The amount of attention paid to the moving images has actually increased over the past ten years, if that seems possible. This may be due to increased artistic production and the run of newly-created archives and databases. These latter are often ambiguous affairs, adding little to a clear understanding of the work or its historical and artistic context.
What makes the Independent Film Show unique in its field, however, is the detailed look it takes at one particular aspect of cinema - that of the independent and experimental. According to Nicole Brenez “an experimental film regards cinema taking potential, and not use, as its starting point. It is at once able to re-evoke, reveal and renew such potential as well as contradict, block and render it limitless... But it is not only about instruments, seeing that cinema is above all an extraordinary psychic device ”.
Art is distinct from other human activities and forms of expression because of its organic mode of projecting imaginative experience into reality. This function of the form has two essential qualities - it arises from the instrument which makes the experience (in this case, the camera and the editing techniques) and incorporates philosophy and feelings (of the artist / the viewer). Cinema is a time-space art with a unique aspect: it creates new relations in time and space, and projects them in what is an undeniably subjective experience.
At this point in history, Cinema as an art form is the best way of asking some of the most basic human questions: extreme rationalism or mysticism, faith in science or the romanticism of nature, philosophical speculation or ethical commitment. This art of motion is able to express the moral and metaphysical concepts of this age, yet keeping in mind that each and every historical period leaves its own contribution and, moreover, the desire for discovery and new experiences are the driver of individual development and the progress of civilisation.
The location too, at the new home of the Morra Foundation at Palazzo Ruffo di Bagnara, is a careful choice; it is a place which aims to be a site for discussion and research, a place capable of bringing about an ideal conjunction between the work and its user, sharing passion for discovery and knowledge.
The film or video-maker experiments freely and independently, without making compromises for production or marketing purposes. (Usually, the only limit is the arduous question of funding.) Freedom of expression is an essential feature of the Independent Film Show, and one which is offered also to the curators who are invited each year.
Maya Deren Films 1943-1959, curated by Mario Franco, is a rare occasion to take a deeper look at the complete works of Maya Deren, legend of independent experimental cinema. Her films use dream logic, rituals and myths (not the Aristotelian narrative logic) to illuminate the human condition and show an ethical sense of art as a restorative and therapeutic practice. “Children learn very rapidly and then at adolescence as ego asserts itself, there is a slowing down of the learning process. That process slows down to a full stop and we cannot learn anymore. What is happening is that a child looks at the world through eyes like clear windows, really looking outward; then the individual needs to justify a history that has begun to exist with him, …and we see nothing but ourselves. A work of art demands the temporary surrender of any personal system. The person who surrenders then possesses new experience. That is the growth of travelling in another mind and knowing it”.
Field Notes I & II is a collection of recent film and video works, selected by William Rose. These works look at the difficult relationship between the film-maker and the place in which she or he works. Mark LaPore has made an effort to document and illustrate different cultures in an objective way, working against the conventions of ethnographic narratives and developing a complex philosophy of visual ethics. Phil Solomon, on the other hand, known for transforming found footage into liquid, dreamlike landscapes using chemical and photographic processes, evokes past beauties - of love, of time, of life - in meaningful rhythmic sequences, close to music or poetry. Karen Mirza and Brad Butler ask questions about the architectural, sculptural and filmic qualities of moving images, and consider conceptual art as a fieldwork strategy that attempts to articulate “thinking” as an “object”. The final film collects more than 35 performances with passerby’s set in a number of different countries into a boxed object, along with an invitation to interpret the work, in response to: changing site of each exhibition, the perceived thinking behind the work, and the screens, surfaces and props in each performance. Ben Russell continues working with film, using it to skilfully reference the earliest silent movies. “When I work on film, I do so with a really specific se of historical or conceptual relationships in mind, and I make my choices of material to that end”. Mixing rigorous formal techniques with an anthropologist’s observational sensitivity towards the activities of a community, Sharon Lockhart uses film and photography to create touching intimate portraits.
Serene Velocity by Ernie Gehr is a hypnotic film, created using two single takes of a corridor in Binghamton University (a long shot and a zoomed close up), rhythmically alternated in the edit. It becomes a visual music, almost a cosmic heartbeat. Michael Snow’s Wavelength shows the interior of an anonymous apartment zoomed from the widest field of vision and slowly brought into focus, until it fixes on a photo of the sea hanging on the wall. According to Standish D. Lawder, “Corridor is an occasion for meditative speculation that invokes a change in brain-wave activity …through the interface stimulation of alpha-wave frequencies”.
Norwegian Tilts and Exits brings together 13 films and videos, each one a personal instance which reveals possible and potential ideas.
Bernhard Schreiner’s Tension-Suspense… concert and the two performances of expanded cinema (Greg Pope’s Light Trap and Xavier Quérel’s Quelques minutes…) round off this extraordinary series of events. Tension-Suspense: Bucharest, near Piata Universitatii, 24 hours is a public sound portrait, moved into the more limited environment of the gallery, and mixed live. Schreiner lets the fixed sequences interact with a degree of probability, the musical tension further loaded by a practice of taking it to extremes, moulding the sounds which oscillate in the realms of the physically audible.
Greg Pope’s Light Trap is a performance using four modified 16mm projectors and the musical improvisation of the genial Mike Cooper. Originally conceived as a homage to the film-installation Line Describing a Cone by Anthony McCall, Light Trap uses the mechanisms of film and cinema: the projector, the film itself, the dark room and synchronised sound - yet to achieve a radically different result, there is no screen, no (bi-dimensional) image, nowhere to sit , and no beginning or end. The spectator can contemplate the apparatus of cinema and see the performers create the result while simultaneously perceiving it. Quelques minutes de soleil après minuit is by Xavier Quérel (already well-known in Naples after his performance with the Cellule d’Intervention Metamkine collective in 2005). This time, Quérel will give an exceptional live demonstration of the possibilities of a 16mm sound projector. What becomes interesting is the instrument (the projector), the light and the ability of the film-maker to emotionally interact with the spectators, creating a genuine live film.
1 Nicole Brenez, “L’Atlantide” in Jeune, dure et pure! Une histoire du cinéma d’avant-garde et expérimental en France, Paris, Cinémathéque Française/Mazzotta, 2001, p. 17
2 from Maya Deren New Directions in Film Art, 1951