June 26, 2012 New York, New York

Inspired by an Oliver Sacks lecture on hallucinations and perception, Molly Surno brought four delightfully abstract films to her ongoing experimental film series, Cinema 16, at the Kitchen on this Tuesday evening, leaving an entire theater-full of guests bug-eyed and awe-jawed.  To add to the experience, she invited musician and composer Matteah Baim to imagine an original soundtrack for the screening, adding another dimension of emotionality to the atmosphere, and creating an unlikely collaboration between artists who will never meet. The works span over the course of almost an entire century, from 1924 to 2010, all running on a 16-mm projector (Bravo Kitchen!).

The screening began with the short ColorFilm (1971) by Standish Lawder, where a fixed-shot shows opaque, colored strips of film, in red, blue, yellow, and green working their way playfully through an old projector. The way the film rolled through the nostalgic device with the rhythm of Baim’s smooth music rendered it almost like a groovy animation. In Viking Eggeling ’s Symphonie Diagonole (1924), golden shapes cut out of foil flashed frame-by-frame on a black background. The rhythm which with the shapes move, change, and evolve reminded me of interpretive dance. Even though the graphic style was similar to that of the Futurists or even Art Deco, the composition and form seems ahead of its time, almost Neo-Geo. With Baim’s accompaniment wah-wah-wah-ing throughout the animation, it seemed as though the film could have been the backdrop of a New Wave concert in the 80s.

Baim’s compositions I’m sure influenced viewers’ interpretation a film especially during Len Lye’s Color Cry (1952-3), my personal favorite. This abstract piece could have been read as bloody or bacterial had it not been for the uplifting music, which sounded like it could have been out of a Nintendo game. A wave of cells and amoebas float by the screen, and bobble around almost as if they were polka dots. Then something shifts and the viewer is actually seeing stripes and patterns, like fabric, and very clearly one can see everything saturation, every detail, every fiber.

As Matteah Baim played her guitar, sang, and paid attention to her computer system and soundboards throughout the last and longest film, Sabrina Ratte’s Mirages (2010), her larger than life shadow loomed at least twenty feet high on the back wall of the Kitchen, as though she was the conductor of this abstract Fantasia. For the remainder of the evening, I was drawn in, completely mesmerized, lost in the world of film.

The Kitchen presents: An Evening with Cinema 16 was curated by Molly Surno with a live score by Matteah Baim