Entrevista a Diana Toucedo
Gesto, deseo y tiempo

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Aldo Tambellini. A Cosmic Community
By Helena Girón and Samuel Delgado

Aldo Tambellini performed his first “Electromedia” performances with the Group Center, formed with his partner Elsa Tambellini, Ron Hanhe and Ben Morea (founder of Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers! A group that defined themselves as a street band with analysis). They sought in them a continuous change and expansion handling some of the concepts that are present in Tambellini’s work. Black, Black 2, Black Round, Black Zero (the best known) and other performances would begin to establish some foundation of his work like the conception of black as a nexus between cosmos and racial segregation – a subject that Sun Ra and Afrofuturism had also dealt with from other sides-. They also carried out various actions aimed at those institutions that hijacked art and creativity by reserving it for a small elite.

CREDO: We believe that the artistic community has reached a new stage of development. In a mobile society, it is no longer sufficient for the creative individual to remain in isolation. We feel the hunger of a society lost in its own vacuum and rise with an open active commitment to forward a new spirit for mankind. Creation is not the commodity of a status seeking class. Creation is the vital energy of society. We believe that the ‘our system’ is an enormous dinosaur extinguishing at a fantastic rate which opposes truth and freedom and that it has squeezed out of man the essential vitality which made him part of the human race. For that reason, “Group Center” consciously and intentionally chose to become a counter-culture, underground group trying to find ways to change and impact that harsh closed-in system.
Credo. Group Center, 1962.

Their activity would be brief but intense, and their spirit would continue alive in the space created in 1967 by Aldo Tambellini and Otto Piene on the top floor of The Gate Theater. They would call it the Black Gate and its origin would be the same as that of universe: first darkness, then light. At its inauguration, Tambellini’s Blackout would be followed by Otto Piene’s Proliferation of the Sun. Its doors were open. Fifty years later we will be able to go through them again thanks to a filming made by Aldo the day of its opening and, once inside the Black Gate, we will have the opportunity to enjoy the experience of Moondial.

“We are the primitives of a new era […] the rebellion is against man as an exploded economic commodity man as an exploited economic commodity man as a specialized entity we have witnessed the explosion of the Black man and the apathy of the artists […] the concept of art has disappeared electromedia is our era we must get to the heart of the medium to its tube its filament its energy we must produce visions from the stuff which media are made of it is”.
Black Gate, Aldo Tambellini and Otto Piene statement.

Cécile Fontaine
Commented Filmography

Super 8 movies made in Boston between 1982 and 1986
Traditional Montage
MOUVEMENT NUMÉRO 1 (danseurs et mariage) – MOUVEMENT NUMÉRO 2 (train et statue) – MOUVEMENT NUMÉRO 3 (TV crew et neige rouge)
I consider my first movies small tests, experiments. At first I took my camera in my bag every day, and so I filmed numerous super 8 reels without thinking too much, colleting images that later I would use during my first tests of montage. In my first movies you can see that I have never left a reel untouched, and that they are the result of a rather exhaustive assembly of pieces extracted from different reels, the same sources can be used in several films (as in Mouvement 1, 2 and 3).

Non-traditional montage; Transfer and emulsion collage (1984-86)
One day, I saw in Vertov’s Man with a movie camera a woman cutting a movie with big scissors. This, or so, gave me the idea to use them to cut the film in a different way than the splicer, which cuts through the line of the frame. I then cut diagonally, and at the same time, two films of trees that I had filmed, and then I reconstructed the film strip replacing the images on the right of the diagonal cut of the first film by the ones of the second one and vice versa. Therefore, you are do not have to use the splicer – because the splicer is a limit. It happens the same with the camera and the lens; without the lens, you can do something else.

A movie combining segments mechanically recorded by the camera and manually produced segments with instruments outside the kinematic domains and taken from other visual arts (engraving, painting, collage). The film is composed of a long sequence of overexposed self-portrait taken through a reflecting and deforming crystal, and intersected by several independent sections that are like sketches. The experiment aims to show the physical and cinematographic characteristics of the film, regardless of the conventions of the medium, through incision, tear, burn, perforation, collage, painting and engraving. These procedures, discovered by accident and voluntarily repeated during the handling and montage of the film, play with the great flexibility of the non-precut adhesive tape splicer, which allows the film to be rebuilt back to its original state after being separated in two longitudinally, or overlapping pieces of film, or gluing external elements (such as colored plastics) to create particular effects.

