Monday, October 17, 2005

Around and Around




On the weekend I received a copy of the looppool DVD curated by Graw Böckler. The looppool project was originally presented in the festival lounge at this year’s Oberhausen Film Festival, accompanied by live music by Adam Butler, Christian Fennesz and Tujiko Noriko. Graw invited artists to submit loops for the project. I submitted a loop version of my video 'Beamer'. It seemed an obvious choice: it is minimal, consisting of the occasional two or three frame image of various pale coloured discs, appearing centre screen, like a blip that leaps from the screen slightly startling the viewer, accompanied by a glitch blip sound. The gap between the blip discs is black and silent and each of different duration, it’s impossible to predict when the next blip will appear which adds an element of almost theatrical surprise. The looped version, 'Beamerlooper', is two minutes of 'Beamer', its intermittent quality allows it to be watched for a long time without the viewer being able to apprehend exactly where it repeats. In other words it appears seamless, endless.

In compiling the project onto disc Graw has exploited the programming possibility of the DVD medium so that each title loops and it is possible for it to play indefinitely. With 50 loops on the DVD he suggests that it can be exhibited as 50 loops on as many monitors, or shown on a single monitor, a different loop for 50 days of exhibition. It will be interesting to see if anyone takes up either of these exhibition possibilities.


Of course the use of film loops in experimental film practice, tape loops in music and sound art is nothing new. The paradox of the potential endlessness, the indefinite duration of a work consisting of a short repeated section, the perception of change over time during repetition while the material is exactly the ‘same’ source repeated (an example of this is the soundtrack to Steve Dwoskin’s 'Trixi' where the loop of the eponymous name spoken throughout the film leads one to hear different emphasises in the word, until it mutates into an abstract hypnotic musical sound as its signification as a word slips away).


The great thing about looppool is that it uses the technological potential of an accessible medium but much more than just cute formalist gimmickry it collects an eclectic but elegant selection of works. 'Get Saved Again' by The Books, who are known more for their music combining samples with glitchy folk, evokes early 20th century American protestantism with a looped archive footage magic square of men in their Sunday best lifting their hats to a repeated sung phrase “glory, glory, glory...”; in Mariano Cassisi’s 'Viejo', a man on a beach exercising becomes a one armed windmill; François Chalet’s 'hin und zurück und hin' is a Flash cartoon smiley riding a space hopper in a recreation of the ancient computer game Pong; a Hammer Horror-esque lightning strike is remixed into a percussive systems music rhythm in untitled by Christoph Girardet; superimposed layered and repeated locked off pedestrians and traffic in a never-ending urban dance in Wiebke Grösch/Frank Metzger’s ‘Singapur’; while in Gabriel Malaprade’s ‘Scooter’ a ring of motorscooters seamlessly, endlessly circle a roundabout containing a statue; Myriam Thyes's morphing graphic flags in ‘EU 2020?’. These are just a handful of the titles on this intriguing project.

"...between 6 frames and 10 minutes duration, they all last forever..."

looppool is released by Raum für Projektion

6 Comments:

Blogger ps said...

As you say experimental filmmakers and musicians have been using loops for donkey’s years; indeed I can recall sitting there with lengths of 1/4 inch tape threading rather precariously round the room, tensioned (though only just) by table legs and so on. What is interesting though is how the loop has become the base unit of so much mainstream contemporary audio and visual software creation. Apple’s Garageband and Soundtrack are loop based, as are many VJ programmes. As well as offering seamless edits many of these programmes allow for beat and tempo synching so that one’s loop can be perfectly matched to another loop or a sequencer. The results though are often quite sterile and doing something like Steve Reich’s early phase pieces (that relied on the small variations in tape speed) become surprisingly difficult. You almost begin to long for the audible and visible edit.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005 4:06:00 pm  
Blogger Steven Ball said...

One thing I didn't mention about the looppool DVD is that while individual pieces have been programmed to loop they loop within the title, as it were. So for example if the loop is 10 seconds long it will run as a seamless loop for a minute or two and then the title will go back to the beginning. When that happens there is a fraction of a second of stasis, which in a way is a kind of equivalent to a visible edit in the sense that it's where the mechanics of the looping apparatus becomes apparent. It might be interesting to conceive of a project that exploits that little technological stutter, or not. My looppool piece doesn't have that 'problem' as the point where it repeats is black and silent, like most of the piece!

As for the cultural prevelance of the loop, didn't disco finally formalise the 4/4 beat as the default rhythm of pop music and the drum machine hard wired it into the machinery?

But loops don't have to conform to the tyranny of the beat, as you say I think Reich's 'It's Gonna Rain' exploit the phasing of 2 or more loops of different lengths? It's not that difficult to run two loops of slightly different lengths in software. Just as Reich didn't conform to the restrictions of tapes on reels there's no reason not to do the digital equivalent.

Now where's that digital table leg?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005 4:42:00 pm  
Blogger ps said...

I’m afraid its back to West Square for you, for the tape loop refresher course; the loops in Reich’s Its Gonna Rain are the same length its the slight variation in tape spped that creates the phasing …over to you Steve…. “ it's been said many times, the discovery of the phasing process was within that piece. It happened with those two little Wollensack tape recorders I had (also used on "Phase Piece"). I made identical loops and I thought I would line them up in a particular relationship. Mainly with "it's gonna fall" on top of "rain" with the two channel result being "it's gonna... it's gonna... rain... rain..." with 180 degrees separation. I put on headphones (which were stereo with each ear with a separate plug going into the two machines). By chance, two machines were lined up in unison. So what I heard was this unison sound sort of swimming in my head, spatially moving back and forth. It finally moved over to the left, which meant that the machine on the left was slightly faster passing in speed than the machine on the right. So the apparent phenomenon in your head is the sound moving to the left, moves down your left shoulder and then across the floor! (laughs) Then after a while, it comes into an imitation and then finally after four or five minutes, you hear "it's gonna... it's gonna... rain... rain..."

This very slight speed difference which comes naturally to tape decks, even top notch ones is quite hard ( though not impossible) to reproduce digitally …

Tuesday, October 18, 2005 5:13:00 pm  
Blogger Steven Ball said...

OK, same length, different speed. The 'speed' of a loop is a slightly different thing in digital terms as it's not really relative to anything in particular. But is it really necessary to try to reproduce an analogue process in preference to exploring the specific qualities of the digital media? That's a whole other can of worms!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005 5:33:00 pm  
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