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Collage Collisions

  • Recent Films by Martha Colburn (In Person)
  • Friday, October 29, 8 pm
  • @ Cinecycle, 129 Spadina Ave.

Part of Fall 2004

Martha Colburn, the queen of defiled hand-coloured collage animation, makes a triumphant return to Toronto with a selection of some of her most recent films. Since 1994 Colburn has created more than 35 films that are a remarkable blend of pleasure and perversity. Creating dazzling rhythmic visual montages from pop culture ephemera, stylishly intermixed with clips of the grotesque, she transfers a raw, spastic energy onto film that is filled with both irony and humor to create a unique and disturbing cinematic universe. In addition Martha has (de)composed many of the scores with Jason Willett, her partner in the musical duo The Dramatics. Lyrical monster song master Jad Fair is another frequent collaborator, contributing sound effects, lyrics, indigestible nuggets of audio flotsam, punk type music and general inspiration to many of the films.

“The uniqueness of Martha Colburn, to me, is the explosive energy and craft with which she brings up-to-date, and pushes further, the film form of found-image-collage established by Stan Vanderbeek and Dick Preston in the Sixties. She has invented her own techniques and language that permits her to fuse the grotesque images of our popular civilization as produced by our image industries, to make film songs of universal sadness of our times. Bordering on the outrageous, crackling frame energy, Martha Colburn films are naked testimonials of our times, and of her generations.” (Jonas Mekas)

As part of her artist residency at the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto (LIFT) Martha will be sharing some of her expertise in a collage animation Master Class entitled Collage Collisions starting November 3rd. For more details see www.lift.on.ca

Programme:

Lift Off, 3:00 min., 1998

Lift Off was inspired by a radio talk show suggesting that outer space exploration is little more than man’s desire to fertilize. Through super impositions and animation, outer space is inhabited by luscious female astronauts. Pulsating and floating through the darkness, occasionally encountering phallus-like rockets. Set to a wonderfully spacey electronics

song by Jad Fair and Jason Willett.

Secrets of Mexuality, 5:00 min., 2003

A dense and highly detailed film exploring sexuality in the specific realms of Mexican wrestling and kitsch paintings through rapid fire transformations.

I Can’t Keep Up, 3:20 min., 1997

Keep the lid on the turpentine, the cat indoors and your daughter in chains for this flight or stumble into the all-too-familiar problem of trying to keep up. A mash of collage animation, found footage, puppet animation and home movies. Originally super 8.

There’s A Pervert In Our Pool!, 2:30 min., 1998

This film is set to the crooning rants of Baltimore poet Fred Collins. Lots of nasty and funny events take place in a pool of perverts. The perverts include Bill Clinton, Edgar G.Hoover, dogs, penguins, giraffes in bondage and more.It makes use of flat puppet-collage animation.

Skelehellavision, 8:00 min., 2002

This is film exploiting inventive techniques of animation in an attempt to realize the world that may await us after death. Using found pornography as part of the film and literally scratching skeletons over the footage frame-by-frame we see into a lust-filled Hell where the beauty of flesh is no more. Ass-licking bats, seething snakes, dancing lizards, and frightful females are a few of the stars in this movie exploring the over-heated depths of the afterlife. Winner of Best Animated Film, New York Underground Film Festival.

Hey Tiger!, 2:36 min., 1996

A HOT striptease by Baltimore sex pot/paranormal performer “MEDUSA.” With a blinding exhibition of live-action animated antics in the middle of it (during a tone-deaf Stylaphone solo by Martha). Beautiful black and white (originally super 8) film. Set to a super raw strip song by the Dramatics.

Groscher Lansangriff: Big Bug Attack, 2:30 min., 2002

Spies transform themselves into insects crawling in our telephones and our ears.

Evil of Dracula, 1:59 min., 1997

A Hypno-Physycho-Vampiric spazzm of fanged advertisements with money-hungry, blood-thirsty grins. This animated film in FANGTASTIC color is enough to cause a line-up at your local Blood Bank. Made with home-spun special effects of funnel-vision and hand-colored film. With a Blood Draining soundtrack by the legendary Lyrical Monster Song Master Jad Fair and musical madman Jason Willett. Originally super 8.

