Archive for the 'Exhibitions' Category

Photographer Brad Temkin Talks Rooftop Gardens

Posted by on Sep 02 2015 | Exhibitions, Other, Photography

Last week, photographer Brad Temkin, whose images of rooftop gardens in Chicago are featured in the exhibition In the Garden, joined us for a gallery talk with Associate Curator Jamie M. Allen. Following the talk, Temkin signed advance copies of his book Rooftop.

11849270_414901998718368_416817151_n

If you haven’t seen his work in person yet, we encourage you to hurry to the museum as the exhibition will only be on view through Sunday, September 6! Below are a few of the images from his series and an audio clip of Temkin talking about his work in the exhibition. While you are at the museum, be sure to keep an eye out for more audio clips like this one available via our cell phone tour. Every photograph has a story to tell. Who better to tell those stories than the artists themselves?

Brad Temkin (American, b. 1956). 425 South Wabash (looking East), Chicago, IL, June 2013. © Brad Temkin.

Brad Temkin (American, b. 1956). 425 South Wabash (looking East), Chicago, IL, June 2013. © Brad Temkin.

Brad Temkin (American, b. 1956). The Rouge (looking Southwest), Dearborn, MI, August 2011. © Brad Temkin.

Brad Temkin (American, b. 1956). The Rouge (looking Southwest), Dearborn, MI, August 2011. © Brad Temkin.

Brad Temkin (American, b. 1956). Jacob Burkhardt Haus (looking East), Basel, Switzerland, May 2014. © Brad Temkin.

Brad Temkin (American, b. 1956). Jacob Burkhardt Haus (looking East), Basel, Switzerland, May 2014. © Brad Temkin.

no comments for now

100 Stairs from the History of Cinema

Posted by on Aug 21 2015 | Behind The Scenes, Exhibitions, History, Motion Pictures, Other

Little more than a month remains in George Eastman House’s exhibition Peter Greenaway—The Stairs: Geneva, the Location (on display until September 20). Now that some time has passed since the show first went up, I’d like to take a moment to convey some thoughts about its execution.

Greenaway intended The Stairs as a decade-long international installation in ten parts, each focusing on a theme related to cinema such as framing, audience, and time. Stairs 1: Geneva dealt with the theme of location. Stairs are uniquely poised to address such a topic, for not only are they pivotal elements in countless classic films, but are fundamental to the shaping and sequencing of space. Just as stairs cut through and segment space, they also bring otherwise disparate spaces together. If this sounds rather cinematic, it is because stairs are especially visual media. (Consider the homophony of “stair” and “stare”.) Of all architectural passages (e.g., doors, hallways, vestibules), stairs are the most conspicuous. We are rarely conscious of the doors or hallways we pass through, but stairs make their presence felt. They can even be spectacles in their own right, to the extent that they become centerpieces of a room. What better evidence of this is there than the films of Hitchcock, Sirk, or Lang?

 Because The Stairs was intended as a reflection on the medium of film on its centenary, Greenaway wanted the number one hundred to operate as a frame tying together the installation’s various components. At the same time, this provided him with the opportunity to expand the purview of the project as a whole, for instance by staging a supplementary exhibit containing one hundred different types of the same object. We saw this as an excellent opportunity to draw a clearer link between the ideas behind Greenaway’s project and the mission of George Eastman House. This is how we came up with the idea for a display consisting of one hundred images of stairs from the history of cinema.

Detail of “100 Stairs from the History of Cinema,” a montage of frame grabs on display as part of the George Eastman House’s exhibition entitled Peter Greenaway—The Stairs: Geneva, the Location.

Detail of “100 Stairs from the History of Cinema,” a montage of frame grabs on display as part of the George Eastman House’s exhibition entitled Peter Greenaway—The Stairs: Geneva, the Location.

