THE ORPHAN AVANT GARDE

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been looking more carefully at the expansive field of  recycled cinemas.  I am particularly interested in the the places where found and orphan films intersect with the contemporary avant garde, producing works that are torn between past and present tenses, between concepts and material.  At the recommendation of a colleague, I have been making my way through the work of Peter Tscherkassky, an Austrian filmmaker whose work combines cinematic scraps with dense layers of sound:

Dream Work (2001)

Tscherkassky’s work also includes several returns to early cinema.  His most recent film, Coming Attractions (2010) explores Tom Gunning’s canonical concept across eleven distinct visual “chapters”.  I am still trying to get my hands on it for a screening.  In the meantime, bits of Tscherkassky’s other works can be found online.  Mubi hosts a small, but very good collection (and charges a small fee per film).

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TEACHING AND TECHNOLOGY

A good Chronicle article from UCLA philosophy professor Pamela Hieronymi on the difference between technology and teaching as a “tsunami” of online education heads our way.  Key point(s):

As we think about the future of education, we need to sharpen our understanding of what education is and what educators do. Education is often compared to two other industries upended by the Internet: journalism and publishing. This is a serious error.

Education is not the transmission of information or ideas. Education is the training needed to make use of information and ideas. As information breaks loose from bookstores and libraries and floods onto computers and mobile devices, that training becomes more important, not less.

[…]

But the core task of training minds is labor-intensive; it requires the time and effort of smart, highly trained individuals. We will not make it significantly less time-consuming without sacrificing quality. And so, I am afraid, we will not make that core task significantly less expensive without cheapening it.

MOVING PICTURE WORLD

A fantastic new resource for researchers and teachers of early cinema has just appeared online. The first twelve years of Moving Picture World have been digitized and added to the Media History Digital Library’s “Early Cinema Collection.”  From the MHDL:

Moving Picture World was one of the most influential trade papers of the early motion picture industry and the period film historians call cinema’s “transitional era” (lasting roughly from 1908 to 1917). During this era and inside the paper, you can watch the transition from short film programs to feature films and witness the transition from the dominance of Edison’s Trust to the rise of the “Independent” film companies that ultimately became the Hollywood studios. 

The first issue includes some “novel uses for cinema,” instructions for making latern slides, a review of The Teddy Bears (Edison, 1907), and a full-page ad from the Miles Brothers (mentioned just last week): “Conversation gets you nothing.  Real Johnny-on-the-spot service is what you want!”

The project was funded, in part, by Domitor and its members.  For those who are interested in contributing, MHDL is still raising funds to digitize MPW through 1927, its last year of publication.

SUMMERTIME IN SCOTLAND

July was a month of endless rain, many deadlines, and one fantastic screening of early film fragments at the Woodend Barn in Banchory.  The highlight of the evening was Melancholia, a rescoring and reimagining of a film from the Miles Brothers by Ross Whyte (electronics) and Richard Craig (contrabass flute).   The film captures a trolley ride through Main Street, San Francisco, just days before the 1906 earthquake.  It is filled with remarkable (audio and visual) moments.  Keep yours eyes peeled for the child in the back of a horse-drawn carriage who pulls back the curtain and magically appears.

[vimeo https://vimeo.com/46316708  w=575&h=400]