‘Experimentalism may be said to be moving into a gap in the human adaptive potential left open by the increasing computability of a globalised world. Let us seek to be, and keep being, trained by it’ László Tarnay – Film Experimentation and the Sublime – Journal of Moving Image Studies 2004
To help you to assess if your work falls into this genre, your submitted work should have some of the following characteristics:
1. Most experimental film makers conceive, shoot and edit their own films on their own or with a minimal crew.
2. Experimental film are mainly made outside of the film industry economics. This low budget approach buys independence.
3. Experimental works are usually short, under say a half an hour long.
4. Experimental film makers are commonly the first to try out new ways of making films, after which these new technologies are adopted by the mainstream.
5. Avant-garde film makers often continue to use old formats such as 16mm film etc. long after they go out of commercial use.
6. Most experimental films give primacy to the visual.
7. Experimental films typically ignore, subvert and or fragment the storytelling rules of Hollywood.
8. Experimental film doesn’t offer a clear, unequivocal ‘message’. More frequently than mainstream film, it is fraught with conscious ambiguities, encourages multiple interpretations and marshals contradictory techniques and subject matter to create active participation of the viewer.
9. Experimental film makes conscious use of the materials of the cinema that call attention to the medium.
10. Experimental film may form part of a gallery installation.
As you can see, even the definition (an adaptation of a definition by Edward S. Small in 1994) is quite loose!
The process of adding works to the index
The way the site works is this:
- You send us links to a minimum of 3 moving image works that you would like us to consider for the Index.
we assess if it fits the category.
- If it dose, we send you a form to fill in for each work giving details such as biog. a brief text (80 to 150 words), Rights, Original Format, and Aspect Ratio, jpeg image etc.
- We then enter the information in the MExIndex unpublished database.
- We ask our regularly visiting MExIndex curators to select new works from this database for publication onto the live site.
- Before an entry goes live on the site we contact the artist to let him/her know so that they can check and comment on the information on their page.
So to sum up, artists can send us links where we can view their works (with password if necessary) and confirmation that they will be willing to send the MExIndex additional information on the selected pieces and that they agree to be published on the site if selected in the future. This process can also be used by curators and gallerist to suggest works that they feel should be on this national database.
A Note to Students
This website aims to be the ‘go to’ space for curators, galleries and institutions looking for Irish artists’ moving images and experimental film information. The website is the national searchable information base for for this kind of work. It contains substantial information.
For contemporary students experimenting with moving images, it facilitates to deep knowledge of what has gone before and for students of fine art generally, it allows access to a wide range of works that give a comprehensive survey of this genre in Ireland. Many of the works are playable on the site and so it is an invaluable resource for students to assess both the history and the Zeitgeist of this genre in Ireland today.
The MExIndex also provide backup for such contacts, if they require additional information or guidance.
Crash course in Artists’ moving images and experimental film.
For those who would like a little more information, here is a little background on the subject:
Artists’ moving images and experimental film are in an area between the visual arts and film which concentrates on the questioning of how film can be perceived when conventional approaches to the moving images are deconstructed. It is fundamentally a way of seeing the moving image free from preconditions and the carapace of conventions.
The early silent movie makers realised that certain kinds of shots, and certain combinations of shots could move a storyline along in a way that was intelligible to the audience at large. So the process of trying to tell a story in moving images started to develop a language which the audience intuitively
understood. A sort of film ‘grammar’ started to evolve. This grammar was developed and codified in the 20th century by directors like D.W. Griffith in the U.S. With ‘Birth of a Nation’ (1915) and Sergei Eisenstein in the Soviet Union with ‘Battleship Potemkin’ (1925). Commercial film makers, particularly mainstream Hollywood directors, all over the world today still use these basic rules for shooting films.
But even as the new film industry started to settle down to this neat production model for the making of popular films, others outside the film industry
became curious about film as a medium. A small marginal group outside of what was becoming a multimillion dollar industry. were investigating the new
medium in a much more radical way. In particular, visual artists got involved.
In the early 20th century visual artists, intellectuals and writers had been challenging the status quo of the established visual arts scene. The traditions of
the past were been thrown aside in a spirit of experimentation. They quickly started to move toward abstraction in movements such as Surrealism, Dada, Minimalism etc. This kind of critical engagement led to a wave of visual artists experimenting using new ways of seeing with new materials. Naturally, some of these artists started using film! Anyone wanting to see these pieces had to seek out rare prints, until the advent of youtube. But though not widely seen at first, the influence of these experimental film works grew over the decades and as film making began to be taught in colleges their influence had more and more effect.
Today they remain influential on film and media art. Their stamp can be seen in modern cinematography, editing, visual effects, and aesthetic and art criticisms. The whole area is still in flux, still fighting definition and still morphing in surprising ways. For those of you wanting to know more, we recommend the following.
A very short overview of the main works that caused this wave can be found here. http://www.jahsonic.com/ExperimentalFilm.html
Here is some viewing links that should give anyone new to this area a feel for the range and history of experimental film/artists moving images:-
1928 Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog) Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIKYF07Y4kA
1929 Man with a Movie Camera Dziga Vertov https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKxiUWqlw4k
1943 Meshes of the Afternoon Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid https://vimeo.com/ondemand/meshes
1963 Mothlight, Stan Brakhage https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_pjxzmaWVZ8
1973 Line Describing a Cone Anthony McCall. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-HWsxPnNNY
2010 ‘Free Radicals’ A documentary on the USA 1970’s by Pip Chardova https://vimeo.com/46350160
1989 Pièce Touchée Martin Arnold https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnDagpv4kUk
2007 The Nervous Magic Lantern Ken Jacobs talking about his work https://filmstudiescenter.uchicago.edu/events/2011/nervous-magic-lantern
Why the MExIndex ?
On returning from an international festival in 2014 an experimental film artist noted that curators reported that Irish artists’ moving images were not much represented internationally because they were difficult to access, ie. there was no systematic way to find them. Whilst looking for experimental films for MEx (Maynooth Experimental based in Maynooth University Ireland), I found the same problem. Word of mouth seems to have been the most common source of information on the subject, but many visual artists are solo flyers and therefore not ‘in the loop’.
Launch of the MExIndex at NUI Maynooth 2015
Motivated by the conviction that the index of a culture’s health and vibrancy lies largely in its margins, in those works of art that are created outside the commercial mainstream, the MExIndex strives to advance the cause of Irish moving images works that struggle to be seen.
If you have any other queries, please email us.