Bob Cotton: Zeiteye 2010

Bob Cotton: Zeiteye 2010

This is a short film I made 2009-2010. It was a way of dramatising an archive database – a database film as Lev Manovitch called it. Its intent was to illustrate the changing zeitgeist of the previous 11 decades of new media innovation:
ZeitEYE is a film about innovation in media and the arts since 1900. It is in the form of a rapid montage of stills featuring all the principle media and art innovations of the last eleven decades. It is punctuated and contextualised by the inclusion of keynote artists and celebrities of each decade, and is framed by closeups of the eyes of these zeitgeist figures. It is a kind of back-story of our contemporary broadband networked media, and it is a film about the evolving spirit of the age. It is eleven decades of media-arts innovation in eleven minutes.”
http://zeiteye.wordpress.com

The avant garde music is Ballet Mecanique, composed by George Antheil between 1923-24 originally for the film Ballet Mecanique made by Fernand Leger, Dudley Murphy and Man Ray in 1924. Used with permission of the George Antheil estate.  This recording is conducted by Daniel Spalding and played by the Philadelpia Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra. CD available at http://www.amazon.com/Antheil-Ballet-Mecanique-George/dp/B00005NCYE

http://www.antheil.org

 

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Storm de Hirsch: Peyote Queen 1965

Storm de Hirsch: Peyote Queen 1965

Storm de Hirsch was a mature artist when she made her first feature – Goodbye in the Mirror, shot on 16mm – in 1963. Born in 1912, she was five years older than the doyenne of the American avant garde, Maya Deren. And de Hirsch, like Deren, was an experimentalist, with a background as a painter and a poet. Many of her short films she made are abstract, some are made without a camera – with de Hirsch scratching, painting and etching directly onto film, sometimes using multi-screen prints, some with in-camera masking or matting.
The best biography of this under-appreciated film-maker is at http://www.filmdirectorssite.com/storm-de-hirsch

What makes artists and film-makers like Storm de Hirsch important in the back-story of 21st century media? Because the avant garde were the first to seize the opportunity of new media to explore new ways of communicating and expressing their ideas. There is a techno-aesthetic exploring the areas of synaesthesia, immersion, interactivity, and multi-sensory communication that permeates the recent history of our culture, from the Phantasmagoria of the early 19th century to the immersive, multi-sensory, multi-media forms of the Happening and Dance Rave culture of the 1990s, but this desire of artists to enrapture their audience must be traced back to the neolithic – to the primordial dance-ritual, storytelling, oral culture of pre-history.

Peyote Queen was made when abstract expressionism was just giving way to pop art as the dominant fine-art form. De Hirsch nods towards both styles, but is suffused throughout by a celebration of the primitive – of percussion, abstraction, symbolism (the ankh, the cross, the crescent, the yin-yang) as well as simple punched holes, scratched graffito of lips, tits, hearts, eyes, flowers, and the evocative kaleidoscopic effects of distorting mirrors, dimpled glass, prisms, and the organic distorted close-ups of faces, hands, drumming. The sound track is jazzy, percussive, Caribbean, burlesque, and the movie is cut on the beat (or having that effect).

Jonas Mekas/The Living Theatre: The Brig 1964

Jonas Mekas/The Living Theatre: The Brig 1964

The Brig is a play written by former U.S. Marine Kenneth H. Brown (born 1936). It was first performed in New York by The Living Theatre on 13 May 1963 [1] with a production of it filmed in 1964 by Jonas Mekas. It has been revived in New York in 2007. It received an Obie Award.
The play depicts a typical day in a United States Marine Corps military prison called The Brig. Brown spent thirty days in a Brig for being Absent Without Official Leave whilst he was with the Third Marines in Camp Fuji Japan in the 1950s.” (wikipedia)

I saw this film in an all-night session on experimental ‘underground’ film at the BFI in the early 1970s. The staccato, dehumanised, robotic actions and the rigid military choreography and cruelty of the plot, reminded my of Antonin Artaud and his ideas of the Theatre of Cruelty. This movie is a visceral shock to the system, a saraband for McCarthyism, a premonition of the war in Vietnam, an essay of military elite training.