Filmscreening

Morgan Fisher
Thom Andersen

3 May 2005

Thom Andersen
“Melting” (1964 - 65)
“Olivia’s Place” (1966)
“— ——-” (1966 - 67)

 

Morgan Fisher
“()” (2003)
Die Brücke, Hahnenstraße 6,
50667 Köln
8 pm

Melting (1964-65) 16mm, color, sound, 6 minutes
by Thom Andersen

 

Olivia’s Place (1966) 16mm, color, sound, 6 minutes
by Thom Andersen

 

— ——- (1966-67) 16mm, color, sound, 11 minutes
by Thom Andersen (in collaboration with Malcolm Brodwick)

 

( ) (2003) 16mm, color / black and white, silent, 21 minutes
by Morgan Fisher

 

This program of four short films is a reflection of a friendship between two people, Thom Andersen and Morgan Fisher, the compiler of these notes.

 

The first three films are Thom’s early shorts, made between 1964 and 1966. The fourth and last film was made by me in 2003. I hope this program can help to begin a rediscovery of Thom’s shorts that will secure for them the same critical attention and esteem that has been accorded the feature-length works Thom has made since then: Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer (1974); Red Hollywood (co-director Noël Burch; 1995)); and Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003).

 

Further, I would be happy if these early films by Thom were seen as a part of a bibliography, so to speak, for my films. Beyond that, Thom’s shorts were made within the two years after I met him, so they are for me always an occasion for pleasant memories of that moment.

 

I met Thom in 1964 when I enrolled in the Department of Cinema at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. I was in my first year in graduate school, and Thom was in his last year as an undergraduate. In meeting Thom I was incredibly fortunate. This chance event helped shape the course of the rest of my life. It is a rare thing to encounter a sensibility so distinct and so sophisticated and so fully formed, and to find that the person with this sensibility is generous enough and patient enough to share it with you. I learned a very great deal from Thom, and I continue to learn from him to this day.

 

Melting (1964-65) 16mm, color, sound, 6 minutes
Director: Thom Andersen
Director of photography: John Bailey
Art Director: Joyce Geller
Production assistants: John Moore and Morgan Fisher
Music: from “Livre d’Orgue” by Olivier Messiaen

 

The entry for Melting in the catalogue for The Film-Makers’ Cooperative, composed by Thom Andersen:
“N.B. Projection instructions: play soundtrack very low-volume will increase steadily as film progresses.
A single, static 200-ft. shot, filmed at 3 frames per second. Melting shows the natural monostructural disintegration of a strawberry sundae, its passage from rigidity to softness, from edibility to waste. The spoon resting on the plate refers to the human presence, which lurks behind the screen, declining to interfere with what transpires.”

 

Thom has elsewhere remarked that the music arbitrarily refers to Abel Gance’s La Fin du Monde. And he has remarked that the film is morally analogous to filming a suicide. Thom made Melting the last year he was an undergraduate in the cinema department at the University of Southern California. In Thom’s view Melting was a Hollywood production. It was shot on a sound stage with a Mitchell. There was a cameraman and there was an art director who prepared the ice cream sundae, and there were a couple of production assistants.

 

As Thom says in his note, the film was made by undercranking, or shooting at a frame rate lower than normal. The normal frame rate for film is of course 24 frames per second. Melting was shot at 4 frames per second, condensing the action by a factor of 6. (Thom’s catalogue entry says it was shot at 3 frames per second, but I remember it as 4.) The action that Melting depicts in 5 and one-half minutes took place in reality in 33 minutes.

 

In a letter that Thom wrote in 1966, he said that even though the action in Melting is accelerated, there is something about it that produces the opposite effect, that of slow motion. Slow motion occurs when the frame rate is higher than normal, thus stretching out the duration of the action. The example that Thom cited to make his point is time-lapse photography in nature films. Time lapse is an extreme form of undercranking, in which many minutes or even hours or days can pass between the exposure of successive frames. The blossoming of a flower or the growth of a pumpkin unfolds on the screen in a matter of seconds, not over the many days these actions occupy in nature. Thom’s point is that an action we know is accelerated we nonetheless can perceive as elongated in time.

 

Melting is remarkable for its alluding to a forgotten history and its prescience of history to come. Shot at a time after the concept of the informe, announced by Bataille in the 1920s, had vanished from awareness, Thom’s film embodies the informe as Yve-Alain Bois and Rosalind Krauss elaborated it in their show that brought the informe back into consciousness, “L’informe, mode d’emploi,” at the Centre Georges Pompidou in 1996.

