On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the London Filmmakers' Cooperative, film and video artist Malcolm Le Grice re-enacts two of his historical perfomances in the context of the live programme of the MACBA.
“All my work with film and video has been concerned with the primacy of presence over representation. Working initially as a painter, I have always taken pleasure in colour and the image. At the same time, an early experience of playing Jazz led to a continuing influence of improvised musical form and improvisation. When I started to experiment with film I found that I could combine my delight in the visual image with exploration of time that drew more on music than the traditions of cinema. Working outside the narrative film industry, by printing, developing and editing my own material, I could improvise the making of a film without a script – the film emerged from an immediate and flexible creative process. Then my growing engagement with live film projection event itself, led me to make multi-screen and improvised performance works. Horror Film 1 from 1971 allowed me to make an immediate cinema from shadows and colour loops, and Threshold from 1972, allowed me to explore image transformation in printing and to become a kind of ‘Film DJ’ shifting projectors and mixing the superimpositions live.”
© Malcolm Le Grice, 2016
Threshold (1972), 3 screen projection performance, 16 min
The work is based on a small number of component sequences. It begins with abstract colour fields filling the whole screen then develops through other simple abstract images created by accidental exposure of film stock – edge fogging. The main image of the film is of border guards at a frontier post. The film explores a range of film printing techniques using colour filtering, mattes and multiple superimpositions. It also includes a short section of computer generated abstract animation made by Le Grice at the Atomic Energy Research Laboratory in Britain in 1969. The title is intended to imply various forms of threshold or edge when significant transformations occur or are inhibited – the border of a state – the perceptual points when one optical experience transforms to another – the point at which an image becomes an abstraction of its shape or movement. The performance version of the film is an improvisation – moving the projectors and superimposing the image as the projection takes place.
Horror Film 1 (1971), Film-shadow performance, 12 min
First presented in 1971 using three 16mm projectors each with short loops of changing colour. Projected onto the same screen – the centre image large and the two side images smaller and superimposed into the centre of the larger screen. The performing body casts complex colour shadow. The action begins touching the screen and – passing through the space of the audience – it ends at the projectors. The actions are timed to an audio tape of breathing. Though improvised in detail to fit the particular time and place, the action follows a consistent pattern that has changed little since the first performance.