Cholesterol, 1:11 min., 1996

A regurgitation of fatty foods. A fad dieters dream. The film is set to the equally regurgitated tunes of The Dramatics.

intermission

Cats Amore, 2.30 min., 2002

A film revealing our animal instincts in a hot display of dancing half-human female cats and hungry-for-love dogs. Half naked/ half furry cats bump and grind their hips and transform into human-like manifestations with too much make-up and sexy clothes. Soundtrack is a French version of “I Wanna Be Your Dog” by Jacque Berrocal and friends.

A Little Dutch Thrill/XXX, 5:00 min., Amsterdam 2004

Drunken globalization and a little Dutch thrill from American Master Martha Colburn. Follow the 16th century Dutch as they colonize the world for booze and sex. Cut outs, puppets and engraving on film.

Asthma, 2:23 min., 1995

A pro-smoking film for non-smokers made from an old smoking film and other footage. Hand-colored/cut-up SUPER smoking set to the complaints of a Juvenile about his parental controls, which he delivers in song form. A gasping tune by the Jaunties.

Spiders In Love: An Arachnogasmic Musical, 2:30 min., 1999

This is a very complex animated film of the world of the she-spiders. They dance and dash about with ghoulish and gorgeous expressions of lust and consuming hunger. Indications of death and life abound. Musical soundtrack by Red Balune and Jad Fair and Jason Willett.

A Toetally Solefull Feeture Pedsination, 6:00 min., 1998

A psychotronic exploration of foot worship in the two dimensional world of slack brained puppets. Walk a fast-paced mile on acid with someone else’s feet in your mouth (and mind).

Persecution in Paradise, 6:17 min., 1997

A grotesque and celebratory flat puppet animation escapade. In this treacherous two-dimensional trouble tale, crazed crabs, ferocious female wrestlers and snake pits are but a few of the obstacles faced by two wacky musicians. With an intricately beautiful, captivating, rockin’ and abstract soundtrack by the stars of this film, Jason Willett and Jad Fair. Originally super 8.

Blemishes, 35mm work in progress, 2004

About Martha Colburn

“Her orgiastic collages of found footage and animation pirate the images from the unceasing onslaught of our mass media era and turn them inside out, revealing the perversity we all expect is there…This is no cold, critical polemic. Her films actually take pleasure in perversity.” (The Austin Chronicle)

“Short-burst-spazz-junk Super 8 animation guaranteed to aerate your brain for the free flow of visual play and perverse humor…Quite possibly the world’s wildest and wackiest wunderkind maker.” (Craig Baldwin)

“Like a punk-rock offspring from a glue-sniffing union of Carol Burnett and Bruce Conner, Colburn shows us, through found-footage and a camera that won’t sit still the reality of our sick, seventies heritage … filtering it through layers of color and grime to reveal the uneasiness that accompanies the freewheeling attitudes that make up our current cultural consciousness… Colburn creates noisy portraits of our most simultaneously dreadful and beautiful desires.” (Jeff Lambert)

“The uniqueness of Martha Colburn, to me, is the explosive energy and craft with which she brings up-to-date, and pushes further, the film form of found-image-collage established by Stan Vanderbeek and Dick Preston in the Sixties. She has invented her own techniques and language that permits her to fuse the grotesque images of our popular civilization as produced by our image industries, to make film songs of universal sadness of our times. Bordering on the outrageous, crackling frame energy, Martha Colburn films are naked testimonials of our times, and of her generations.” (Jonas Mekas)

“Her visual spew of punk rock poetry and corrupt collage, rendered in scabrous animation that’s a perfect marriage of Monty Python and Hieronymous Bosch is proof that nobody mixes playfulness and dangerous vision better than a low-tech and virulent underground.” (Patrick Macias, The San Francisco Bay Guardian)

“Martha Colburn is someone very special…[She] has shed a harsh and cleansing radiance on the motivations that propel our intrinsic inspirations. She’s quite a gal.” (George Kuchar)

