Thursday, 31 December 2009
Work from Regular 8.
“For the past ten years, my practice has encompassed photography and video, examining vernacular archival materials, including snapshots and home movies. Investigating the relationship between the still and moving image, my work has considered the limits of indexical media to translate lived experience, underlining the fragmented, ephemeral nature of the memory process. My current project Regular 8, staged photographs re-enacting home movie stills, perfectly coalesces these interests.
Regular 8 examines 8 mm film-making in the mid to late 1950s, a medium held in the hands of amateurs primarily documenting family life: special occasions, vacations and simple daily moments. As Pierre Bourdieu writes, the camera plays a key role in “solemnizing and immortalizing the high points of family life.”1 The genre provides a fascinating glimpse into the period, amateur film conventions and generational values.
The staged scenes in Regular 8 are inspired by found and borrowed family films, as if we as viewer had stopped to examine a scene as we scrolled through the hand-cranked film editor used to edit 8 mm film at home. Instead of letting the film roll to tell a story, the stills in Regular 8 present us with a freeze-frame, rupturing and suspending the unfolding of the narrative at a specific moment.
The still image, the frozen frame, takes film back to its origins, photography, for film followed and developed out of photography. Early on, such devices as the Magic Lantern and Zoetrope sought to develop the illusion of movement by stringing together a series of still images. By the 1880s the invention of roll film with its capacity to capture images in real time launched cinema. Yet to this day, film’s debt to photography is evidenced in the cinematographer’s title Director of Photography. In recent years, the exploration of movement has been replaced by a fascination with stillness, as such artists as Douglas Gordon, Bill Viola and many others have slowed film down, in fact painstakingly broken it down still by still, providing us with an examination of narrative structures and image making that honour film’s original source, the photographic still.
It is out my love for both photography and film in their vernacular form, that the series Regular 8 developed. In stilling these narratives one can linger over them, examine their contents and the dynamic of the relationships within them. The white “holes” appearing over the images make reference to Kodak’s tagging system, a series of numbers punched through the end of each film reel during the manufacturing process to identify the film stock and batch number. The Regular 8 photographs refer to the home movie viewing experience when the dots appeared, floated over obliterating the last few frames of the story, signaling the end of the film. Suspending these moments gives us pause to consider many things; stories and people who are long forgotten; the invention of the image of the happy family within the staging of films; a time and technology which have passed; and transcended cultural values.
One cannot consider these films without remembering the importance of the screening experience. As Peter Forgacs writes: “The family movie as a cinematic form is more than a simple film phenomenon. The private film is an imprint of culture rewritten by a motion picture that has a certain self-reflective impact on the overall face of culture. One of the sources of understanding for family films lies within the context of screening – specifically the role of narration or commentaries offered up by the family while viewing the films: “This is me, that is him,” “This happened then, and that happened then,” “Now we see this and this,” “How happy we were at that time.” Spontaneous comments that, in effect, constitute the metanarration.”2
This project developed out of the memory of those screenings. The white dots played a significant role in those recollections: they signified the film’s end, one that seemed abrupt, incomplete and merciless. Home movies represent the memories of us at our best, happiest, most polished and special. They evoke something we wanted to hold close forever. Of course we never can, and that immanent ending brings to light the painful beauty of the ephemeral nature of our lives.” – Sara Angelucci
via Screen 2010