Whether you call it collage, compilation, found footage, détournement, or recycled cinema, the incorporation of already existing media into new artworks is a practice that generates novel juxtapositions and new meanings and ideas, often in ways entirely unrelated to the intentions of the original makers. Such new works are, in other words, “inappropriate”. This act of (in)appropriation may even produce revelations about the relationship between past and present, here and there, intention and subversion, artist and critic, not to mention the “producer” and “consumer” of visual culture itself. Fortunately for our purposes, the past decade has witnessed the emergence of a wealth of new audiovisual elements available for appropriation into new works. In addition to official state and commercial archives, resources like vernacular collections, home movie repositories, and digital archives now also provide fascinating material to repurpose in ways that lend it new meaning and resonance.
Founded in 2009, the Festival of (In)appropriation is a yearly showcase of contemporary, short (20 minutes or less), audiovisual works that appropriate existing film, video, or other media and repurpose it in “inappropriate” and inventive ways.
The show is curated by Jaimie Baron, Lauren Berliner, and Greg Cohen, and introduced by Catherine Grant. With the support of Los Angeles Film Forum: http://www.lafilmforum.org/
Astro Black: We Are the Robots, dir. Soda_Jerk, Australia, 2010, digital video, colour, sound, 6 minutes 35 seconds
The Festival of (In)appropriation is pleased to return to the provocative Afrofuturist musings of Astro Black, the on-going video cycle by Australian duo Soda_Jerk. In episode 2, We Are the Robots, the artists sound the impact of German electronic music on Afrofuturist sonic culture, by re-imagining the iconic scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind in which scientists communicate with an alien mothership via keyboard synthesiser. In Soda_Jerk’s speculative revision, Kraftwerk play sequences from their own music and the mothership responds with fragments of tracks that have sampled Kraftwerk. As with all the episodes of Astro Black, cosmic jazz man Sun Ra also makes the scene in We Are the Robots (joined this time by the likes of David Bowie, Dr. Spock, Dr. No, and Lieutenant Ohuru). The whole jam points towards a transnational conception of cultural production that unsettles our linear conceptions of time.
Landscape with Broken Dog, dir. Orazio Leogrande, Argentina, 2014, digital video, black & white and colour, 14 minutes
Buenos Aires-based Italian filmmaker Orazio Leogrande’s film, Landscape with Broken Dog (Paisaje con perro roto) is a cogent reflection on the common historical, technological, and ideological origins of arctic exploration, modern medicine, and the medium of cinema itself. Combining its mesmerising original score with an incisive, heterogeneous selection of found footage culled from film archives around the world, Leogrande’s work plumbs the darkest regions of a shared, often illusionary (if not delusional), positivist-imperialist dream, one that has generated so many ill-fated voyages of discovery and gruesome medical experiments, not to mention a vital archive of cinematic imagery with which to visualise and rationalise it all.
Let Me ASMR You, dir. Clint Enns, Canada, 2014, digital video, colour, sound, 2 minutes 40 seconds
Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) is a perceptual phenomenon characterised by a tingling sensation in the head, scalp, back, or peripheral regions of the body in response to visual, auditory, or other stimuli. While there is no scientific evidence explaining ASMR, many people have reported experiencing these sensations, and many videos have been produced and posted on YouTube intended to induce an ASMR response. In this film, Enns appropriates some of these ASMR videos to create a piece of visual music, which – at least for some viewers – may have intense effects on the entire body.
It Takes All Sorts, dir. Rachel Stuckey, USA, 2014, digital video, colour, sound, 2014, 10 minutes 30 seconds
In It Takes All Sorts, Rachel Stuckey animates the woods and native flora so that they appear to speak excerpts from a 1970s educational film about hospital labour. In a world seemingly devoid of humans, we are left to consider the management of our biology through the healthcare system. Syncopated rhythm in sound and edit amplify and encourage a reinterpretation of care and its representation through cinema as mechanised, routine, and overproduced.
Overpass, dir. Kami Chisolm, Canada, 2014, digital video, colour, sound, 2014, 4 minutes 57 seconds
In Overpass, Kami Chisolm takes us with her onto the LA freeway during the infamous OJ Simpson car chase of 1994. As we follow the pursuit of Simpson’s Bronco through television news footage, Chisolm reflects, in haunting voiceover, on her own position on that same road. Weaving personal memory with the story of Shakespeare’s Othello, she contemplates how each of their directions is informed by legacies of racial and domestic violence. Setting the intimate, interpersonal violence of US American life against racialised celebrity spectacle, Chisolm pursues the connection between the two as the police descend on Simpson.
