Unreal Nature

December 24, 2015

Perceptual Retraining

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

… “There are various levels where your mind can make connections.”

This is from American Ethnographic Film and Personal Documentary by Scott MacDonald (2013):

… In my view, the most interesting development in avant-garde film and video during the 2000s and early 2010s has been the continued emergence of a meditative or contemplative cinema of place that has taken two roughly distinct forms. Some filmmakers — Nathaniel Dorsky is the preeminent instance — create complex, subtle (and in Dorsky’s case, silent) montages, organized according to what Dorsky has called “polyvalence”:

[line break added] “I want successive images to be disparate and connected, and I want each shot to link back to earlier shots. The connection can be as simple as the return of a certain red or of a particular pattern. Sometimes it’s the iconography. There are various levels where your mind can make connections. They say the grandchildren are actually more like their grandparents than their parents; my method feels something like that. I want each shot to continue to play a role, after the next shot, and the next, have passed.”

… The other approach to a meditative/contemplative cinema of place is exemplified by the films of Peter Hutton, the films and high-definition videos of James Benning since 1995 (most obviously 13 Lakes and Ten Skies, both 2004), and Sharon Lockhart’s (2003) and Double Tide (2009). These films and videos are committed to rigorous composition, shots of extended duration, and visual (and auditory) subtlety — and to the use of cinemagoing as a form of perceptual retraining away from the hysterical consumption (of imagery, of products) promoted by the commercial media.

Still Point (2009) can be understood as reducing [Alfred] Guzzetti’s experimental videos to an essence: the kinds of image and sound he uses are familiar from earlier work, but the experience is slowed down, “stilled/distilled,” for our more careful examination (in Still Point Guzzetti forgoes text, both visual and audio). At the same time, however, as short as Still Point is (14½ minutes), the individual shots, and the video as a whole feel epic, not only as a result of being shot in high definition and projected wide screen, but because Guzzetti’s expansive compositions, the videos elegant pacing, and the startling variety of spaces included.

[line break added] While earlier Guzzetti videos engage the often overwhelming qualities of modern life, Still Point is consistently meditative. Like Hutton/Benning/Lockhart, Guzzetti seems to have returned to the “still point” where cinema began, to the approach to filmmaking instituted by the Lumière Brothers and their excitement with capturing extended, well-composed 50-second images of the familiar and unfamiliar world around them.

-Julie

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