"tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE" [unpublished]
by Pamela Purdy
The subject of this piece, whose given initials were MFT (KTP), was born in 1969 at the age of 16. Writer, hitchhiker, unsuccessful suicide, performance artist, object, subject of medical experiments and/or professional asshole, sound thinker/audiographer, filmmaker, graffitist, Subgenius, videographer, publisher, Krononaut, model, stenciller, bracelet maker, lidznapper, postal interaction network underground participant (pinup), phone line organizer, drunk, victim of accidental mushroom poisoning, organizer of crab feasts that don't involve the type of crabs ordinarily associated with feasting, giant paper doll maker, counterfeit counterfeiter, victim of herpes, sexual prankster, T.ORE guide, and folk mathematician, MT (say it out loud) started in 1978 "attempting to convince ripley's believe it or not museums to permit me to live in 1 of their display cases."
Actually, MFT rarely does anything. He disappears into several id entities. We'll focus on the one called tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE, and on him only in his role as filmmaker. (There is also, for one, Tim Ore, painter, sex object, and post-frame of reference public relations person for tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE.) For the purposes of the Big Picture, this approach makes as much sense as reducing a Russian novel to a one-reeler (a remake of the 100' captioned version of "War and Peace" being one of tENT's long-range projects).
This id entity summed himself up in "t he book t he referent 4 wch consists of t he non-materialized transparent punch-outs from a letter/whatever stencil", which he wrote from ages 21 to 24:
Pause for autodescription, because sometimes he looks like this (and sometimes he doesn't): "I didn't bathe, brush my hair or my teeth, pissed outside more often than not, & often refrained from wiping my asshole, during a 5 mnth period when 17 & 18....started wearing even more eccentric clothing...such as hats with a red lite-bulb & fake hot dog toppings....finally got gutsy enuf to cut my hair into t he shapes of 12 symmetrically placed accessibility moustaches & t he 5 utters of ignorance."
Between 18 and 21, when you and I were college students, tENT conceived (but didn't execute) his first film project: "roll sideways across a limited access speedway w/ a camera pointed at t he approaching cars."
Having witnessed his one and only 14-film retrospective on May 30, 1982, I re-viewed some of them on April 13, 1983, and interviewed their author, over rum and magic mushrooms, from a mattress in his Baltimore apartment. This is decorated with a deflated/inflatable Seagram's 7 ad, a display simulating the Harvard five-foot shelf of books, an official divine all-inclusive excuse from the Church of the Subgenius, a Nuclear Brain Physics Surgery School diploma/poster, and an International Stop Continental Drift Society certificate.
"I've spent so much time thinking about and talking about these films that I'm more or less really sick of them," he says, "but simultaneously I'm thinking it would be a good way of making money and to travel with expenses paid."
Herewith an inventory of the selected films of tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE ("Reader's Digest" version):
1. A super-8 movie, running time app. 2&1/2 minutes, made in association with Lamar "Chip" Layfield, Carol, and Pat Brown, "it deals w/ t he usually peripheral aspect of film of audience-filmmaker/shower relationships." It's meant to be viewed at least 3 times, the audience gambling against the projectionist--at 2-1 odds in the projectionist's favor.
"The film is almost like a decoy, and it's not necessarily meant to be interesting to watch." At this screening, tENT's total wealth being 20¢, I wagered and lost a nickel on the first round, playing under unspecified rules. I won 10¢ on the next two rounds, which was worse than losing because equally an exercise in misdirection. After all, the film might be just the box it comes out of, or the whole thing might be just a big bundle of clues.
Now I put on my critic's hat to say that tENT is always more interested in process than product. Here, for instance, the filmmaker reverses roles with the audience since, assuming he loses, he must pay the audience to watch his picture--and to watch itself watching it. "I think the thing that distinguishes me most as a filmmaker is the extent to which I pay attention to peripheral and holistic aspects and the low-budget aspects of film, the extent to which these things are just parts of a whole."
2. MIKE FILM, i.e., app. 46,800 frames scissor-cut apart from 13 50' rolls that quasi-document the discarding of 20 art objects. Here tENT is concerned with the process of film distribution. He has, for example, put pieces of MIKE FILM in the coin return of a phone booth. Casandra vonRinteln helped with distribution at the Chesapeake Restaurant, where she removed her fur "to reveal her torso bare except 4 MIKE FILM taped 2 it." I helped too. tENTATIVELY gave me several dozen frames, one of which I distributed by attaching it to this typescript.
3. "GHOST," a.k.a A PROJECTIONIST'S NITEMARE, projected on a "screen" of 20 snapshots of the disposition of the 20 art objects documented in MIKE FILM. This is a movie of "indefinite duration" because the act of projection is "made difficult X many d liberately weak splices." This night the film slips in and out of the sprockets, a blur with color changes. The projectionist/filmmaker downshifts to make the images come into focus, so that I can glimpse ghosts of the antecedent movies and scraps of films of others, notably Doug Retzler/Sumu Pretzler (spliced in when the "GHOST" print broke at a previous showing).