A movie entirely bleached and then manipulated by adding -on the new surface- colored plastic pieces (red and blue), emulsion pieces removed from the surface of another film; overlapping other film elements (35mm slides) cut in super 8 format, or segments of underexposed and striped films to reveal the layers of color that make up the film. All these techniques aim to recreate the color palette and textures of the painting using only the physical elements of the film.

A movie entirely bleached and then manipulated by adding parts of words, printed images and pieces of film images removed from their plastic strip. The game of vertical movements (produced by discoloration) and horizontal (created while shooting) accelerates the timing of the film and reveals the physical continuity instead of offering us the illusion of a normal movement by means of the shooting at a rate of 18 frames per second (by vertical movement); the horizontal movement counteracts this directionality from the bottom up.
The non-uniform discoloration of the ektachrome film partially reveals its chemical composition (the first in its pure, yellow form, the second in its compound, green form due to the blending of blue and yellow, the third layer, magenta, disappears when contancting bleach). The absence of history and the absence of sound respond to my personal conception of the film as a transparent object that filters the light of the projector creating motifs and colors to be seen as moving plastic objects, without any precise reference to the real world, but to the physical reality of the film itself.

Transfer Montage
SANS TITRE, MAI 1988 (1988)
This film consists of home movies filmed by my father in the sixties, except the communion and the building collapse. These images were erased irregularly using bleach, and then embedded by sticking fragments of emulsion removed from different sequences, thus leading -in the final montage- to a slow parade (sometimes literally represented), and to a transformation towards destruction and death. We thus go from a virgin nature to a nature plundered by man. The same happens with human beings: from communicants to old war veterans, from birth to annihilation. A show for passive extras.

This movie, like the rest of my films in 16mm, has been composed of multiple sequences of found footage or films given by friends who know my way to “build” films radically transforming their appearance (texture, color, content), chemically and manually. Images from all kinds of sources (documentaries, fiction, publicity, news, family films, amateur films) are re-elaborated removing or partially erasing the emulsion, which is then moved and (or) reconstructed using adhesive tape, without using the optical printer. Silver Rush, following that process, is a real stampede of sequences composed of rushes from various sources (fiction, documentary, publicity), representations of hunts of all kinds, in the mythical scenery of the American western.

Inteview with Stephen Broomer
Potamkin: Death of a Poet

An interview with Stephen Broomer, celebrating the premiere of his latest film, Potamkin, in a A Coruña.

Why did you decide to devote a film to Harry Potamkin? I guess that to undertake a task like this you should be very emotionally linked to this figure.
Harry Alan Potamkin is a figure I first encountered through the poem of Kenneth Rexroth, who talked about Potamkin as a poet who had been wounded deeply by society, who had died under really tragic circumstances and who was only dimly remembered for his contributions to film criticism and not so much for the power of his poetry. I am very interested in Potamkin as a poet, but I came to him through Rexroth, and I came to Rexroth’s writings on Potamkin through my friend Bruce Elder who often teaches courses that end with him reading two poems of Rexroth for Eli Jacobson both of which are about the impulse of society to destroy poets. That is sort of the seed of my interest for Potamkin. As I read and as I searched out and found Potamkin’s poetry, with a lot of help from two people, Cameron Moneo and Mónica Savirón, I was very struck by the power of the poems, but also by the bizarre transit in them from a kind of Ezra Pound modernism to a kind of Mike Gold socialism. There are poems of Potamkin that could be collected under the title A Marxist Garden of Well Meaning Verse, they are really kind of hollowed out poems on social justice. So the idea that he sort of transitioned from the dense broken tone of early 20th century imagism and a kind of explicit politic interested me. I was not sympathetic to all his politics at all, I think that his beliefs actually drove a lot of his despair, rage and things I am sure influenced his demise, out of outrage and passion for his fellowmen. But the idea of that these two things coexisted interested me, and that’s how you get the film that is pitched, I think, between a humanist impulse to calling out acts of brutality and war and the dense fractured and ambiguous compositions of modern art.

