The cinema house at ATA nearly burst its well-worn seams on Saturday in honor of the special benefit event, Cast Shadows. Paul Clipson and John Davis projected super-8 film in collaboration with live performances from musical explorers Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, Marielle Jakobsons, and Barn Owl. The program opened with a speech and dedication from one of ATA’s founding members, who called the venue the best piece of art he ever created, except, perhaps, his daughter. Then the lights shut off and we looked deep into the cellulose eye of Paul Clipson’s projection.
This was my first exposure to Clipson’s layered world. Afterwards, a friend told me that the piece was a-typical; Clipson’s work is usually non-narrative, but the opening film featured a young woman in motion. The music and the rhythm of the cuts pulsed like a heartbeat, ominous and gorgeous, as the girl disappeared into her own reflection. Then urgency fluttered like a panicked eye across the screen, and the film stock flooded with color. Deep orange light saturated the picture and the girl ran down a wooded hill. Was she being chased, or was she chasing herself? It was irrelevant amid the beauty of the layers.
The second piece opened with Marielle Jakobson’s eerie violin. Gentle bowing floated over a vibrating mechanical hum: the ambient noise of a warehouse, or the grinding of parts about to move. John Davis projected a diptych with soft, rounded edges, a blurred and bleeding picture that cut from the mundane to the lyrical. Davis’s projector danced with the film stock, fast and slow, stopped, then backwards, until finally he clicked through frame-by-frame and the ticking sound blended with the music of the violin. This film had an exceptionally good use of Bart in art. It was beautiful and a bit sad, a gentle celebration of the camera’s dance with the world.
The program was an exploration of textures: on the film stock, in the difference between digital and natural sounds, on the surfaces of objects. The third piece began in quivering moments. The camera hovered, and I noticed the irregularity of organic forms. Light dripped over the screen like hot metal. Then Barn Owl drove the piece to crescendo with a rising, sometimes shrieking soundtrack that escalated into stanzas of dizzying panic. First the sun, and then a group of electric lights flitted and hurled themselves at the lens like moths to a lamp. How can I describe this imagery? It is hypnotic and begs for metaphor.
When the third film ended, the lights came up on a full house of patrons, artists and musicians who paid money and donated time and work toward preserving the ATA community. It was a pleasure to be in such good company.
For more a full slideshow of Nicholas Waton’s images from the Cast Shadows event, please travel here.