I am leaving today for a holiday in Norway. I hope to see some old friends, hike, and take a break from research and writing (and hunching over screens). I thought I would post some Norwegian shorts and sound projects (really, a grab bag of links that I have been collecting over the last couple of weeks in anticipation of the trip). Enjoy!
Before oil: the exploitation of ice. An (orphan) film from Ives Argus of Unknown Cinema.
The Bridal Voyage in Hardanger (Rasmus Breistein, 1926): part melodrama, part non-fiction, part Hardanger fjord adventure!
Ola Refsnes’ home movies, esp. Swimming Alongside the Wreck of Donau (1945).
Ivo Caprino: Norway’s stop-motion puppeteer. I love the shimmering water beneath the fisherman’s boat in this fragment. Pinchcliffe (1975) here.
Camera Magica is a Norwegian production company directed by Morten Skallerud, specializing in large format cinema. A Year Along the Abandoned Road was shot over 105 days in 1988/1989 in 65 mm. According to CM, the film shows “a whole year passing by in Norway’s Børfjord at 50,000 times the normal speed.”
Jens Lien’s startling graduation film from the London Film School, entitled Montana (1992). A corpse and a cowboy (costume) in a hotel room.
Nurse with Wound (Steven Stapleton and Colin Potter): A radio art intervention in Lofoten, a set of islands located high above the Artic Circle. This is the sound of midnight sun.
When the Studio Burned (Lawrence Marston, 1913)
A fictional film about a real fire from a studio that actually burned down. Thanhouser studios operated in NYC from 1909 to 1918. It was recently reborn as a non-profit preservation company (directed by the grandchild of the original owner). More films here and here.
Rupture of a Soap Bubble by a Projectile (Lucien Bull, 1904)
What is (film) theory? Why does it matter? Over the last year or so, I have had to draft responses to these questions (for students who would rather work on “real” films and colleagues who would rather do “real” history). Though I am someone who takes pleasure in reading theory, arguments for pleasure (i.e., I enjoy it. You should, too), or for the pleasures of departure (from “real” disciplinary concerns) are not all that convincing. A first sketch of another argument: Continue reading
The Great Train Robbery (Edison, 1903) on photographic paper. From Boing Boing’s beautiful photo-essay on digital archival processes at the Library of Congress.
I just came across Lev Manovich’s project Little Movies (2001), “a lyrical and theoretical project about the aesthetics of digital cinema, and a eulogy to its earliest form: QuickTime.”
Interestingly, it is now impossible to view the films without an outdated version of Quicktime and Explorer/Netscape. So, it has (perhaps inadvertently) become a project that eulogizes early digital while aestheticizing the absent archive, missing image, and broken link.
Woman Smoking Opium (Léon Busy; Hanoi, 1915)
From the Albert Kahn Collection, aka Les Archives de la Planète. Interactive map with a selection of films and photographs from the archive here.
Blaise Cendrars on early cinema. A glimpse of the interview:
Q: Who are your main characters?
A: Rivers, the forest.
Smithereens (Ross Whyte, 2011)
Pete Stollery, a Professor in Composition and Electroacoustic Music at the University of Aberdeen, passed this short piece along to me a few days ago. It was composed and created by Ross Whyte, a musician and PhD student at the University of Aberdeen, whose research explores “audio-visual intermedia and multi-sensory perception in music.” You can find Whyte and more of his work here.
The film echoes the woman-on-the-stairs of Leger’s Ballet Mecanique. But it manages much more than nods to history, the pleasures of found footage, or the ghosts of mechanical reproduction. Whyte’s use of sound remakes the image(s), brings texture to these early spaces, and plays with the absurdities and excesses hiding just beyond the chase scene.
Smithereens also invites us to spend time with (several kinds of) orphans. I couldn’t help but wonder: Who is this girl? Where is she going? Did she ever get there?
I have written a little about changes to higher education in the UK here, specifically the shift to business-model approaches to research. The Texas Public Policy Foundation think tank recently proposed “seven breakthrough solutions” for public higher education in Texas. Dean Randy Diehl and a committee from the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Liberal Arts wrote a clear and detailed counter-argument to each of the proposals. On impact and the humanities:
We are also concerned by Mr. Sandefer’s suggestion that specialized academic articles with limited readerships lack real value. This outlook could affect scholarship in such fields as mathematics, natural sciences and social sciences in which seemingly narrow findings have the potential to change human understanding.
We are especially concerned it will inhibit research in the humanities and we take issue with the idea that the value of research can be judged by its immediate impact or reduced to a monetary figure. Humanities research helps citizens better understand the world in which they live and the overall human condition. It provides the history, cultural contexts, and ethical framework needed to make sense of changes in society.
As in other disciplines, the impact of most humanities research is not immediately observable, nor guaranteed. It tends to work cumulatively over time and, for the most part, requires no start-up funds, research labs, or expensive equipment. Historians, philosophers and economists from the Greco-Roman periods through Voltaire, Hume, and Adam Smith, for example, all influenced the American founding fathers. These scholars’ impact was not fully known for decades or centuries, just as the value of much of today’s scholarship can’t be measured immediately.
The whole piece is worth reading. It is at once a response to a very specific threat and a clear distillation of the arguments we all need to get better at making. The strength of this defense rests not only on the claims themselves, but the way in which they are presented. Put another way, the defense depends upon the skill-set it so vigorously defends: critical thinking, clear arguments, close reading of the evidence…
Tusalava (Len Lye, 1929)
This is Len Lye’s first film. The (great) sound design for this particular version is from Tiantian Zhu. LUX archive offers this brief description of the project:
“Its title is a Samoan word, suggesting that ‘in the end everything is just the same.’ Len Lye conceived the film as the first of a trilogy of films about ‘the beginnings of organic life.’ Because of lack of finance, parts two and three were never made. Its central motif is the witchetty grub. ‘To get the spirit of the imagery I…imagined I was myself an Australian witchetty grub who was making this animated ritual dance film.’ The whitchetty grub is the totem of a tribe near Alice Springs which considers grubs to be the ancestors of humans. The cocoon-like shape in Tusalava (which Lye has described as ‘a totem of individuality’) can be seen evolving towards human form. Meanwhile, it is menaced by a sharp tongue creature that is “a cross between an octopus and a spider.”
I wish there were a part two and three.