“Her films are charged with a madness that is not for it’s own sake, but a madness that is highly political, a madness that is there only because it is reflecting (too directly) a society that is, all in all, mad.” (Mudede, Seattle Stranger)

“In an incredible and rare mixture of obsessiveness and craftsmanship Miss Colburn has created dozens of short animated explosions. Each film is knitted together like a quilt made of animal parts, farm machinery, porno, and puppets.” (E. Nordhaus)

“I delight in the mischievous possibilities of collage animation. From Clinton to cavemen, if it’s an inaccessible star or deceased person I desire, no need to contact their agent/mortician, just hit the news stand or library. And let’s face it, Baboon foot jobs and six-armed organists are rarities and decapitation is normally irreversible. PETA would eat me alive if I switched from paper to flesh performers. I find tons of inspiration in poets/musicians. My soundtracks are concrete mixer, juvenile, happy junk-pop and spastic. I work with International musicians and chaos poet 99 Hooker, and “auctioneer on PCP” Fred Collins. I have six records out of my group the Dramatics, (which I’ve made 5,000 hand-made collaged covers for). With my films/music I’ve toured everywhere from El Paso to Venice, refugee camps to the MoMA. When not exploding with my own ideas, I travel to encourage creative combustion in others, promote Super 8 and meet my Celluloid Soul Mates.” (Martha Colburn)

My Secret Shame: Martha Colburn’s Homemade Art-Crimes

Martha Colburn’s films are strange and often disturbing creations that exhibit a manic energy that sets them apart from most experimental film. Colburn works with a wide variety of different animation and appropriation techniques, which often come together in a single film. She has used found footage, text, cel-painting, scratching, squished dead flies, oil painting, transparencies, cut-outs and puppets in her multi-layered, stop-motion collisions that assault both eye and brain. Her figures undergo the rapid metamorphoses that film animation has always excelled at, traditionally known as the medium’s proclivity to “stretch and squash.” Colburn has said “in my films, there are lots of things that seem to happen in animation naturally – things are constantly eaten or chopped up.” 1 It is obvious but worth repeating that animation gives one’s imagination complete freedom, you can create images that you could not in live action. In There’s a Pervert in the Pool!, Bill Clinton, Theda Bara, Tammy Faye Bakker and Gary Coleman are all the eponymous perverts swimming in the mire while in Secrets of Mexuality the same female figure changes from a nun to a hair-hopper to a dog to a ghoul simply by Colburn altering her accessories from one shot to the next. Naked ladies and demons rub up against animal/human hybrids while macho wrestlers grow breasts and lose all control over their bodies. Burlesque mutation is the order of the day.

Like the dissonant noise music and desperate, screeched poetry on the soundtracks that are an integral part of Colburn’s inspiration and of her work (she is heavily involved in experimental music), the films are primal and violent. But because of their handmade, almost childlike do-it-yourself quality, they have an unmistakable innocence and sense of humour that situates the tone somewhere between a little kid pulling down their pants and a dirty joke. The films have a similar feel to them as the comic books by the French collective Le Dernier Cri or the reinterpretation of Goya by the British Chapman brothers in Disasters of War II, both heavily scatological drawing projects. In many ways Colburn’s films have the fluidity of animated drawings, or perhaps more accurately, doodles: they are spontaneous, agile and the shooting process is completely analog (on many different formats) without a lot of planned structure: a continuous stream of vulgar trash that washes over you and leaves a smile of appreciation on your face. This obsessive, persistent spew of abjection – and that great taboo, sexualized violence – screams of apocalyptic crisis but also of messy (liberating?) infantile play.

Just as the imagery is crude, so is her filmmaking process: scratches and flecks of dirt are visible (Colburn stages her atrocities on the floor), lighting is variable and her favorite camera trick is simply to go in and out of focus. The technical aspects of filmmaking are not nearly as important as the rapid-fire interaction of the elements set to music/poetry in front of the camera. Unimaginably dense with carefully constructed compositions, the film’s chaotic energy comes from the thick collage of its references, its several layers of paint, cut-outs and footage, its frenetic and jerky camera movements, and the temporal effect of so many fragmented images and ideas smashing up against each other every second.

