The infinite directions of film art

“…A truly creative work of art creates a new reality and itself constitutes an experience, in contrast to the merely descriptive effort which produces an existent reality or adventure. This distinction is particularly relevant to cinema, for the physical similarity between the lens and the eye has led to the use of the camera largely as a recording instrument. But in a human being it is the creative intelligence behind the eye which confers meaning upon that which the eye registers. A logical extension of the analogous function of the eye and lens requires a creative action on the part of the mechanism (plus the human being) behind the lens. And since that mechanism, and its potentialities, are unlike those of other art forms, such an action would produce a cinematic art form which would be individual and unique”.
Maya Deren in Cinema as an Independent Art Form, August 1945

Experimental Cinema has the ability to amaze. It does not do this by using Hollywood-style spectacular effects, but rather by modifying perceptions of time and space, investigating new possibilities through unexplored materials and instruments. It goes beyond the limits of well-known, well-worn cinematic techniques. Such films and videos can cause a profound emotional shock, above all to those viewers who have always mainly understood Cinema as commercial entertainment (appreciable as a form of light diversion). It is therefore necessary to open minds towards this type of experimentation, which has much more to do with poetry than prose, which is closer to a musical composition than to a narrative.
Since the early 1900s, when avant-garde cinema began to develop as a new artistic form, the works produced all used the universal language of images in an attempt to freely transmit the roots of the individual. Such works often met with the diffidence of the system, and consequently, various economic limitations.
In an attempt to face up to the changes of our age, a number of significant developments have taken place. Attempts to raise awareness of the medium have been made, yet often these have only been to the detriment of deeper understanding, and have often ended in chaos, sadly only delaying the evolution of experimentation. The Independent Film Show continues to show those films and videos which would have notable difficulty breaking through the barriers put up by the big festivals. It gives voice to those who believe in Art as an essence of our Being, in creativity as a regenerative force. It is necessary to reread history, to seek out the exceptional and the unusual, that which veers towards magmatic spaces, not yet practiced. It is necessary to create the possibility, especially in Italy, of digging deeper into the big themes of Experimental Cinema, as each new instance of development implicitly contains and comments on the theories and visions of the great artists who have come before. What Jonas Mekas wrote in 1955 in one of his first editorials for Film Culture can still be felt as a necessary goal:
“…Today, the needs for a searching revaluation of the aesthetic standards obtaining both among film-makers and audiences and for thorough revision of the prevalent attitude to the function of cinema have assumed more challenging proportions than ever before. Cinematic creation tends to be approached primarily as a production of commodities, and large sections of the public - to whom film-going is still merely a mode of diversion - remain unaware of the full significance of filmic art”.
These experimental film and video-makers are following a primal virtue, often considered radical: that of being inside the filmic material, so close as to be able to understand and manipulate the raw material, translating one’s own sensations into unexpected images (“…as though words did not exist”, as Parker Tyler has said) so that the viewer may assimilate them through his or her heart and intellect.
Each Independent Film Show has been produced with the strong personal involvement of the current writer, through the friendships built up over the course of the years. The passion which drives each of us has, above all, united us like a family, sensitive to the creative vocation and aware of the needs of film-makers.
In 2001 Thomas Draschan, Bernhard Schreiner and I had the idea for the Independent Film Show to exhibit experimental cinema in Italy, inviting film and video makers and international curators for a week each year to examine this extraordinary artistic form, which has many faces and approaches some of the deepest questions of life in a personal manner.
For this tenth edition, the programme unwaveringly continues to dedicate itself to the uncovering of experimental cinema. There is another chance to see some of the masterpieces of the genre, such as Maya Deren’s 1944 At Land and Mario Franco’s selection dedicated to Bruce Baillie’s 1960s films, but above all the public will have the chance to experience some of the most interesting film and video makers of the 21st century.
In the programme A Gaze From Within, Masha Godovannaya has chosen some videos made over the last seven years by artists living in a post Perestroika Russia. These works all take a careful look at the economic and political situation, in which sharp contrasts and social abuses are still-now badly concealed by the ever-present hand of the government.
The sea is the inspirational element in Films of the Sea, curated by Mark Webber. The first part consists of Peter Hutton’s full-length At Sea, a film which reflects on the huge implications of the environmental impact caused by the brutality of consumerism, and the film What the water said by David Gatten, in which it is the ocean and its inhabitants who make the film. The second part picks up with Maya Deren’s At Land (defined by Deren herself as a “mythological journey through the 20th century”) and it goes through Matthias Müller’s erotic fantasies, Janie Geiser’s imaginary childhood battles, the journey of an immigrant from Africa to Europe told by Mati Diop, and the vicissitudes of sailors around the American coasts, explored by Rebecca Meyers.
The Sublime is Now! is a selection of films and videos made by Jeanne Liotta, an American artist who, taking up Ralph Waldo Emerson’s theories, intersects art, science and natural philosophy in her complex Science Project. The 16mm double projection of the film One day this may no longer exist (2005) is done by the artist herself, transporting the viewer inside the filmic material which captures the fleeting moment of an alignment of the planets.
The programme Bruce Baillie, the mystic of Canyon Cinema, curated by Mario Franco explores a small section of Baillie’s spectacular filmography. These films, projected in their original 16mm format, are characterised by a tendency to combine and layer multiple images as well as the subjective and unusual use of light. For Baillie, making a film is a cine-spiritual research, a mythological universe made up of surfaces and spirituality, open to perception and intellectual analysis, but which often leaves him seeming a madman - a ‘pure fool’ as Wagner called him - such as Parsifal or Don Quixote.
Ian Helliwell presents Hellivision - short films, a wide panorama which stretches from the abstraction to found footage as far as animation, where the synthesis between image and sound takes on a fundamental value, transforming the filmic material into an acoustic mode of expression. This intense way of working has led him to create, through ‘creative soldering’ techniques and a knack for electronics, his own acoustical instruments, named Hellitrons and Hellisizers (a tone generator and an analogue synthesizer, respectively).
In Double Exposure, Thomas Draschan and Bernhard Schreiner pay homage to the German film-maker Thomas Feldmann. In his brief career Feldmann left some intense, radical films, such as the unfinished Double Exposure. The programme continues with the films of Thomas Draschan and Bernhard Schreiner, characterised by a complex, extremely rapid editing technique, which results in highly personal works: sensitive, dreamlike found footage - in Thomas’ work - often connected to a reflection on the role of the human in the cosmos, while Bernhard makes poetic films based on in-depth musical research and the variations of light.
Following the numerous programmes in this show is a demanding task, yet a unique one, which enriches us by revealing some details of the infinite faces of our universe.

“…The history of art is the history of man and of his universe and of the moral relationship between them. Whatever the instrument, the artist sought to re-create the abstract, invisible forces and relationships of the cosmos, in the intimate, immediate forms of his art, where the problems might be experienced and perhaps be resolved in miniature”.
Maya Deren
in 3 The Instrument of Discovery and the Instrument of Invention + C The Art of the Film from An Anagram of Ideas on Art, Form and Film, 1946

Raffaella Morra