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To coincide with Daniel von Sturmer’s exhibition, Site will be screening work from the New Zealand Film Archive. Curated and introduced by the archive’s Exhibitions and Programmes Manager, Mark Williams, this is a rare opportunity to see some of New Zealand’s experimental film and video work, as well as home movies, government films and music videos.

The Experimental Archive
Thursday 15 October, 6.30 pm

Introduced by Mark Williams, this programme suggests a possible road towards establishing a history of New Zealand experimental film and video.

New Zealand is a small country with an indigenous population that was colonised by Britain in 1840. While European culture has been the dominating influence in the past 150 years New Zealand is still evolving it’s own identity as a South Pacific nation.

Rather than a Greatest Hits, this programme suggests possible roads towards establishing a history of New Zealand experimental film and video. While many of the films in this programme could be considered within the internationally recognised tendancies of the experimental/avant garde, there is also an opportunity to place these films in the broader context of our recognised national cinema, and it’s representation of people and place.

PROGRAMME NOTES

HOME MOVIES

Paritai Drive (2.32)
Ethel Garden, 1937

In 1996 the BFI produced Cinema of Unease, a documentary created for the Century of Cinema Series. Written and directed by Sam Neill, the title refers to the dark and brooding nature of many of New Zealand’s most notable films, which Neill considers a reflection of the nation’s struggle to find, or form, its own identity. Ethel Garden’s 1933 home movie Paritai Drive begins with a series of colonial statements; a highway and a large house. The film soon turns to a series of moody interiors that suggest a sense of suppressed drama.

Sun Test 2(2.21)
Elga Hinton 1940s

Elga Hinton’s Sun Test 2 is at once a typical home movie showing children playing in the backyard, and an experimental film whose subject is light. Using double exposure the images of children are obscured by a larger dominant image of the sun, which burns down

GOVERNMENT FILM

 

Wool Gathering (5.50)
John King 1965

The New Zealand National Film Unit was the local equivalent to the British GPO (Government Publicity Office). Established to promote a healthy, prosperous vision of nationhood the NFU and it’s government predecessors often came under criticism for producing worthy but dull images of New Zealand’s primary industries. A visit from John Grierson led the Unit’s wartime director Stan Andrews to call for a more dramatic government film that showed “the rippling forearm of the shearer”. By 1996 John King’s Wool Gathering suggested that even this idea had become overused. Beginning with images of sheep grazing, the film switches to a fast forwarded image of a shearer at work before an abrupt transformation into slow motion tableaux inspired by avant garde classic Last Year At Marienbad (1961). Beyond an image of our primary industry in action, Kings government film is both comic and surreal, suggesting touch, texture and the materiality of the wool itself.

ARTISTS’ FILM AND VIDEO

Earthworks. Temporary Instant in the Continuum of Universal Ebb and Flow (11.35)
Philip Dadson, 1971

In 1969 Philip Dadson was a foundation member of the London Scratch orchestra (alongside Cornelius Cardew, Michael Parsons and others). In the early 1970s he returned to New Zealand where he formed the experimental percussion group From Scratch and began a career as an interdisciplinary artist. Earthworks is a film of an event that took place simultaneously at locations including Australia, Rarotonga, San Diego, Antarctica, England and New Zealand. Dadson asked the participants to carry out six activities in 10 minutes, ranging from an official weather report to recording observations of the tide, moon, sun and immediate environment. This was captured visually and aurally on film, tape and photographs which became the compositional elements of the film Earthworks. Like the event the film Earthworks attempts to maintain the effect of simultaneity and was dedicated “to peaceful celebration of planet earth”.

MUSIC VIDEO

 

Turning Brown and Torn in Two (4.00)
Chris Knox 1983

Since the early 1980s Chris Knox has been making music videos for his own songs. Both could be said to share the same inspirations; punk rock, Tex Avery and an appreciation for the comic book grotesque. In the pre-internet age New Zealand’s geographic isolation meant that most of the recent developments in the international avant garde could only be read about or imagined. Consequently Knox claimed that Tony Conrad’s ‘Flicker’ was the biggest influence on his own films, many years before he had even seen it.

Flicker (4.00)
Fetus Productions

Emerging in the late 1970s, Fetus Productions were a multi-media group inspired by industrial culture. They performed as a musical group with multiple 8mm projections, designed their own fashion and created sound and image installation work based on their own experimental films. Fascinated with urban and physical decay Fetus’ work often drew on both sublime and grim subject matter, from nature scenes to footage of an autopsy. Flicker is their most commercially successful work.

EXPERIMENTAL FILM: REPRESENTATIONS OF PEOPLE AND PLACE

Wog Features (6:34)

Lisa Reihana, 1990

“Wog Features uses animation and live action to address racism in culture and gender. I chose animation because of its universal appeal to children as well as adults, and to increase the potential audience. Minstrels dance in blackface; golliwogs are incorporated into reconstructions of children’s television. This politicised look at culture is almost on the edge of profanity. The education of our people should begin when they are young.” – Lisa Reihana

Bowl Me Over (6.00)
Lissa Mitchell/ Pictorial Research Group 1995

Bowl Me Over is an animated road-movie painted directly onto film. Travelling down the highways that carve through the unpeopled wilderness of New Zealand’s South Island Mitchell pays homage to Colin McCahon, Mina Arndt and Rita Angus; local artists whose work was inspired by the landscape. She also notes the loss of the town of Cromwell, which was submerged underwater to make way for the introduction of a government dam.