In perhaps her most accomplished film to date, Skelehellavision, Colburn’s focus is on skeletons – a recurring theme – but here they act as the shamefully secret x-ray images of porn models – another persistent motif – showing us the grotesque innards and inescapable stink of decay that lie not only behind the sexiest human exteriors but behind seemingly every toxic pop culture artifact that is sugar-coated for our purchasing pleasure. Familiar images are queered and mouldy, Colburn entertaining and challenging us with surprising juxtapositions and fervent aggression, creating new forms of pleasure for each image she steals and transforms. (This is especially true of the older work like Alcohol where she violates educational films found at a government surplus store in Baltimore). In response to an interviewer inquiring whether pop culture imagery is important to her work, Colburn replied, “Yes, because pop culture irritates me and it’s important for me to vent that and to play with it and mutilate it. I’ve had that attitude since I was a kid&lrquo;¦I really hated consumer, commercial culture. I just saw it as a complete waste.” 2 Jack Stevenson has called Colburn’s practice “garage cinema” 3 and there is certainly no better example of an artist whose output is so archetypal of punk and underground cultural production as the intensely prolific, self-taught, adrenaline-fuelled filmmaker who once proclaimed: “Once you know that there’s 24 frames in a second, you can be an animator.” 4 (Jon Davies)

1. “Martha Colburn: Eruptions of Energy.” mm2 Experimental Film in the Netherlands Since 1960. Anna Abrahams, Mariska Graveland, Erwin Van &lrquo;˜t Hart, Peter Van Hoof. 2004, Filmbank / Uitgeverij de Balie. p. 210.

2. ibid.

3. Super-8 Conquers All: The Films and Attitude of Martha Colburn http://hjem.get2net.dk/jack_stevenson/macol.htm

4. Fast, Strange & Out of Control, Martha Colburn interviewed by Lori Surfer http://www.othercinema.com/otherzine/martha3.html

Rear Entry In The Deep End: Cutting Films from DIY Auteur Martha Colburn

In the Elizabethan period, people were far more creative when it came to inflicting torture and death. A favourite method was the red hot iron rod rammed up the anal cavity or did Derek Jarmin just make that up for Edward II? What would it be like to live with a cauterized colon? I believe the answer lies somewhere in one of Martha Colburn’s films. Like a pop culture Dante, her work takes us up and down and all around the fiery rings of a suburban pornographic sewage treatment facility. It is a

loveless underworld of excess and detritus where everyday is Halloween and everyone is a blissed out zombie. Colburn’s scenarios effectively marry the sex and death drives into a jerked up danse macabre. Dancing on fire, cheery two-dimensional mannequins burn from within. They come to orgasm in smoldering fits of untreated syphilis despite being totally impotent; irrupting with spasms of effluent through diseased sphincters. There is nothing ambiguous in Colburn’s work, it is the pathological inversion of the mythological world of health and wealth and well being. Where the meaning and order resplendent of good mental hygiene should reign, decay and death play, and Chaos is king. (Linda Feesey)

Martha in Brief:

“A native of rural Pennsylvania, Colburn moved to Baltimore to attend the Maryland Institute, College of Art. Art school notwithstanding, she says she’s basically a self-taught filmmaker and animator. Films in the Colburn oeuvre are richly textural; each zigzagging pan or abrupt focus reveals some kind of detailed, painterly tableau. She designs and hand-colors most of the materials she shoots, including foot-tall, two-dimensional puppets, which are laid flat on her warehouse’s hardwood floor during the stop-motion animation process. Much of the imagery from Colburn’s films is procured from doctored magazine photos, which she alters by painting on transparency film placed over the picture. The technique, she explains, is a way to “cheat at drawing,” using the image beneath the transparency as a guide. As for her other visual resources, she says, “Some of them are found, and most are created. I take photography, collage, pornography, advertisements and kind of mutate them into my brutal world.” And what a cruel world it is: Come-hither pinup girls are sodomized by jittery lemurs in her 1997 film I Can’t Keep Up; in What’s On?, made the same year, a fist the size of Oprah Winfrey’s head punches one side of the talk-show queen’s noggin (“Any delight I can get out of fucking with the media, I’m happy” Colburn deadpans); a detached foot’s toes are mowed off by a lawn mower in 1998’s A Toetally Solefull Feeture Pedsintation, which Colburn made with foot-fetish magazines […] Colburn readily admits that her art relies heavily on vice, violence, and smut, subjects she says have fascinated her for most of her life.” (“Roll Credits Underground Filmmaker Martha Colburn Takes Off” , Adele Marley, 2000.)

