directors lounge screenings
more or less of me and the street
Thursday, 28 April 2016
New York filmmaker Mark Street has been making films, videos and installations for 30 years. His work has moved from tactile, abstract explorations of 16mm film to essays on the urban experience to improvised feature length narratives. Over the years, he has accumulated an impressive number of works, that he presents in screenings and installations. He avoids a purist ideology regarding analogue or digital media, and uses 16mm, found footage, hand manipulated film material, digital video and still photography in his works. He loves his Bolex and just restored the darkroom he once built in his basement for his daughter, but also uses the quick process of digital camera and editing.
In Still Here (2015), his latest film, the artist mixes all of the above media in a reflection about being a middle aged man, the passage of time and the new freedom that appears when the children leave home. Still Here continues his foray into the autobiographical, his aim is the personal, astringent revelatory moment.
With Collision of Parts (2010) and Fulton Fish Market (2003), he also combines different media, but with a very precise composition of rhythm, image and editing. Collision of Parts is a montage of 16mm, Super-8, video and still images. Recorded over 5 years, it is an array of small beautiful moments mostly on the streets of New York. Fulton Fish Market, also shot in New York, shows impressions of the fish market between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges before it gave way to a gentrified tourist area. The film, shot on 16mm, was treated with bleach and scratching, thus enhancing the impression of the fading trade of the old city center. Both films, and What I Saw in the Theater of the Street (title taken from a Joseph Roth book) also reveal a passion of Mark's: the streets of NY, his adopted hometown. He told me that his obsession for street photography came from his travels to other cities and countries, mostly in Latin America. Back in New York, he started to carry his camera everywhere: looking for impressions and strange details in daily life. Snapping a particularly beautiful picture on the street can make his day, he told me. And it seems that it is the small details, the combinations of colors and graphic details that claim his attention. More surprisingly, he usually does not publish his stills as prints, but rather combines many of those treasured moments in rapid succession with a rhythm, which make the viewer forget if it is still photographs or moving pictures that he is looking at.
What I Saw in the Theater of the Street (2014) and Child's Play (2014), both are usually shown as multi channel installations. The first plays with the perceptions of the viewer: rapid flickering "natural" colored renderings compete with negative or toned renderings of the same image. At the beginning of the film, the viewer may struggle between looking at the slower sequence of "false" color images and the flickering colors. After some time, though, the brain seems to get used to the challenge and adds the color of one channel to the image textures of the second channel. Child's Play on the other hand uses a similar ability of subconscious image recognition: the rather slow narrative of the child's play starts to be dominated by the succession of reflections of water and of the reflecting window looking to the street.
After Synchromy (2015), Trailer Trash (2009) and Vera Drake, Drowning (2012) all seem to come from one very different tradition of experimental filmmaking: Abstract films and found footage. The last two use actual found film trailers which are painted, bleached and scratched. Vera Drake Drowning was buried in Mark's backyard for several years. After Synchromy is an adaptation of and homage to Norman McLaren's film from 1971, Synchromy (https://vimeo.com/29399459). The film starts with a digital remake of McLaren's film, but then combines it with pictures from the street that have a similar or a contrasting abstract quality. The combination of non-representational images with street photographs that have an abstract quality seem to give an ironic, humorous comment to both traditions without becoming parody. To me, it makes the (on the first view) abstract films more enjoyable if photographic images interfere with the abstract quality: those different layers of image content for me work in similar ways to the layering of sound and image, like a combination of different tracks, where the viewer is free to choose in which ways they create or read meaning from the different possible combinations while watching the film. This feeling of layered image contents, which I am free to interpret, happen with all three films, and other Mark Street films.
According to Mark Street: "ATTENTION WITHOUT OBJECT IS A SUPREME FORM OF PRAYER"
— SIMONE WEIL
The artist will be present. Curated by Klaus W. Eisenlohr
Directors Lounge http://www.directorslounge.net