Cinema could have the almost anthropological function of reminding us of what is possible for the body, of sending us image constructions which make it impossible to limit the organism to its determining factors. Whether it records them or invents them from thin air, cinema sends us presumptions of bodies and this suppose the requestioning of the most elementary problems of figuration: "does a film sample, suppose, elaborate, give or subtract the body? What texture makes up the filmed body (flesh, shadow, project, affect, doxa)? What bone structure supports it (skeleton, resemblance, becoming, plasticity of the unformed)? To what regime of visibility is it subject (apparition, epiphany, extinction, fear, absence)? What are its means of surface appearance (clarity of outline, opacity, tactility, transparence, intermittance, mixed techniques)? By what events is it undone (the other, history, deformation)? Of what community of gesture does it allow perception (people, collection, an alignment of the identical)? What in truth does its story consist of (adventure, description, panoply)? Fundamentally what creature is it (a subject, an organism, a case, an ideological figure, a hypothesis)?"
- Nicole Brenez, 'On the Subject of Regrettable Searching - Body to Body, the Filmed Body
' (2008)Black and White Trypps Number Three
(2007) - here lies all evidence one needs for the sublime epos
of 'the short film'. From what I've seen, Ben Russell
's films seem to foster a deep engagement with the history of the moving image, particularly with ethnographic and early silent cinema (if the earliest cinema audiences had gasped in wonder at the moving shadows caused by direct sunlight upon bodies in the Lumière Brothers' La Sortie des usines Lumière
, Russell's Workers Leaving the Factory (Dubai)
, also silent, shows us a relative absence of shadows in the looming presence of skyscrapers that block out the sun), while remaining works of our time in their formalist investigations of the collective spectatorial experience and "industrialised" representations of objects and bodies.Trypps Number Three
transports the documented transcendence of Jean Rouch's Les Maîtres Fous
from the Hauka movement to a Lightning Bolt concert where overlapping bodies, swaying to noise rock, are framed in light beamed from the stage - we return to the models of Caravaggio or Garrel - bodies effectively transformed into islands of individual gestures and expressions via a spotlight and lingering camera, before the film cryptically bends upon itself: henceforth the image (through slow-motion effect) and sound (through Joseph Grimm's spacey drones) conspire to directly invoke the spectator into the raptures. Black and White Trypps Number Four
(2008), a concert film of a different kind, evolves from the mitotically active images of Black and White Trypps Number Two
(2006), that extraordinary symphony of negative images of tree branches engaged in a silent, cosmic dance. Here, a classic Richard Pryor routine on racial stereotypes from his 1979 Live in Concert
disintegrates into a Rorschach storm before morphing into the most violent of all cinematic manifestations: the flicker film. Humour and horror, reflection and its shadow, black and white, appearance
[see also, Russell's Trypps #5 (Dubai)
]; the film ultimately becomes a necessary search for traces of a disembodied 'thereness' as it moves through the reversals and the restrictions imposed upon it by the film's increasingly impenetrable spaces...What you takin' my picture for? Who you gonna show it to?