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   avant-garde movies, motion graphics, and theory

Abstract Film & Video: The Contemporary Period

story © Michael Betancourt | published August 14, 2011 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



Avant-GardeMovies

There was only a brief consideration of the contemporary period of US abstract film/video in 3 periods of Abstract Film and Video, but its analysis bears greater expansion. By focusing on the dominant characteristics of the three periodsexperimentation, consolidation and institutionalizationthe marginal position of abstract film emerges clearly at the start of the third period. The potential contemporary period reverses this marginalization, and so deserves a longer discussion.




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The 3 Periods of Abstract Film & Video in the US

story © Michael Betancourt | published August 7, 2011 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



Avant-GardeMovies

Because understanding the present requires an awareness of the past, this discussion considers the broad development of abstract motion pictures over the course of the twentieth century. Within this larger history, it is possible to identify three distinct phases to the emergence and consolidation of abstraction as a specific genre of animation.




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Harry Smith, Alchemist & Professional "Bum"

story © Michael Betancourt | published June 24, 2011 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



Avant-GardeMovies

Harry Everett Smith (1923 1991) was a film maker who, like Len Lye, had other interests than film.




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'Video Art' - A Definition

story © Michael Betancourt | published June 19, 2011 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



Avant-GardeMovies

The definition of video art as a distinct medium, apart from both experimental film and television was a central topic of theoretical and critical concern during the early years of video arts existence; of greatest importance to these first writers on video was the ways it differed from televisionmuch more than the relationship it had with the avant-garde film community, many of whom had shifted from film to video as lower cost cameras and video tape recorders became readily available.




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Why It's Called 'Experimental' Film

story © Michael Betancourt | published June 5, 2011 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



Avant-GardeMovies

The origins of the idea that films made by artists are "experimental" can be traced to a magazine from the 1930s, and an exhibition in the 1940s.




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On Len Lye's Kinetic Film Theory

story © Michael Betancourt | published May 1, 2011 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



Avant-GardeMovies

Len Lye (1901 1980) worked as an animator, then as a director of newsreels for the March of Time from 1946 to 51, and finally as a kinetic artist; within the history of motion graphics he occupies an unusual position: even though he had informal training as a painter and worked with various types of sound-image synchronization in abstract film, these works exhibit a distinct conception of abstraction as a kinetic art, rather than an art constructed upon a musical analogy as was typical for the other artists drawn to create abstract motion pictures during the first phase of their history. This emphasis appears in his theorizing shortly after his first hand painted film had achieved a wide-spread critical success in Europe. Writing with a collaborator, Laura Riding, in 1935 for the essay Film-making, Lye proposes a tentative framework to think about motion as form:




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On Sergei Eisenstein's Audio-Visual Montage

story © Michael Betancourt | published April 10, 2011 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



Avant-GardeMovies

Sergei Eisenstein (1898 1948) proposed a series of techniques in his montage theory that provide a complete system for motion pictures. As optical sound became the dominant technology, his theories became concerned with the organization and relationship between sound and image. Concerned more with the editing of sequences than the graphic animation of imagery, montage nevertheless does have a direct relevance to the synchronization of sound and image. Eisenstein proposed a special type of montage form, chromo-phonic montage. This conception emerges from his critical engagement with the color-sound relationships surveyed in his article The Synchronization of the Senses, a fact that reflects the pervasive influence of synaesthesia on art before World War II.




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Anmic Cinma by Marcel Duchamp

story © Michael Betancourt | published April 3, 2011 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



Avant-GardeMovies

Marcel Duchamp (1887 1968) produced only one film, Anmic Cinma (1926). It shares some of the concerns with creating an abstract visual language, but stands apart from the translation of the implied movement shown in abstract painting to the apparent motion of cinema. This film, shot by Man Ray, creates a visual comparison between a series of risqu French puns and a number of kinetic optical illusions that oscillate between convex and concave when spun. The relationship between the visual and verbal elements of this film is intricate; the complexity of meaning contained by this formulation is belied by the simplicity of the film itself. Understanding it requires a consideration of how this film and its subjects can be related to the rest of Duchamps oeuvre. This process reveals the abstract language Duchamp proposed in this film and his other works.




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Hans Richter's Abstract Rhythms

story © Michael Betancourt | published March 27, 2011 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



Avant-GardeMovies

Hans Richter (1888 1976) and Viking Eggelings collaboration was predicated on similar interests, and developed, at least initially, from Richters desire to work together. In the summer of 1919, he invited Eggeling to visit his familys estate in Klein-Klzig, Nieder Laustiz, Brandenburg in Germany. This marks the beginning of their formal collaboration, and art historian Martin Norden has noted the parallels and connections between the abstract language Eggeling and Richter produced, and similar attempt to create a formal language by other artists. After 1920, Richter worked to promote their Universelle Sprache using his relationships with other abstract artists: the De Stijl artists in the Netherlands, the Dada/Constructivists in Berlin and the Russian artist Kasimir Malevichs Suprematism. Nordens recognition of the formal relationship between Suprematism, the geometric painting of De Stijl artists Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesberg, and the Universelle Sprache created by Eggeling and Richter is not simply a coincidence. Their collaboration developed because of Richters associations with these groups and mutual friends they shared in them.




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Laszlo Moholy-Nagy: Abstracting from Reality

story © Michael Betancourt | published February 20, 2011 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



Avant-GardeMovies

An Excerpt from a current writing project-in-progress:

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (1895 1946) spent an extended portion of his book Painting, Photography, Film concerned with issues of the absolute film following his initial observations about the importance of Viking Eggelings work. His focus was on the ability to create an abstract work where light and movement appear on screen separated from the confines of theatrical, literary cinema: he called these works light-space articulation; an idea he developed initially in the form of the Light-Space Modulator, a kinetic sculpture produced in collaboration with Stefan Seboek at the Bauhaus in Berlin. This work was in development for most of the 1920s, an on-going project of Moholy-Nagys from 1922 when he created the first version until his final version done in 1930. It is this last version that appears in Ein Lichtspiel schwarz weiss grau (1930).




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