Because of their sheer ubiquity, it was not difficult to construct a sizeable collection of film stairs rather quickly. More difficult was the task of condensing that list down to one hundred stairs that function explicitly as “devices for display,” to quote Greenaway himself. My criteria for this was simple enough: the stairs had to occupy a central position in the mise en scène, to the extent that the shot in question would be unthinkable without them. One particularly expressive example of this can be found in the 1939 Technicolor classic Gone With the Wind.

Still from Gone with the Wind (Victor Fleming, US 1939)

Still from Gone with the Wind (Victor Fleming, US 1939)

The staircase is situated precisely in the center of the shot; one cannot even look at this image without looking at stairs. Everywhere around there is darkness, as if the stairs and the woman on them are all that exist in this world. This image attests to what a powerful stage stairs can provide, commanding and directing the viewer’s gaze. I mentioned earlier what a crucial role stairs play with regard to space, and this is no less true in film than it is in life. Consider this image from The Magnificent Ambersons.

Still from The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles, US 1944)

Still from The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles, US 1944)

The spatializing function of stairs in this case is clear right away. Here, we see two figures, each occupying opposite poles of a shot. Even without any familiarity with this film’s plot, we can deduce much from this shot thanks to the mediating role of stairs. The woman is explicitly positioned in a relation of power to the man, if only for the fact that she is located directly above him. But here that point couldn’t be made in a more visually literal sense, since (as with the previous case), image and stairs almost appear as one. Even though we don’t see the stairs themselves, they are as it were everywhere in this image. This notion of stairs as omnipresent and as activating deep space is brought to an even further extreme in this image from The Spiral Staircase, where stairs appear to decenter and consume even the human body.

Sill from The Spiral Staircase (Robert Siodmak, US 194

Sill from The Spiral Staircase (Robert Siodmak, US 1945)

All routes lead to stairs. Look at this shot from Poltergeist:

Still from Poltergeist (Tobe Hooper, US 1982)

Still from Poltergeist (Tobe Hooper, US 1982)

In this image, the stairs are the content and the form, even to the point where they assume a fetish-like quality. Incidentally, this was the most “meta” of all the staircase shots I was able to find in my wild stair chase.

While there can be no doubt that stairs are spatially oriented media, they’re also uniquely temporal. A set of stairs places demands not only on our bodies, but on our time. Stairs take time. This makes them powerful dramatic devices, sites of tension and suspense. Think of how long it takes Norma Desmond to make her descent into final madness in Sunset Boulevard, or for Lord Hidetora to make it down the stairs of his castle to face defeat in Ran.

Still from Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, US 1950)

Still from Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, US 1950)

Still from Ran (Akira Kurosawa, Japan/France 1985)

Still from Ran (Akira Kurosawa, Japan/France 1985)

Elsewhere, in Tsai Ming-Liang’s ravishing video Journey to the West, a man dressed as a monk makes a painfully slow ascent up a flight of stairs. Each step becomes a measure of time. Stairs not only take time, they make it.

Still from Journey to the West (Xi you, Ming-liang Tsai, France/Taiwan 2014)

Still from Journey to the West (Xi you, Ming-liang Tsai, France/Taiwan 2014)

Or consider this shot from Nagisa Oshima’s 1968 film Death by Hanging. The image is extremely powerful: a young man sentenced to hang sits atop a set of stairs, totally enframed by a noose.

Still from Death by Hanging (K?shikei, Nagisa Ôshima, Japan 1968)

Still from Death by Hanging (K?shikei, Nagisa Ôshima, Japan 1968)

In this instance, stairs do not measure a concrete span of time so much as they represent the inevitability of death. Stairs are the very fatedness of an ending.

Of course, I could go on. Each frame from this montage of one hundred images represents a unique instance of “stair-ness” from film history. Each testifies to the diversity and importance of stairs as a subject of cinema, and the affinity that these two media have for one another. But from my perspective, ultimate meaning here lies in the many rather than any single instance. In other words, what finally defines the experience of this display lies in the curious relationships and dialogues that occur between its images. I should point out that we decided to arrange each of these one hundred images in chronological order. This seemed like the best course of action, in large part because we wished not to freeze these images within the frame of a given curatorial commentary. But even without much interpretive intervention on our part, when placed together these one hundred images came alive.

