Lis Rhodes' Light Music (1975) explores the material structure of film, and the relationship between sound and image, creating a space in which these elements are a synchronised experience.
In creating her work, Rhodes composed a ‘score’ comprised of drawings that were printed onto filmstrip. They formed abstract patterns of black and white lines onscreen. As the bands of light and dark passed through the projector they are ‘read’ as audio, creating an intense soundtrack. This creates a direct relationship between what we see and what we hear. The crossing projection beams achieve a sculptural quality within the space, encouraging us to move through and interact with the light beams. This is an early example of expanded cinema, in which viewers are both spectators and participants.
Rhodes’ film set out to counter not only the enduring hegemony of narrative cinema, but also male domination within the avant-garde at the time. It was a call for a feminist filmmaking aesthetics embracing both the abstraction, and collective sociality, of light, shadow and smoke.
As part of a special one-off performance, Liquid Architecture x Light (Sat 15 Oct), four artists will respond to Rhodes’ Light Music with audiovisual works that interrogate perceptions of art, acknowledge dispossession and trauma, and experiment with new audiovisual forms. Bonnie Mercer, Carmen-Sibha Keiso, amby downs and Sally Golding provide some notes for their works prior to the performance.
My process involves crafting multiple layers of abstract improvised guitar, from which expressive overtones, both emotional and sonic, unfold over time, and familiar motifs reemerge unexpectedly for the listener. I am interested in exploring both the conscious and unconscious role of emotion in musical memories, and I am excited to work with filmmaker Carmen Sibha-Keiso in the immersive environment of a cinema, where audiences will experience auditory and visual elements that compliment and enhance one another. At the same time, I invite the audience to question what is subjective perception and what is artistic intention, what is conscious and what is unconscious.
I collate footage based on my surroundings and habitus at the time of recording, which typically results in ritualistic environments involving everyday or natural movement, combined with the variable constituents of image-making; lens, light, and form. In the editing process, a tempo and perspective are established through techniques of repetition, manipulation, and augmentation. I want people to look at what they always look at, without realising, as if suspended in a state of mundane catharsis. The addition of music or sound to this cinema-verité style intrinsically loads the image with a presupposed subtext. When working with abstract imagery, we leave space for sound to carry more narrative weight – to become a more affective force over the spectator's perception and psyche, allowing them to see what they want to see, hear what they want to hear.
My practice is informed by re/connection with my Murri family, culture and stories, and research into Australian history and politics, exploring themes around perception, resourcefulness and endurance. I seek to communicate the range of emotions that come with facing intergenerational trauma, as well as the challenges of living in this contemporary colonial situation.
'i am holding my breath', was created on Woi Wurrung biik, from recordings taken in urban and non-urban settings on Woi Wurrung, Boon Wurrung, Djab Wurrung and Gadigal lands + waters. It is a meditative acknowledgement of feelings of despair, frustration, etc about issues regarding dispossession, the health of Country and environmental injustice.
'i am holding my breath' was spurred from watching Storm Boy (1976) and being confused by the sound design; the birds – and other environmental sounds – seemed out of place, out of time, and uncomfortable. Lis Rhodes worked in opposition to commercial cinema, and here I aim for similar; a response to Australian film canon from the perspective of a near digital-native descendant of the Stolen Generations. This work speaks of discomfort, grief and frustration; Country, Being, time, our old people, our young people, dispossession and disconnection, environmental disruption and destruction, human and non-human suffering and resilience, and an overwhelm of digital media.
Rest In Power Gulpilil.
'Intra Protocol' is an installation-performance which occupies and enlivens the audiovisual systems of the cinema. In conversation with Lis Rhodes’ work, and the broader context of expanded cinema, my piece sets out to interrogate the technical apparatus of a contemporary digital cinema environment. I manipulate the elements of projection, speaker arrays, and lighting rigs as a form of experimental audiovisual composition. I consider this to be a practise of ‘social architecture’, thinking about the cinema as a constructed environment that shapes and conditions our behaviours and responses. This piece moves between traditional cinematic space and the ‘microcinema’ of personal devices. The composition is a communication protocol, or a script, for a new cinematic interface.