Rental Format(s): 16mm film

CLIP(4000f.) 16mm 3:00
(Feb. 2001)
Sound Contributions by Jonathan Schwartz
Optical Printer courtesy of Vanessa O'Neill
Processed at Cine Labs
Cut by Northeast Negative Matchers

A sequence of 10 images presented in 10 groups of 400 alternating frames. The primary image of a bird is gradually disfigured by the successive introduction of competing imagery, yet the overall field seems to have its own life.

For over a year I've been working on the subject of the Death Penalty and its significance to our culture. This piece has grown out of the footage that I've shot for that film, and some of the concepts I've been juggling. Important among those concepts:

I had an idea that the imposition of a strict formulaic process to living imagery would drastically alter its appearance, much as the strict adherence to dogma can disfigure or even destroy a life. On my way to the beach to film waterfowl, I had the misfortune to witness a truck smack into a bird in flight and drive unflinchingly on. As I waited with the bird for help, I brought my camera to bear on it. It felt awful, as if I were revisiting the violence done by the trucker. It made little difference that my machinery was held at a distance, I was aware of myself imposing a violation on this hapless creature. When I saw this footage projected I was deeply disturbed, and felt much gut-wrenching empathy with this bird, and horror at the recognition (really the remembrance) of the camera (the machine & I) callously whirring on in its fearful face.

The process that I employed in making this film recaptured that relationship. The manner in which I re-photographed these images forced me into the role of automaton. There was no space for thought beyond the continual focus on the Frame Count. If my mind were to think beyond the operation of my arm in concert with the machine, only failure would result. Discipline in this case meant the purging of any musings on the nature or qualities of the imagery itself beyond the purely numerical position it held on the scale of 400 frames. I could not see in any way the mutilations of form that were occurring within the camera. I was conscious of what I was doing within the sphere of the machine, but had neither the slightest hope of pathos nor any form of recognition of my subject matter. I certainly had no sense of the consequences of my actions. The "whole" that I was creating was for the sake of mathematics and optical mechanics. I was playing the engineer, designer of human civilization. I was thereby, I believe, taking on the role of executioner.

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