As a support programme to the “Neuseeland Deluxe” section, “The Experimental Archive: Adventures in New Zealand Film-making 1933–2007” consists of a collection of experimental films from New Zealand, including home movies, government films, video art and music clips. Despite 150 years of European influence, the country is increasingly developing its own identity. The programme is presented by Mark Williams, curator of the New Zealand Film Archive.
The programme consists of the following films:
Paritai Drive (2.32 min.)
Ethel Garden 1937
In 1996 the BFI produced Cinema of Unease, a documentary created for the Century of Cinema Series. Written and directed by Sam Neill, the title refers to the dark and brooding nature of many of New Zealand’s most notable films, which Neill considers a reflection of the nation’s struggle to find, or form, its own identity. Ethel Garden’s 1933 home movie Paritai Drive begins with a series of colonial statements; a highway and a large house. The film soon turns to a series of moody interiors that suggest a sense of suppressed drama.
Sun Test 2 (2.21 min.)
Elga Hinton 1940s
Elga Hinton’s Sun Test 2 is at once a typical home movie showing children playing in the backyard, and an experimental film whose subject is light. Using double exposure the images of children are obscured by a larger dominant image of the sun, which burns down the camera lens.
Pictorial Parade – Wool Gathering (5.50 min.)
John King, New Zealand National Film Unit 1965
The New Zealand National Film Unit was the local equivalent to the British GPO (Government Publicity Office). Established to promote a healthy, prosperous vision of nationhood the NFU and it’s government predecessors often came under criticism for producing worthy but dull images of New Zealand’s primary industries. A visit from John Grierson led the Unit’s wartime director Stan Andrews to call for a more dramatic government film that showed “the rippling forearm of the shearer”. By 1996 John King’s Wool Gathering suggested that even this idea had become overused. Beginning with images of sheep grazing, the film switches to a fast forwarded image of a shearer at work before an abrupt transformation into slow motion tableaux inspired by avant garde classic Last Year At Marienbad (1961). Beyond an image of our primary industry in action, Kings government film is both comic and surreal, suggesting touch, texture and the materiality of the wool itself.
Earthworks. Temporary Instant in the Continuum of Universal Ebb and Flow (11.35 min.)
Philip Dadson 1971
In 1969 Philip Dadson was a foundation member of the London Scratch orchestra (alongside Cornelius Cardew, Michael Parsons and others). In the early 1970s he returned to New Zealand where he formed the experimental percussion group From Scratch and began a career as an interdisciplinary artist.
Earthworks is a film of an event that took place simultaneously at locations including Australia, Rarotonga, San Diego, Antarctica, England and New Zealand. Dadson asked the participants to carry out six activities in 10 minutes, ranging from an official weather report to recording observations of the tide, moon, sun and immediate environment. This was captured visually and aurally on film, tape and photographs which became the compositional elements of the film Earthworks. Like the event the film Earthworks attempts to maintain the effect of simultaneity and was dedicated “to peaceful celebration of planet earth”.
Duck Calling (3.30 min.)
Gray Nicol 1978
“In the performance, as I unwound the bandage from my head and wound it around the hand holding the microphone, my voice became increasingly muffled and the duckpond sound track was slowly turned up untill that was all you could hear – quite loud-then stopped,and the lights turned out.In the following silence I broke the glass of the display case with my bandaged fist, took the gun and left the stage making a duck call, with a lure, as shooters do. Then the lights came up slowly.” – Gray Nicol
Turning Brown and Torn in Two (4.00 min.)
Chris Knox 1983
Since the early 1980s Chris Knox has been making music videos for his own songs. Both could be said to share the same inspirations; punk rock, Tex Avery and an appreciation for the the comic book grotesque. In the pre-internet age New Zealand’s geographic isolation meant that most of the recent developments in the international avant garde could only be read about or imagined. Consequently Knox claimed that Tony Conrad’s ‘Flicker’ was the biggest influence on his own films, many years before he had even seen it.
Flicker (4.00 min.)
Fetus Productions 1985
Emerging in the late 1970s, Fetus Productions were a multi-media group inspired by industrial culture. They performed as a musical group with multiple 8mm projections, designed their own fashion and created sound and image installation work based on their own experimental films. Fascinated with urban and physical decay Fetus’ work often drew on both sublime and grim subject matter, from nature scenes to footage of an autopsy. Flicker is their most commercially successful work.
Wog Features (6.34 min.)
Lisa Reihana 1990
“Wog Features uses animation and live action to address racism in culture and gender. I chose animation because of its universal appeal to children as well as adults, and to increase the potential audience. Minstrels dance in blackface; golliwogs are incorporated into reconstructions of children’s television. This politicised look at culture is almost on the edge of profanity. The education of our people should begin when they are young.” – Lisa Reihana
Bowl Me Over (6.00 min.)
Lissa Mitchell/ Pictorial Research Group 1995
Bowl Me Over is an animated road-movie painted directly onto film. Travelling down the highways that carve through the unpeopled wilderness of New Zealand’s South Island Mitchell pays homage to Colin McCahon, Mina Arndt and Rita Angus; local artists whose work was inspired by the landscape. She also notes the loss of the town of Cromwell, which was submerged underwater to make way for the introduction of a government dam.
Falling Out (15.00 min.)
MD Brown 2004
Representations of New Zealand’s white suburban culture have been a staple of New Zealand feature film since the 1970s, where themes of friendship, growing up, hedonism and the passing of time were all played out in anti/heroic narratives. Falling Out is far more personal, recollecting a murky set of events and personal relationships whose character has been shaped by the passage of time.
From Tiziano Vecellio to Barnett Newman and back (5.00 min.)
Peter Wareing 2008
Peter Wareing is a New Zealand artist who has for the past ten years been based in New York. In this film he ponders the distance between New Zealand and the rest of the world; the import/export of culture and the relevance of Western European art history washing up on a South Pacific shore.