Handmade slide from Meat (1999), courtesy of Luther Price
I recently discovered the work of Luther Price at the LUX/ICA Biennial of Moving Images in London
, where the curators of Light Industry
, NY put on a programme of nine of Price's short films. These thoughts appeared as part of a report on the Biennial for The Quietus Film
Luther Price engages with the physicality of film, though not out of preciousness or nostalgia. Rather, Price has a sculptor's relationship
with the medium – indeed, he previously trained in this craft. The curators of Light Industry in New York, Thomas Beard and Ed Halter
, who also screened Price's work at the Whitney
earlier this year, described his meticulous ways of reworking old film stock. Collecting and appropriating found footage, from ethnographic documentary to home video and porn, Price carves, cuts and overpaints film strips on a light box. While the work of Price's hand is at times intricate, at others it is crudely visceral, as much about effacing images as producing them.
The visual results of Price's techniques range from the kaleidoscopic, as with his Inkblot
series (2007), which involved painting and scratching off layers of colour, to the formally filmic - for A Patch Of Green
(2004/2005), he placed pieces of 8mm film within a 16mm leader, so that scenes appear naively within a negative border. For his After The Garden
series (2007), Price buried films in his garden until they decomposed in the soil, willing the aesthetic effects of decay. Played back on the projector, his reels often leave behind shards of their disintegration.
For traditionalists, then, Price's executions represent filmic abuse – a sentiment that is carried through to the experience of the viewer, who is at turns sonically and visually bludgeoned by flashing abstraction and white noise. Price's films provide a physical exploration of form and matter, and how form might then fuse with feeling. Unlike the work of Stan Brakhage
or the Structural-Materialists
, there is an emotional import to the artist's work, as he pushes the viewer to feel
, be this in positive or negative ways. Curators speak of an "ecstatic violence" in the work of Price; there is a kind of orgasmic throb to the images as they pulse in and out of focus, coupled with the staccato assault of exposed sprocket holes as the filmstrip passes through the projector.
Price is anti-preservation. He wants his films to play out until they play no more, and it is worth any opportunity to experience them before they fade. Ed Halter expresses the artist's ethos as such: "Film is only going to die once: we might as well enjoy it."Hannah Gregory
Amid this season of festivals, here are two events that have caught our attention.
EXHIBITION: 15 August - 4 September 2011
Tristan Bates Theatre, 1A Tower St, London WC2H 9NP
The Museum of Broken Relationships is an award winning exhibition of seemingly ordinary yet incredibly poignant objects. Donated by individuals from all over the world, each object tells the story of a past relationship.
More information from Tristan Bates Theatre
FILM SCREENING: 22 August 2011
Opera Holland Park, LondonA Summer Celebration of Iranian Film
will include cultural exhibitions and an outdoor screening of The Song Of Sparrow
s (dir. Majid Majidi).
For more more information and details of the forthcoming 2nd London Iranian Film Festival see the UKIFF website
More sights from Jacob Paskins's recent visit to the Big Easy.
IV. Warehouse and American Districts
No guesses at what type of building dominates the Warehouse district in New Orleans. Today, however, there is no trace of industry in the area, which is slowly being populated with art galleries, boutique hotels and residential loft conversions. As the district awaits further gentrification, a number of abandoned buildings stand to preserve the last memories of a working-class past.
School for sale
My favourite building
The (currently empty) New Orleans Orpheum Theater
In between the Warehouse District and French Quarter lies the American Sector. From the 1910s to the 1960s, this area was the heart of the New Orleans jazz scene. Once the centre of jazz performance, publishing, recording and broadcasting, the area has almost entirely lost its once buzzing musical life. Many key venues in Jazz history are now dollar stores or hotels. Other buildings lie in abandon, dreaming of their illustrious past. Other places faced the wrecker's ball long ago.
Duffy's cinema (empty)
According the large sign above the entrance, the grand opening of the Saenger Theater is promised for 2011. Unfortunately there was little evidence of work or a new tenant during my visit.
Next post: Post-Modernism's shrine.
The Lucas 45D Distributor Rotor Arm (c. 1960)
Image above: Rover 100 (1960)
Modernity has brought with it cars which can reasonably be expected to start and stop upon demand and can be owned and operated by the non-mechanically minded. One of the developments which made this possible was the widespread introduction in the 1970s of electronic ignition which now provides the ‘spark’ to internal combustion engines in all modern cars. Prior to this, engines were fired by a ‘distributor’, which was the means of routing high-voltage from the ignition to the sparking-plugs in the right firing order.
At the heart of the distributor is the ‘dead-object’ which has focused my attention this month: the Lucas 45D Distributor Rotor Arm [see image below]. It is a small cylindrical moulding about the size of a wine-cork and made of plastic and brass. During the 1960s, a rotor arm could be obtained new for about 5 shillings (25 pence). They are now available from specialist dealers to owners of old cars for £5 to £10. Although technically obsolescent, this tiny component is essential to keep an old car running.
