Artists' Television Access

Journey from Darkness Into Light:

A Spooktacular Program of Films by Kerry Laitala

Friday, March 13, 2009, 8:00 pm, $6


The San Francisco-based filmmaker Kerry Laitala is unquestionably one of the most inventive and original experimental filmmakers on the American scene today. An expert in optical printing, D.I.Y practices, such as photogram and hand processing techniques, she utilizes these processes (among others) to re-shape ‘found’ materials into 16mm & 35mm handcrafted short films that embody and celebrate the phenomenon of motion pictures that made the early cinema going experience awe-inspiring. Inspired by avant-garde filmmakers like Phil Solomon and Paul Sharits, her work conveys a similar connection to the materials, but with a more unhinged sense of decay, and her works utilize hybrid strategies.
     Over the past decade her award winning films have played at venues in the U.S. such as the Whitney in New York and the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and at festivals like Sundance, SF International (5 times) and the New York International film festival (“Views from the Avant-Garde”- (7 times). European venues such as The Tate Moderne and the Cinematheque Francaise have screened her work, as have festivals in Edinburgh, Rotterdam (9 times), Osnabrück (3 times), Stuttgart (4 times) and twice at Helsinki’s Avanto festival. 
Two feature length programs will be screened at Artist Television Access (March 13th & 20th): “Journey from Darkness into the Light”, a show of her creepy older work exclusively on 16mm that will culminate in a rarely performed live act of scintillating cinematic bravura: “Little Bassy Velvet”. The next Friday, Laitala will screen several films from the Muse of Cinema Series, three of which will be premieres: “Phantogram”, “Spectrology”, & “Coming Attractions”. The first film in the Muse of Cinema Series entitled: “Muse of Cinema” will be projected as a live projector performance. The 35mm celluloid tribute to early cinema will be raucously sent through an ACME projector from 1923; and let’s hope it doesn’t blow up!! Laitala has a masters degree from the San Francisco Art Institute & studied film and photography at Massachusetts College of Art, and has previously taught film classes at the SF Art Institute, Mass Art and workshops, for the Filmwerkplaats in Rotterdam, Antimatter Film Festival in Victoria, BC and Otherfilm Festival in Brisbane, Australia. 

Journey from Darkness Into Light:
A Spooktacular Program of Films by Kerry Laitala

 A Fragment from a Lost Film- 16mm, 3 minutes, silent- 1992Introduction to a walking anachronism

“Orbit”- 16mm, 9 minutes, hand-made soundtrack-2006
Candy apple light emissions create a series of photic stimulating events that tickle the retinas. “Orbit” takes one into the realm of the mistake…. a playful pulsation of mis-registered images made when a lab accidentally split the film from 16mm to regular 8. This format was then reconstituted on the optical printer making the colors and contrast further blow out into the atmosphere. Kodachrome color fields create tremulous vibrations whose flickerings hypnotize. The Kodachrome Series, of which “Orbit” is a part, deals directly with chromatic motion studies and creates an illusion of frozen light fields; holding light captive and exploring the phenomenon of retinal afterimage.  The soundtrack is comprised of the flutterings of optical noise reverberating to the splices of the film that is intermixed with hand drawn extensions of the visual plane onto the soundtrack area. By combining a series of abstract shapes with permanent marker, the rhythm and tempo of the image is directly enhanced through this mark making process. The fanciful sputterings crackle and snap, tickling the tympanum of the eardrums. We enter through the oval window, while the Gravitron spins eternally.

“OUT OF THE ETHER”- 16MM, 11 Minutes, sound“Out of the Ether” is a hand crafted 16mm film composed on the optical printer and toned to bring out pulsating hues of oozing greens and yellows. “Out of the Ether” poses the following questions: “What do we leave behind? Are institutional forces using our hysteria to reap the benefits of possible infection? Whose environment could we possibly be affecting? What unseen forces would unscrupulous beings want to use to infiltrate our bodies and perhaps our consciousness? Who is the enemy? “Out of the Ether” unleashes upon an unsuspecting audience septic musings about fear in the guise of microbial menace and mayhem.

“Retrospectroscope”- 16mm, 5 minutes, silent, 1997
The “Retrospectroscope” apparatus has gone through many incarnations; its presence belies the processes that have created it. As a pre-cinematic device, it traces an evolutionary trajectory, encircling the viewer in a procession of flickering fantasies of fragmented lyricism. The “Retrospectroscope” is a reinvention that simulates the illusion of the analysis of motion to recall early mysteries of the quest for this very discovery now taken for granted. The Muses of Cinema” represented by the female figures on the disk, have emerged from a dark Neoclassical past. Streams of images revolve around, in an attempt to harness notions of a cinematic prehistory tracing past motions and gestures to burn their dance on the surface of the retinas. This film known as the “Retrospectroscope”, was described in the San Francisco Bay Guardian as “A spinning flashing UFO/roulette wheel of Athenian proportions.” Sponsored By The Princess Grace Foundation-1996

