Timeless Motion reveals the science and magic behind cinema through photography, collage, drawing, celluloid, sculptural installation and projected light. On view from February 18–March 23, 2016, the exhibition features new artwork from seven moving image artists.
Activated by a series of live cinema performances and a panel discussion with Bay Area underground cinema experts, Timeless Motion shows how the human response to visual phenomena drives the entrancing illusion of movement.
Timeless Motion is the final exhibition in SOMArts’ Commons Curatorial Residency 2015–16 season. Curatorial residency recipient Kerry Laitala and co-curators Antonella Bonfanti, Kathleen Quillian, Scott Stark and Mark Wilson use the residency to examine and connect pre-cinematic forms to contemporary imaging technologies, bridging the analog and the digital in a dynamic artistic environment.
“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,” said Laitala, “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.”
Opening with a public reception on Thursday, February 18, 6–9pm, Timeless Motion kicks off with a ceremonial performance of “TEA” by Jeanne Liotta, featuring musical accompaniment by Laetita Sonami. Referencing a Japanese tea ritual, Liotta will use a scroll as a screen for projected ink slides and shadows while serving tea in the light beam of a variable speed movie projector. Special presentations include two newly commissioned live cinema performances by local moving image artists. r.fox’s [sic] dual projector work is a reimagining and reframing of 1950s home movies, as photographed through the same movie camera by two generations of a family. The A/V artist duo Beige will manipulate image and sound live with their multi-projector work creating a moving painting that pays homage to a work by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, an 18th century Italian painter.
Encouraging deep exploration in an intimate gallery setting, Timeless Motion allows visitors the opportunity to engage with the fundamental elements of cinema through cinematic installations that freeze and extend time, function independently of time, or work where the concept of time resides only in the mind of the viewer.
A large pile of tree branches and other natural ephemera will fill the center of the gallery for Stark’s “Low-Res Arborscope.” Moving images are filtered through wooden stakes dangling from the ceiling and projected into the pile, creating a glittering spectacle of light, shadow and organic ephemera. Visitors will be invited to play the hanging wooden stakes, xylophone-style, producing crude musical tones as the images and shadows waver in response.
Re-mounted on its twentieth anniversary, Laitala’s “The Retrospectroscope,” presents moving images as sculpture, unshackled from their usual constrictions of linear time. Displayed in conjunction with “The Retrospectroscope,” a debut work commissioned by The Princess Grace Foundation, “The Cosmoscope” explores how observing extreme distance complicates our understanding of the relationship between space and time. By animating images of nebulae and other interstellar phenomena from the edges of the visible universe, this kinetic sculpture investigates the cyclical aspects of time as well as the perceptual illusion of motion.
Cut-out collage images by Quillian reveal the mechanics of motion in animation and illustrate the different ways a viewer can experience the same imagery. Quillian’s short animated videos play on a loop at the standard cinematic speed of 24 frames per second alongside images from the animations mounted as linear, sequential collages depicting large-scale panoramas of single frames frozen in time.
Wilson’s “Phenakistoscopes” and “Ghost Dance” are companion pieces of ten inkjet prints and an animated video sourced entirely from the same drawings. In the prints, pictographic figures on a disc are shown static and fragmented. The video animation rotates the figurative fragments, appearing to unify them in the performance of a ritual dance. Each disc of animated drawings completes a full revolution every second, effectively functioning as a timepiece.
Jeanne Liotta’s scientific animations illustrate the relative experience of simultaneous time. Digital prints act as screens for animated film projections, resulting in an image that combines two mediums, one moving and one still.
Inside a remnant of the SOMArts’ industrial past, a former sand-casting pit in the gallery floor, Keith Evans creates a small moving system of weathered objects. Visitors can observe the objects in multiple ways, including via a telescope pointed to a moving panorama box mounted high at the opposite end of the gallery where the image is projected via radio signal.
In the gallery’s annex a 16mm projector loops a cinemascope film-collage by Paul Clipson, exploring the anamorphic photographic process in layered, superimposed, hallucinatory color and black and white, with sound by Jefre Cantu-Ledesma.
Additional public programming includes a panel discussion on Wednesday, March 9, 6–9pm, in which key participants in Bay Area underground cinema will speak to the history of Bay Area venues, political cinema and interactive cinema arts as they discuss the challenges faced by the community and offer speculations for its future. Films and ephemera will be projected to illustrate the ingenuity and spirit of Bay Area moving image artists.
The closing reception, Thursday, March 17, 6–9pm, opens with a short screening of projects made in cinegram and animation workshops led by Timeless Motion curators for the students of Sixth Street Photography Workshop. The evening also features two premieres of live cinema works from local artists. Greta Snider’s performance with stereoscopic slides and film projection is informed by the sensory deprivation strategies used in Guantanamo. A multimedia performance by Bryan Boyce, Adrianne Finelli and Jackie Jones creates a 3D environment with 2D elements—drawings, prints and photographs—to explore the moments in life when time appears to slow down or stop.
Jeanne Liotta and Laetitia Sonami
Bryan Boyce, Adrianne Finelli and Jackie Jones
***Read artist bios and statements here.
Thursday, February 18, 6–9pm
The opening night celebration kicks off with a toast to time and special presentations, including newly commissioned live cinema performances by local moving image artists.
Wednesday, March 9, 6–9pm
Film artists, scholars and curators who have been key participants in the Bay Area underground cinema movement address the challenges faced by the community and offer speculations for its future.
Thursday, March 17, 6–9pm
Timeless Motion’s closing reception opens with a short screening of projects made in cinegram and animation workshops led by the exhibition’s curators and features two premieres of live cinema works from local artists.
The exhibition, opening and closing receptions and panel discussion are free to attend and take place at SOMArts Cultural Center, 934 Brannan St. (between 8th & 9th Streets), San Francisco, CA, 94103. SOMArts is wheelchair/ADA accessible.
Community partners for the Timeless Motion exhibition include Artists’ Television Access, Canyon Cinema Foundation, Periwinkle Cinema, The Prelinger Library, Shapeshifters Cinema, and The Sixth Street Photography Workshop.
To learn about more Timeless Motion events—including additional live cinema performances, workshops and film programs—taking place in San Francisco and Oakland, visit timelessmotion.org.
Images top to bottom: “Fin de Siècle” (2011) by Kathleen Quillian. Image courtesy of the artist; “Low-Res Arborscope,” courtesy of the artist Scott Stark; “The Retrospectroscope,” courtesy of the artist Kerry Laitala; “Expanded View,” courtesy of the artist Kathleen Quillian; “Ghost Dance,” courtesy of the artist Mark Wilson; “Diagram Squared,” courtesy of the Jeanne Liotta; “FUNERA ET SERPENTIUM” (film still), courtesy of the artist Paul Clipson