Stan.Brakhage – Persian Series 1-3

“1) This hand-painted and elaborately step-printed work begins with a flourish of reds and yellows and purples in palpable fruit-like shapes intersperced by darkness, then becomes lit lightning-like by sharp multiply-colored twigs-of shape, all resolving into shapes of decay. 2) Multiple thrusts and then retractions of oranges, reds, blues, and the flickering, almost black, textural dissolves suggesting an amalgam approaching script. 3) Dark, fast-paced symmetry in mixed weave of tones moving from oranges & yellows to blue-greens, then retreating (dissolves of zooming away) to both rounded and soft-edged shapes shot with black. 4) Elaborate petal-like, stamen-and-stem-like, multicolored flowers rising in white space until the whole field is as if crushed by floral designs in madly-swift mixtures of every conceivable previous (in the PERSIAN SERIES) shape, evolving back to brilliant petals against what was as at beginning of #4. 5) Dark blood red slow shifting tones (often embedded in dark) / (often shot-thru with parallel wave-like lines) composed of all previous shapes AND flowers as if trying, linierally, to evolve a glyph-script.”



More in #RollFilm:

A Mississippi Roll: Coloney & Fairchild’s Ribbon Map of the Father of Waters (1866)

found via Kottke

“Coloney and Fairchild’s patented apparatus required that the single sheet be cut into strips, attached end-to-end, mounted on linen, and then rolled inside a wooden, metal, or paper spool (fig. 4). The resulting portability of the map was crucial because, as advertisements indicated, it was intended for business travelers, steamboat navigators, and tourists. Of this form, the Newberry Library and the Minnesota Historical Society Library hold what seems to be a first edition, while nearly a dozen archives around the U.S. hold an updated second version. With the addition of hundreds of towns, mile markers, islands, landings, landowner and plantation names, and significant Civil War locations, the Lower Mississippi appears to be a settled and thriving commercial space.”

Nenette Luarca-Shoaf

Larger versions of the image can be found here.


Len Lye – “A COlour Box” (1932″

“The first of Lye’s ‘direct films’ to receive a public screening. Promoted by Sidney Bernstein’s Granada chain of cinemas, it eventually came to be seen “by a larger public than any experimental film before it, and most since” (as the film historian David Curtis has pointed out). Its soundtrack is a beguine – a dance popular in France during the 1930s. A Colour Box won a Medal of Honour at the 1935 International Cinema Festival in Brussels. Having no suitable category in which to award the film, the jury simply invented a new one.”

“As its title suggests, A Colour Box was also notable for being a colour film. Lye used the process of Dufaycolor at a time when colour film was still in an experimental phase. This gave the film a novelty value when first shown. A Colour Box eventually secured quite a wide theatrical release and became popular with both general audiences and critics. Because it was colourful and dynamic, with a catchy musical score, it was more accessible than many abstract films of the period.”


see also

“Free Radicals” by Len Lye (1958)

“Created in 1958, Free Radicals is arguably one of American avant-garde artist Len Lye’s greatest film works. ‘Every film [I made], I tried to interest myself in it by doing something not previously done in film technique’, said Lye. Working across the mediums of painting, poetry, and film, Lye was a prolific and important kinetic artist. With a maverick character and obsession with movement, Lye pioneered experimental film and animation techniques with his influential invention of direct (camera-less) film-making as early as the 1930s. Though never associated solely with one movement, Lye’s work merged aspects of Surrealism, Futurism, Constructivism and Abstract Expressionism into his own breed of moving art.”

Sophie Pinchetti

Watch here.

“I, myself, eventually came to look at the way things moved mainly to try to feel movement, and only feel it. This is what dancers do; but instead, I wanted to put the feeling of a figure of motion outside of myself to see what I’d got. … I didn’t know the term ‘empathy’ – that is, the psychological trick of unconsciously feeling oneself into the shoes of another person – but I was certainly practising it. I got so that I could feel myself into the shoes of anything that moved, from a grasshopper to a hawk, a fish to a yacht, from a cloud to the shimmering rustle of ivy leaves on a brick wall. Such shoes were around in profusion. …”

Len Lye


see also:

Stan Brakhage – Mothlight (1963)

Mothlight is a silent “collage film” that incorporates “real world elements.” Brakhage produced the film without the use of a camera, using what he then described as “a whole new film technique.” Brakhage collected moth wings, flower petals, and blades of grass, and pressed them between two strips of 16mm splicing tape. The resulting assemblage was then contact printed at a lab to allow projection in a cinema. The objects chosen were required to be thin and translucent, to permit the passage of light. Brakhage reused the technique to produce his later film, The Garden of Earthly Delights (1981). Mothlight has been described as boasting a “three-part musical structure.”

Here is a film that I made out of a deep grief. The grief is my business in a way, but the grief was helpful in squeezing the little film out of me, that I said “these crazy moths are flying into the candelight, and burning themselves to death, and that’s what’s happening to me. I don’t have enough money to make these films, and … I’m not feeding my children properly, because of these damn films, you know. And I’m burning up here… What can I do?” I’m feeling the full horror of some kind of immolation, in a way.”

Over the lightbulbs there’s all these dead moth wings, and I … hate that. Such a sadness; there must surely be something to do with that. I tenderly picked them out and start pasting them onto a strip of film, to try to… give them life again, to animate them again, to try to put them into some sort of life through the motion picture machine.”


see also: Comingled Containers (1996)