Artists' Television Access

The Muse of Cinema Series By Kerry Laitala

Friday, March 20, 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. 

The Muse of Cinema Series By Kerry Laitala

Torchlight Tango-16mm, sound, 20 minutues-2005
“Torchlight Tango” is a burlesque romp through the D.I.Y. direct cinematic terrain described by filmmaker/curator Scott Stark as an “auto-romantic dance of light and body.” A film about making a film, “Torchlight Tango” compresses time and expands light refractions to teeter between frantic and frozen moments revealing the filmmaking process to be a solitary endeavor of intimate tactility. Using “red blind” film exposed with a flashlight, hand processed and sent raucously through an ancient hand crank projector, the hands of the maker are succinctly felt as the light sensitive medium is investigated. During the film exposure and hand processing the filmmaker shot herself using a Bolex and intervalometer to record the processes that go into making this kind of expressive personal cinema.  The intimacy achieved was not hindered by a large crew of people and this film was made without any financial support from any institution. “Torchlight Tango” expands upon what kind of cinema is possible with limited means.

“Torchlight Tango” was awarded the Best Bay Area Non- Documentary Film Award by the San Francisco International Film Festival- 2005 and the Jury Citation Award from Black Maria Film & Video Festival, Jersey City, NJ- 2006

Coming Attractions- 16mm reduction print from 35mm, silent, 4 minutes, 2009
“Coming Attractions”…Will bring you through the whole Gamut of Human Emotions” A trailer for the photoplay of the last Century.

Muse of Cinema- 35mm, 20 minutes
Sound collaboration: Kerry Laitala & Robert Fox- 2006
“Muse of Cinema” is a rowdy frolic through early moving picture technology and illuminates the atmosphere of the darkened theater. Magic lantern slides spring to life as they directly address the audience, highlighting many problems endemic of this time and communicating technical difficulties in the projection booth. In the Muse of Cinema, the photochemical properties of the filmic medium have been cultivated over five years using a flashlight, not a camera, to expose the film. A solar eclipse gleams out from the screen, shimmering and crackling with rhythmical reverberations. The process of this detail in the Muse was demonstrated in a previous film Torchlight Tango, which is in effect is a film that documents many parts of the production of the Muse of Cinema. The magic lantern is the grandfather of motion pictures; the slides in Muse provide a cinematic reflection of this history. All slide images were shot on a slide duplicator using the apparatus in a way that diverges from its original function. The original hand processed film material was then mastered on a 35mm optical printer at a film co-op in Vancouver called Cineworks. The soundtrack was made through a collaboration with Robert Fox and we worked diligently to create various sound/image relationships that combine in a lyrical fashion from various sources that move anachronistically through time. The Muse of Cinema was also hand processed and toned to provide a meditation on this medium of alchemy and magic.

Winner of Golden Gate Award- Best Bay Area Non-Documentary Short Film Award for “Muse of Cinema”- San Francisco International Film Festival-2007
The Muse of Cinema was sponsored by the Princess Grace Foundation’s Special Project Grant -2004 and the Museum of Contemporary Cinema Grant-2005

“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”, and was described in the San Francisco Bay Guardian as “A spinning flashing UFO/roulette wheel of Athenian proportions.”

Spectrology- 16mm, 11 minutes, sound, 2009- San Francisco Premiere!!!!!
In 1646, Kircher published Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae, on the subject of the display of images on a screen using an early prototype to the magic lantern as later developed by Christian Huygens. Using this apparatus as a tool to enchant, spellbind and spook, Paul de Philipsthal, Robertson and other conjurors dazzled spectators with their unique bag of 18th Century tricks, raising up the spirits of recently deceased and reminding the viewer of the “fate that awaits us all”. “Spectrology” calls upon conjurors of the past and their secret repertoire of magical devices to simulate a modern rendition of the phantasmagoria. The medium of cinema is harnessed to entice the viewer and ruminate on the mesmerizing presence of various illusions made anew.

Phantogram- 16mm, silent, 9 minutes, 2008- San Francisco Premiere!!!!
A telegram from the dead using the medium of film. Slippery shimmers slide across the celluloid strip, to embed themselves on the consciousness of the viewers.

“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….”

“Retrospectroscope”, “Muse of Cinema” & “Spectrology” were sponsored by the Princess Grace Foundation

Total Running Time: 1 hour 18 minutes

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