The Great Train Robbery (Scene 3 version B)
The history of filmmaking can be seen as a history of working blindly, of trying to capture something in the moment that (because of the development process) could not be verified for hours or days. As such, redundancies were built in. A plan was hatched to capture each action over and over from different angles and distances, allowing for enough extra material for mistakes to be hidden and choices deferred. But these redundancies also create the possibility of a multitude of alternate films, an array of possibilities that exist in the margins of the film we witness.
In film production, a “shot” is a series of frames that run for an uninterrupted period of time. In film editing, a “shot” is the continuous footage or sequence between two edits or cuts. It was a former Edison cameraman named Edwin S. Porter who created the necessity for this second definition with his 1903 film The Great Train Robbery. Known as the first film to contain composite editing; his use of angles, transitions and cuts to supplement and direct the film’s movement, emotion and ideas was so effective that theatergoers were said to have run from their seats. Since then The Great Train Robbery has been remade numerous times in name, and arguably many more times in formula: bad guys show up, there is conflict, there is a girl, and the good guys win.
If analysis makes sense of something by breaking it into parts, then it seems the choices that define what a part is become vital. These are the choices that construct Dashiell Manley’s practice, a set of rules that delineate boundaries rather than necessarily looking at their contents. In breaking each scene down into sets of ontological subsections, Manley has stepped out of the cycle of the remake, using the material of the 1903 film The Great Train Robbery to create not something abstracted, but something new.
Scene 3 version B, 2013, is one piece of one part of this remake. Manley has broken down the scene into five actions, each represented by a two-sided panel. The canvases are adeptly painted with simple colors and lines, echoing the Art Deco sensibility of the era; overtop a turn of the century shorthand describes the actions themselves. The reverse, the Plexiglas side shows gels, notes, stencils, storyboards and debris. Each panel leans against an open steal frame (designed to mimic the rough framing of a building rather than the frame of a picture). The panels and frames are free standing, creating a labyrinth in which the viewer is allowed to circle each action in a manner that is dictated more by the surrounding architecture than a linear narrative.