25 FPS – International Festival of Experimental Film

20–25 September 2011
SC Zagreb (Croatia)

Tina Frank is member of the Grand Jury at 25 FPS – International Festival of Experimental Film in Zagreb. For the festival, she curated a filmscreening, focusing on early works in the field of graphic movies, mixed with current works including Tina Frank’s last release Vergence. Many of these videos have one thing in common: a special tendency to interact with music.

Exposé: Graphic Movies (Text: Tina Frank)

This selection of movies, compiled by Tina Frank, shows films from people whose works were pioneering and set the way for many others to follow. Their mind was filled with a strong idea that needed a special technique, something not yet available, to make this idea visible.

In 1967 A. Michael Noll wrote about the use of computers in visual arts: “In the computer, man has created not just an inanimate tool but an intellectual and active creative partner that, when fully exploited, could be used to produce wholly new art forms and possibly new aesthetic experiences.”[1]  It is this vision of producing new experiences, of creating the means to visualize their ideas that one can feel in all these films. The selection shows Len Lye’s Colorfield, a film made in 1939 that showcases his hand-painted and stenciled imagery. Because of showing his sponsor’s symbol – a speedbird depicting Imperial Airways – his film got the status of an advertising film and was not shown in the US. It also features cornerstones of digital creation from the late 1960s to 1980 (Stan VanDerBeek’s Poemfield No. 2, Calculated Movements from Larry Cuba and Spiral PTL from Dan Sandin and Tom deFanti) as well as movies with a clear and minimalist graphic notion (Norman McLaren’s Synchromy, Robert Breer’s film Fuji) together with three austrian works from 2010 (Lia’s Machination 84, Stuck in a Groove from Clemens Kogler and Vergence, a movie by Tina Frank and Florian Hecker)

Graphic Movies are – generally speaking – moving images that use a simplified, abstracted and graphic language. They are not narratives telling a story with a clear strand of a plot, it is the intense experience of form and color in combination with sound that tells a story beyond the classical narrative space. Their reduced formal language follows minimalist claims. By using abstraction all those little things that distract from the very idea are eliminated. And yet we experience worlds much more intense than they seem at first, featuring simple, geometric patterns. They create a special atmosphere rising up through the illustrated shapes and colors.

Many of these videos have one thing in common: a special tendency to interact with music. Sound is a determining factor and the relationship between image and sound plays an important role. This connection opens up a vast field of experimentation. Artists working within this field are creating a unique art form of its own. Synchromy from Norman McLaren is an example of absolute correspondence of what-you-see-is-what-you-hear. He copied patterns into the sound track section as well as the visual area of the film material to achieve such a correspondence. Larry Cuba’s Calculated Movements explores the direct connection between algebra, music and abstract form.[2] This is also a driving factor in Lia’s collaboration with @c – her video works are abstract illustrations of electronic music, based on mathematics and algorithms. Stuck in a Groove from Clemens Kogler uses collective commemorative pieces from the field of pop music. He utilizes elements of pictures that graced the covers of famous pop music albums giving a face to music. Florian Hecker’s computer-generated sounds for Vergence create a sea of acoustic impressions where spatial movement and psycho-acoustic phenomena intertwine.

When watching the latest movies we see how the now obviously available possibilities of graphic and generative technologies have changed our visual world. Today artists are still striving to produce an impact with their works; they are experimenting with basic knowledge – research on perception principles or the shaping of forms by computational means through audio as well as creating reinterpretations of past concepts of music-conservation, like rotating plates, for a translation into visual realms.

We are now far more experienced in understanding and comparing visual arts that were created with digital and computational means. We look at what has been produced rather then how something was produced . Because we have now experienced many different digital works we can much better grasp the quality of the shown films compared to when they were produced.[3] Nevertheless it is always interesting to understand how things were produced – please refer to the description of each movie for more information about the production process.

[1] “The Digital Computer as a Creative Medium,” IEEE Spectrum, Vol. 4, No. 10, (October 1967), pp. 89-95.
[2] cf. Faber, Walters, Animation unlimited, pp48
[3] A. Michael Noll stated, that “…the future will have truly arrived, when the emphasis is on what has been produced as opposed to how it was produced.” “Computers and the Visual Arts: A Retrospective View,” Catalog of the SIGGRAPH ’82 Art Show (July 1982)