Talking Pictures

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Pavilion presents Peter Gidal / Mark Fell: Film / Sound

Posted by keith1942 on December 20, 2015

Pavilion Fell This event was held at The Leeds Library and one one of a series under the title Images and Journeys.. This is a private lending library in Leeds city centre. Its focus is geography and topography. The Library has an early last-century feel. Slightly quaint rooms filled with shelves of books, mainly hardback. The rear room where the event took place has a wooden staircase, a balcony for the upper shelves, and a glass dome, which gives it a great atmosphere. This really set of the event itself. Peter Gill is an artist who works mainly with 16mm film. Mark Fell is a sound artist. Both have worked with the Pavilion before. The evening offered several short films by Peter Gidal with added sound by Mark Fell. The films were projected on 16 mm whilst Fell provided four channel accompaniment from a console. This opened with three recent films, Coda, Coda II and Not Far at All, running about two minutes each. The films were all of sky and clouds, with occasional additions on the edge of a frame, like part of a branch. I found this rather unfocussed as the images lacked any distinct definition. The sound accompaniment did work well, adding a resonance of noise and music. The main film was Volcano, which Gidal made in 2003. This was a longer film, running twenty-five minutes. It was filmed in Hawaii. The film runs through the day and into what seems to be evening. The camera examines the rocks, water and debris and constantly changes it focus. Some of Gidal’s structuralist ideas do not illuminate for me, but I found this visually interesting and developing a cumulative sense of place. However, I was not so impressed with the sound accompaniment. This was composed of two main elements. Noise and music, including a cello, which I thought associated well with the images. And then extracts from a recognisable conference speech by David Cameron. The relevance of the latter completely escaped me and did not add anything to the visual and aural experience. We did get some comments regarding Fell’s sound tracks. Earlier in 2015 he was involved in a project at York University, Moving Pictures and Photoplays: New Perspectives in Silent Cinema. The soundtrack was designed for a screening of Gidal’s film at the conference. As a regular viewer and writer on silent film I did not quite see the point of the exercise. Moreover, there seemed to be two distinct types of silent cinema here: early film before the introduction of sound, and recent art film, which eschews sound. I am not sure what the relationship is supposed to be? There was more commentary in a presentation of questions and answers between Gidal and Fell. These seem to be have been done by email and were read out to the audience by two performers. If you look at their WebPages you will see that both Gidal and Fell discuss their work in fairly arcane language. This was the case here and one audience member left expressing dissent in a voluble manner.

I listened and did learn something. The Coda films were set to the Atlantic jet stream, which made more sense of them. The sound accompaniment for Volcano also used a vibraphone and there was clapping, wind and whistles. They did indeed work well, at time they reminded me of the some of the improvisations of Derek Bailey. However, I did not hear anything that convinced me about the use of the Cameron speech. Moreover, I the comments of both Gidal and fell regarding film tended to voice opposition in generalised terms to mainstream and narrative cinema. That was apparent in the work but overlooked a whole area of non-narrative cinema. I have posted already on the NOW installations by Chantal Akerman. I thought her work offered d much better intertwining of image and sound. Still I found the evening interesting and enjoyed part of it. And it is a treat to see 16mm in good condition and projected properly. And I do like the venue.

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