On Friday, the Spool Contemporary Art Space in Johnson City welcomed Binghamton University students enrolled in Cinema 360: Expanded Cinema as they presented their final projects at an event titled “Shadows in the Parlor.”
The event was split into four cinema performances that were created in real time using props, noisemakers and projectors. Each performance was inspired by a historic invention created by one of four local companies: the Bundy Manufacturing Company, the Link Piano and Organ Company, the Automatic Musical Company and Ansco Lofts. Students approached the task of creating art based on inventions such as the Bundy time clock and player piano by using obsolete technology, primitive sound design and, because the art was developed live, a raw aesthetic.
The first performance combined imagery from dual projectors facing the front wall. One projector had paper-cut silhouettes projected on the front wall while the other showed a glass bowl filled with water, which created an aquatic backdrop when placed over the silhouettes. The second performance took a more machine-centric theme, with silhouettes of two gears spinning with the noise of a cranking fishing pole meant to complement the visual aspects. Following a brief intermission, the third performance redefined the confines of the visual plane established by the first two performances. Instead of starting at the center, dual projectors focused on blue wavering lights that swirled around the screen before slowly melding into one image. The sound of a half-full water bottle turning up and down gave the performance an aquatic feel. The concluding performance featured train-inspired imagery alongside propulsive pacing created by the sound of shaking coins.
Kurt Majka, a senior majoring in film, said the performance was reflective of BU’s focus on experimental film in addition to more conventional narrative styles.
“For the majority of people, films are a way to tell stories, but the cinema department at BU is focused on the more artistic aspect,” he said. “[Other colleges] might focus on the more Hollywood style whereas we’re more focused on the old-fashioned independent cinema style, performance stuff like this.”
Majka also said his experience as a spectator was defined by the unpredictability of the performances.
“It’s a film that you’re performing live,” Majka said. “Normally when you make a movie or a show, it’s already pre-edited and composed on a computer … But this is all assembled from difference pieces — the audio is made as we’re listening to it, the moving images are moved from people’s hands, so there’s a randomness to the performance that you wouldn’t get from an actual film.”
Brittaney Skavla, a junior majoring in film, said the element of surprise added something unique to the performances.
“You never really know what’ll happen next,” Skavla said. “Things can change since it’s live — it’s not the same each time so new stuff happens each time that surprises [the performers] and us.”