Los Angeles Filmforum presents Michael Scroggins: What Are You Looking At?
Sunday, November 7, 7:30 pm
Los Angeles Filmforum presents
Michael Scroggins: What Are You Looking At?
At the Spielberg Theater at the Egyptian
6712 Hollywood Blvd. (at Las Palmas)
Admission for Filmforum screenings: $10 general, $6 students/seniors, free for Filmforum members
Advance ticket purchase available through Brown Paper Tickets at
On November 12-14, Filmforum and USC Visions & Voices will present the symposium Alternative Projections: Experimental Film in Los Angeles 1945-1980 at USC. In the weeks leading up to it, Filmforum will host evenings with long-time Los Angeles-based filmmakers in evenings of old and new works. Michael Scroggins has been a pioneer in animation performance and video art since the early 1970s, a member of the legendary light show group Single Wing Turquoise Bird, and a teacher at Cal Arts since the late 1970s. We’re delighted to host him with a survey of his work from the 1970s to a brand new world premiere!
What Are You Looking At? (1970/1973, 11:30, NTSC)
"What are you looking at?" was shot on the new ½ inch reel to reel EIAJ Sony Portapak's that made portable videotape recording open to a wide range of people for the first time in history. Access to this artist friendly means of production allowed for a form of long take experimentation that was not constrained by the economics of shooting 16mm sound film. The video opens with a brief moment with Nam June Paik in the CalArts parking lot, Burbank, 1970, and moves onto the core of the piece which revolves around a casual morning’s recording at the Hillside House in Topanga Canyon, 1973, in which the young child, Tucker, directs the gaze of the videographer --and thus the video viewer. The synchronicity of developing events unfolds in a dance of subjective and objective relationships revolving around the question quoted in the title.
Destiny Edit (A linked compilation of "Lose Yr Jobs", 1972 -- "Corrigan /Lund", 1974 -- "Sangsara", 1975, NTSC)
“Lose Yr Jobs” consists of a fragment from an off the air recording an interview with President Richard Nixon that is looped by a very physical rewinding, forwarding , and rewinding via the control knob of a ½ inch video tape player. The process of performing the looping results in an out of context statement that emphasizes the textural quality of the raw videotape medium while developing an aleatoric cadence. In the second part, “Corrigan/Lund”, President Nixon’s re-contextualized statement is forced into a connection with statements by the resigning CalArts President Robert Corrigan and incoming interim president, William Lund. The Portapak medium again reveals the passage of a set of events that would be unlikely to have been recorded with earlier methods for acquiring sound and moving image. The intuitive wandering of the videographers gaze reveals a situation that serves to precipitate a disrupting moment in the ritual passing of the reins of institutional power. The key tripping point of the actors reference to “Destiny’s Wheel” is underscored in the third part, “Sangsara” in which an image generated in a particularly numinous real-time videographic performance serves as an iconic representation alluding to the ongoing cyclic flow of the wheel of becoming --as it might be experienced during closed eye vision.
Recent Li (1980, 5:00, NTSC)
The conceptual and technical aspects of "Recent Li" are interdependent. In defining the Chinese term 'li', Joseph Needham has written, "In its most ancient meaning, it signified the pattern in things, the markings in jade or fibers in muscle . . . it acquired the common dictionary meaning 'principle', but always conserved the undertone of 'pattern' . . ." . The forms in "Recent Li" originate from the 'li' of video feedback . Video feedback is the result of the recursive process of a video camera scanning its own display. It is the narcissistic oscillation of an image of the image. If the camera scans the complete display screen area, edge to edge (no larger, no smaller), it is analogous to placing two mirrors face to face in direct contact: there is no space between them, and simultaneously there is an infinite space between them. The compulsive drive toward the union of opposites is hinted at in this process. By rotating the camera/display orientation 90 degrees from the matched horizontal relationship, a horizontal/vertical order is established which produces a quaternity figure. The quaternity appears cross-culturally throughout the ages as a powerful symbol of unity, of wholeness of self. This symbol and its associated meanings form the core of "Recent Li”.
