Artist Interview: Kerry Laitala

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Leading up to the opening for Timeless Motion, a Commons Curatorial Residency that exposes the science and magic behind cinema, CCA extern Elena Gross talked with exhibition co-curator Kerry Laitala about anachronistic technologies, the current role of underground cinema within Bay Area culture, and different ways for people to experiment—both artistically and technologically—within that culture.

[Elena Gross] What are some technologies being used in this show that you are most excited to show viewers and why?
[Kerry Laitala] We are most interested in technologies that existed before they were described as “technologies.” We love anachronistic mechanisms such as moving shutters, spinning sprocket wheels, and flickering lights that, when studied closely, reveal the fundamental nature of cinematic illusion. So-called “movies” do not move at all; they are made up of sequences of still images that, when articulated via mechanical means, form the appearance of continuous movement. This movement is not inherent to the technology itself; rather, it is created in the mind of the viewer.

[EG] Do you think the Bay Area still has a pretty thriving underground cinema scene? How has it changed over the years? What do you look forward to seeing in the future?
[KL] The Bay Area does indeed have a thriving underground cinema scene. What has changed is its perceived importance as a fundamental element of Bay Area culture. As artists are being driven out of San Francisco and other communities by a wealthy and indifferent populace, “underground” artists have come to realize what is at stake, and what is at risk of being lost. Exhibitions such at Timeless Motion are affirmations of artistic necessity and integrity.

[EG] What are some ways that young people can get involved with this kind of artistic-and-technological experimentation? How are you working to or hoping to make your work accessible to young folks curious about art, film, photography, tech, etc.?
[KL] In many ways, the cinegram workshop will show people of the ways that one can create hand-exposed moving images. We will be placing objects directly onto the light sensitive film and casting their shadows upon the film with light. Students will need to scavenge materials for this project. Anything transparent, translucent and opaque may be used to form our latent shadowgraphic traces, which we will then bring to life through hand processing. Materials could include, but should not be limited to: feathers, buttons, shells, sequins, lace, “Letraset” letters, symbols and numbers, (rub on) images printed on to acetate, painted film, anything graphically or texturally interesting or symbolically meaningful, etc. The technology used to create the images will be flashlights, making images onto the medium of film, and play back device will be the projector. We will provide Flashlights so you can literally sweep the light across the surface of the film stock to create your shadow inscription. This intimate tactility will ignite the hand/mind continuum into a direct interplay freeing participants from ordinary constraints of lens-based and machine-based image production. Working under red safelights, we will explore the nature of the light sensitive medium to make these impressions by directly placing the objects on the film stock and waving the light over the surface. The workshop will also cover hand-processing and dying the film in buckets.

Our partnerships include many Bay Area alternative cinema spaces whose mission is to show work made primarily by un-dependant moving image artists who work beyond the radar of both the industry and the art world.

The exhibition Timeless Motion is on view February 18 – March 23, 2016.

About the author:
Elena Gross is a CCA Extern for SOMArts Cultural Center and a graduate student in the Visual & Critical Studies program at California College of the Arts.