For the past four years, Martha has lived in Amsterdam where she completed a two year residency programme at the Rijksakademie Van Beeldende Kunsten. As part of her current artist residency at the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto (LIFT) Martha will be sharing her expertise in a collage animation Master Class entitled Collage Collisions starting Nov. 3rd. For infomation contact LIFT @ 416-588-6444 www.lift.on.ca

Filmography:

2002 Groscher Lansangriff: Big Bug Attack, animation

2002 Cats Amore, animation

2001 Skelehellavision, animation and hand-colored film

2000 Spider’s In Love, animation and found footage

2000 Drives Ed, found footage

1998 Lift Off, double projection

1998 A Toetally Solefull Feeture Pedsintation, animation

1998 There’s A Pervert In Our Pool!, animation

1997 What’s On?, animation and re-filmed television

1997 Evil Of Dracula, animation

1997 Ode To A Busdriver, animation

1997 I Can’t Keep Up, re-filmed television, home movies and animation

1997 Persecution in Paradise, animation

1996 Cholesterol, re-edited loops

1996 Dog Chow, re-filmed television

1996 Hey Tiger, Pixillation

1996 Uberfall: Pee Poo and Flies, flies and found materials

1996 I’m Gonna, re-edited found footage

1996 My Secret Shame, re-filmed video

1996 Who Knows? Film, home movie and animation

1996 Kiwi and Wally, re-filmed Pixel video

1996 Killer Tunes, marionette animation

1995 Improvisation, live action

1995 Caffine Jam, animation

1995 Caroline Kraabel Solo, live action

1995 Zig Zag, hand-manipulated found footage

1995 Live Frazz, live Pixillation

1995 Asthma, hand-manipulated found footage

1995 Alcohol, re-edited found footage

1994 Feature Presentation, hand-manipulated found footage

1994 First Film In X-Tro, hand-manipulated found footage

1994 Acrophobic Babies, hand-manipulated found footage

Discography:

The Dramatics, CD, Megaphone Records, US

This is International Telecom, 12 inch Vinyle, Lissy’s Label, UK

This Is International Telecom, CD, Megaphone Records, US

Hypnotized Geese, CD, Megaphone Records, US

20,000$, 12 inch Vinyle, Menlo Park Records, US

Garbage For Your Gut, triple 7 inch Vinyle set, Stomach Ache Records, US

Links:

Emerald Reels presents Martha Colburn http://www.emeraldreels.com/martha.htm

Short bio and filmography

The Films of Martha Colburn

http://www.wmm.com/catalog/pages/c572.htm

Description of video compilation, bio, awards, quotes

Baltimore City Paper: Roll Credits – Underground Filmmaker Martha Colburn Takes Off by Adele Marley

http://www.citypaper.com/film/story.asp?id=4616

Interview, article

Super-8 Conquers All: The Films and Attitude of Martha Colburn by Jack Stevenson

http://hjem.get2net.dk/jack_stevenson/macol.htm,

Article

“Fast, Strange & Out of Control, Martha Colburn interviewed by Lori Surfer

http://www.othercinema.com/otherzine/martha3.html

Interview (layout and images by Colburn)

Splice This! 2000 Martha Colburn Programme

http://www.splicethis.com/program_info.php?ID=55

Short descriptions of some films

Canyon Cinema Martha Colburn page

http://www.canyoncinema.com/C/Colburn.html

bio, quotes, some film descriptions

 

Cats Amore

by Martha Colburn

Skellahellavision

by Martha Colburn

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