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Absences and (Im)possibilities. traces of an experimental cinema in Ireland

Irish Film Institute

Ireland, 2014
93 minutes, B&W/colour, Stereo, 4:3
Original format: SD video
Available formats: Digibeta tape / DVD / SD digital file

Absences and (Im)possibilities, is a programme of experimental Irish film curated by the Experimental Film Club (Aoife Desmond, Alan Lambert, Donal Foreman and Esperanza Collado), commissioned by Irish Film Institute International and supported by Culture Ireland. The programme features a selection of films from 1897 to 2013, chosen for their relation to the possibility of an Irish experimental cinema. This touring programme, in partnership with Lux, presents a selection of films from the full programme. Filmmakers include the Lumiére brothers, Samuel Beckett, Vivienne Dick, Maximillian Le Cain, Dónal Ó Céilleachair and Jesse Jones. The full programme overview is here and with this essay offering more information on the history of experimental film making in Ireland.ABSENCES AND (IM)POSSIBILITIEStraces of an experimental cinema in IrelandTOURING PROGRAMME NOTESSACKVILLE STREET (1897, 50secs, b&w, 35mm), Alexandre Promio, Lumière Brothers In 1897, Alexandre Promio, an agent of the Lumière Brothers, visited Ireland to get some footage of Dublin and Belfast at the very beginnings of cinema. This 50 second actuality film depicts a diagonal view of O’Connell Street, known at the time as Sackville Street. Following a predominantly realist approach, the Lumières – responsible for the birth of cinema in the 1890s – inaugurated ‘actuality cinema’, a non-fiction film genre consisting of the depiction of everyday life without the argumentative structure distinctive of documentary. Alexandre Promio was taken on by the Lumière firm in 1896 and became responsible for the training of the Cinématographe operators who were to exhibit the machine the world over.BY ACCIDENT (extract) (1930, 3 mins 40 seconds, b&w, 16mm), Norris DavidsonBy Accident, the first film by Davidson, is a rare example of independent film production from the early years of the Irish state, and one of the first films to emerge from the group Irish Amateur Films. Only the final third of the film remains intact, obscuring the film’s narrative, dark and psychological elements, but allowing its more innovative qualities – stark, disjunctive editing, poetic juxtapositions and freewheeling camerawork – to take centre stage.Norris Davidson was a pioneering filmmaker of the silent years and a founding figure of Irish documentary cinema. He also did television broadcasts with RTE and opera programmes on the radio.FILM (1964, 21mins, b&w, 16mm), Samuel Beckett/Alan Schneider*In 1969 Samuel Beckett was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in recognition of his development of a circular form of reasoning that implies entrapment in circumstances of one’s own design. Film, directed by Alan Schneider in New York and written by Beckett, emanates directly from such reasoning, in which the main character, Buster Keaton, carefully blots out all external reality according to a prevailing philosophical principle: George Berkeley’s “Esse est percipi” (to be is to be perceived).One of the key-writers of the Theatre of Absurd, Samuel Beckett was widely known for his avant-garde writing, which includes poetry, playwright and prose. Alan Schneider was an American theatre director and one of the leading directors of Beckett’s work in the US.*Film may not be available in all regions.GUERRILLÉRE TALKS (1978, 24mins, colour, Super 8), Vivienne Dick Vivienne Dick began making Super 8 films in New York in the late ‘70s as part of a group of filmmakers and musicians whose affiliation to the aesthetics of punk became known as ‘No Wave’. Guerrillére Talks is her first completed film, which according to Jim Hoberman ‘can be seen as the extension of Warholian pragmatism to Super 8 talkies’. The film depicts a series of portraits of – or encounters with – women in Lower Manhattan; each allowed a full roll of Super 8 film to perform for a camera characterized by its handheld anarchic style. Originally from Donegal, Vivienne Dick now lives in Galway and continues to produce film and video for gallery and cinema contexts. Her work has been reviewed in several international publications focused on avant-garde and independent filmmaking.HERE AFTER (2004, 13mins, b/w, 16mm), Paddy Jolley, Rebecca Trost / Inger Lise Hansen An atmospheric study of a decaying and crumbling flat complex in Ballymun, Hereafter emerges from the residue of unknown events. Paddy Jolley’s film projects often begin with this sense of memory, time and place, inspiring experiments that explore the materials that embody them. Jolley’s multidisciplinary background informs this exploration and contributes sculptural, painterly and conceptual elements to this film collaboration with Inger Lise Hansen and Rebecca Trost.Paddy Jolley was a graduate of NCAD and focused on photography before moving to film, and directed two feature films, Sugar (2005) and The Door Ajar (2011), along with many shorts. His work is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Berlin; and the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin. In 2012 he represented Ireland in the 30th Bienal de Sao Paulo, Brazil. Jolley died suddenly in New Delhi in January 2012, while working on a new film project.Inger Lise Hansen is an artist filmmaker living and working in Oslo and London. A recipient