Proteus Gowanus hosted the first screening of our yearlong Migration Film Series on Tuesday, November 1. Migratory Media, An Evening of Appropriation and Experimental Animation, focused on the migration of visual data throughout multiple mediums and across timelines. The program of shorts included films from two filmmaking eras that produced breakthrough work using computers: the present and the 1970s. Lillian Schwartz, a pioneer in the development of computer-generated art, was in attendance to screen her rarely seen Apotheosis (1972), Alae (1975) and Olympiad (1972). In the Q&A afterwards, Schwartz said the software she uses now is more limiting than what she used in the 70s. Schwartz and the other filmmakers in attendance, Steve Cossman and LJ Frezza, discussed the current state of computer software in the arts and how they seek to break through coding systems to generate something new. Schwartz said she missed the randomness that working with a punch-card computing system allowed her to achieve. It was fascinating to hear about the process of these artists, and how the decades between them doesn’t change what they desire from their process.
Appropriation of well-known materials was another theme of the evening’s work. The selected filmmakers took classic imagery, such as photographs and Hollywood films, and transported them through both format and time. The earliest appropriated imagery was in Toshio Matsumoto’s Mona Lisa (1973), made around the same time as Schwartz’s experiments with computers. In this film, Matsumoto used Da Vinci’s painting and morphed in alternative background imagery using early video matting techniques. Similarily, LJ Frezza’s film Nuke ‘Em, Duke (2009) took two John Wayne films and with data-moshing tools, combined them with You-Tube sourced videos of the invasion of Iraq. The Lossless series, two films screened by Douglas Goodwin and Rebecca Baron, used the same techniques as Frezza, but emphasized abstraction more than détournement, using Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon and a scene from a Bugsy Berkeley picture.
Stay tuned for the next Migration screening, happening in early December. Screening program for that show will be announced shortly.
—Sean Hanley, PG Film Coordinator