DESCRIBING FORM

FILM EXPERIMENTS WITH THE SCULPTURAL FORM

Image: detail from Young Universe by Liliane Lijn

DESCRIBING FORM

FILM EXPERIMENTS WITH THE SCULPTURAL FORM

HOW TO REPRESENT THE WEIGHT AND SPACE OF SCULPTURAL FORM ON FILM? HOW TO DESCRIBE IN MOVING IMAGES WHAT IS FUNDAMENTALLY STILL? IT COULD BE SAID THAT SCULPTURE IS DESCRIBED BY THE SPACE AROUND IT, BY THE EXPERIENCE OF PERAMBULATION, OR TOUCH. THE MOVING IMAGE POSITIONS THE VIEWER AT ONE REMOVE FROM THIS DIRECT EXPERIENCE. THE SENSE OF MATERIAL AND SURFACE AND ENVIRONMENT THAT IS SO IMMEDIATE DURING A FIRST HAND ENCOUNTER WITH A SCULPTURAL FORM BECOMES FRAMED THROUGH THE LENS OF THE FILMMAKER, A DOCUMENT CAUGHT IN ANOTHER TIME AND SPACE. IT IS IN THE TENSION BETWEEN THESE TWO STATES THAT AVANT-GARDE FILMMAKERS, AND THE ARTISTS THEMSELVES, HAVE BROUGHT THEIR SINGULAR AND EXPERIMENTAL APPROACHES TO FILMING FORM. ARTISTS AS VARIED AS MAYA DEREN AND RICHARD SERRA HAVE EXPLORED STRUCTURES OF SOUND, PERFORMANCE AND EVEN HUMOUR TO GO BEYOND MERE DOCUMENTATION, AND PRESENT NEW WAYS OF USING THE MOVING IMAGE TO OFFER FRESH PERSPECTIVES ON SCULPTURAL FORM. CURATED BY LUCY REYNOLDS A LUX TOURING PROJECT

VISUAL VARIATIONS ON NOGUCHI MARIE MENKEN 1945, 5mins When the sculptor Noguchi asked the artist Marie Menken to look after his New York studio in his absence, she took the opportunity to record her responses to his sculpture, producing this powerful interweaving of sound with abstracted image. Courtesy of Anthology Film Archives Marie Menken A key figure of the American avant-garde filmmaking community, Marie Menken, was at the centre of New York avant-garde filmmaking from the post war period until her death in the early 1970s. Along with her husband, the poet Willard Maas, she formed the Gryphon Film group with Maya Deren in order to promote artist filmmaking. Maas and Menken provided encouragement to a younger generation of filmmakers including Kenneth Anger and Stan Brakhage and Menken was a frequent visitor to Warhol’s factory, appearing most notably in his film Chelsea Girls. Initially trained as a painter, Visual Variations on Noguchi was the first of eighteen solo films and three collaborations with her husband. Menken’s films were an experimental and poetic response to the world she encountered around her and included sequences of animation, time-lapse and abstraction. In the case of films such as Notebook () and Moonplay (1962), the images were accumulated over several years.

GYROMORPHOSIS HY HIRSH 1954, 7mins Hirsh puts into motion the inherent kinetic qualities of the construction-sculpture of Constant Nieuwenhuys of Amsterdam.‘To realise this aim I have put into motion, one by one, pieces of this sculpture and, with colored lighting, filmed them in various detail, overlaying the images on the film as they appear and disappear. In this way I have hoped to produce sensations of acceleration and suspension which are suggested to me by the sculpture itself.’ Hy Hirsh Courtesy of Larry Cuba/ Iota Center Hy Hirsch Born in 1911, Hy Hirsch became interested in making films when he started helping other west coast American filmmakers such as Sidney Petersen and Jordan Belson in the capacity of a camera operator. He later settled in Amsterdam and Paris, where he continued to make meticulous experimental films and animations until his early death in 1960. His films are characterised by their exuberant colour and strong relationship to music. Like Harry Smith, he used jazz soundtracks to determine the rhythmic structures of his films, whether they were abstract animations or related to real objects or places, from the canals and streets of Amsterdam to the sculpture of Constant Nieuwenhuys.