How did you come out with the idea of making a film on Potamkin like that?
Actually, a lot of this comes from the failure of an earlier project that I hope to go back to. I was at one point trying to make a kind of film biography like this about a Canadian artist named Sam Perry who had been an incredible live show maker, he had this psychedelic light show in the 60s and I wanted to make a film that was sort of in his style, but his own films have all been destroyed, so we can only go with what has been said about them to simulate them. That project was never able to get finished because of funding and costs, so I am hoping to go back to it. But this idea of film biography which is like in the voice of the subject it’s actually a weird Canadian tradition. The lyric critic Hugh Kenner used to write books in the style of his subject, so he wrote The Pound Era that reads kind like an Ezra Pound writing about Ezra Pound. This kind of approach is kind of like a distinctively strange stream of Canadian criticism. So when I started thinking how to represent someone who hadn’t made images but someone who was so tied to images I thought “If I, without any mind of his qualitative judgment of these films, if I just gathered up every existing film that he had written on than I can access and I use them as a base for this film, I tamper them I destroy them and so on, them maybe what I can get to is to something like a kind of eruption of consciousness, maybe I can make something like a singing out to death”. That’s what brought me to this material, some of it are films that were important to him and his aesthetic ideas: The Passion of Joan of Arc, Battleship Potemkin, and many soviet films. But there are also there some film that he would had find quite objectionable, Hollywood films, melodramas that didn’t do much more than repeat Victorian moralist structures and one of the things I am doing here is straining those films and putting them in this kind of odd montage. The film relationship to montage is not really Eisenstenian montage or anything like that, it’s not really Pudovkin, Kuleshov, but there is this exchange of images and how they build that is rooted in the philosophy of montage in the way that this Hollywood cinema could have been. That’s how I started working in the images.

Can you talk about the physical process of working with the images?
I’m sure this will be controversial for the media specificity crowd: I gathered all the materials in video. That doesn’t bother me because where would I was to seen Battleship Potemkin no on VHS when I was growing up, and many of these films part of this is also my experience. I gathered all the videos that I could, and I selected compositions that were interesting to me or that would resonate with events in Potamkin’s life: for instance, he was kicked out of university for failing to pass a mandatory swimming test, so there is a lot of drowning imagery in the film. This is a man who died of drowning in his own fluids so there’s a lot of resonances on that too. So once I put those together I rephotographed them to 16mm and then I hand processed them with the bucket method, just going from developer to fix and having produced a negative or reversal image I could see whether it turned out and also that parted down the material I was working with, because at this point I had rephotographed about four hours of material. Then I started using a number of processes on that image, one of which was to use household bleach to soften the image, and then use a steel wool to strip part of the images selectively. Another was to use tape as a stop, so you take tape and the you lay it in the emulsion side of an image and then you put it overnight in household bleach and when you take it out you peel off the tape and wherever the tape was the image is preserved and everywhere else has disappeared. Another thing was to work with a type of photographic bleach called mordançage solution which is made by combining glacial acetic acid, hydrogen peroxide and copper chloride which are very unpleasant things to work with to say the least. When you leave an image in this material the emulsion peels up at its edges, has this effective veiling, and you see this is the main technique in the film where you have emulsion that peel up partially and it seems also as like tearing pages out of a book or something. That is a technique that has been used by, I would imagine, Jürgen Reble, Phil Solomon, Eva Kolcze and so on, and that I only have used a few times before in films like Jenny Haniver, and never with this falling in love with material.

Could you tell us about the soundtrack of the film? It is very intense and it has an influence in the impact of the film.
The soundtrack is made by my father. He was a free jazz musician, free jazz experimental music in the 60s, 70s and the 80s and to the present not as active, and he studied electronic music. He is also a writer on improvisational music, and he had previously made the soundtrack of a film of mine, Variations of a Theme by Michael Snow, in which he used Morse code patterns to create distortions and polyphony. This soundtrack is structured in two parts as the film, that is structured in two reels. The soundtrack of the first reel you have a lot of sub base tones creating distortion and drones but against that you have this penetrating M.R.A. sound, the sound of an M.R.A. machine that is giving you these call and response rhythmic patterns. This culminates in the appearance of Skip James song “Hard Time Killing Floor” which hasn’t been treated that much but which plays against this other sounds in a kind of spooky way. And then in the second half of the film the soundtrack is composed by many of the same elements but they are being brought way down. You have Tibetan chants, chakra balls, and bells and at different points of the second part they would play in backwards, because one of the central gestures of Potamkin is that eventually all of this horror is sort of undoing itself and moving in reverse, so that the sound mirrors the picture in that way.