“Hallowed”-16mm, 11 minutes, color, sound – 2002“Hallowed” is a 16mm film that portrays a mystical voyage made back in time by an unconscious woman in the throes of a cataleptic state. She finds herself in Plato’s cave where flickering flames incite a prehistoric cinematic reverie evoking an experience of magical proportions. Her internal state is evoked through a chromatically textural metamorphosis that plays across her visage as she transcends the pain inflicted from an unknown source. Flames of purification melt away layers of trauma, and send the dislocated psyche back into the realm of the present as an integrated self. “Hallowed” evokes a transcendent state that could only be traversed and negotiated through the ritual contemplation of the elusive pictograms and archaic petroglyphs on the cave wall, as the realm of cinema becomes an antidote for the emptiness of earthly existence.

“Secure the Shadow…’Ere the Substance Fade”- 16mm, color, sound- 9 minutes 1997“Secure the Shadow” is a meditation on disintegration and mortality. The film utilizes antique Medical stereoscopic images from the Victorian era, which are simultaneously disturbing and beautiful. The filmmaker’s intention is to reveal universal truths about the overwhelming quality of disease to render us ultimately mute, immobilized within a corporeal shell that has succumbed to imminent forces beyond our control. The filmmaker also wants the film to address the myth that dignity is automatically restored upon the visage when facing death. In analyzing the original function of the stereoscopic images, the filmmaker intends to expose their classificatory nature. These anonymous subjects were reduced to paradigms of pathology, embalmed in time within their exterior presence. By re-photographing them on the optical printer and placing them in a mythical home, the filmmaker endeavors to re-animate these visages to ensnare them, or allow them to roam free on the surface of celluloid. Absence transforms to presence as the latent image reveals the manifest content, the slippery territories in between unraveling like the threads joining the crazy quilt that connects images together. An anachronistic Victorian sensibility places the images in a chimerical, historical context that embodies the film with a mind that is paradoxical and alien to our modern day perspective. The title “Secure the Shadow…’Ere the Substance Fade, let nature imitate what nature has made”, comes from a Nineteenth century post mortem photographer who advertised his services. This reference speaks about the function of photography as a democratizing medium that assists in the process of mourning and serves as a physical reminder of loss.
Sponsored By The Princess Grace Foundation-1996

“The Adventure Parade”- 16mm Black, White & Blue, Silent, 5 minutes- 2000“The Adventure Parade” is a hand processed film that deals with the nature of using found images self-reflexively calling attention to the re-framing imprint of the filmmaker serving to reveal the duplicitous nature of the material. The inherent violence that is hinted at lies beyond the threshold of understanding, and only offers clues of past interventions.”

“Conquered”- 16mm, B&W & Color, 15 minutes, sound, 2000
Filmed entirely at the Akademie Schloss Solitude, “Conquered” comes from the depths of a submerged self. The filmmaker incorporated her own imagery with found material from German industrial films, most notably a film about a youth prison. These images were fused with images from a film brought from the U.S. entitled “The Epic of Everest” summarizing an attempt to reach the mountain’s summit by George Mallory and Sandy Irvine in 1924. Mallory’s body was just recently discovered below the North face. Killed after a fall, his innards were subsequently eaten out by Goraks. Amidst the controversy of whether Mallory made the summit or not, the filmmaker’s intent in using the Everest imagery was to describe a feeling of a frozen landscape as emotional state. As she was awestruck at its extreme beauty and chill, she felt that it perfectly portrayed an immobilized, catatonic state analogous to the darkness, and the snow covered quietude. As matter becomes transformed into a morass of material incoherence, the filmmaker wants the viewer to become lost in the imagery, and to feel as though he/she is dangling precariously over the edge of a precipice. She merged the materials: celluloid base with alchemically, manipulated surface and found a way to crack the emulsion to yield a fragile, encumbered palate- a veritable testament to the forces of organic catalysts in motion.
Sponsored by the Akademie Schloss Solitude and Hakan Warn

Transfixed- 16mm, 8 minutes, sound 2005, Sound Collaboration with David Shea
Bridging the gap between past and present, a series of thought pictures transcribe moments of
Cautionary pleasure submerged in undulating illusions of liquefied light and shadow.
Commissioned by the 34th International Film Festival Rotterdam

“Little Bassy Velvet”- An Expanded Cinema, Projector Performance Piece – 16mm film loops, 35mm slides and the sleight of hand…9 minutes-2008“A whimsical, expanded cinema piece that exists somewhere between a light spill and a conjuring act, “Little Bassy Velvet” teases the retinas and immerses them in a sea of squirmy, silvery halides….”

 Total Running Time: 1 Hour, 25 minutes

Then Laitala will return for the next Friday’s Screening
MARCH 20TH @ ATA- at 8pm

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