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The Ruby is a catalyst for creativity and a home for making art at Duke.
Date & Time
February 28, 2018 at 7:00 pm8:30 pm
Free; ticket required Get tickets
Film Theater at the Rubenstein Arts Center
2020 Campus Drive
Durham, NC 27705

Material engagement has always been at the forefront of experimental film practice, from Man Ray’s rayograms to Stan Brakhage’s hand-painted works. Interrogating the celluloid surface opened up new forms of representation that departed from conventional figurative imagery and allowed a more sensuous visual experience to emerge. As Brakhage stated, ‘Imagine an eye unruled by manmade laws of perspective.’ In our contemporary digitally-dominated world, the physical material of photochemical film takes on a renewed significance, enjoying a renaissance of sorts now that it is freed almost entirely from its association with commercial filmmaking. This specially-curated series of film programs provides an insight into how material desire manifests in the working methods of a range of contemporary filmmakers and provides historical parallels to contextualize current techniques.

If sold-out, please note that there will be a stand-by line at the venue each evening for attendees without ticket reservations. Once all ticketed patrons have been seated, those in the stand-by line will be afforded any vacant seats on first-come-first served basis!


(Vicky Smith, 2016, 10 min, UK, Color, 16mm)
Primal is an abstract animation made directly onto unprocessed fogged negative by rubbing and scraping the film and releasing its light. The sounds are made by rustling materials against the microphone.

Double Dapple
(Mary Stark & David Chatton Barker, 2017, 3 min, UK, Color, 16mm)
This double exposed, hand-processed film foregrounds the sensuous spell of touch, where the bodies of the filmmakers meet on the skin of the filmstrip in the shimmering shadows of plants and trees.

(Thorsten Fleisch, 2004, 5 min, Germany, Color, 16mm)
The mystery of the crystals under closer examination. What is it that makes them possess magic powers as claimed by mystics of all ages? Through growing crystals directly on film their mystical qualities shine straight to the screen. Unfiltered, only aided by light which gracefully breaks its rays into rich visual textures.

Landfill 16
(Jennifer Reeves, 2010-11, 9 min, USA, Color, 16mm)
Exhumed 16mm film from my very own landfill in Elkhart, Indiana constitute the canvas of Landfill 16. After finishing my double-projection When It Was Blue I was horrified by the bulk of outtakes that would normally go to a landfill. So I temporarily buried the footage to let enzymes and fungi in the soil begin to decompose the image, and then I hand-painted the film to give it new life. This “recycling” is a meditation on the demise of the beautiful 16mm medium and nature’s losing battle to decompose the relics of our abandoned technologies and productions.

3rd Degree
(Paul Sharits, 1982, 24 min, USA, Color, 16mm)
This film is about the fragility of the film medium and human vulnerability, both the filmic and the human images resist threat intimidation/mutilation, the victim is defiant and the film strip also struggles on, both under fire. It is a somewhat violent drama but it is also an ironically comic work and there is a formal beauty in the destructiveness of the burning film.

(James Schneider, 2007, 3 min, USA, Color, 16mm)
For Government Radiation, the first step was to film the US Capitol on 100 feet of 16mm film (Kodak-7205, 250 ASA). Then, using a process similar to Shroud of Security, the film was cut into 6 equal parts and passed through Government security X-Ray machines in Washington DC: 0, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, and 128 times. The result is a gradual effacing of the image.

DEGRADATION #2, SCRATCH – Record Needle vs Film Emulsion
(James Schneider, 2008, 8 min, USA, Color, 16mm)
In this film, two 19th century technologies collide: a record needle (“modified”) and the emulsion of a 16mm film loop. Over a period of 2 hours, the film emulsion with its optical soundtrack was scratched by the hand-held record needle as the film passed through the projector gate. During Degradation #2, this process is presented at progressive stages (for example, “150 passes, 38 minutes”). The soundtrack is a mix of the sound produced by the record needle and the gradually degraded original optical track.

Stadt in Flammen
(Schmelzdahin, 1984, 5 min, Germany, Color, 16mm)
Film material is subjected to biochemical processes by burying it in the garden, storing it in a pond, or overheating it. The results of these natural processes of decay or aging are then copied back onto film and thus conserved in the state of their dissolution. In Stadt in Flammen the scenes melt due to overheating, producing an infernal image impression of disappearance. The images no longer show a figuratively represented scene, but rather its dissolution as a temporal process

(Emmanuel Lefrant, 2006, 6 min, France, Color, 16mm)
This is a deserted black space that one tries to fill in. To the point of becoming totally submerged in color. One explores the chromatic circle, by turning around it meticulously. And by vertical unreeling, a process specific to cinema.

About the Curator

Kim Knowles is an academic and curator based in Bristol, UK. She teaches film studies at Aberystwyth University and has programmed the “Black Box” experimental strand of the Edinburgh International Film Festival since 2008.

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