Undue Noise: Expanded Cinema Moments
Central Victoria is known as a location for experimentation with sound, film and its blurred genre art practice. Undue Noise (UN) is a non-profit collective of multi-disciplinary artists with a focus on experimental sound and film practice, all resident in the region.
Formed in 2002, UN delivers annual programming that gives local artists an opportunity to present their work to the public, and exposes local audiences to cutting edge music, sound and video art from other parts of Australia and overseas. It’s a small but impressive collective, operating on a shoestring and attracting vast interest with like-minded artists and composers from around the world. In short, it’s on the map.
Paul Fletcher, the man behind the inspiring sound and animation work of Digital Compost and lecturer in animation at the Victoria College of the Arts, is a long-term member of UN. He was responsible for organising the Bendigo edition of the Australian International Animation Festival, a festival that started in Wagga Wagga and was held at ACMI back in June, directed by Malcolm Turner. The Abstract Program was co-presented with UN and Fletcher also invited local artists to perform versions of expanded cinema alongside an impressive array of animation shorts from around the globe. The night began with an electroacoustic film work by Jacques Soddell.
Soddell’s practice rises from the world of science. With a background in microbiology, it’s understandable that the trajectory of his art making takes a methodical approach. Researching subjects that often fall into categories of ecological awareness and urban banality, his art making oscillates between sound and image, a meticulous retexturing and processing that generates works that are spatial and poetic, evocative of the feelings we have when thinking about where and how we’re placed in the larger scheme of life.
Back from recent travels through parts of the US, Jacques Soddell creates a visual analog to musique concrete. He brings us his interpretations of Yellowstone National Park, the iconic cultural destination of the state of Wyoming. His live improvisation is pure abstraction; heavily processed and cleverly rotoscoped video footage of his travel breathes new life into a recent electroacoustic sound composition made up of field recordings, noise and minimalist sound. With prolific water and cloud-like imagery, he also includes footage of previous journeys, giving the work a stunning layering of shifting sensibilities related to time. A transient blur between a real and dreamlike state of being occurs. The minimalist start of the piece is hypnotic, a combination of raw and processed sound aligned with repetitive imagery of bubbling hot springs. We experience frame jumping and flickering layers of lines that seems to act as an interruption to the meditation, whilst also referencing the medium itself.
There is an upwardly dramatic shift of droning sound, a response to the violence that lives within nature, a tumultuous clash that occurs between humanity and environment, between sound and image. As the footage becomes more and more violent so too does the sound until the wall is broken, a crescendo is reached. Then we cut to an urban landscape of banality. Slow moving footage works well with the stretching of time based minimal sound work; we are on a ferry, gliding by a grey uneventful place almost devoid of nature, a contrast to previous imagery. It’s restful, melancholic and simultaneously frightening. Occasional groups of people are clustered like birds on a concrete cityscape. It’s a mimicry of nature and also a warning sign that sits with me after the piece ends.
A melodic interlude by alt-folk-country duo Anchor & The Butterfly generated contrast, playing live alongside two film clips made for their recently launched album Nothing to Win, Nothing to Lose (including Kain White’s hand drawn animation). A soothing collaboration between songwriter and singer Bridget Robertson and guitarist Lance Hillier, the performance spoke of the human forces and contradictions occurring during times of change. There was nothing abstract about their work as such, but the subtle acoustic guitar and singing paired with the lush electric guitar work seemed to personify the inevitable dichotomy of change.
In the tradition of the 1920’s City Symphony films, Paul Fletcher/Digital Compost performs ‘Beer and Chips’ – a local and internationally flavoured live cinema improvisation. It was a striking expanded experience of living in the modern world, the fluctuation and speed of time represented via image and sound. His live soundscape was a thoughtful improvisation of hand built instruments, kinetic sculptures made from discarded objects, finding new meaning in the everyday, a playful tribute to Man Ray. An old belt sander grinds out sound particles, a cable tie attached to a fishing line spinner rotates like an old music box, dragged across metal strips that protrude and reverberate on contact, plucked magically like a kalimba and bowed as a discordant violin with an old wiper blade; all repurposed to generate sound to accompany the existing soundscape from his Pop Psychology Synapse series.
Fletcher’s imagery is strangely reminiscent of 50s science fiction, creating a visually spatial language that zones in on ideas around the decomposition of televisual transmission and test patterning, the motion of technology. His live sound riffs off the saturated and rapid layering of colourised line work, the ‘imagined neuroscience of communication’. The abstract shapes, hand drawn work and split second movement expose the nature within our psychology, often hidden and always ephemeral. Fletcher composts the digital and in doing so he represents the continuums of everything. With an abstract use of recorded vocal utterance it was uplifting in it’s intensity.
The final component of the night was the screening of thirteen abstract animation shorts representing filmmakers from all over the world, too many to mention. It was a welcomed sensory overload with dancing lines and jazz improvisation, animated bird shit splattering, experiments in time-based work, an inkblot symphony and one film where sound was sped up almost beyond recognition with the fonts being formally recognised as actors in the credits. Each film showed excellent control within the abstract form, the one that stood out for me was the 2012 film Recycled by Lei Lei and Thomas Sauvin (China). Through the tireless collection of discarded film stock and rejected holiday snaps, the filmmakers created a seamless integration of unwanted moments; the blurred footage, unwelcome beach snaps, family portraits outside McDonalds and Tiananmen Square, all playing with the ‘pose’ and how it frames our remote memory experience. The moments we construct with our obsessive documentation combined with the flared out social error amplify the decomposing nature of our discarded memories, a highly successful and emotional work.
Undue Noise events never disappoint, transforming Bendigo’s Old Fire Station (and sometimes Punctum Inc’s ICU in Castlemaine) into a compelling and interesting performance arena, where experiments in sound and image take primary position and audience members leave with a creative impression of the world firmly embedded in their psyche.
The Bendigo screenings of the Australian International Animation Festival was on Friday 14 November 2014 and was co-presented by Undue Noise with support from the Greater City of Bendigo. The event comprised of the International Abstract Animation Program / Animated Visual Music with Live Contemporary and Experimental Music & Film Performances at The Old Fire Station. More info on Undue Noise can be found at http://unduenoise.org
Klare Lanson is a writer, poet, performance maker, sound artist, radio presenter and a past editor and contributor of Lit Anthology Going Down Swinging. She currently presents Turn Left at the Baco on Castlemaine’s MainFM and her current performance project is called #wanderingcloud.