 

Somewhere in his writing in Formless: A User’s Guide, a volume that translates all the texts from the catalogue for the show, Bois says that melting is the entropic activity par excellence. Entropy can be explained in this way: the total quantity of energy in the world is constant, but entropy assures us that the energy that makes up this constant is continually being transformed into ever less useful forms. When all the oil in the world is used up, the heat that it has been turned into is so dissipated, so undifferentiated, that it cannot produce more energy. (Robert Smithson, for whom entropy was a central concept, explained it by saying that entropy was a process the result of which could not be reversed by reversing the action that produced it.)

 

Thirty-odd years after Bataille announced the informe, and thirty-two years before Bois and Krauss brought the informe back from history, and before Bois characterized melting in this way, Thom made his film. What Thom in his note on the film calls the sundae’s passage from edibility to waste perfectly embodies the entropic. The undifferentiated mass that the sundae dissolves into is irreversible; it cannot be restored to its former components, least of all, to follow Smithson’s explanation, by putting it back in the refrigerator, that is, by cooling it. What once could have been eaten now cannot. Waste is something that nothing more can be made of; it has no further use.

 

Entropy is one of the four categories that Bois and Krauss propose as characterizing the informe. The three others are horizontality, base materialism, and the pulse. The categories of the informe are not mutually exclusive and in fact usually overlap. Melting certainly embodies entropy, and it embodies horizontality and base materialism as well. You are encouraged to read Formless: A User’s Guide for yourself, but until you do, you will have to rely on my very rough sketch of these concepts.

 

The origin in Bataille’s thought of what Bois and Krauss call horizontality was the undermining of human pretensions to higher things. It insisted on the base, the low, the animal, at the expense of the higher functions of consciousness and thought and culture that distinguish man from other animals. So working horizontality is already an attack on the lofty place conventionally accorded to the production and appreciation of art. Pollock, in making his paintings on the floor instead of an easel, relied on the painterly accidents produced by flinging and dripping paint under the force of gravity. He didn’t try to overcome gravity, he embraced it to produce his results. The results that horizontality produces are difficult to predict and control, and so are more or less subject to chance. Horizontality sometimes produces a mess. Things spread out, they flow as they will. As the mass of ice cream melts, the shape of what it turns into responds to gravity, and the form that the result took was not under Thom’s control.

 

Base materialism involves working with non-art materials: lead, asphalt, polyurethane foam, lard, vaseline, shaving cream, and so on, and in the case of Manzoni’s Merda d’artista, the artist’s own shit. The material is not so much composed as it is simply presented for what it is. Sometimes it’s a matter of turning it loose in certain situations, for example, Smithson’s pouring pieces: Asphalt Rundown, Glue Pour, Concrete Pour. The end stage of Melting embodies the idea of ordinary undifferentiated stuff that base materialism describes.

 

In taking leave of the informe, I note what should be obvious, that the value of Bois’s and Krauss’s discussion of the informe is that they show how these categories underpin and account for a large and diverse body of work made over many decades that forms a heretofore repressed counter-history to the official history of Modernism.

 

Olivia’s Place (1966) 16mm, color, sound, 6 minutes
Directed by: Thom Andersen
Cinematography: John Moore
Editor: Morgan Fisher
Music: “There Is Something on Your Mind,” by Big Jay McNeely and Band, vocal by Little Sonny

 

Olivia’s Place was a modest little cafe near the corner of Main Street and Ocean Park Avenue in Santa Monica. In the mid-60s the neighborhood was still run down, although it had risen somewhat from the skid row it once had been. Pacific Ocean Park, a seedy amusement park on a pier, was still nearby, to be demolished a few years later. But even then, urban redevelopment had razed the several blocks of cheap hotels by the beach, displacing a neighborhood of pensioners, to make way for the luxurious apartments that now stand there. Impecunious students from UCLA, who lived in Ocean Park or nearby in Venice, were regulars at Olivia’s Place. Thom was once of these. He lived a few blocks away in Horatio Court, a cluster of buildings designed by the distinguished early Modern architect Irving Gill. (Another regular at Olivia’s Place was Bill W.L. Norton, then a student in the film program at UCLA. Olivia’s Place was still in existence in 1972, so he was able to include in his film Cisco Pike a scene that was shot there.) The buildings in Horatio Court were in disrepair. The several separate houses that compose it had been divided up into single-room apartments. A policeman once told Thom that he lived in the most crime-infested building in Santa Monica. Years later someone told me that the only reason Horatio Court survived the changes that swept away so much of its neighborhood in the years that followed was that the buildings were made of cast concrete. The expense of demolishing them to replace them with stucco apartment buildings would not have made economic sense.