Detail of “100 Stairs from the History of Cinema,” a montage of frame grabs on display as part of the George Eastman House’s exhibition entitled Peter Greenaway—The Stairs: Geneva, the Location.

Detail of “100 Stairs from the History of Cinema,” a montage of frame grabs on display as part of the George Eastman House’s exhibition entitled Peter Greenaway—The Stairs: Geneva, the Location.

Still, we had some room to play. This is because many of the films contained in our list were released during the same year. In some cases, as many as six films shared a year of release, which meant that within a sequence of six or so images we could experiment with various configurations. This allowed us to reveal intriguing formal affinities amongst images, such as the relation between the stills from The Godfather and Rocky below.

Detail of “100 Stairs from the History of Cinema,” a montage of frame grabs on display as part of the George Eastman House’s exhibition entitled Peter Greenaway—The Stairs: Geneva, the Location.

Detail of “100 Stairs from the History of Cinema,” a montage of frame grabs on display as part of the George Eastman House’s exhibition entitled Peter Greenaway—The Stairs: Geneva, the Location.

These images are strikingly similar, but are inverted in a number of important ways. Both men have ascended a set of stairs, their arms now raised up above their heads. And yet, one man is frozen in a moment of triumph, while the other twists into a death pose. One body is heroic and lively, while the other is moribund. There is perhaps no better example than this to sum up my own conception of montage: clash through similarity.

I hope that you take the opportunity to visit our exhibition during its final month to experience Greenaway’s singular vision. While you’re there, I invite you to spend some time with our display of one hundred stairs to notice some of these relationships, and to discover some of your own.

Comments Off for now

In the Garden Photo-A-Week: The Challenge Continues

Posted by on Jul 08 2015 | contest, Exhibitions, Other, Photography

Each week on Instagram, we’ve been exploring a different theme related to gardens and how humans cultivate the landscape – all inspired by our current exhibition In the Garden. Many followers have tackled the challenge and shared images related to the weekly themes using the hashtags #eastmanhouse and #inthegarden. Here are some highlights from each week so far:

Week 1 (May 4) | Public gardens

A photo posted by Emily Naff (@enaff) on

 

Week 2 (May 11) | Favorite flower

 

Week 3 (May 18) | Human impact on the land

A photo posted by Romy Hosford (@photo_romy) on

 

Week 4 (May 25) | Favorite person in a garden

A photo posted by kayramming (@kayramming) on

 

Week 5 (June 1) | Sunrise/Sunset in a garden

A photo posted by Pete and Billy (@petebilly) on

 

Week 6 (June 8) | Hedgerow

 

Week 7 (June 15) | Bridge in a garden

A photo posted by kimmiiesue (@kimmiiesue) on

 

Week 8 (June 22) | Garden picnic

A photo posted by kayramming (@kayramming) on

 

Week 9 (June 29) | Farm/Cultivated landscape

 

Week 10 (July 6) | Animals in the garden

There’s still plenty of time to join the fun and challenge yourself. Check out the remaining themes-of-the-week below and follow us on Instagram: @eastmanhouse.
Week 10 (July 6) | Animals in the garden
Week 11 (July 13) | Working in a garden
Week 12 (July 20) | Food from a garden
Week 13 (July 27) | Black & white flower/plant
Week 14 (August 3) | Interesting angle
Week 15 (August 10) | Water in a garden
Week 16 (August 17) | Playing in a garden
Week 17 (August 24) | Leaf
Week 18 (August 31) | Garden symmetry
BONUS | George Eastman’s gardens