WHAT IS THE SOUND OF ONE HAND CLAPPING LILIANE LIJN 1973, 14mins ‘The title is taken from a Japanese koan, which is a Zen mediation problem. The film concentrates on a series of conical sculptures which were objects for mediation or how to empty the mind. I related this problem to the spacial problem of how to dematerialise a volume into vibration.’ Liliane Lijn. Courtesy of the artist Liliane Lijn ‘New York by birth, Europe by education, London by choice’ Born in New York City, Lijn studied Archaeology at the Sorbonne and History of Art at the Ecole du Louvre, interrupting her academic pursuits to concentrate on painting. From 1966 - 59 she worked with light, poetry, movement and liquids, and was artist-in-residence in a New York City plastics factory, where she lived from 1961-63, experimenting with fire and acids. She married the kinetic sculptor Takis and lived between Paris, New York, and Athens, moving to London in 1966 by which time numerous international exhibitions established her as a leading kinetic artist. During this period and throughout the 1970s to the present day she has undertaken various public commissions for her kinetic sculptures, or ‘koans’, which were inspired by her interest in solid state, quantum physics and in Zen Buddhism. These interests were also investigated in her book

WITCH’S CRADLE OUTTAKES MAYA DEREN 1943, 10mins All that exists of a film Deren made of an environment based on Duchamp’s string sculpture at the New York Surrealist Exhibition in 1942. These outtakes hint at a complex exploration by the artist of the relationship between Duchamp’s sculpture and symbols of witchcraft. The enigmatic images incorporate a female figure and Duchamp himself. Courtesy of Anthology Film Archives Maya Deren One of the most significant and well known film-makers of the American post-war avant-garde. Deren made seven films before her untimely death in 1961. All have proved to be influential to generations of experimental filmmakers, as has her treatise on filmmaking ‘An Anagram of Ideas on Art, Form, and Film’. Born in Kiev, the daughter of a Russian Jewish psychiatrist, she attended school in Switzerland and studied journalism at Syracuse University before moving to New York. Here she pursued her interests in dance, poetry and politics until she made her first film, ‘Meshes of the Afternoon’, with her husband Alexander Hammid in 1943. Through her lecture tours and writings Deren was a tireless advocate for filmmaking to be perceived as an art, rather than commercial entertainment. Her films investigate how notions of psychological consciousness can be revealed

Design by Rachel Reupke

DESCRIBING FORM

FILM EXPERIMENTS WITH THE SCULPTURAL FORM

FIGURES IN A LANDSCAPE DUDLEY SHAW ASHTON 1954, 18mins An unusual documentary portrait of sculptor Barbara Hepworth, relating her sculptures directly to the natural forms of the land by positioning them within the Cornish landscape. Courtesy of British Film Institute Dudley Shaw Ashton Dudley Shaw Ashton was a documentary filmmaker who specialised in making films about artists. From the late 1940s to the 1970s he made a number of films exploring the relationship between the artist and their environment, of which ‘Figures in a Landscape’ (1954) is a notable example for it’s depiction of the sculpture of Barbara Hepworth within the Cornish landscape. His 1961 documentary‘ The Cathedral Under the Sea’ (1961), examines the paintings and collages of Ceri Richards, which were inspired by Debussy’s musical treatment of the Celtic myth of a cathedral hidden beneath the waves.

HAND CATCHING LEAD RICHARD SERRA 1968, 3.30mins A playful examination of the relationship of the artist to his materials. The hand of sculptor Richard Serra is filmed as he attempts to catch, and often misses falling lumps of lead. Whilst the forceful trajectory of the falling lead echoes the movement of the film frames, it also exposes the futility of the artistic process. Courtesy of Museum of Modern Art, New York Richard Serra Richard Serra was born in San Francisco in 1939. His early work as an artist focused on industrial materials such as steel and lead, which he had earlier encountered whilst working in west coast steel mills and shipyards. The Splash series (1968/70) was a famous early work in which molten lead was splashed or cast into the junctures between floor and wall, emphasising the performative process of throwing the lead and the awareness of it’s material properties. Around this time he produced the first of numerous short films which explored these processes of making and performing sculptural materials through the moving image. From the late 1960s he began showing at Leo Castelli Gallery in New York and his sculptures have been commissioned and situated at museums and public spaces around the world. Since his minimalist beginnings, Serra’s sculptural work is