 

Olivia’s Place was one of the last businesses in Ocean Park that could be called, in a sentimental way, authentic, before the influx of educated and well-off residents and the rise of design culture drastically transformed this part of Santa Monica, just as it has changed so many neighborhoods elsewhere. As should be evident from Thom’s film, Olivia was black. She ran her place to suit herself. She cooked the food that she wanted to cook. The record on the soundtrack, “There Is Something on Your Mind” was released in 1959, and it was on the jukebox at Olivia’s Place in 1966. Olivia’s Place was an expression of one woman’s sensibility. Olivia knew what she liked, she knew what suited her and what suited her customers, and her customers reciprocated by being loyal customers. When things are the way you want them, there is no need to change.

 

It is generally agreed that Atget documented Paris because he knew it was going to disappear, and he wanted to record it before it did. In the same way, Thom knew that Olivia’s Place was going to disappear, and he wanted to document it before it vanished.

 

Olivia may have felt no need to change, but the world around her was not bound by such an impractical sentiment. Olivia’s Place is gone. The site where it used to stand is now a sort of plaza between two large old wood frame houses that were moved to their present location from elsewhere in the city. One of these houses is occupied by a restaurant, the other is occupied by the California Heritage Museum, where the current exhibition is “Groves of Gold: California Fruit Box Labels.”

 

Two houses that on the one hand was moved to save them from demolition and on the other hand to guarantee in their new location the neighborhood’s gentrification, bracket the spot where a modest building had stood that was home to an institution created by one woman for its neighborhood, and that was demolished without a second thought.

 

I wasn’t involved with shooting of Olivia’s Place. Thom took a series of photographs of the interior that served as a storyboard, then shot the film with another friend of his, John Moore. But there were some difficulties in the footage, and, as Thom recently reminded me, since I helped solve the difficulties, I should say I was the editor.

 

— ——- (1966-67) 16mm, color, sound, 11 minutes
Directed by: Thom Andersen
Co-maker: Malcolm Brodwick
Cinematography: Thom Andersen
Picture editor: Thom Andersen
Sound editor: Malcolm Brodwick

 

The entry for — ——- in the catalogue for The Film-Makers’ Cooperative, composed by Thom Andersen:
“A documentary about rock’n’roll. Making, buying, selling. Radio, jukebox, scopitone, pinball, poolhall. Canned Heat, City Lights, Seeds of Time, LA Tymes. Llyn Foulkes, Charlie Watts. Chris & Craig, Duke of Earl. Seeburg, Wurlitzer. Standing, walking, jumping, singing, dancing, gesturing, surfing. LAPD, LA County Sheriffs Dept., The Trip, The Lynch Bldg. Tops, Pandora’s Box, Maverick’s Flat, someone’s backyard. California Music Co. Riot in cell block number nine, riot on sunset strip. Hot rod, coin slot, go cart, bomp club. Hound Dog Man, King Creole. Kim Weston, The Rainbows, The Shangri-Las, The Supremes, Earl-Jean. Stupid girl, 19th nervous breakdown. Bill Haley & The Comets: you can get no further back than that. Wolfman Jack, Ernie Bushmiller, Jimmy Reed, Ray Charles, The Who, The Coasters. Great balls of fire. Standing at the crossroads of love. Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, John Cale, Screamin Jay Hawkins, Howlin Wolf, James Brown-The King. You can’t catch me. Frankie Avalon, The Beatles, The Yardbirds. Wax reclamation, an early clue to the new direction. Mick Jagger/Earth Angel.

 

Documentary material organized by a predetermined structure. A sequence of picture-sound equations with randomly chosen terms. Vertically, — ——- is completely structured; horizontally it is completely random. A pastiche of cinematography, a parody of montage. 1:2. 3:7. Right, left. Right to left-left to right. Up-down. Stasis, motion. Orange, magenta. Yellow, blue. Red, green. Magenta, orange. Blue, yellow. Green, red. 1:2, 1,5:3, 2:4, 3:6, 5:10, 8:16 . . .”

