Magazine article Art Monthly

Misdirect Movies

Magazine article Art Monthly

Misdirect Movies

Article excerpt

Standpoint London 5 July to 3 August

'Cinema', dematerialised and magnified in the 21st century, fulfilling all the medium's foundational dreams of spectacular transcendence while cleaving to the foundational myth of guaranteeing presence, has with increasing openness become an instrument of late-capitalism's consumptive hegemony. (Liberty through consumption, equality through consumption, fraternity through consumption, to borrow Raoul Vaneigem's now ageing quip.) Faced with this, one turns with relief to those practices, however marginal, that emphasise the material, that practise 'cinema' by means that resist reification or commoditisation, whether through sheer inaccessibility--by which I mean they are too cognitively difficult, rather than hard to track down, but yes, that too--or transience. With the exhibition 'Misdirect Movies' we are in the domain, mostly, of the para-cinematic and the extra-cinematic. And to provide some differentiation: by 'para-cinematic' I refer to cinema realised by means other than projection of a continuous stream of images, indeed sometimes by means that may not be conventionally cinematic at all. The 'extra-cinematic', by contrast, is that which adds meaning to a cinematic work, a film, by reference to it in another medium. The fan magazines of the 1920s and 1930s would be good examples of this, so too promotional photographs for films. (And this demonstrates the fact that the extra-cinematic is routinely used, even today, by mainstream cinema as promotional mode, just mostly on the internet.) Both these modes of being outside the cinema have long histories, perhaps because Dada artists in particular were more sensitive to the inherent capacity for subjective annihilation of the still maturing medium. (What else does Laura Mulvey describe in that foundational essay for film studies than regression into the primordial when confronted by big mum and dad on the screen, in the dark? Subjectivity goes where, exactly?) So, for example, Francis Picabia created both extra-cinematic materials, the 'Instantaneiste' issue of 391 that yoked his performance Relache to his polemical writing and poetry, and para-cinematic events and works, the ballet Relache, including the film Entr'acte, the drama Cine-Sketch, and the text L'Accommodation chez les borgnes: sursum corda, 'for projection', as the author put it, 'on the inside of the skull'. The solitary issue of Celine Arnauld's Dada journal Projecteur from May 1920 presents its texts as a series of frames with cumulative effect, and printed in landscape format to mime the visual form of the cinema screen. (I'm indebted to my colleague Ruth Hemus for that last example.) A number of surrealists, notably Benjamin Fondane, created 'unfilmable' film scripts as purely literary works. One might happily describe the literary endeavours of any number of modernist writers, from John Dos Passos through to 'HD' and Stephen Spender, as creating para-cinematic texts.

So in 'Misdirect Movies' we have contemporary artists building on and reprising modernist activity, but doing so not as pastiche for the benefit of the market, but as distancing devices from cinema. The acknowledged principle for the show may be collage and the rearrangement of cinema's infinite supply of imagery--it is infinite because it grows faster than our capacity to appraise or rearrange it--but the outcome is something beyond cinema. I was especially taken by Dave Griffith's presentation of tiny, almost unintelligible images on glass slides, to be viewed through a microscope. …

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