Saturnus Alchimia (1982, 3:22, NTSC)
Study No. 13 (1983, 0:20, NTSC)
Study No, 6 (1983, 4:31, NTSC)
Study No. 7 (1983, 2:27, NTSC)
Study No. 14 (1983, 2:58, NTSC)
Study No. 16 (1983, 4:36, NTSC)
Color, shape, texture, and rhythm form the basic components of a series of visual music compositions, much as the architectonic structuring of melody, harmony, timbre and rhythm in aural music. "Saturnus Alchimia”, the first in [a series of video "Studies"], introduces us to all the basic materials and parameters [Michael Scroggins] has chosen. The frozen image under the titles stands rich in illusion, dominated by what seems a golden pyramid. When the congealed instant "a false fragment of time" releases into action, those still illusions are all vanquished and we perceive a fascinating new array of interlocking architectonic levels.
A thin bar rocks leisurely from side to side 'in front of' the other imagery, seeming to define a screen surface, while 'behind' it layers of rectangular shapes rotate, each one masking out ... and enclosing certain others in a way that challenges the mundane comfort of a single-vanishing-point perspective. Yet still 'behind' these intricate layers reigns a voluptuous golden band that pours into blue rivers and folds around itself in confident palpability. The alchemists' Saturn (of which this first piece is offered, tongue in cheek, as an example) was the lead, or base metal, from which transmutation begins, and indeed the successive pieces in this series use all these same base materials to explore further relationships between optical phenomena and spiritual perception." (From "Some Notes on Michael Scroggins's Studies," Dr. William Moritz)
Power Spot (1986, 8:12, NTSC)
As in my previous work with the Studies, the video images in “Power Spot” were created through a process of live improvisation, generating and manipulating shapes, colors, and textures in a series of rhythmically interlocking layers. A prerecorded set of layers were further layered in live performance in a process somewhat similar to the technique of multi-track overdubbing in audio recording. A visual composition does not require aural accompaniment, anymore than an aural composition requires visual accompaniment, however the combination can result in a synergy and I have often commissioned composers to create musical accompaniment for my work. In accepting a commission from Jon Hassell for the creation of a video piece to accompany his recording of “Power Spot” this process was reversed. I was not interested in illustrating the music of “Power Spot” by synchronizing specific aural and visual events, but on exploring the relationships between the affective potential of both mediums. The affect created by the visual composition works in conjunction with and in opposition to that of the aural. An interdependent, complimentary relationship is established in the opening, followed by an increasingly divergent relationship in the middle, returning to an interdependence toward the end
Solaire (1986, 7:00, NTSC)
In contrast to the relentless rhythms, and dense architectonic structures filling the screen space in “Power Spot”, “Solaire” is composed of simpler discrete elements. At times the screen becomes entirely empty, serving as a momentary point of rest, until reactivated with form once again. This may be seen as a visual corollary to the idea expressed in the famous quote attributed to Claude Debussy: “Music is the space between the notes”.
Adagio for Jon and Helena (2009, 5:00, HD 1080p)
A continuous take digital recording from a live solo liquid light projection performance, this piece is dedicated to my liquid light teachers Jon Greene and Helena Lebrun. I developed the unique techniques used in this performance in 1968 and have recently revisited them in order to enjoy the immediacy of this particular form of direct physical expression. As with much of my absolute animation performance work, it is the affective power found at the edges of gestural control and indeterminate chaos that interests me.
Limn (2010, 6:30, HD 1080p) World Premiere!
This is another in a series of continuous take high definition digital recordings of live solo liquid light projection performances. This particular solo improvisation was performed during a set of recording sessions with the multimedia ensemble Single Wing Turquoise Bird that took place in the late summer of 2010.
MICHAEL SCROGGINS is Director of the Computer Animation Labs at CalArts where he has been on the faculty of the School of Film/Video since 1978. Scroggins is a pioneer in the field of absolute animation performance. His absolute animation works have been widely exhibited internationally, including screenings at the Centre George Pompidou, Paris; Union of Filmmakers, Moscow; Seibu Ginza, Tokyo; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles. His most recent work investigates the potential of gesture capture in the creation of real-time absolute animation in fully immersive VR. He has continued to perfect liquid projection techniques, most recently in the film Adagio for Jon and Helena, which premiered this year at the REDCAT in Los Angeles.
For the screenings at the Egyptian Theater:
Parking is now easiest at the Hollywood & Highland complex. Bring your ticket for validation. Parking is $2 for 4 hours with validation. Enter that complex on Highland or Hollywood. The theater is 1.5 blocks east.
This screening series is supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles. Additional support generously provided by American Cinematheque.
Los Angeles Filmforum is the city's longest-running organization screening experimental and avant-garde film and video art, documentaries, and experimental animation. 2010 is our 34th year.
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