Comments Off for now

An Interview with Artist Aura Satz

Posted by on Mar 17 2015 | Exhibitions, Motion Pictures

On display at George Eastman House through April 26, 2015, the installation Eyelids Leaking Light features two recent works by the London-based artist Aura Satz. Featuring close-ups of eyes from early experiments in color printing, Chromatic Aberration (2014) uses film elements from George Eastman House to explore the aesthetics of “color fringing.” Doorway for Natalie Kalmus (2013) is an audiovisual work that transforms a Bell & Howell lamphouse used for color grading into a grotto of prismatic lights and clanking doorways. The work pays homage to Technicolor’s color consultant Natalie Kalmus, whose name appears in the credits of hundreds of color films including The Wizard of Oz (1939), Gone With the Wind (1939), and The Red Shoes (1948). Satz has created works that engage with a wide range of technologies throughout the twentieth century, but the two works currently on display at Eastman House highlight her investment in questions surrounding early color film technology.

Satz’s work cuts across film, sound, performance, and sculpture. Her art focuses on the complex intersections between the history, technology, and aesthetics of media, while exploring the ways in which they inform human perception and agency. Satz is also interested in bringing to the fore key female figures that are largely excluded from mainstream historical discourse in an ongoing engagement with the question of women’s contributions to labor, technology and scientific knowledge. Often involving extensive research, consultation and collaboration, her work is informed by the histories of media and the ways in which these technologies overlap. Satz has performed, exhibited and screened her work nationally and internationally at the Tate Modern, Tate Britain, Barbican Centre, ICA, BFI Southbank, Whitechapel Gallery, Oberhausen Short Film Festival, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Paradise Row gallery, and the New York Film Festival.

Ryan Conrath, one of the curators of Eyelids Leaking Light, recently spoke with Dr. Satz about her work.

Install shot of Doorway for Natalie Kalmus at George Eastman House

Install shot of Doorway for Natalie Kalmus at George Eastman House

Ryan Conrath: How did you become interested in color?

Aura Satz: My interest in color followed on from a body of works I made about sound and sound technologies. I have always been fascinated by the inherent vibratory and unsettling qualities of sound that make it unwieldy to write or encode. There is a sense of approximation or loss of authenticity, an inevitable interference of noise and distortion. Looking closely at color made me realize how inherently unstable it is. Colors will inexorably fade, dissolve, and degrade, which makes it impossible to fully systematize or standardize. Color is highly unreliable and subjective on the level of perception; it is difficult to translate effectively into language or describe with any precision. Color has often been accused of being distracting, disruptive, garish, child-like or feminine. In working with forms of notation, transcription and reproduction, I am drawn to those points at which sound or color reveal an intrinsic resistance to codification.

I am also very much committed to revisiting the undervalued (and mostly underpaid) contribution of women to the history of labor and technology. It was through this research that I came across the women who hand-colored and hand-stenciled early color films at the turn of the century. This in turn led me to explore the history of Natalie Kalmus. She was the color consultant for Technicolor (and wife of Technicolor inventor Herbert Kalmus), and worked on most of the classic films we associate with hyper-saturated Technicolor. She also wrote about composing color scores for narrative films, much like a piece of music. Sadly, none of her scores survive, but this concept of a “color score” really appealed to me. Intriguingly, the Bell & Howell color-correction machine used punched paper tape to encode the color sequence, much like the perforated paper familiar from pianolas or the punched cards of early computers. I have made works featuring both of these and found the idea of color data stored in punched tape highly resonant with a musical score, and tangentially connected to earlier inventions such as Rimington or Wilfred’s Color Organs.

 

RC: You are deeply invested in so many of these complex questions around the history and technology of film, in an almost scientific way at times. At the same time, ambiguity and indeterminacy lie at the heart of your work. How do you make room for both of these impulses as you proceed with a given project?

