Kill Your Timid Notion is an audio-visual festival combining experimental film with performance that combines sound and vision. Normally it only takes place at the DCA in Dundee, but this year it’s been out on the road as well, taking in London, Bristol and Glasgow. As with all Arika events (they’re behind the annual Instal shindig at the Arches in Glasgow), it’s not easy stuff. I went along knowing that there would probably be some stuff I’d hate, but hoping that there’d be some I’d love. Both expectations were met. I’d originally intended to go to both Saturday and Sunday’s events, but in the end plumped for Sunday only.
The first of the afternoon’s two film programmes was entitled “About Face”. It was, by and large, horrible. The shortest pieces were OK. Akustyczne Jabiko’s Acoustic Apple had the film maker eating an apple with an embedded microphone in it. Wojciech Bruszewski’s Yyaa was a three minute long shout spliced together with different lighting, and different modulation. That was quite amusing. I had a problem with Epilieptic Seizure Comparison. Two epileptics having fits (in a controlled environment) were filmed and looped, then the film cut up with strobe flashes of colour and white noise. It was a headache-inducing half an hour, which also had a dubious morality – making art or entertainment out of illness and suffering. The filtered, processed footage of a Charlemagne Palestine concert in Paris was as dull and one-dimensional as the performance, whilst the final film by Arnulf Rainer , consisting entirely of alternating black and white frames, was just pointless.
The second programme was much better. “Out of Sight, Out of Synch” took as its theme, sound and pictures out of kilter. The first film, (nostalgia), consisted of artist Hollis Frampton burning photos on a hot plate whilst providing a commentary on the next one ahead – so you don’t see what he is talking about until after he has finished, when you are listening to something else entirely unrelated. It was interesting and funny, ending with a sense of dread about some ghostly apparition that appeared in the last photo – which, of course, you don’t see. Tease! Ryszard Wasko’s 30 Sound Situations was also interesting. It was a series of short scenes where the film-maker stood facing the camera, clapping once and returning to his original stance. Each was filmed in a different locale – from empty room, to busy street. The timbre of the clap varied according to environment. What was more fun, though, was seeing the different shots of seventies Poland and the sometimes bemused reactions of passers by to this strange man. The Girl Chewing Gum was a street scene of 1970s Dalston, with a commentary appearing to direct each movement of people, traffic and even pigeons. It was a neat idea, although it got a bit surreal towards the end which somehow diluted the simplicity and impact of the piece.
The evening’s three music performances were also something of a mixed bag. Kjell Bjørgeengen, Keith Rowe and Philipp Wacshmann were sat in the middle of the room, surrounded by TVs. The minimalistic, low-key music that they made using a violin and various electronics were fed into video amps that translated the sound into vision. The concept was more interesting than the results. Generally the visual images were little more than flickering snow, like you’d get on an untuned set. Sure there were splashes of colour, but it was hardly an audio-visual feast for the eyes.
Bruce McClure’s set was the highlight. In fact it was phenomenal. Using three bastardised 16mm projectors, the visuals gradually morphed from flickering, flashing stripes to globes and grids – each pulse accompanied by searing electronic noise. It was brutal – a fortyfive minute aural battering that sounded like Merzbow with jackhammer beats, but all perfectly synchronized with the throbbing images on the screen. In a room that was otherwise pitch black, this was an exercise in sensory deprivation and sensory overload at the same time. It was physically punishing, but awe-inspiring.
It was some act to follow, and inevitably La Cellule d’intervention Metamkine fell short. Christopher Auger and Xavier Quérel sat in front of the audience projecting towards us on to two mirrors which reflected the images on to the wall behind them. Sound was provided by Jérôme Noetinger who sat between the mirrors with a mixing console, radio, tape player and a couple of battered analogue synths. The idea was to provide an improvised soundtrack to the improvised visuals which consisted of loops of film, some destroyed during the performance, and other effects. It was patchy. Some of the visuals were superb, but some were a bit kitsch – making shadow puppets, for instance. The soundtrack sometimes fitted, sometimes seemed to be completely alien to what was going on. To be fair, it’s the nature of improvised art that it’s not always going to work satisfactorily. And I was still reeling from Bruce McClure’s set.
Expectations fulfilled, then. Some things were dreadful, some things were excellent, and some were interesting but not really quite there. A typical day in the company of Arika.