History is inert until someone tells it. Overcoming that inertia is critical when recreating a historical document. Activating the archive surrounding the original is an attempt to activate the lost or destroyed. Using trace material or remnants of the past in recreating a work of art is a form of mapping one space onto another. A new paradigm results. Before a single frame of film is exposed in remaking these films, issues arise: remake the film as one might imagine or reconstruct the original? My short films require extensive, almost obsessive research to uncover the facts and materials surrounding the original film. More importantly, I carefully unravel a filmmaker’s life story. I am particularly interested in the social, political, economic, and personal conditions under which the lost film was made. Several of my films were made in the country of their origin and whenever possible I hire local talent to influence the cultural and contextual grain which plays a decisive role in the films ability to move beyond a stick-figure view of history. In making these films, nothing I produce is purely authentic. A claim of authenticity suggests an awareness of historical roots, finding meaning in tradition. But the limits on available artifacts in a remake, especially a lost film, can undermine the past, resulting in a radical shift in meaning.Whether an authentic reproduction or not, my films assert their own ideology. They are intended as an independent project where research and production, in the sense that the films are eventually made from an artist’s point of view, exist in contrast to the original version. They are curatorial in their process. On the other hand, the remake acquires new meaning by their intertextuality: each film is the product not simply of the original filmmaker, but of a relationship to other films and to the structures of film itself. I take allegorical strategies to a new level. While employing ‘ready-made’ ideas and aesthetics, repeating in a way the works of others, I allow the films to retain their original meaning, their entire historical and aesthetic context. I reserve the ‘opportunity’ to create meaning through the second allegorical layer of the work. The fact that these artists’ films no longer exist or were never produced provides considerable room for creativity, with an immeasurable degree of responsibility.
In 1943, experimental filmmaker Maya Deren (1917-1961) collaborated with Marcel Duchamp on the film 'Witch's Cradle'. 'Witches Cradle' was filmed in Peggy Guggenhiem's 'Art of This Century Gallery' at 30 W. 57th Street in New York City. A choreographed set of movements between the figure (played by Duchamp) and the camera, the film was intended to be an exploration of the magical qualities of objects in Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of this Century Gallery, a space where Duchamp also exhibited. ‘Witch’s Cradle' remains unfinished and is considered lost.
2010/35mm/black & white/sound/5:43 min
An experimental film written by Hungarian Dada artist and avant-garde filmmaker György Gerö, and first published in 1924 in the DaDaist review IS. The original scene-by-scene film script and complete scenario of the film consist of three pages currently housed in the Hungarian National Library. The film was never made. Lajos Kassák's review of the Dokumentum (1924) includes a descriptive passage of Gero’s conceptual theory as well as several key filmmaking techniques. György Gerö, born in 1905, was a poet, editor, and the first Hungarian independent filmmaker.
2005/Digital color animation/Silent/3:00 min
In the early 1910’s, painter, designer, and illustrator Leopold Survage sought to transcend the “immobility” of abstract painting by animating colorful forms through film. Survage, born Leopold Sturzwage, was a student at Moscow’s School of Fine Arts when he discovered French modernism, inspiring his move to Paris in 1908. Survage joined the city’s coterie of avant-garde artists, exhibited his work at the Salon des Independants, and attained the support of Guillaume Apollinaire. Contemporary developments in abstract painting propelled his experiments with rhythm-color “symphonies,” resulting in a series of hand-drawn colored abstractions (produced between 1912 and 1913), which he intended to transform into pulsating rhythmic forms using a team of animators and a three-color camera. Survage considered his Rhythm colore series an autonomous art form analogous to music. Survage considered his film analogous to music. Purely abstract colorful forms would kinetically interact creating in the viewers mind melodic and harmonic rhythm. His pioneering efforts to create the first abstract film were curtailed by the outbreak of World War I, and his color “plates” were never filmed. Survage continued to paint and produce designs and illustrations until his death.
2001/35mm/black & white abstract photogram film/silent/4:36 min
PHARMACY is based on Stefan and Francizsk Themersons influential 1930 abstract photogram film APTEKA. The Themerson’s are considered the most influential filmmakers of the Polish avant-garde of pre-WWII Europe. A stunning black and white abstract film, Pharmacy is a chaotic, anarchic assemblage of chemistry lab measuring cups and spoons, various size test tubes, tweezers, eyeglasses, and a cornucopia of transparent pharmaceutical equipment seen as shadows only. Filmed in Budapest using a 1930s single frame camera, black and white film, and a reconstruction of the Themerson’s trick table based on an original drawing made by Stefan Themerson in the 1970’s.
2006/16 mm/b&w/photogram film/sound/5:43
Stefan and Franciszka Themerson’s first sound film, "Moment Musical' (1933), was a three-minute commercial in which photograms of light-pierced jewelry, porcelain and glass were animated to music by Ravel.The Themersons' experimental techniques involved moving lights and shadows on objects. They evolved out of the Themersons' improvisations with the photogram. 1928-35. Most of the images were made on a "trick-table" improvised by Stefan Themerson. He placed various objects on a piece of translucent paper over a sheet of glass. The lights were above, and he photographed the images from below frame by frame. In 1934, T.Toeplitz from Kurier Polski wrote: " And finally I shall mention the Themersons, who shot a truly beautiful commercial – Moment Musical. This film moment is the only film that one cannot raise any objections to at all. The only positive point in the balance of Polish film production in 1933-34." "Moment Musical" was lost or destroyed during the Nazi occupation of Warsaw during the Second World War.
A WOMAN AND CIRCLES
2004/35mm/black & white and color/found film/sound/9:38
In 1930 while living in Paris, Polish avant-garde poet Jan Brzekowski wrote a short non-narrative film script titled "A Woman and Circles" in the French magazine "Cercle et Carree" (The script was later translated into Polish and published in "Linia."). This non-narrative film reveals a random succession of negative and positive images preceded by a glowing circle that overtakes the film frame then reduces to two smaller bouncing balls that later become minuet dancers. While using found footage from 1960's instructional films like "What is Rain?" AWAC is not considered a remake or reconstruction - Brzekowski never produced his film. A WOMAN AND CIRCLES was filmed using a 1940's hand wound 35mm camera with black and white film stock from the period in which the script was originally published.
IN NI (Others)
2005/Betacam/color/b&w/Polish with English subtitles/20:43/Part 1
In 1958, experimental filmmaker Andrzej Pawlowski wrote a script based on a 1941 diary written by a patient at a psychiatric hospital in Kobierzyn near Krakow. The original diary was found stashed in a wall, and in the early 1950’s, the director of the asylum gave it to Pawlowski. The diary chronicles the daily atrocities committed by the Nazi under the operation “Ausmerzung Lebensunwerten Leben” during the occupation of Poland. The diary survived the war but its author did not. Pawlowski submitted his script to the national film board in Warsaw but they failed to produce it before he died in 1986. Filmed entirely in Warsaw.
A stunning black and white abstract film, TUAREG is a melodious assemblage of Alencon, Venetian, and Point D'espirit lace; artificial silk flowers, plants and trees seen as shadows cast by pocket, tube, and LED flashlights. Beautifully photographed in black-and-white on outdated twenty-five year old direct positive film, the resulting dense grain images evoke a veil of secrecy and tension surrounding the film’s meaning. The visible division of the screen in half, several simultaneous images, ruptures the illusion that the screen's frame is a seamless view of reality. TUAREG was commissioned by Hallwalls Center for Contemporary Art in Buffalo, New York.