The End of an Error, dir. Peter Freund, USA, 2013, digital video, black & white, sound, 2013, 10 minutes
The 1954 Army-McCarthy Hearings marked the unmistakable beginning of the end of the “Red Scare” period in the United States. Sixty years hence, The End of an Error refashions the archival record to report the demise of the “communist threat” from the vantage point of what has since emerged in the American imagination as the “terrorist state”. The narration (in Farsi with English subtitles) relays an intricate and sometimes humorous examination of shifting political phantasms and the status of the image as historical document.
Dear Britney, dir. Battersby and Duke, USA, 2014, digital video, colour, sound, 5 minutes
In Dear Britney, we enter the mind of Britney Spears fan Gary through a heartfelt fan letter that scrolls over a remix of her career of music videos. As Gary attempts to illustrate his connection to Britney through their shared experience with mental illness, he poignantly demonstrates the disparity between his lived reality and hers. His words pass ephemerally on the screen as Britney remains a spectacle, disavowing the opportunity for mutual empathy that Gary seeks while creating a cacophony out of his fandom and personal struggle. Inspired by Mike Hoolboom’s music video remake, Dear Madonna (1996).
The Plastic Garden, dir. Ip Yuk You, Hong Kong, 2013 digital video, colour, sound, 2013, 11 minutes
The Plastic Garden restates mid-century fears of nuclear apocalypse with appropriated images from the popular video game Call Of Duty: Black Ops (2010). Dreadfully quiet and serene, the film forces a confrontation between the violence of a forgotten future and our contemporary socio-political reality.
Soft Pong Inari, dir. Michael Lyons & Palle Dahlstedt, Japan/Sweden, 2014, digital video, colour, sound, 2 minutes 6 seconds
A visual experiment in crowd-sourcing, Soft Pong Inari was made entirely from pre-existing photographs of Fushimi Inari Shrine (in Kyoto, Japan) available for modified re-use in the creative commons. Michael Lyons’s pulsating, recombined swarm of still images exploits the reiteration of motifs and colours across an array of anonymous sources, while Swedish composer Palle Dahlstedt’s original score – part dirge, part minimalist electronic landscape – provides a counterpoint in slowness and simplicity to the frenetic visual track. What emerges, paradoxically, is a concrete, overarching sense of place, even as we find it impossible to fix any single image with our gaze.
Notes for a Polish Jew, dir. Abraham Ravett, USA, 16mm & 8mm on digital video, colour, silent, 2012, 8 minutes 5 seconds
Filmmaker Abraham Ravett was born in Poland but left as a very small child. When a colleague traveled to Lodz, Poland in the 1980s, Ravett asked him to shoot a roll of double-8 film of the city. Ravett then reworked this footage, collaging directly onto the filmstrip and optically printing his transformations. In the resulting film, Notes for a Polish Jew, Ravett envisions his father – who last saw his family in Lodz in 1944 and who passed away in 1979 at the age of 74 – visiting the city again. Imagining how his father might have filmed his return to Lodz, Ravett considers his own family history in relation to notions of Polishness, Jewishness, and their potentially fraught intersection.
Send Me a Copy, dir. Albert Alcoz, Spain, 2011, digital video, colour, sound, 2011, 5 minutes 24 seconds
Send Me a Copy appropriates footage from the 1967 science fiction film A Journey to the Centre Of Time, in which time-traveling scientists become lost in time. When they finally return to their temporal home, they find copies of themselves in their place. Interlacing video is a technique for doubling the amount of perceived video information without consuming extra bandwidth. The interlaced signal contains two fields of a video frame – each consisting of every other horizontal line – captured at two different times, which alternate so quickly that the viewer does not miss any information. However, when interlaced video is transferred from one format to another, the interlacing may become visible so that the two fields interfere with one another. Like the time-traveling scientists in A Journey to the Centre of Time, the image becomes out of synch with itself. In Send Me a Copy, footage from the film is transformed through its interlaced images, gesturing towards the way in which video remains a form of science fiction.
In Light, In!, dir. Ken Paul Rosenthal, USA, 2013, 16mm on digital video, black & white, sound, 2013, 12 minutes
Masterfully re-mixing recycled 16mm 1950s-era educational films, In Light, In! orchestrates a haunting and seductive visual essay in which the attempt to manage emotion is reinterpreted as both a catalyst and mirror for cultural struggle and distress. Accompanied by original musical compositions by cellist Zoe Keating.