 

The title of the film, — ——-, is resistant to language; those who know the film usually call it the rock ‘n’ roll film. In the letter in which Thom talked about Melting he also discussed — ——-. He said that he wanted to make a documentary that would frustrate the desire for topical information that is the accustomed mode of a conventional documentary. To make a documentary of this new kind, he explained, he needed a subject that could be treated without having to rely on the usual devices of exposition and organization borrowed from the model of the essay. Once he had framed the question in this way, the choice of subject was obvious: rock ‘n’ roll culture, for which, as he remarked, he had a sentimental love.

 

— ——- is constructed according to several rules, all of them simple. Thom’s catalogue entry describes them, but in terms so terse that they verge on the inscrutable. They are worth elaborating more fully. The first rule, and the one that we sense most clearly in seeing the film, is announced by the film’s title, a short line followed by a longer line. The film is made up of pairs of shots that follow this relation of relative lengths. The second shot in each pair is longer than the first. In each succeeding pair, the first shot is longer than the first shot in the preceding pair but shorter than the second. And the second shot in each pair is longer than the second shot in the preceding pair. The relations among the lengths of the shots weave the pairs of shots together.

 

A second rule assigns a dominant hue to each shot and arranges the hues in an order that proceeds crosswise around the color circle. Even if this second rule is the less evident of the two, in any case we sense the operation of the first: as the film unfolds the shots get longer. There is a sense of diffusion, a relaxation of tension. The increase in the length of the shots is in itself anti-dramatic. In dramatic films the correlative for the rising action that drama demands is shots that, if anything, get shorter.

 

A further rule says that motion in one direction in the frame is followed in the next shot by motion in another direction. Perhaps there are further rules that Thom has never bothered to explain, to me to or anyone else.

 

In doing the picture editing, Thom may have been operating within a set of rules, but it is important to point out that the film is nonetheless edited: the conditions that any one shot fulfills could have been fulfilled by others, so Thom still made decisions that can be called editing decisions. This is true for all the shots except for the last, which as the climax of the film can come only at the end, just as it must also be the longest shot in the film. Once Thom had done the editing, he furnished Malcolm Brodwick, his collaborator, with a list of the lengths of the shots. Malcolm, working from Thom’s collection of records of popular music, constructed the sound track knowing only the length of the shots his construction was to accompany, and not knowing what was happening in the shots.

 

So the pairings between the images and the sound are a matter of chance. The sense of rightness in the result, not to mention the uncanny brilliance of many of the juxtapositions, is an indisputable confirmation of the power of the aleatory to produce image-sound relations that surpass what a human mind can deliberatively invent. Far from seeming arbitrary, they seem inevitable. And the chance relations between image and sound means that the even after many years and many viewings, there are relations between them still to be discovered.

 

I consider Thom and Malcolm’s film to be groundbreaking in its brilliant demonstration of the power of a rule to construct a film that unifies shots taken at different times and places. And it also noteworthy for the new model of the documentary film that it proposes. In describing his film as a parody of montage, Thom is being too modest, if not deliberately misleading. The brilliance of — ——- is that it refuses the power of montage as that idea has been conventionally understood, only to rediscover its power in a different form, on a new plane. Somewhere Eisenstein describes montage as that mode of construction that goes beyond representing the appearance of an event to capture the feeling of it. — ——- operates in this way, but in a realm that is particularly resistant to representation by means of images, that of memory.

 

Our individual lives have given us each our particular memories, the concrete memories of specific individual events. Such memories are often visual, and they can be represented in images of the kind we call memory-images. This is the kind of image that Andrew Sarris had in mind when he praised John Ford for creating such images in Wee Willie Winkle. But there is also memory that synthesizes the concrete into something more abstract that crystallizes and condenses a period of time into something like a feeling. This is the kind of memory that — ——- achieves; Thom’s film perfectly synopsizes the feeling that people would recognize who were young and with an interest in popular music and living in Los Angeles in 1966. And the film achieves its recovery of a historical moment by means that are as far from the specificity of bathetic literalism as it is possible to imagine. To apply to — ——- a judgment alleged to have been pronounced by an ecclesiastical film critic in speaking of another film that relied on just such bathetic literalism in its attempt to recapture the truth of a moment in history, “It is as it was.”

 

( ) (2003) 16mm, color / black and white, silent, 21 minutes
by Morgan Fisher

 

The origin of ( ) was my fascination with inserts. Inserts are a crucial kind of shot in the syntax of narrative films. Inserts show newspaper headlines, letters, and similar sorts of significant details that have to be included for the sake of clarity in telling the story. I have long been struck by a quality of inserts that can be called the alien, and as well the alienated. Narrative films depend on inserts (it’s a very rare film that has none), but at the same time they are utterly marginal.

