Making Tracks is a new talent showcase which screens original short film with new, live scores, created and performed by the Cabinet of Living Cinema. In July, Making Tracks returned for an XL (extra live!) event, which showcased not only re-scored shorts but also live visual sets by moving image artists, presented alongside improvised soundtracks from the band.
The film programme had a strong animation flavour. It opened with Tim Divall’s Things Don’t Fit – a brilliantly funny and edgy fable about the absurd and alarming rhythms of life in everyday London. From beginning to end, the characters in Divall’s film are confronted with objects and situations which confound their modest ambitions. Elevators become unweildy and dangerous monsters, sinister characters lay in wait folded in filing cabinet drawers and the tube system – filled as it is by an ocean of pulsating, misshapen flesh – sucks commuters into its dark heart. The musicians had a difficult job with this film as its comedy is so much based on timing – miss a beat and you miss the effect. However they did manage to create a pounding, sinister and steadily building audio-backdrop which matched the dark, pressure-cooker structure and content of this excellent short.
Not a beat was missed in the live soundtrack for Daniela Sherer’s He Was a Sweet Man (version with original soundtrack below). Here was an example of a live soundtrack which drew out subtle elements of the film, complementing Sherer’s fluid animation style and strong aesthetic. I’d seen the film before, several times, but noticed a whole new set of details at this viewing with fresh eyes from the fresh audio.
Lara Lee‘s Wish You Were Here is a sweet, gentle exploration of travel and communication, told through watercolour renderings of found postcards. Here, the original dialogue which was read from the backs of the postcards had been removed in order for the band to rescore the soundtrack. This freed the images to interact and tell their own stories and the result was a charming, attractive and immersive piece.
Alongside the animations, two live action films were presented – Tragedia by Patricia Hetherington, Cleaner by Joon Goh and Golden by Simon Ball. This last film, a tense, well-executed coming-of-age drama, memorably captures something of the high-stakes reality of childrens’ social lives.
The artists who presented live visuals had varied approaches. Tom Brown, co-founder of Magnetic Foragers, combines physical and digital processes and performance. At one point in his set he produced an aquarium and a webcam and, pointing the camera close into the water, sprinkled objects and agitated the water to create a live feed that looked like a strange galaxy. Emily Bailey‘s set featured her characteristically strong colours and abstract imagery, created through working directly onto 16mm film. The rich resulting imagery is reminiscent of ’60s psychedelic art and has an absorbing flow and rhythm to it. Sarah Culross‘ work took a blunter approach. Using crude digital imagery, she created narratives which were sometimes entirely abstract, sometimes hinting at something more explicit. The images were harsh and often ugly, but there was something hypnotic in this sharp, angular, dream-world.
The final live visuals set of the night was presented by Max Hattler and Sune Petersen. This is a double act well worth seeing, and a welcome, thoughtful approach to using technology to deliver high quality performative visual artwork. Hattler’s work is predominantly digital animation, while interactive technology has been crucial to Petersen’s practice. This makes for a brilliant collaboration. Petersen creates generative visuals which can be controlled and navigated live using tools such as joysticks. Using code, light and these navigational tools he is creating a set of of musical instruments, for playing visual music. Add to this Hattler’s smooth, sharp animations and you have a seductive, dynamic visual world to get lost in. Sheets of tiny particles move across the screen creating the sense of motion in the viewer, as if we are travelling at the speed of light towards another dimension. With relentless symmetry we are drawn through portals and gateways and blasted across over over-developed sci-fi cityscapes… or is that bacteria in a petridish?… or is it a circuit board?…
There is just enough visual information and velocity to draw the audience in and allow us to create our own narratives, like some high-tech, high-momentum Rorschach test. The constantly changing landscape defies easy definition though, and every time our brain settles on one narrative, it is blown apart and subverted by another. Like the hypnogogic visions on the edge of sleep, this journey is better enjoyed than explained.
Making Tracks is an event presented by Whirlygig Cinema. You can keep on top of what they’re up to here.