Unreal Nature

April 28, 2016

Imagine an Eye

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:44 am

Brakhage uses the filmstrip as a furrow …

This is from The Garden in the Machine: A Field Guide to Independent Films about Place by Scott MacDonald (2001):

… In the famous paragraph that opens his Metaphors on Vision, Brakhage describes this state of innocence:

Imagine an eye unruled by man-made laws of perspective, an eye unprejudiced by compositional logic, an eye that does not respond to the name of everything, but which must know each object encountered in life through an adventure of perception. How many colors are there in a field of grass to the crawling baby unaware of “Green”? How many rainbows can light create for the untutored eye? How aware of variations in heat waves can the eye be? Imagine a world alive with incomprehensible gradations of color. Imagine a world before the “beginning was the word.”

The Garden of Earthly Delights (1981) is a brief film (two and a half minutes), and as is true of most of Brakhage’s films, silent. Like the earlier, better-known Mothlight (1963), which remains Brakhage’s most frequently rented film, The Garden of Earthly Delights was produced by using what Brakhage felt, at the time when he was making Mothlight, “was a whole new film technique.” Having collected bits of natural detritus — seeds, tiny flowers, leaves, blades of grass — Brakhage arranged them as a collage along a 35mm filmstrip (actually, the materials were sandwiched between two 35mm filmstrips) and had the results printed so that the finished film could be projected.

[line break added] The experience of The Garden of Earthly Delights is as unusual as the technique that produced it: the viewer’s eye/mind is barraged with myriad particular images that often declare themselves to be what they are — imprints of seeds, flowers, leaves — in a flickering kaleidoscope that, if it is difficult to grasp in any particularity, does reveal a general overall shape: the experience begins and ends with darker, more densely textured imagery, which frames a central section of the film that, while also fast moving, reveals particular bits of seed, flower, leaf more clearly and with more light and a wider range of color. This general shape suggests the daily cycle, from darkness to day and back to darkness, and perhaps the seasonal cycle as well.

… Just as the seeds, flowers, and leaves we see in The Garden are a residue of natural processes going on in Brakhage’s backyard as he was making the film, the strip of film we see projected is a residue of the creative process that produced it. Brakhage has always spoken of his films as having been “given to him” to make, as if he, like the plants he sees growing, is simply another instance of natural process.

Brakhage uses the filmstrip as a furrow; he plants seeds, arranges ‘beds” of particular flowers, until his garden, The Garden, can be harvested (printed/projected) and enjoyed (viewed/consumed) by himself and others. The wild effusion of imagery in the completed film evokes a gardener’s fascination with the continual series of tiny changes that are inevitable as a garden is developing.

wherever motion picture imagery is assembled for/in the brain becomes — for Brakhage in The Garden of Earthly Delights — a “garden space.” In this space Brakhage “grows” exotic plants, or to be more exact, plants seeds and layers dead leaves and flowers (compost) so that through the addition of light (of the printer and projector) they are endowed with at least a momentary facsimile of life within the eye/mind of the viewer, who in this instance is as much host (in the biological sense) as viewer.

-Julie

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