Duelling Projectors, or Superstream at Fringe, September 2010

Here is the version published on Screen Machine, unedited version after the jump…

It would be hard to deny that film is an inherently collaborative medium. It is not just one medium, in fact, but many- a multiplicity of practices brought to bear on a storyline, theme or idea.

Practitioners of experimental video conversely tend to be (out of necessity) lone practitioners- acting as director, cinematographer, editor and sometimes key performer and sound designers in their own works. It was fascinating, therefore, to see members of the super flux collective (of Grenoble,  France) team up with local AV outfit Stream Collective on “Superstream”- a site specific,  multi-projection, collaborative and improv-based screening night as part of this year’s Fringe festival- recombining individual film/video practices into a new whole.

Created over 5 intense days of experimentation, negotiation, conversation and play, and staged in the Mechanics Institute theatre in Brunswick, the result was ambitious, engaging and exciting.

The performance consisted of: Superflux artists Etienne Caire and Gaëlle Rouard operating 16mm film projectors from either side of the room, Lionel Palun  creating live video feedback and Richard Bokhobza on bass guitar and noise toys, and then Stream Collective’s  Marcia Jane performing live video projection with Marco Cher Gibard and Rosalind Hall creating sounds on, alternately, lap top and saxophone. The threat of sensory overload loomed large, as you might imagine. The result was, in fact, a sophisticated conversation between mediums and an effective riffing on the cinema experience.

The artists were set up on tables at the back of the room, with most of the audience seated on cushions on the floor (to avoid interrupting the line of the projections). The image began small, and would gradually build up and dissapate again, over a very large screen. A few people were craning their necks to see who was projecting what, and how they were divvying up screen space between them, but I was happy to let it remain a mystery, and see how successful or unsuccessful it was as a cohesive whole. Mostly it was the former, but even in moments when the image started getting too complicated, or muddied by too much projector light, the artists would seize on this and develop it to their advantage- opening the gate on the projector to flood the screen with light and then physically interrupt the stream with a hand, for one example.

The noise of the hand cranking of the projectors became a part of the total sound track, reflecting the conversation that emerged between digital and analog, and live and pre-recorded modes of audio visual performance. The physical presence of the sounds was notable. It didn’t feel like it was coming from some overarching, anonymous system, but occupied a real space in the room, felt like an independent entity.

Imagery was diverse, ranging from scraps of film footage (European and Eastern), processed video and prepared abstractions. Many times the video projection would reflect and re-cast the film projection- distorting, doubling, resizing it. There was an uncanny urgency and tension of some of the interplay between sound and image, the building rhythm, and the exploration of shot & reverse shot in some of the film footage. Marcia Jane’s beautiful abstract lunes in striking white, blue and red, alternately framed or cut through the more representational collages that emerged.

Far from descending into some kind of interminable pot-fuelled rave cave of a night, it was really well timed – two halves with an intermission and sets around 30-40 minutes each meant that each session wrapped up just as your bum was starting to get sore. It was a comfortable, welcoming and social environment, that played nicely on traditional cinema experiences and felt more like going to see a movie than going to an experimental sound or video gig.

These kind of collaborations are a great initiative and really important for local artists- Superflux are evidently fairly innovative in their use of multiple, performed projection, combined with an absolute focus on improvisation, a practice they have explored over many years, and it is fantastic that local artists have had the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from them. I for one came away inspired and buzzing with ideas about “image dialogues”, “live montage” and analog/digital “conversations”, and it will be particularly interesting to see how this gig affects future Stream works.

Upcoming Superflux gigs for those who missed out:

27 October at Stutter – Lafoxe (Etienne 16mm / Gaëlle 16mm) – also MetalkinG (Etienne 16mm / Richard bass and noise toys)

Stutter at Horse Bazaar: http://horsebazaar.com.au/

For more info on the artists:

Stream Collective: http://streamcollective.wordpress.com/ HYPERLINK “http://www.myspace.com/rosalindhall”

HYPERLINK “http://www.myspace.com/rosalindhall” http://www.myspace.com/rosalindhall

HYPERLINK “http://www.myspace.com/marcochergibard” http://www.myspace.com/marcochergibard

http://vimeo.com/marciajane

Superflux:  HYPERLINK “http://lionelpalun.com/superflux/indexE.html” http://lionelpalun.com/superflux/indexE.html

Fringe Festival: http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/superstream

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