wax notes is a body of work that explores a larger theoretical and phenomenological discourse on the mortality/immortality and materiality/immateriality of the moving image. Through the inherent indexicality of the 16mm film medium, wax notes revisits the memory of Stewart Park Pavilion in Ithaca, NY, a space that once harbored a prolific silent era film studio known as the Wharton Studios, currently being used as the city's storage facility unit. The exhibition includes five objects: digital/digitized film, soundscape, a projection of 16mm scratched black liter, 16mm film projection of the documentation of burning 16mm film, and a vertical light table. Through a process that is both destructive and regenerative, wax notes exists in these different iterations that reveal the many versions of its self.
This body of work is made in collaboration with Aaron Glasser.
A special thank you to the Wharton Studio Museum, City of Ithaca, Ithaca Made Movies. Funded in part by the Hunter R. Rawlings III Presidential Research Scholarship.
i. 16mm scratch footage, north wall (left) : 16mm documentation of film burns, south wall (right) (0-0:54")
ii. 16mm scratch footage, north wall (left) : infinite 16mm film loop, north wall (0:54-2:22")
iii. installation still video : installation moving video (2:22-2:56")
The soundscape is a two-hour mix of a six-hour live performance that took place in the pavilion in collaboration with another filmmaker, an opera singer, a synthesizer musician, and two dancers; the performers improvised to the space, to the projected image into that space, and to one another. A 16mm black liter film loop (left) includes scratched letters/words and reads: 'Memory emerges, bringing forth image into time, sentenced to death. It overwrites itself and the self, suspended.' Written inside the Stewart Park Pavilion, in retrospect: a meditation on space and our work within. A 16mm color negative film loop (right) that is a recording of the process of burning 16mm film taken of the spectacle within the pavilion also appears as melted frames on the vertical light table.
The roof, light rigging rails, and garage door of the pavilion—which have remained intact since the time of the old Wharton Studios—became structures for experimentation with film's indexicality. A twenty-foot massive 16mm film loop of all the footage taken of that very same space projected onto the garage door by threading the film through the old light rigging rails on the ceiling plays with the memory of space, so that the rusty metal rails of the Wharton studios scratch against the film and wear away the image of the space.
The way in which the two 16mm film loops are both threaded through a loop on the gallery ceiling to resonate with the 16mm film loop running through the light rigging rails in Stewart Park Pavilion opens up a dialogue between the white-cube space and the black-box theater. By running continuously through the projector, the two 16mm film loops, over the course of the exhibit, physically degrade: the image surrenders to its materiality.
Installation view (left) : 18'x2' vertical light table on west wall, detail (right)
A landscape portrait, grid painting, computed synthetic soundscape. All the 16mm film taken of the pavilion and included in the digital/digitized film is a total of thirty-six square feet, sandwiched between two plexiglass panels of three six-foot long by two-foot wide segments to form an eighteen-foot by two-foot vertical light table. The line of contact where two panels meet is analogous to the mechanical splice where two frames of two sequences join together. Splices to match patterns, motion, and color are intentional and improvisational, resonating with the randomization and re-sampling of synth sound. The operatic voice and synth at times meet each other and at times miss each other. This sonic vibration is the flickering of 16m film through two projectors; it is the curve of still images in the form of a wave arrested in motion on the vertical light table, so that one both hears and sees this flickering simultaneously.
The movement of still frames on the vertical light table stops where the curve ruptures, where the frame has melted at the image of a dancer's exposed neck—delicate and brutal—annihilated. The vulnerability and fragility of film here collapses the gap between form and content and returns to a historiographical relationship between film and fire as well as film and ice. Where fire is both destructive and regenerative, ice becomes the material by which lost film has been preserved and archived. The film burn also corresponds to the decay of sound—wavering, growing in and out of focus, waxing and waning. This sonic decay returns to the origin of film music as one connected inseparably with the decay of the spoken word.