 

Inserts are far from the traffic in faces and bodies that are the heart of narrative films. Inserts have the power of the indispensable, but in the register of bathos.

 

Inserts are above all instrumental. They have a job to do, and they do it; and they do little, if anything, else. Sometimes inserts are remarkably beautiful, but this beauty is usually hard to see because the only thing that registers is the news, the expository information, that the insert conveys. That’s the unhappy ideal of the insert: you see only what it does, and not what it is. This of course is no more than the ideal of all the instruments of narrative filmmaking and the rules that govern their use.

 

So inserts are like all shots in a narrative film in that they are purely instrumental. But inserts embody this fact to the most extreme degree. If there is one kind of shot in a movie in which there is the least latitude for the exercise of expressive intelligence, it is the insert. This is so because all considerations in composing the shot must bend to the single imperative to make something clear. If there is a hierarchy in the prestige and glamour of the different kinds of shots in a narrative film, inserts are at the bottom. In the old days, the inserts were sometimes directed, if indeed that is the word, by someone other than the director. That is how little inserts matter as occasions for expression.

 

I wanted to make a film out of nothing but inserts, or shots that were close enough to being inserts, as a way of making them visible, to release them from their self-effacing performance of drudge-work, to free them from their servitude to story.

 

By chance I learned that the root of “parenthesis” is a Greek word that means the act of inserting. And so I was given the title of the film. The film’s non-verbal title parallels the title of — ——- and so is an acknowledgement of my debt to Thom, even if my title is less radical than his, because there is a direct equivalent in language for my title but not for Thom’s. And so I was given the title of the film. My using the symbols for parentheses instead of the word is an acknowledgment of my debt to Thom, although my title is less radical than his, because there is a direct equivalent in language for mine but not for Thom’s.

 

Inserts are the subject that I began with. The question was, how to construct the film.

 

I have long been interested in work that is constructed according to rules. Sol LeWitt is one of my favorite artists. A rule may be arbitrary, but it has enormous power: it provides a reason for the work to be as it is. The rule can be stated, and its being stateable locates the origin of the work outside the artist. The artist didn’t make the work, the rule did. The rule produced the work from which we understand the rule that produced the work. This reciprocity between rule and result leaves the artist out. (LeWitt underscores this by hiring art workers to execute the work.)

 

Of course ultimately any work made by a rule can only point back to the artist as its origin because the artist composes the rule. But at least the rule introduces an intermediate term that does what it can to assign responsibility for the composing to somewhere else.

 

I think it’s fair to say that rules by their nature are inconsonant with expressivity, as that notion is conventionally understood, precisely because at first glance rules appear to leave out the artist. And the rule accounts for everything we see, so there are no surprises. No room for touches of cleverness. No ingenious inventions, no bravura passages.

 

I have made films according to rules. The films announce the rules more or less explicitly, so the films are predictable. The viewer can anticipate what will happen before it occurs on the screen. There will be no surprises.

 

Further, the films I’ve made according to rules have the unity of being shot in continuous time and in the same space. In constructing ( ) I was dealing with many inserts from many films, hence there were many times and many spaces. There would have to be cuts, but I did not want to make each cut with a view to producing a specific meaning or enacting a specific trope. This would have amounted to imposing myself on the material, when my wish was to set the shots free. I wanted cuts whose significance was something I did not intend. This of course is a deliberate refusal of the power of the cut, as that power has been conventionally understood, but that was what I wanted to do. But there had to be cuts. So it was a question of finding a rule that would make the cuts for me, a rule that would construct the film.

 

And, for a change, I wanted the rule that would construct the film to be unpredictable. The way to do this was to create a rule that as invisible. The great example of composition according to an invisible rule is the work of the French writer Raymond Roussel. And, to give a specific instance of my indebtedness to Thom, it was Thom who introduced me to Roussel.

 

Roussel’s work so baffled the public that he thought it would help if he explained his several methods of composition. This he did in a book titled How I Wrote Certain of My Books. For those of you who don’t know Roussel’s work, I recommend it to you. You have a treat waiting for you.

