Liminal Cinema

(Note: This is a draft of a current Artist Statement.)

My current work is an ongoing exploration of liminality in media – as I understand it, the adjective liminal (from the latin “limen”) describes a threshold between states or spaces, usually ambiguous, unstable and disorienting.

A lot of the technological development in the last 100-some years of cinema history has been towards an increasing invisibility of the medium itself – better lenses, better resolution, more light sensitive film or sensors, clearer sound, 3D – the technology is always being pushed towards a more crystalline clarity and the illusion of an “unmediated” experience.

This invisibility is directly manipulative, obscuring the apparatus of cinema and creating a fictionally “objective” distance – a sort of empty void – between the object and the observer. Even in a relatively simple extreme closeup rendered by conventional cinema, the experience of the audience is invisibly mediated by makeup, lighting, filtration, color correction, and various stages of digital image processing that cumulatively transform the image into a vivid abstraction.

The illusory nature of near-perfect image reproduction denies the inherent liminality of the experience – the fact that light travels from the thing-in-real-life, passes through an instrument that focuses it onto a surface capable of registering and storing that momentary impression, which is then rearranged, reconstituted, recalibrated, and projected via another complex instrument for the audience.

My recent work with 16mm film is an effort to undermine this sense of objective distance and to foreground the liminality of the experience of filming using the materiality of the celluloid itself, its chemical composition and its imperfection, the messiness of hand-processing and the erosion of the image due to indelicate handling and the passing of time.

I am investigating this in video as well using the tools of live projection, experiments with compression and the “intelligent” automatic settings of various cameras, and I plan to continue to explore various other approaches to imperfect digital image processing as well in the near future.

However, it’s important to me to note that my interest in the surface and the apparatus is not at the expense of attention to the content of the images. I’m interested in the totality of this system, the relationality (via light passing-through numerous, liminal thresholds, both literally and figuratively) between subject and object, the interconnectedness and imperfection of these inherently liminal systems of representation in spite of the illusion of post-Enlightenment, digitally enhanced, hyper-Cartesian objectivity.

My work lends itself to being described as nostalgic, sentimental, or affected, and I know that these terms are generally considered pejorative in the art world. However, I recently came across the formulation of “nostalgia,” from the Greek: Nostos (Homecoming) and -Algia (Pain). The term was popularized in the 17th Century as a clinical diagnosis of Swiss soldiers who suffered because they were fighting far from home.

My work is very much about a desire to address the pain (or conversely, the numbness) inflicted by the illusion of objective distance – in this case the distance between audience and object via the representational image, by considering and foregrounding the liminal connective elements in the space between them: air, glass, chemicals, celluloid, human hands, time, etc..

I love how light works, its different qualities, textures, and behaviors – I love paying close attention to what it does in the world. That interest and attention would be incomplete if it faded as soon as those rays actually enter a camera.

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