of a Master of Fine Art Filmmaking from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1996, her work has been shown in institutions such as Tate Modern in London and Centre Pompidou in Paris, and at festivals including the International Film Festival Rotterdam. Information on her films, award winners at events such as the Bilbao short and documentary film festival, can be found at www.ingerlisehansen.comRebecca Trost is a German artist whose work, primarily in films and installations, has been exhibited in countries including Germany, Ireland, and GreeceLATE ARRIVAL (2006, 2mins, colour, MiniDV), Barry RonanStripped of sound and language, Late Arrival relies entirely on its jittery and accelerated camera movement and overlapping imagery to create a kinetic and charged perception of its subject (the filmmaker’s wife) that could not have been expressed in a more ordered form.Barry Ronan is an Irish cinephile living in London, England. He is interested in the political relationships between thought, language and the senses.WITH WIND & WHITE CLOUD (2005, 5mins, b/w, Super8), Dónal Ó Céilleachair With Wind & White Cloud pays homage to Oskar Fischinger’s 1927 film Walking from Munich to Berlin, which is one of the earliest films recorded in single-frame exposure. New York based filmmaker Ó Céilleachair repeats this process on his own travels between Istanbul’s Bosphorous shores and the heart of Berlin’s Alexanderplatz, using the single-frame technique to create an intense, high-speed staccato viewing experience. Donal Ó Céilleachair returned to Ireland in 2007, after many years in New York where he founded the long-running Ocularis screening series. He has directed and produced an extensive filmography that includes documentary and experimental film.HORSES (2011, b&w, silent, 16mm on video, 2mins), Esperanza ColladoRewinding the film in a Super 16mm Bolex camera to shoot a triple exposure, Horses was shot at different speeds and home-processed using an extreme, unorthodox procedure. The resulting footage shifts unexpectedly from negative to positive and vice-versa, while scratches and other chance factors dominate its length. Shot at a rural location in northern Spain, and featuring Maximilian Le Cain, Horses imposes itself as material and process, rather than image. Esperanza Collado focuses her work in an investigation of cinematic properties outside the standard film apparatus. She began to screen avant-garde works in domestic environments of Dublin in 2005 under the title Pure Film.04:59 (2013, 6min, PXL2000 Tape Cassette, B&W), Michael Higgins04:59 features Maximilian Le Cain, Karen Power and the work of Gorging Limpet. Inspired by cinema and visual narrative, Michael’s work involves a range of both digital and analogue technologies, and concerns people’s perception of time and reality. In following an initial idea through, he makes a point of being open to changes and external forces that occur throughout the various stages of production, allowing the development of the work to be self-driven. He simply assists it in materialising. MONGOLIAN BARBECUE (2009, 11mins, colour, video), Maximilian Le CainMongolian Barbecue presents us with the edge of an abyss circumscribed by cinematic possession. The corporeal ritual involved falls at its ultimate climax into the rhythmical interstices of red frames that opens the way to static images from vampire B-movies, the feminine paradise a cinephile could encounter after taking a glimpse at cinema’s interior cavities. Mongolian Barbecue shares with much of Cork-based Le Cain’s prolific output (over 60 films in the past five years) the presence of TV static and the use of sounds that directly refer to medium specificity. Maximilian Le Cain has made more than eighty experimental films and videos. He frequently works in partnership with sound/performance artist Vicky Langan, and collaborates with Esperanza Collado on the multidisciplinary art project Operation Rewrite. He is a member of the Experimental Film Society collective and the Cinema Cyanide noise project. He is also a film programmer and critic.THE PREDICAMENT OF MAN (3 mins, 16mm and Digital Mixed Media, 2010), Jesse JonesThis film is the second in the collection of films; The Trilogy of Dust. Using footage shot in an opal mine in Cobber Pedy, Australia, intercut with over a thousand still images that appear momentarily on screen, Jones subliminally contrasts the desolate landscape with flashes of often recognisable 20/21st century icons and events. The Predicament of Man creates an uneasy and foreboding slippage in time that hints at an apocalyptic future. Its title is borrowed from an essay in Limits to Growth by the economic think tank The Club of Rome in 1972. The Predicament of Man examines the consequences of exponential growth theories of late capitalism and how they may not only over stretch our resources’ carrying capacities, but also our sensory capacity to perceive reality itself.The work of visual artist Jesse Jones primarily takes the form of short films, works which renegotiate the material and ideological structures of cinema. They are concerned with how cultural artefacts can be restaged to reveal embedded histories of dissent – and their contemporary relevance.Absences and (Im)possibilities, curated by the Experimental Film Club was commissioned by IFI International. IFI International is an initiative administered by the Irish Film Institute and funded by Culture Ireland. The Irish Film Institute is supported by the Arts Council.