 

The method that Roussel followed in his novels Impressions of Africa and Locus Solus guaranteed the creation of scenes that are clearly beyond the power of literary imagination to invent. The disturbance that we experience in Roussel comes in part from our somehow grasping that the writing does not originate within the merely literary but comes from somewhere else, and we donít know what this somewhere else is. And the method also guarantees that even if we can grasp the basic schemes of the novels, the specific incidents that fill them are impossible to predict. The disturbance that we experience in Roussel comes in part from our somehow grasping that the writing does not originate within the merely literary but comes from somewhere else, and we don’t know what this somewhere else is. And the method also guarantees that events are impossible to predict.

 

But Roussel’s method still required him to do a little of what I will call conventional composing. To compose ( ) I wanted to find a rule that would spare me the necessity for any composing at all, a rule that once I chose it left me no choices, no room to edit, no room to compose, a rule that would allocate every single shot to its place in the film.

 

All I had to do was choose the shots. I chose shots that I thought represented the range of what inserts usually do. And I also chose shots to make the scheme work out, as a poet adds or subtracts syllables to make the meter work out. Once I chose the shots, and made the adjustments in adding and subtracting that the rule demanded (as a poetic form makes its demands), the rule did the rest. There are some shots in ( ) that I would call weak, but that’s all right; their presence tells you that I was submitting to a scheme, just as the slight awkwardness in poetry (added syllables, contractions) remind you that the poet is obedient to a scheme.

 

The rule is not visible, so you cannot tell that I obeyed it, but I did. It doesn’t matter what the rule is. The film is not a cipher or a cryptogram, so figuring out the rule is beside the point. The only person who needed to know the rule is me, because I needed it to make the film. A rule has the power of prediction, but only if you see it. To the extent that the rule remains invisible, the unfolding of the film is, for better or worse, difficult to foresee.

 

One thing the rule does is to make sure that no two shots from the same film appear in succession. Every cut is a cut to another film. There is interweaving, but it is not the interweaving of dramatic construction, where intention and counterintention are composed in relation to each other to produce friction that culminates in a climax. Instead it is an interweaving according to a rule that assigns the shots as I found them to their places in an order. In keeping with my wish to locate ( ) as far as possible from the usual conventions of cutting, whether those of montage or those of story films, the rule that puts the shots in the order has nothing to do with what is happening in them.

 

I wanted to free the inserts from their stories, I wanted them to have as much autonomy as they could. I thought that discontinuity, cutting from one film to another, was the best way to do this. It is narrative that creates the need for an insert, assigns an insert to its place and keeps it there. The less the sense of narrative, the greater the freedom each insert would have.

 

But of course any succession of shots, no matter how disparate, brings into play the mechanism of montage. That cannot be helped. Where there is juxtaposition we assume specific intention and so look for meaning. Even if there is no specific intention, and here there is none, we still look for meaning, some way of understanding the juxtapositions. But at each cut I intended only discontinuity, cutting from one film to another, discontinuity and nothing more. Indeed, beyond that simple device I could not intend any specific meaning, because whatever happens at each cut is the consequence of whatever two shots the rule put together, and the rule does not know what is in the shots. So what happens specifically at each cut is a matter of chance.

 

I would like to think that ( ) is constructed in such a way that the usual ways of thinking about composing a film, about how to shape the events that succeed one another in the rectangle that is visible to us, no longer have much use. The idea of editing, in any sense, does not apply. It wasn’t a matter of finding the optimum order of the shots, then spending hours to find just the right frame to come into a shot and just the right frame to get out. Instead, I used the shots as I found them and the rule determined the order. So in ( ) it’s really not a case of one thing succeeding another, but instead more a matter of our seeing at any one moment an element that is a part of a larger construction, as if we were scanning a matrix or array, seeing only one part of it while we can’t see the whole of the thing of which we know it is a part. For me ( ) is not so much a linear event, one thing after another, but an arrangement of elements in space, as words like “matrix” and “array” suggest. What ( ) proposes is that there is such a thing as a film you should be able to see all at once, as you can see all at once a grid and the cells that make it up and into which it is divided. Or the film can be related to the experience of poetry, where as you read you concentrate on the exact few words you are reading and at the same time you have a sense of where you are in the larger construction: the stanzas that the lines make up, and the entire composition that the stanzas make up. Of course it is not possible in fact to see a film all at once, but it is possible to propose such a thing as a model. That’s not to much to ask, is it, that you remember every shot in ( ) and can see them all at the same time?

 

Morgan Fisher

 

(The original version of this note is available at http://www.filmlinc.com/nyff/avantgarde2003.htm)