mercoledì 15 febbraio 2017

Richard Tuohy and Dianna Barrie: two pioneers of the Super8 Renaissence

Unzalab: on the Left Dianna Barrie, in the centre Richard Tuohy, on the right, with the colourful shirt, Francesco Tartaglia.

Hand and Machine
Cinema was the first inescapably mechanical art, but in this post-mechanical age, the traditional apparatus of cinema has all to rapidly been deemed obsolete and primitive. 
Yet the handing over of industrial machinery to anti-industrial users represents one of the prime creative opportunities for re-appraising and re-interpreting the nature of ourselves as transformed by the age of machines.
Post-mechanical age, the humaness of the machine can be made evident. Post mechanical age, machine craft is the new hand craft. In the evening of june, 30th 2016, 7 recent film works from australian DIY cine experimentalists Richard Tuohy and Diana Barrie were presented to the audience.
These films were exploring the primitive apparatus of cinema and the relation between hand and machine.



Crossing 2016, 21 minutes, 16mm, R.T.
Across the sea. Across the street. Cross processed Super8 footage of fraught neighbours Korea and Japan in grain focussed enlargement.

Blue Line Chicago

Blue Line Chicago 2014, 10 minutes, 16mm R.T. & D.B.
Architectural distortions of the secon city.

Last Train 2016, 12 minutes, 16mm R.T. & D.B.
Found in the (now lost) archive of Lab Laba Laba, footage from a trailer for the Indonesian film "Kereta Api Terakhir" (The Last Train) melts into a suoup of chemigrammed perforations. 
A film madre in seven cities and none.

Etienne's Hand 2011, 13 minutes, 16mm, R.T.
A movement study of a restless hand. Made from one five second shot. Sound constructed from an old French folk tune played on a hand cranked music box.

Ginza Strip

Ginza Strip 2014, 9 minutes 16mm R.T. & D.B.
The Ginza of fable and memory. This is the first film the australian duo have finished using the "Chromaflex" technique that they developed. This is a very  much hands on colour developing procedure that allows selected areas of the film to be colour positive, colour negative or black and white.

Dot Matrix

Dot Matrix 2013, 16 minutes 2X16mm R.T.
Dot Matrix is a dual 16mm film involving two almost completely overlapping projected images. The "dots" were produced by photogramming sheets of dotty paper used for Manga illustrations directly onto raw 16mm film stock. These dots were then contacted printed with "flicker" (alternating black frames)creating strobing "interruptions" to the dots. The drama of the film emerges in the overlap of the two projected images of dots. The product they make is greater than the parts. The sounds heard are those that the dots themselves produce as they pass the optical sound head of the 16 mm projector.

Richard Tuohy, 47 y.o., experimental cinematographer.

Tony Graffio: Please, Richard tell me something about you and your activity in the Super8 film production and processing.

Richard Tuohy: Ok Tony. I'm 46 (At the time of the interview. He was born on 12/8/1969) years old, I'm from Melbourne, Australia, but I live in the country, in a town called Daylesford wich is one hour and half away from Melbourne. In Daylsford, Dianna Barrie and I have our own lab, Nanolab which is partly a commercial lab for Super 8 processing, but Nanolab is also a big lab space with several darkrooms. There, we work and other people can come, staying for a while and work with us having a sort of artist residency for making a film or whatever. 

A frame from Ginza Strip a Richard Tuohy and Dianna Barrie experimental film.

We also run a lab in Melbourne called Artist Film Workshop which is a community lab like this (referring to Unzalab), a membership lab. Both of these films labs are listed on the website, but they are quite different. My background is in philosphy, but I was making films before I started studying philosophy. I had a break while I was studying. I started making flms in the middle eightys, but they were a different kind of films to those I make now. In those days there was not internet, of course and there was a great scene in Melbourne for Super8 films. It was very, very vibrant. It was a very productive time. We had meetings once a month and there were always new films to show. In that context the enviroment of new films was very productive for me. None of us got to see films from anybody else. We saw only our own films. We were like this, just looking at ourselves, we didn't have an archive to look at, or a collections of films to look at. It was kind of good because we didn't worry about the canons. We didn't worry about the big figures of experimental films. We were just worried about ourselves. It was a good way to make work. In those days I was making narrative Super8 films, but I was watching experimental films made in the group. I was trying to make Ozu films!

A frame from Ginza Strip a Richard Tuohy and Dianna Barrie experimental film.

