Collection / Works / Scratch by Mike Dunford

16mm film, UK, 1973
20 minutes B&W/colour, 4:3, Silent
Available formats: Digibeta tape, DVD, SD digital file

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Scratch begins as a standard 8 film fragment, originally filmed in our 60’s basement kitchen, and reprojected as a loop 5 times with a repeated coda of junk and glitch footage, onto a ground glass screen, refilmed in black and white on 16mm film stock.

This sequence then begins a series of repetitions that run through negative image, reversed image, solarized, solarized and double exposed, colourized, and finally solarised and reversed with a colour sequence for each process.

The central colour section repeats and starts to reverse the procedure through the sequences to the first iteration.

At this point a scratch appears, a rich white line that appears momentarily on the image.
As the set of permutations begins to reverse the scratches become permanent and start to intensify and multiply, forming a separate foregrounded entity to the imagery on the film screen, moving from side to side, rushing downwards on the screen, producing sudden blobs of material, until the original film image can barely be seen through a thick violently animated forest of scratches. The final (first) image is almost obliterated, appearing momentarily and only partially visible through the wrecked film emulsion as it rushes at its real-time speed through the projector gate.

The interplay of different notions of time, film-time and actual mechanical time, and representation, its abstraction and distanciation, and its bound-in nature to the medium of its transmission, are the intellectual landscape of Scratch.

The original footage is already transposed from representation to abstraction via the loop and refilming procedure which foregrounds the formal elements of the original over its potential narrativity, and the grain structure over its visual transparency. The procedures that follow increase this conceptual space by progressively abstracting the image sequence and divorcing it from any representational element, until it reaches the centre colorised sequence which is wholly abstract.
The intervention of the scratch, a horrific event for any film-maker, immediately transforms the film from an abstracted formal sequence, one that we can connect to its representational origins, into an immediate experience of the materiality of the films technical substrate, and its mechanical production.

Real-time suddenly overlays the transparent formal film-time of the looped sequence, and the earlier film-time of the original filmed footage. Three layers of time and duration are at work with a movement taking place in our awareness from representational film-time, through formal film-time to actual material film-time. The former is gradually obliterated and subordinated by the violence and speed of the latter, although never absolutely, we are still able to hold both in awareness even through the final sequence.

A simple exposition of the bound-in relationships between image, substrate, viewer/maker, and the technology of production. Perhaps a small example of the philosophy of gestalts, and the praxis of representation.