Letters is a series of one minute films that can be shown in any sequence.
Some of the short films can be seen at http://vimeo.com/album/157196 password: fifty
It can be exhibited in several ways: as a screening in a cinema, with or without a live “MC;” as an interactive installation with a custom designed interface; as individual films (e.g. interludes on television); and there are other possibilities too. As an installation or a screening with a live MC, the series is interactive in the dumbest sense – audience members shout out a letter and a short film appears. The idea is that the individual one minute pieces crash against each other in new ways each time they are shown. Each piece can stand alone; shown together, themes and obsessions emerge.
The films are exhibited in LimoHD: a proprietary moving image playback format developed in collaboration with Isaac Dimitrovsky. LimoHD movie files play uncompressed, in full color and high resolution, stored as individual frames on an array of hard drives.
One way to understand Letters is to think of a visit to an art museum. It includes pieces in all the traditional categories: portrait, still life, landscape, narrative, animals, eroticism, self-portrait, with the difference that each is a moving image work, one minute long (to the frame), generating (in the vaguest and broadest sense) a letter of the alphabet. Each time the work is shown it seems to have a different emphasis: from political, to art-historical, to pornographic, to autobiographical. This is because the sequence is always different and, as is well-known, montage determine meaning. At the same time the work questions the dual concepts of personal and social interactivity: what is it to make choices without responsibility, as in the new media, and what is it to be a member of an audience, jointly responsible for what is on screen? That the work raises these questions has become clear in the conversations that it elicits.
One inspiration for Letters is the work of filmmaker Hollis Frampton. His films made in the early 1970s were formative for our understanding of the value and power of the medium beyond its use as a vehicle for conveying narrative. Letters is partly intended as an homage to the work of one of the greatest filmmakers of the 20th century.
Letters also honors the performance tradition associated with independent film — for 50 years filmmakers have traveled with their work, just as 100 years ago filmmakers like the Lumiere Brothers would travel to a town and set up their cinema tent. Letters continues this performative aspect of the independent film tradition by allowing viewers to determine the sequence of the films during the presentation. The byproduct of this process is a significant degree of indeterminacy. It is accepted that the meaning of a moving image work is a function of its overall montage, and for this reason traditionally filmmakers take enormous care with the sequence, the temporal structure, of their work. For Letters I abdicate that responsibility, allowing different meanings to emerge each time it is shown, and it is in this sense that the work is inspired by the ideas of John Cage.
Letters includes sound design by Nick Weiss, music by Cas Weinbren, and guest appearances by Manuel De Landa, Nicole Farmer (as the biblical Judith), Chilean performance art duo nicoykatiushka and big cat movie stars from Hollywood Animals Inc.