I came back to making films early in 2000 because we moved to a small town in the country and someone said: "You should come to the Super8 screening tonight". I thought: "What? A Super8 screening in Daylsford?". In those days Super8 was finished. I was sure it was finished. Ok, come on and make a film! So I thought I would make one last Super8 film, just for the old days. Then I went crazy and I made forty Super8 films. Working with Super8 was a very productive way to develop, because you could move quickly. I didn't have to process it, I could sent it to Kodak and edit it and then it was done. And then you could make something else. So you were able to develop your skills and ideas, themes, devices very quickly.
Quite quickly we got on developing our own films and started the lab. We still develop films by hand in spirals. I do have processing machines, but generally I prefere develope by hand. What is special is having printing machines.

A frame from Ginza Strip a Richard Tuohy and Dianna Barrie experimental film. Here you can see the "Chromaflex" a processing technique developed by the Australian artist.

TG: Have you got a Truka or an optical printer?

RT: What's the first one, the Truka?

TG: A sort of animation stand used for precision camera movement...

RT: Yes we have, but I haven't actually set it up. We have an optical printer, a very simple one, a JK, but the most useful thing was our first contact printer. We have now 5 or 6 contact printer because they are too valuable to let them go, you know... I do different things and I get different results from the different machines. I think contact printers are very important. They allow you to go very quickly, at least at a practical level, from making one print to multiple prints. They can really improve the quality of the finished films because you don't have to handle the negative so much, or your original so much. Getting our first optical printer was a liberation because we had to make it work and we had to pull it apart, clean it up and put it back together, but in studying how it worked we could "bend" how to use it, we could make changes from what it was meant to do and play games with it. Personally, I think being able to spend time with the equipment is a very important in being able to explore and then understanding and exploit what the media is.

A frame from Crossing, a Richard Tuohy's experimental film.

TG: Is it easy finding Super8 films in Australia?

RT: I Import it. I get it from Kodak Australia. They bring it in. If you ring Kodak Australia and you press the right button you end up in China. They send me their film and sometimes films from Wittner in Germany, or from Spectra in the USA.  Other than us there are also a couple of shops that buy films sometimes from us, sometimes from Kodak, but mostly we are the sellers of super 8 film nowadays. It didn't use to be like that. It used to be our film stock sales was just a small thing because there were other shops. When there was reversal film there were a lot of shops that sold it, but now there is mostly negative film with Super8.

The reel of Crossing, a Film by Richard Tuohy

TG: Do you work also for professional cinematographers?

RT: As costumers of the lab? Yes.

TG: And do you process Super16?

RT: No, we don't do that commercially, we only work with Super8. Sometimes, if they do a flashback, a dream sequence or something like that, if they use Super8 they deal with us, but I don't want to work with 16mm commercially. For me, the commercial side of the business is only a way of supporting our own film work and I don'want to make a big empire. I just want to keep it going, we can process Super8 very efficiently and we can't do 16mm efficiently. I can process 30 Super 8 in about one hour and half, while I could maybe process two 16mm films in the same amount of time. So it just doesn't make economic sense. I don't need to do it.

Two frames overlapped on the same screen of Dot Matrix, a Richard Tuohy's experimental film.

TG: Dot Matrix, the last film you projected tonight, do you think we could say it is optical art?

RT: I hope so. Yes, I think it is an adequate description. I like that. Certainly, I think it's more about optics than cinema, but in a certain way it's trying to take something apart regarding the cinema mechanism. One of the things that I find fascinating is the fundamental transformation that happens in the film projector - the transformation from a long continuous strip of film into little discrete pictures that end up generating the appearance of movement on the screen. When you work with rayograms, which are like photograms, that transition from continuous strip to discrete images is really brought to the front. You experience just what the projector is doing to the continuous strip by arbitrarily making this division into frames. The game with rayograms, for me, is to do something that plays with this fundamental transformation at the heart of cinema from continuous strip to discrete pictures that does something interesting on the screen. Often when people do rayograms it just goes quick, quick, quick and it doesn't seem to be working with the mechanism. The game for me is to find something that work with the mechanism of the 24 frames per second.

Richard Tuohy at the projectors during the projections of Dot Matrix

TG: Are these films the unique copies you own?

RT: No, I can make more. They are prints. However, by cleaning the projectors I can project the films a great many times without particularly damaging the copies. We have made 70 projections from the two films of Dot Matrix. Film is tough as long as you know how to use the projector.

TG: Sure. Have you ever thought to make also digital video art?