Falling Out (15.00)
MD Brown 2004

Representations of New Zealand’s white suburban culture have been a staple of New Zealand feature film since the 1970s, where themes of friendship, growing up, hedonism and the passing of time were all played out in anti/heroic narratives. Falling Out is far more personal, recollecting a murky set of events and personal relationships whose character has been shaped by the passage of time.

From Tiziano Vecellio to Barnett Newman and back(5.00)
Peter Wareing 2008

Peter Wareing is a New Zealand artist who has for the past ten years been based in New York. In this film he ponders the distance between New Zealand and the rest of the world; the import/export of culture and the relevance of Western European art history washing up on a South Pacific shore.

Films in Real Time, 1970-1979
Thursday 22 October, 6.30 pm

In the early 1970s the New Zealand art world began to blossom. An emerging infrastructure based on the national arts council, public galleries, art schools and university art history departments supported expansion and experimentation. During this time a post-object art movement was emerging, where artists turned their attention to performance activities. Films in Real Time documents a range of activities from musical performance to the rigours of physical labour, sometimes completely raw and unedited, at other times crafted with an eye for cinema.

PROGRAMME NOTES

Leon NarbeyA FILM OF REAL TIME. A LIGHT SOUND ENVIRONMENT 1970
9’ 20’’, 16mm

In 1970 Elam School of Fine Arts graduate Leon Narbey was invited to provide the opening exhibition for the Govett Brewster Art Gallery. Narbey’s response was to transform the interior of the building into Real Time, a maze of lights, plastic and aluminium. The movement of audience members through the space triggered sensors which prompted light, colour and sound. This provided the point of departure for his film, A Film Of Real Time.

Darcy Lange
RUATORIA PART 2 [SHEARING PEKAMA] 1974
9’, Video U-matic low-band

Darcy Lange was an early user of portable video cameras starting with the 1/2 inch open reel format and progressing to U-matic cassette. His early work in New Zealand concentrated on naturalistic studies of working life and included studies of the Waitara Freezing Works and Ruatoria Sheep Farming. In 1974 Lange departed for Europe where he continued his study of working life filming schools, industrial workplaces and allotment gardens. This excerpt from Ruatoria is trademark Darcy Lange; an uninterrupted take of a shearer dragging a sheep into the shearing enclosure, shearing the wool off the animals back, pushing the animal back into its pen. The shearer wipes his brow and prepares for the next animal.

Gray Nicol
SHAVE, 1978
10’, Video U-matic

In Shave a man wearing sunglasses looks into the camera while shaving (lathering, shaving, and towel drying his face). Then, with a felt tip pen, he draws a moustache, goatee and eventually a full beard onto his mirror image, cleverly revealing the ‘4th wall’ of the camera between artist and viewer

Bruce Barber
WHATIPU BEACH PERFORMANCE, 1973
9’, 8mm

On Whatipu Beach west coast of Auckland, four performers spread 200 metres apart relay information through walkie-talkies and megaphones. Amongst the cacophony of sound a ‘blind-master’ (literally blindfolded) records whatever sound attracts his attention while the camera operator moves amongst the performance area recording images. The resulting collage of sound and vision is Whatipu Beach Performance. “… I believe that I am working towards a position where paradoxically … in the act of overloading or the deprivation of sensory (physical) and intellectual experience, I am thereby enlarging my own and others’ capacity for sensory and intellectual stimulation.” – Bruce Barber

Andrew Drummond
20 Directions in an Enclosure

Andrew Drummond’s performance piece 20 Directions in an Enclosure 1978. In the late 1970’s Drummond was working largely in performance. In Limbo showcases images from the Ngaraunga Set, a suite of four performances where Drummond performs ‘complex ritualistic and repetitive manoeuvres, to embody a layered narrative about confinement and liberation.’

[NEW DIRECTIONS IN NZ MUSIC OCTOBER – NOVEMBER 1979. FROM SCRATCH – DRUMWHEEL], 1979
13’, Video U-matic low-band

In the late 1960s Philip Dadson was a member of Cornelius Cardew’s experimental music group the Scratch Orchestra. Returning to New Zealand he formed a local version of the London group and in 1974 he founded From Scratch, an experimental percussion group that would exist for the next 30 years. Dadson invented a range of musical instruments for From Scratch, using materials as diverse as PVC pipe and oil cans. Dadson’s instruments were sophisticated harmonic and percussive devices. Scratch’s work has dealt with issues ranging from nuclear testing in the South Pacific to celebrating political and spiritual leaders. In this early recording of From Scratch we see the performers move between different “stations” of instruments, and twirl sound making devices in the air.

SoundTracks: Experimental Audio for Unseen Films
Thursday 29 October, 6.30 pm
From 2002-2006 experimental musicians were invited to create a soundtrack to films in the collection of the New Zealand Film Archive. As a result many previously unknown or forgotten films were seen for the first time in many years, and a mainstream audience celebrated experimental music. Film footage includes amateur documentation of Antarctic whaling shot in the late 1960s, an industrial film about New Zealand’s meat exports to Britain, newsreel footage of the massive 1931 Napier earthquake and home movies shot on 16mm film by women of means in the depression years. Musicians include Rosy Parlane, Rachel Shearer, Greg Malcolm and Bryce Galloway.

Programme organised in association with LUX, London

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