AS: I am really interested in exploring modes of sustained attention, of close looking and listening. This is clearly echoed in the scientific methods for examining and studying the world. Several of my films employ the microscope or magnifying lens in order to facilitate a more intense, at times almost disorienting tactile experience. This allows viewers to see something from a different and unexpected angle. Some of my projects make reference to historical subjects who worked in this way, such as the women hand-painting each individual film frame, or in Her Luminous Distance, a project I made about women astronomers studying small differences of star patterns on near identical photographic plates. At the same time, I want to facilitate such a mode of perception in the viewer by offering an  almost trance-like experience through the act of close attentive looking. By looking in this way, one begins to discern visual and aural patterns, like an underlying code. My works encourage a reading that is still uncertain of its intended purpose, a visual or auditory meandering. As I mentioned earlier, I am attracted to those subjects which allow me to reveal a certain resistance to codification. I like to de-familiarize the sense of scale, of agency, or of structural stability. In Doorway for Natalie Kalmus the valves or doorways which control the amount of color become hinges which do not commit to a topographic inside or an outside. The camera is continually shifting position, hovering, not quite at an exit or an entry point. Likewise in Chromatic Aberration the close-ups of eyes in early color film experiments are both from behind the camera lens and in front of the screen, inside the perceptual body and outside of it. I was inspired by a scene in Powell and Pressburger’s 1946 film A Matter of Life and Death (US: Stairway to Heaven), where the transition from the reality of color to the black and white of the afterworld is conveyed from the viewpoint of David Niven’s eyelid, from inside the body, behind the eyes. Technology is clearly a tool for extending and projecting outwards, but it also collapses or folds back into the body, blurring boundaries in the object/subject relationship. So to answer your question, I am interested in a scientific approach to uncertainty and indeterminacy, without necessarily aiming for resolution.

Install shot of Doorway for Natalie Kalmus at George Eastman House

Install shot of Doorway for Natalie Kalmus at George Eastman House

RC: Along similar lines, can you talk a bit about your approach toward archival materials?  I am particularly interested in this because so much of the archive is about notation, accounting, and categorizing.

AS: In my research processes I delve into history, but I like to think of my work as dialogic, whether I am in conversation with the past, encountering a material relic or artifact, or in dialogue with contemporary collaborators, musicians, historians, archivists, etc. To me these past moments in history, the technological or archival objects I investigate, or the people I approach as collaborators or consultants, are all elements which speak back to me.  So I suppose I see my work as attending to modes of storing, archiving, inscribing, and bringing these elements into speech, both in terms of my subject matter, but also in my conceptual framework. My films about sound reproduction devices are very much about these language containers which preserve the voice and then play it back, as well as the slippages, distortions, glitches and interferences that are integral to this process. For example, my project about Daphne Oram and her invention of a graphic sound machine centers on a notation system that translates writing directly into sound or music. The film is simultaneously about her notation system, her musical output, her writing, her invention, and her voice, as much as it is about the conversation I am having with her in the past, through her work, and how I am to certain degree spoken through by her.

My interest in working with the early color film experiments at George Eastman House came from a fascination with technologies at patent stage, that are not quite successful yet, which still reveal a hesitant experimental quality. I consulted the archivist James Layton in trying to identify which early technologies might allow for more color fringing effects, and came up with the Two-Color Kodachrome process, in particular the test shots done in 1922, which were not at the service of a cinematic narrative. The purpose of these was most likely just to try out how effective the color film might be in conveying skin tone, which also brings to mind later calibration reel leaders known in film labs as China Girl (a few frames of an anonymous woman accompanied by color bars), but also Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests.