RT: Yes, but I'm not fascinated by digital and it would be like asking a trumpeter if he has ever thought to play with strings. He could, but it would be a completely new thing to learn, so I don't have the need to, because I have my film equipment and I feel they (digital and film) are like quite different instruments. It is difficult to asses the different aesthetic properties (of digital and film). Yes, they do do something that is the same. You can record people moving and see the appearance of movement; you can record colours and see the colours and see that they are similar in both cases, but in other ways they are very different.

TG: Do you think it would be possible to make the same colours of film digitally?

RT: No, you make different colours. If one day digital gets closer to film, there will still be differences in the way one goes about making films (moving pictures) digitally and on film and therefore in the results you get. Different media generate different works. I think if we lost films all together we will be losing a set of possibilities that can't be replaced by digital. If Citizen Kane was made on video it would be a different work and could be equally good or bad or whatever. Even in a Hollywood film like that, I still think there are differences and there would be a loss if we lose film. A lot of people challenge me by saying I could make this or I could make that one in digital. Perhaps you could make something which is close, but I think you could never make something which is the same and what's more, you wouldn't, this is the other thing. For example, Dianna's film with the drifting perforations (Last Train, seen in the program) is pure chemistry. There is only a small amount of filming using a camera in it. In the rest of it the perforations you see are  'printed' in the image area of the film just by using chemistry and by spiraling the film into a coil and putting it in one bath, in another bath and back in the first one and stretching it and whatever. It's an entirely physical thing that you wouldn't do digitally, you would do something else.

TG: Do you sell your films as art?

RT: I don't know how to do it. I have sold some to universities, but not for a large amount of money. Video art galleries seem to have buyers, but for experimental films I don't know where to find buyers.

TG: Maybe in a contemporary art gallery. What are you going to do in Nantes? Are you going to show there the movies we saw here tonight?

RT: Some of them yes, but not all of them. In Nantes there will be a big event and we can show there only 3 films. Apparently we are going to do a round table. Other than that I would like to do practical things. I want to help to organize the whole labs in the world to be able to make the cost of working with film cheaper. That's a big priority for me. So, this means organizing them to work; buy at the cheapest prices and also making sure that everyone knows what is available to buy and how to buy it. Sometimes, something comes only in a big pile, like you have to buy this much, but if we can communicate about that better with each other it's helpful. These are the things I find most important about meetings like these.

Dianna Barrie
Dianna Barrie makes her own films; Richard and Dianna makes films together and Richard makes his own films, but they put each other names on the films because the other person is always there and he or she gives advices, it is helping or do the sound, the music or whatever. Dianna made the music for many Richard Tuohy's films.

TG: Is technique important for your art?

RT: I think technique is important in art and I think that film has its own set. Technique has to be learnt. Sometimes people think film is too hard, but I don't think film it is any harder than anything else. It's just that people don't have these skills anymore. When you look at the way people used to be able to shoot home movies back in the '50s or '40s or whatever they could get beautiful results because they were familiar with film. They were familiar with aperture, exposure and focus. It's the same with painting. If you want to be a fine painter, you have to know your stuff, you have to know to clean your brushes properly or mixing colours. I think there is a lot of learning in most practical arts, so when people suggest film is hard, I think it's not inherently hard, it's just people don't know the technology now like they used to.

TG: At the  REMI, in Nantes, who will you be happy to meet? 
RT: So many people are going to be in Nantes. Put it in this way, I like a lot the films by Esther Urlus from Rotterdam; Roger Beebe from Ohio, but Esther is a very much lab person, while Roger Beebe is a straight filmmaker. Juan and Anja from  LaborBerlin - they are great; there are a lot of great filmakers from  L'Abominable; also some friends from the USA,  Robert Schaller , he makes very nice pinhole films using two of the little black boxes that 16mm film comes in.  He has the film supply in one of the boxes and the film take-up in the other and the pinhole in between. They are very beautiful films. The big change about this meeting in Nantes is that there will be so many people from North America and that's partly a product of the half lab meeting we had 3 or 4 years ago in Colorado, where there were quite a few people from Europe at a Festival called TIE. It was a whole festival about film, not video. A lot of american people who run labs there and were at TIE will come along to the meeting in Nantes. So I think that's a benefit to build these connections, but there will be also some people coming from Asia and I think this is a really good thing too. A couple of people from the Philippines, they have got a small lab there and there is a person coming from a very exciting lab in Indonesia - Lab Laba Laba - which means Spider lab. It's great to see people from my region basically who are getting into this kind of filmmaking activity.
TG: Thank you very much Richard.

Richard Tuohy explains his films

Here you can read the article in italian about Richard Tuohy and Dianna Barrie at the Unzalab

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2 commenti:

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