THROUGH THE LARGE GLASS HANNAH WILKE 1974, 10mins Through performance Hannah Wilke challenges the authority of sculpture in the museum, enacting a striptease behind Marcel Duchamp’s Large Glass at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Courtesy of Electronic Arts Intermix Hannah Wilke From the 1970s until her death in 1993, Hannah Wilke produced work that examined sex and sexuality, feminism and femininity, the body and its representation. Working in sculpture, painting, performance, video, and photography, Wilke used her own body as a means of asserting a specifically female iconography. In the 1970s and early 1980s Wilke made a series of performance videotapes, in which she often explored issues of gender and power through posturing, posing, and gesture. Other tapes document her performances, such as Through the Large Glass, in which she performs a striptease behind Duchamp's The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors. Wilke's project culminated in the early 1990s with a stark, moving series of photographs of her face and body during her struggle with cancer.

WATERFALL WILLIAM RABAN 1983, 8mins A rarely seen film of Ron Hasledenís sculptural installation Graveing Dock at the Acme Gallery. Raban experiments with the acoustics of dripping water, an integral element of the sculpture, in relationship to the spaces within and around the structure. Courtesy of the artist William Raban After initially training as a painter, William Raban began making films in 1970. During his association with the London Filmmakers Co-operative, Raban helped to develop a unique interdisciplinary ‘expanded’ film form which fused performance, installation and multi-screen projection, through works such as the film action 2’45”(1973) and multi-screen projection Diagonal (1973). Raban’s films are also characterised by their evocative use of location and sense of place. Early double screen films such as River Yar, made with Chris Welsby in 1972, used formalist enquiry to assert a radical reinterpretation of landscape in film. More recently the documentary-based Under the Tower Trilogy (1992-6) used the urban landscapes of London’s docklands to critique the political upheavals of the 1990's. Raban has recently returned to an expanded practice with multiprojection installation works such as After Duchamp (2003). He lives in London and is Reader in Film at the University of

BIRDS DARIA MARTIN 2001, 6mins The opposite of an overbudgeted Hollywood blockbuster, Birds is a kind of magic act that shows how the trick is done. Birds mines pre-digital tools to create low-tech special effects for today’s world, using archaic film tricks, the contrived staginess of theater, the old-fashioned pleasures of the “plastic arts” –color, form,-- and the transformative thrill of fashion to create a completely different kind of “virtual reality.” Fantasy is made tangible, as the viewer’s awareness vacillates between the magic of the materials’ transformation, and that transformation’s failure. DM. Courtesy of the artist Daria Martin Born 1973, San Francisco, California. Following a degree in Humanities at Yale (1995) Martin attended UCLA in Los Angeles (2000) on an MA, practising initially as a painter. She began working with film as an exploration of its sculptural possibilities in relation to video. Her first film In The Palace (2000) was directly inspired by the Giacometti sculpture The Palace at 4 am, and forms the first part of a trilogy which also includes Birds (2001) and Closeup Gallery (2003), the latter completed during her residency at Delfina Studio Trust, London. Her most recent film Soft Materials (2004), commissioned by the Showroom Gallery, was shot in

Curated by Lucy Reynolds www.lux.org.uk/describingform A LUX project supported by Arts Council England

With thanks to the following individuals and organisations Gary Thomas and Sara Bowler at Arts Council England, Liliane Lijn, Len Thornton at Soho Images, Kitty Cleary at the Museum of Modern Art ,New York, John Thomson at Electronic Arts Intermix, Andrew Lampert at Anthology Film Archives, Larry Cuba at Iota Center, Shona Barrett and John Flahive at the British Film Institute.

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