"Everything is just sort of falling apart and floating, disintegrating everywhere," tENT says, "and that's the way it is when it's shown, and that's the way my mind was working when it was made."
4. SUBTITLES (super-8 version), begin in 1980, recently edited down from 55 to 47&1/2 minutes, "using s-f films donated X sumu pretzler & footage produced w/ t he aid of library located machines," e.g., microfiche viewers (to re-view) frames of MIKE FILM) and a visualtek machine (as in the "dyslexic variations" section, excerpted from "t he book").
This is a dismantle formula film with 20 categories--"dismantled and remantled." The six formula films are: "War of the Worlds," "D-Day on Mars," "Batmen of Africa," "Earth Versus the Spider," "The Phantom Planet," and "When Worlds Collide," all in their silent super-8 home movie versions.
"The closest I get to narrative is what I call 'implied plot sequence,'" i.e., he lumps together recurring elements in the formula for these potboilers, to wit, paranoid people, flying things, terrified people, destruction, weapons, viewing screens, fighting, titles, credits, unusual and/or not people, dissolves, etc., in non-narrative order, separated by white leader.
Of the microfiche episode, he says, "I just like this technically, if for no other reason. I've never seen film that looks like this, really," that's intensely self-referential (MIKE FILM devouring itself) and strictly extratextual ("How in hell does he get these effects?" asks the viewer). In another exercise in "ogjectivity," one of the visualtek sections turns the camera on itself, using a lens pointed as a mirror.
I suggest that everything in this picture has been cannibalized from something else. "Well, sort of," tENT says, "but then you could say that about any film. Even if you're just using exposures of light on film, you're cannibalizing the light."
It ends with a haphazard collection of captions fleetingly glimpsed, including "Kill her and the rubies are yours," "Look--the giant is getting small like us," "We've won!," "Killer lions!," "My instruments don't work," "I will teach him all there is to know," and "This is Captain Chapman." They all have editor marks.
"The thing that justified the original films was their plots, which were horrendously dull, and I've more or less removed the plots, so that they're even more horrendously dull if one tries to appreciate them as plot films. So therefore one has to approach them from a different angle in order to get some pleasure from them or just be completely bored. Or piece the plots together and possibly piece all six of the plots together into one hybrid film--the Batmen of Africa dying of bacteria after they go to the phantom planet, and then the worlds collide, leaving the giant spiders at home, maybe."
5. A regular-8 movie that's a one-line joke with a punch line that can go on forever, or for 2&1/2 minutes. "This is blank film that I drew on with a red marker in order to connect the Kodak leader."
6. An unsplit regular-8 loop film called SILENT SPEED, which is the legend scratched on the loop, this deals "w/ t he usually peripheral aspect of film of audience perceptual limits," perhaps because, though it depicts a progression of still shots of a record with a Braille label, you can't read the label, you can't hear the record, and you can't decipher the legend.
7. A DOUBLE NEGATIVE AS NOT A POSITIVE, another unsplit regular-8 movie, made with Hannah Aviva. When shown at the Maryland Institute of Art, this film aroused interest (in the titles), loud groans (at a mutual skin cutting), laughter (at the prints made from blood), and a great deal of clapping (at the end), all in the space of two minutes. tENT calls it "a folk math loophole to escape from reality"--reality him and Hannah naked and cutting one another to print pictures?
8. The 16mm version of SUBTITLES, running app. 13 minutes. "Basically I know next to nothing about the technicalities of film....I think this film is very complex visually, but it was made with probably more simple technology than probably any film that I know of." Incorporating a remake of MIKE FILM, it exists in 3 prints, one of which has been lost or stolen from the public library.
tENT put MIKE FILM into the microfiche machine, reshot it in super-8, cut the 50 feet of film in half, and taped the two halves together at the sprocket holes every 18 inches. With the help of Richard, he sandwiched this film underneath a layer of unsplit regular-8 film & pulled the whole kit and caboodle through a little box fitted with two light bulbs, one constant and one switchable. The light coming through the already exposed film printed the blank film, so that it's as if the movie is going through the projector without going through the sprockets.
* * *
In 25 words or less, tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE is a low-budget, high-tech filmmaker whose films are just another object in a universe of possibilities.
# # #
to the tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE movie-making "Press: Criticism, Interviews, Reviews" home-page
to the "tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - Sprocket Scientist" home-page
to the "FLICKER" home-page for the alternative cinematic experience
to find out more about why the S.P.C.S.M.E.F. (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Sea Monkeys by Experimental Filmmakers) is so important
for A Mere Outline for One Aspect of a Book on Mystery Catalysts, Guerrilla Playfare, booed usic, Mad Scientist Didactions, Acts of As-Beenism, So-Called Whatevers, Psychopathfinding, Uncerts, Air Dressing, Practicing Promotextuality, Imp Activism, etc..
for info on tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE's tape/CD publishing label: WIdémoUTH
to see an underdeveloped site re the N.A.A.M.C.P. (National Association for the Advancement of Multi-Colored Peoples)