15 Mar 2014

patterns / recognitions, collaboration with campbell walker at refining light

Extending radio cegeste's recent live cinema collaboration with Campbell Walker at Auckland's RM Gallery,  anxious repetitive smiling (nothing's going to happen), toward a formal Dunedin iteration couldn't have found a better context than Refining Light, an event nestled within the 2014 Dunedin Fringe Festival. 

This gathering of (un)like minds was co-curated by Campbell and improvisational guitarist and local experimental audio scene organiser Peter Porteous (Lines of Flight, Alt Music), and ostensibly took the secondary medium in experimental music-and-film festival Lines of Flight, (begun by Peter Stapleton and Kim Pieters in the year 2000, long a biannual part of the Dunedin Fringe and an established part of the NZ audio cultural landscape  - my & Gilbert May's radio documentary on the 2009 festival for the Radia network can be heard here), and made it primary. It also built upon an event, a night of live audio-visual convergences, which Campbell and I co-curated in 2011 with the Melbourne experimental music space KIPL, which combined moving image with improvised scores by experimental musicians.

Accordingly, experimental music was weighted in various ways against, within, and/or around visual media. Refining Light billed itself as "expanded cinema" but more usefully might be understood as a group of varied explorations on the relationship between sound and light and/or image and/or bodies in space, in practice becoming an umbrella for a diversity of explorations around the intersection between the audio and the visual, space and history, performative liveness and the recorded artifact. The artists, responding to a brief, worked together in collaborative pairs, to produce new works. These ranged from analogue translation of super 8 flicker to pedal-based noise, to live gaming, to the exposition of the venue space's history via roaming "body mounted" projector in the backyard, to a gloriously poetic ghost story combining Japanese and Western imagery, to the audio/visual de(con)struction of a Cher workout video. It was consistently energising, intelligent and eclectically - even eccentrically - personal company to be in, with an emphasis on the minor literature of sound and image. Our piece (now called patterns / recognitions) delved even further than the Auckland/RM performance into revisionist, minimal genre territory via the staging of a noir aesthetic, relying this time on the off-station transmission of emotional identification (library music of cop-show themes) through a filter of noise, the mixing of live/performative and recorded elements in both sound and image, and the channeling of projector beams through a series of small hand-held mirrors.

As is normal in the formally critically-thin communities of the New Zealand experimental arts, most feedback was brief, on-the-spot and word-of-mouth, although we were pleasantly surprised by one long form written response from an unlikely source, the online journal Theatre Review:

"If one is to be more exclusionary than Cage—who was after all a bit of a hippie—and demand “theatre” involves a human subject as its main agent or topic, then film-maker Campbell Walker's collaboration with digital and radiophonic composer Sally Ann McIntyre (a.k.a. Radio Cegeste) would certainly conform.
The experimental film form of snatches of shots of a stylish male figure, punctuated by short poetic texts within the score, placed their material within the ethos of the French New Wave. The preference of both artists for vintage fashion that would not be out of place in Breathless (1960) or Made in USA (1966) makes Goddard an obvious point of reference—although one could cite many of Goddard's peers instead. 
Campbell manipulated in real time two main projections, thrown towards a corner and at an obtuse angle, so that the double-screen produced became akin to a folded rebus, drawing material and forces into it. Walker intermittently closed off or reflected the second projector, so that light fell against the spectators, making them too the subject of these halting meditations. McIntyre crouched to one side of the screens, her gaze in profile becoming effectively assimilated into the imagery of the work, as was Campbell's somewhat more distracting and foregrounded presence some distance away, against the front of the audience bank.
McIntyre scattered all around the venue little clusters of small transistor radios through which (if I understand correctly) she was able to generate a small broadcasting network of her own. Often beginning with materials played on her antique portable vinyl-record player, this material was then picked up by one or more of the radios, which she held near the record player's own pick-ups, adding yet more layers of surface noise, scratchy aural substances, and hums, which populated the venue as both an invisible force (radio waves) and colonies of speakers (the radios themselves).
The imagery consisted of sparse concrete and glass spaces, or cropped portions of bodies (shoes, etc), with focus being diffuse or fixed on the far distance rather than the blurred objects in the foreground. Glass, rain, and rain on glass often served a function akin to the sound processing, the effects on light and distortions of shape affecting how we saw these materials, directing focus towards surfaces and obstructions rather to what lies behind. In a particularly beautiful moment, the camera gazed at the reflection of grey and white water droplets cast from the window onto the roof of an apartment.
Intermittent, short portrait shots of Walker—and his own literal presence in the space, as he sat at the side, or his shoes echoed across the performance venue as he moved to the back to turn on or off one of Sally's radios—helped give the work a sense that we, and possibly the onscreen “protagonist” (if that is what he was) were searching for a character, for a sense of self, perhaps even a woman (the mistress of the radio?). All very Goddard indeed; Existentialism with vaguely film noir styling, and probably the finest collaboration from Walker and Cegeste that I have attended."

- Jonathan Marshall in Theatre Review