Sunday, 17 January 2010

Nine Artists' Films

Jacob Whittaker - Tying Tone Arms - seen here

Tonight we went to see the screening of Nine Artists' Films at Theatr Mwldan in Cardigan, part of the 2010 Film Festival. Seven locally based artists, working with film showed a series of nine short films.

The show was really well attended and it's been a topic for conversation today. The filmmakers were invited onto the stage after the showing for a Q & A session with the audience, this really helped to give some context to the works.

Simon Whitehead's work Anemos was commissioned by the BBC. Sean Vicary's Sea of Glass was commissioned as a response to music in an audio-visual performance. Rueben Knutson made his film 1000 Days as the outcome of a residency in the haematology department of a hospital. Jacob Whittaker and Penny Jones' Taith Cranogwyn operated as a documentary. The other contributions were made as art films. One possibly needed this background to interpret the films in relation to each other; the different approaches made the dialogue between the selection a little problematic.

I am easily seduced by classy production, and in this vein I enjoyed Anemos, a visually rich film of a choreographed performance which personifies the element of the wind and the production of wind energy. The choreography was compelling and worked beautifully with the costume of grey-blue silk dress and coat, the rich lighting created narrative. Some of the small gestural hand movements in the piece were exquisite . Sean Vicary's Sea of Glass was similarly classy, a sophisticated stop motion piece animating out sized shells spinning against the Cardigan coastline.

My personal favourites were Jacob Whittaker's Three Vinyl which "...uses found (Hi-Fi and sound equipment) objects, and my aim is to use them, as much as is possible, in the state in which they are found. Basic repairs are made merely to achieve some sound, with any problems leading to their being discarded playing an important part of the composing process. With turntables (the artist) often intervenes further by tying the tone arm back in order to interrupt normal play. The work is then produced live without headphones or post-production, using randomly selected loops from often randomly selected records."

Of the three pieces I had seen Tying Tone Arms before, an aesthetically beautiful, slightly voyeuristic, nostalgic film of decks backed with the drones of stuck vinyl; cacophonous music that develops its own rhythms and tensions. The middle film Shaky uses a faulty record deck that shakes and shudders the needle across the vinyl making a bizarre visual effect as the tone arm vibrates alongside the boings, scratches and tremblings of the sound track. It has a peculiar tension and a curious sense of passive-aggression in the juddering malfunction of the machinery and the fate of the vinyl it reacts with.

I enjoyed Penny Jones' Rant, a silent short of the artist in various outfits and in various locations raging and ranting at the camera about unknown grievances. It is important to know that Penny is an older woman because it completely alters the contexts of the work. A young woman behaving in the same manner would convey completely different signifiers. It was uncomfortably comical and had resonances with the inflential Carmarthenshire filmmaker and photographer, Peter Finnemore.

Rowan O'Neill's Menyw a Ddaeth o Gatraeth / A Woman Came from Catterick had some lovely motifs within it, a nostalgic, symbol laden film utilising props and film techniques that took the piece into the realm of folk tale. "My Grandmother moved from the area close to Catterick in the mid 50s to settle in rural West Wales. In my Grandmother’s suitcase I keep the relics of a long forgotten strife…” Rowan references the militaristic contemporary and historic roots of Catterick with a repetitive sequence showing a soldier rhythmically cutting a huge pile of carrots with her Grandmother's kitchen knife - a beautiful but disturbing vignette.

Well done to Theatr Mwldan for the initiative, more please!

Left to right: Penny Jones, Jacob Whittaker, Simon Whitehead, Rueben Knutson, Sean Vicary, Ruth Jones, Rowan O'Neill

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