The manufacturer of the rotor arm was the Lucas Electrical Company
, founded by Joseph Lucas in Birmingham in 1872, the same year that the petrol engine was first patented and a decade or more before the introduction of the first motor-car. In spite of its dominant market-share for over a century in electrical components for motor vehicles, the Lucas company had a poor reputation for the reliability of their light bulbs and other electrical car accessories. For this reason, the company was known among British motorists as ‘The Prince of Darkness’ and spawned a host of rueful jokes
among customers about the dependability of their products. (Sample: ‘Lucas, the inventor of the intermittent windscreen wiper’).
‘My’ dead-object (the Lucas 45D rotor arm) qualified incontrovertibly as deceased on a recent visit to France in my 1960 Rover 100. It failed on a country road not far from Alençon as dusk was falling one Sunday evening last month. In Lucas tradition, the rotor arm gave no hint of impending failure. It just stopped sending current to the sparking-plugs and the engine died instantly. Trying to trace the fault was vexing and unproductive as night fell and dinner in Bayeux looked increasingly unlikely. It is now that the Deus ex machina
intervenes. A French registered Jaguar E-Type Coupé c
. 1964 pulled up beside our stricken Rover. The owner transpired to be British and, within minutes, had not only diagnosed the fault but produced from his tool-kit a spare 1960s Lucas 45D rotor arm which was fitted and fired the engine into life immediately. As I write this, it still seems to me to be a very improbable story that a fifty-year old obsolete British electrical component should find its way to a roadside in rural France on a Sunday evening at the precise moment that it was needed.
All of this set me thinking about the role played by Jaguar E-Types in films. They are invariably driven by heroes who save situations or put wrongs to right. Cool operators including Sean Connery in Thunderball
(1965) and Michael Caine in The Italian Job
(1969) drive E-Types. The car makes an appearance in The Big Sleep
(1978), The Odessa File
(1974) as well as featuring in contemporary episodes of The Saint
and The Avengers
TV series. An E-type Jaguar is also one of the stars of Just Jaecken’s Emmanuelle
(1974). [Source: Internet Movie Cars Database
Rover 100 cars play a very different role, often as background vehicles in street-scenes to evoke the 1960s period, as in Quadrophenia
(1979) where ‘Sting’, who plays a bell-boy at a Brighton hotel, unloads luggage from a Rover 100 driven by a dapper hotel guest [see IMCDb
]. The Rover represents professional, middle-class, well-heeled middle Britain in the 1960s [see Rover P4 videos
] and was driven typically by doctors, solicitors and bank managers [1
] It epitomised a set of values and a way of life which may be said to have disappeared in the years following the events of May 1968 in Paris and their international repercussions. Film appearances include The League of Gentlemen
(1959) and The Spy who came in from the Cold
(1965) as well as providing the authentic period back-drop for recent films (An Education
, 2009) and for the TV series Agatha Christie’s Marple
So there they were by the side of a French country road. The E-Type Jaguar driven by the hero who solved all our problems and vanished into the night, and the Rover 100, with its stately image and erratic British electrics. And deep in the heart of the broken-down Rover was a dead-object: a Lucas 45D rotor arm manufactured in Birmingham England 50 years ago by ‘The Prince of Darkness’.Simon Rothon
A bout de souffle
(dir. Jean-Luc Godard) first came out in cinemas in France on 16 March 1960. Members of the Autopsies Group will no doubt be turning to their copy with fresh eyes on the lookout for objects now absent from everyday life (Patricia's vinyl collection, the many tools of the trades of journalists and photographers, the operator controlled telephone system, etc. etc.) In the meantime, this clip from a French television programme broadcast on 25 March 1960 shows an interview with jazz pianist Martial Solal
who performed the original music for the film. Solal explains he discovered jazz aged 15 when American troops arrived in Algiers in 1943, and jazz records began to be played on the radio, introducing the music of Art Tatum, Kenny Wilson and Benny Goodman. Inspired by the editing techniques of Godard's film, Solal says he found it easy to come up with the refrains to 'punctuate' the sequences.
Fifty years on, A bout de souffle
looks, and sounds, a fresh as ever.
To put you in the mood for the upcoming Found Footage Film Night, hosted by the Autopsies group on 9 December, don't miss Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno
), currently showing in selected cinemas.
Began in 1964, l'Enfer
had an unlimited budget, an all star cast, and Clouzot as a director obsessed with creating a new visual language for cinema. After scores of screen tests and three weeks of location shooting the film was never completed, and the 185 reels of film produced were left abandoned for decades. The present release is a documentary that tells the story of the film that never was, and mixes interviews with the original crew with a montage of Clouzot's 35mm rushes.
The story line of the intended is film was never going to change the course of cinema history, but the visual treatment may have, as the quite extraordinary sequence of experiments with colour and sound shows. The documentary's reconstruction of the film, occasionally adding sound to the rushes, and recreating key dialogue with actors reading the original script, is subtle and well judged, leaving the shimmering found film footage to take centre stage.
Further information from BFI Southbank: http://bit.ly/8MbTef