The Wooden Lightbox: A Secret Art of Seeing

  • A Live Projector Performance by Alex MacKenzie
  • Saturday, October 10, 8pm
  • CineCycle, 129 Spadina Ave.

Part of Fall 2009

A co-presentation with the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto (LIFT)

The Wooden Lightbox is Vancouver-based artist Alex MacKenzie’s new live performance, which makes use of a hand-cranked film projector reassembled and reconfigured from parts from a dozen old projectors. Similarly, the performance itself is a kind of recompilation, projecting images from old ephemeral films optically printed onto handmade and hand-processed emulsions, creating ghostly reminders of moving images past. The Wooden Lightbox is presented as part of LIFT’s year-round Strategies of the Medium series.

“Presented here is the first of an extended cycle of films that use the early development of cinema as a marker for cultural, technological and economic change. These film cycles draw from turn of the century cinematic prototypes and long forgotten ideas surrrounding the moving image and its early promise. At the core of this approach is the use of a homebuilt hand-cranked projector in an expanded cinema format to present a striking array of handmade and processed emulsion. The vast potential of the film frame is drawn out through imagery both archaic and contemporary in shape and form. Hypnosis, panorama, motion studies, expectation, magic, the dreamworld and sleight of eye conspire in this intimate and immersive framework.??The Wooden Lightbox: a secret art of seeing is performed live with a hand-cranked 16mm projector built and assembled from various relic 16mm projector and rewind parts and framed in a wooden box. Ten “chapters” are presented over the course of 4 reels. Film speed is varied manually by cranking more quickly or more slowly, while direction of the action is controlled by winding forward and backward. An average of 8 frames of 16mm can be cranked for every second of time elapsed. Colour gels are used to tone the black and white images while lens and hand interference are used to distort and/or partially obscure the image. Sound consists of a series of tracks shaped for the specific chapters and acting as guides to the progression of the images. TWL is an ongoing work in progress, an assembly of images entirely handprocessed and contact printed, transforming and developing as new materials are added and deleted. Approximate screening time: 45-50 minutes.” A.M.
Sample clip >

“The Wooden Lightbox is about remembering, about throwing ourselves back to a time when audience expectation was open, with the projection of films equally non-rigid. The degraded quality of the images, often created through the alternative emulsions and hand processing of the film, helps to reinforce the notion of lost memories and decaying history. By reviving some of the technical approaches…Alex preserves some of the spirit of that past and shares the adventure of invention with the contemporary audience.”
Gerald Saul, Experimental Film

Alex MacKenzie has been working as a media artist for over 15 years with a focus on various models of expanded cinema and light projection involving the handmade image. He was the founder and curator of the Edison Electric Gallery of Moving Images, the Blinding Light!! Cinema and the Vancouver Underground Film Festival. His live media works are presented at festivals and underground screening spaces throughout Europe and North America — most recently at the Rotterdam International Film Festival, Lightcone in Paris, the WNDX festival in Winnipeg and the Halifax Independent Film Festival. He received a Bachelor of Arts Degree with Honours in the School for Studies in Art and Culture (Film Studies), Carleton University, and has worked with a variety of independent film organizations over the past 15 years including Mainfilm, Pacific Cinematheque, Cineworks, and Doxa. He recently completed residencies at Atelier MTK in Grenobles, France and at Struts Gallery/Faucet Media in New Brunswick. Alex is the co-editor of Damp: Contemporary Vancouver Media Art (Anvil Press 2008), interviewed David Rimmer for Loop, Print, Fade + Flicker: David Rimmer’s Moving Images (Anvil Press 2009) and is currently designing handmade film emulsions and manually-powered projection devices for gallery installation and live performance.