I caught two programs at the Images Festival this weekend and wondered if –The nature of surprise is different in analog and digital
(for the sake of a very digital either/or I’m including live performance in analog and - importantly for my experience at Images - including film as opposed to digital video)
In both analog and digital we can be surprised by content of course - something unexpected happening in the thing we’re seeing. Structure, events, language, image, context, juxtaposition etc… The common elements can all be a part of this. Experimental or classical, academic or populist etc… all play this game.
In analog work, the material can also surprise - first the artists and then the audience and this surprise can be central to the meaning making. The body can do the unexpected, the language slips, the paint behaves in unpredicted ways, the celluloid does something different. These productive mistakes are then integrated into, or become, the content.
But material surprise is not something I, as an audience member, look for or experience with digital. When it exists it's only jarring (I'm thinking of digital noise, broken code, dropped frames)
2 pieces by way of example:
In Sugar Beach, it’s the in camera processing of film that surprises - Mark shoots through a small hole, rewinds the film and does it again – resulting in a “same but different” that’s beautiful and bound to the material of film.
On the other end of the spectrum: Simon Quéhiellard’s Maître-Vent is a piece of him setting up discarded materials (broken umbrellas, boxes, skin ply) by the side of the highway and recording their reaction to the wind of passing trucks. So much surprise, delight, tragedy, expectation and narrative ensue from watching his desire and the reactions of plastic bags and pop cans. It’s the best Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton film made last year. The surprise, though, isn’t in the material of video. Digital accidents would be out of place and much less meaningful.
This probably isn’t a new thought in the world - and I’d love to be pointed towards the exceptions - but it was lovely to experience it first hand.
Images Festival is on until April 20th two things other things I want to catch: