by JENNIFER PROCTOR (2010/12)
US, 12min, Digital Video, Color, Sound.
It is common practice in fiction movies to refer to previous cinematographic works in order to create a renovated vision, especially after the instauration of postmodernity. But what we commonly know as a remake isn’t so common in the field of avant-garde cinema. A certain hermetic vision of the notion of originality as a pillar of artistic credibility, or an excessive reverence on behalf of the current filmmakers for the history of experimental cinema, might be two of the reasons.
A Movie by Jen Proctor (2010-12), by the American movie director Jennifer Proctor, falls into the category of remakes of experimental films. This twelve-minute video is an updated literal version of the mythical appropriation movie A MOVIE (1959), assembled by the Californian sculptor, visual artist and filmmaker Bruce Conner. This film, one of the masterpieces in the history of found footage, is a hilarious piece made out of production trimmings of cinematographic industry leftovers. Dozens of 16mm celluloid fragments, displaying images taken from movies of diverse origins—news broadcast, documentaries, fiction, educational and industrial films—shape a chaotic panorama emanating fascination, destruction and absurdity. Edited under criteria of subtlety narrative and contemplation, A Movie inaugurates a cinematographic practice that accumulates disparate celluloid pieces under the guideline of a united will. If moving images have been the raw material for 20th-century art –the cinema– and have been consolidated through the main mass media—TV—the horror vacui is their principal form of expression. Bruce Conner’s first film exemplifies to perfection the dichotomy between entertainment and information that emerges from those two audio-visual media. It does so with the intention of inventing a hyperbolic plot made out of complex semantic layers linked to catastrophic, poetic and erotic elements.
Jennifer Proctor’s piece updates Conner’s proposal and corroborates the statement made by the theorist Catherine Russell that “found footage cinema is the aesthetic of the ruins.” If the remains existent in 1959 already indicate the superabundant production of cinematographic objects, the video-graphic remains present in 2012 re-mark this saturation, intensified by the emergence and establishment of digital video systems. The different technology used in the editing of these two works contrasts with the similarity of the chosen scenes. Proctor copies the visual information shown in A MOVIE (1959), looking for new audio-visual materials that would respond to those used by Conner. She does so scene by scene, as a meticulous exercise in systematic mimesis, by means of which an element of contemporaneousness is added to the representation. The final result is a respectful tribute, visualized from multiple angles, which transmits a lucid—and ludic—commentary about audio-visual consumption in western capitalist societies.
If found footage films are self-referential due to the fact that they refer to their own existence as recycled images, an artwork like A Movie by Jen Proctor can be considered the epitome of this axiom. In this way Jennifer Proctor demonstrates that the interests of the “society of the spectacle” are practically the same as they were fifty years ago. The unstoppable technological evolution of the cinema—the consolidation of a digital format of uncertain durability—makes the resultant products refer, more than ever, to the production media that generate their images. As Jay Leyda said, “films beget films.”