Unreal Nature

September 17, 2015

Modulated by the Shadows

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:52 am

… Those are words shadowed on a mirror bounced off the wall through a lens, modulated by the shadows of leaves blowing in the wind …

This is from the author’s interview with David Gatten in Adventures of Perception: Cinema as Exploration by Scott MacDonald (2009):

[ … ]

Gatten: … [at a film retreat north of Toronto in his student days] What we were doing at the farm was shooting six rolls and processing them ourselves in buckets and spraying the film with a garden hose. In the process the film might fall on the rough floor and you might step on it; the dog might come over and chew on it.

… when my film was projected, I was excited because I could see not only what I’d photographed, which was one kind of record, but also that many of the marks on the surface of the film were legible.

… So two layers of experience were recorded: the photographic record and the inscription on the surface of the film of that object’s passage through the world — a completely new idea for me. At some point during the trip, when Weena [Weena Perry] and I were unpacking the car, I’d cut my hand and was being careful about putting my hand in the chemicals, thinking a lot about the scar that was forming, and talking about it too. I started to think about the surface of the film and the emulsion as very much like the skin on one’s body: we have marks on our body that are legible; there are stories we can tell about them.

[ … ]

MacDonald: Why ‘Hardwood’? [Hardwood Process (1996)]

Gatten: Weena and I had this really old apartment; the floors were in terrible shape, really scratched up. My first impulse was to get a rug down, but then I got interested in the floor. I thought, “Okay, here’s a third surface; this floor has been here for a hundred and fifty years and chairs have been moved, things have fallen; a whole history, which is completely il legible to me, is inscribed into the hardwood floor.” I could imagine into that space.

[ … ]

MacDonald: Near the end [of The Great Art of Knowing (2004)], we get this one particular kind of reflection, quite gorgeous; it suggests birds in various stages of flight caught within a single image. Do you mean to evoke Marey’s chronophotography?

Gatten: Those are words shadowed on a mirror bounced off the wall through a lens, modulated by the shadows of leaves blowing in the wind, also being put through an apparatus — so it’s words that suggest birds in flight. I spent three hours every afternoon for ten or twelve weeks sitting in the studio waiting for the light to arrive and looking through the camera. I probably only filmed every third day, but I spent hours waiting for the wind to be right, for the shadows of leaves to be the right size.

My most recent previous post from MacDonald’s book is here.




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