using a hand-held meter, straight cuts only, 2 or 3 minute finished pieces shot at no more than 3-1. Because they couldn't do everything they were used to, they had to do things differently, and the 'videos' came out looking a lot like 'films' under those constraints.

I don't want to go all Pangloss here, but if we take the 'the glass isn't half-empty, it's half-full' perspective, we could think of all the incredible 'experimental films' that are not so dependent on the physical medium: Deren, Anger Kuchar, Maclaine, Warhol, Conner... all the wonderful inspirations we can take forward to new generations of artists and evolving sets of tools.

Maybe Fred's point could be paraphrased as, "Hey, there's nothing technological keeping you from making something brilliant. So let's get busy!"

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Received on Mon Aug 22 2011 - 17:56:27 CDT