I wanted to try and rewind to the moment when people had not yet seen themselves in color film, and to evoke the de-familiarizing experience of seeing oneself reflected in color, perhaps distorted, abstracted, and therefore open to a more surreal and dream-like inner vision. I was keen to use the archival reels in a way that highlighted the materiality of the film strip, so that through magnification you would start to see what happens on the surface of the print, such as the fringing effects of misaligned colors. In doing so, one can become lost in haptic qualities of the film grain. I was equally keen to make the film lab technologies that I was using to handle this reel speak back through the footage, so the contact printer blinks back at the footage of the eyes. The process of handling the archival footage feeds into the rhythm of the film, providing an acoustic rhythmic pulse and an editorial pacing which is not quite animation but somehow disrupts the framerate, from a slow stroboscopic flash to a flickering eye blinking, much like the flutter of an insect trapped in a peep hole.

Still From Chromatic Aberration

Still From Chromatic Aberration

RC: What role do you think experimental cinema has played in suggesting alternative directions for color in film? What other artists/filmmakers have you drawn inspiration from in this sense?

AS: As I said earlier, what draws me to use color is the impossibility of truly fixing it, and the potential of creating a perceptual experience that somehow exposes this. The doorways or peep-holes onto color in the two films at George Eastman House highlight the impossibility of preventing one color from bleeding into the next, either in the actual print, through a doorway crack, in the editorial pacing which on occasions rises to a flicker, or in the afterimages that are created through accelerated chromatic juxtaposition. These color fields become an unstable environment that draws the viewer in and washes them over. Rather than systematically structuring or fixing color it revels in color’s ability for dissolution.

There are so many fascinating and completely unexpected crossovers between more experimental practices and the more mainstream film industry. For Doorway for Natalie Kalmus I was inspired by the history of Technicolor, but also by the horror films of Dario Argento, and most crucially, the experimental filmmaker Paul Sharits. I am really drawn to his work with flicker and color after-images (such as Shutter Interface), but his color scores are especially astounding. They are scores and notations for films, as well as artworks using the actual filmstrips themselves, which he termed Frozen Film Frames. These are closely aligned with color organs and some of the scores made by Alexander Wallace Rimington, or the ones I imagine Natalie Kalmus might have made for films such as The Wizard of Oz or Gone with the Wind. For Chromatic Aberration I had several points of inspiration: Powell and Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death mentioned before, but also Peeping Tom and the importance of image seen through the camera lens, including the grid. I was also inspired by Marie Ellen Bute’s films, and Stan Brakhage’s Mothlight. To me these unusual crossovers between mainstream and avant-garde or experimental practices are of interest precisely because, again, it is about disrupting boundaries, examining what is usually overlooked, and finding improbable anachronistic connections in order to dismantle hierarchies.

 

Chromatic Aberration – Artist Interview from Northern Stars on Vimeo.

 

George Eastman House is excited to welcome Dr. Satz to Rochester on April 16, 2015. At 6 p.m. that day, she will deliver a talk at the Dryden Theatre. To supplement the show at Eastman House, Satz will also present a screening of several of her other works at the University of Rochester, in the Gowen Room (Wilson Commons). For details on the on-campus event, please contact Ryan Conrath (rconrath@geh.org).

 

Comments Off for now

Kodak Camera at 125: Eastman’s First Film Patent

Posted by on Oct 14 2014 | Exhibitions, George Eastman, Other, Technology

On October 14, 1884, George Eastman received his first “film” patent (#306,594) for Negative Paper. While this was a paper film (not very related to the transparent product most people think of today) and not very successful, it eventually lead to improved versions incorporated into the first Kodak camera introduced in 1888 – a milestone in the history of photography.

US306594-0

Over the years, Eastman acquired many patents related to both film manufacturing and film and the apparatus to use them including #317,050 dated May 5, 1885 for the Eastman Walker roll holder and more importantly #388,850 patented Sept 5, 1888 for the Kodak.

1888-Kodak-camera-ad

Our current exhibition Kodak Camera at 125 showcases the new system of photography that Eastman introduced to the world with the Kodak camera in 1888 and the innovative parts used to build the device. We encourage you to visit to see objects from our collection that show the evolution of his cameras and the snapshots each has captured.

1 comment for now

Next »