This is my digital/analog contribution to “Xochimilco Treasure Hunting” in Mexico City on the final day of "HAZLO TU MISMO," Do-it-Yourself Independent Analog Film Laboratory Encounter, Sept. 9, 2018.
HD video, 13 minutes
I filmed two Shanghai artists, Zhuang Yin and Zhao Bo, who took me to their favorite places. Yin chose a small grove of trees – an urban oasis surrounded by building construction. Bo chose a busy street market for plants and pets. With ink on xuan paper I made abstract shapes that I animated and composited into videos from the orchard and market.
HD video, 16 minutes
Ornithology 4 (2015)
ORNITHOLOGY 4 was displayed in 2016 in "Peephole Cinema - Kintoscopic Records," a showcase of contemporary media artists evoking the proto- and early cinema experiences of the peep show. This rendition at Union Docs in Brooklyn was programmed by Dan Streible.
video, silent, 4 minute loop
SICÓMORO is a meditation on travel and home revealed through ornate doors and architectural details in Ciudad Vieja, Montevideo, Uruguay. The text by Carolina Noblega takes the form of a letter to a friend.
Color | Sound | 5 minutes | text by Carolina Noblega
Down the Alley (2011)
Three friends on a Montevideo Art Deco apartment roof, one in a rabbit mask, climb up a tower and fall through the looking glass into a 1950’s themed bowling arcade.
HD | Color | Sound | 8 minutes
Rampla Juniors (2011)
Rampla Juniors Fútbol Club is a local team from el Cerro, Montevideo that has served as the heart of this Uruguayan working class neighborhood since 1914! Neither about the game nor the team, the film instead is a poetic evocation of the ritualized pleasure and dedication of the fans and the spectacular landscape of their time worn stadium.
HD | Color | Sound | 17 minutes
Susie's Ghost (2011)
in collaboration with Ruthie Marantz
SUSIE’S GHOST is about the mystery of the marks we make and leave behind. The “Susie” in the title refers to a sibling but the "ghost" refers more generally to lingering feelings of loss. The cinematography and performance both express a tentative presence and diffuse sense of disappearance. Is she looking for something? Is she really there? We shot with aging 16mm film in my downtown Manhattan neighborhood, just before construction mania obliterated the last traces of the manufacturing district I’d moved into years earlier.
Premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival (official selection)
Katy Martin paints directly on her skin, and uses her whole body to make marks with the paint. Bill Brand frames the action and its trace, in the process, linking painting and cinema. Swan's Island explores gesture in painting, and how it relates to the hand held camera. The film creates abstractions from the glistening blue paint that in turn evoke a seascape or a distant, yet intimate place.
In its choreography, Swan's Island is a duet. The painted figure occupies space, and the camera describes that space. The person filming and the person filmed are moving as one, and yet they are separate, each an island. Seeing and being seen are inextricably bound with emotions of love and loss, longing and a sense of place.
Color | Sound | 5 minutes
SKINSIDE OUT (2002)
by Bill Brand and Katy Martin.
SKINSIDE OUT features paint on skin, carried out in an expressionist mode on both of the filmmakers' bodies. The emphasis is on the pleasure of looking -- at the edge of repulsion -- and the implications of making public an essentially private gesture. The film posits painting as a gendered, bodily act, whose location shifts continually within a context that's always changing. Images filmed in the studio are juxtaposed with footage of a construction barge along the Hudson. By examining both in relation to surface, the work paradoxically looks for what lies within, while questioning who and where we take ourselves to be.
Color | Sound | 10 minutes
• I’m a Pilot Like You (1999)
• Suite (1996-2003)
• My Father’s Leg • Interior Outpost • Double Nephrectomy • Moxibustion • Gazelle
directed and produced by Bill Brand and Ruth Hardinger
I'M A PILOT LIKE YOU was shot July, 1999 inside and outside 20 North Moore Street where John and Carolyn Kennedy lived. Ruth Hardinger, a sculptor, is a 1st floor resident in this building and was unwittingly trapped by the media frenzy and the public attention that unfolded on the sidewalk in front of the building after the Kennedy plane crashed off Martha's Vineyard. Bill Brand, a nearby neighbor and experimental filmmaker, collaborated to make a video that gives a unique view from inside the building, looking back at the spectacle created by the public and the media. It shows what it felt like to be on the other side of the story. Ruth's front steps may be the most photographed 50 feet in TriBeCa’s history and "I'm a Pilot like You" provides an intimate and critical view of what it was like to live through this period of uninvited attention. The film captures the moments in which this neighborhood, prized by the Kennedy's for its sense of anonymity, became as a result of their unhappy deaths, a place of international celebrity.
color | sound | 40 min
** Premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival (official selection) **
SUITE: MY FATHER'S LEG (1997-98)
About Suite: This suite of five short videos addresses personal and family history, in part, dealing with the implications of being the only sibling of five not to have inherited Polycystic Kidney Disease, a genetic disorder that generally leads to kidney failure in middle age. In these works, I explore the body as a site both of beauty and abjection.
My Father's Leg is a self-portrait where I imagine the disease and pain that caused my father's death twenty-five years earlier. Having become older than he at his death, I found, in images of my own body complex feelings of love, guilt, grief and regret.
color | silent | 3 minutes
SUITE: INTERIOR OUTPOST (2003)
Here, my body is explicitly a screen on which I project my father’s photographs of the family to articulate my position of difference within the family experience of illness and death.
Color | Sound | 9 minutes
SUITE: DOUBLE NEPHRECTOMY (1998)
This double portrait cinematically projects my sister's wound onto my own body and psyche. Shortly after she received a living donor kidney from a friend, I filmed the scar that resulted from removing both her damaged organs. This video projects that image of her two-week-old scar onto my own body, visualizing my complex feelings of knowing I have been spared the gene that caused her disease. In the video, I find, on my own body, the scars I imagine we share.
Color | Sound | 4 minutes
SUITE: MOXIBUSTION (1999)
Also a double portrait, this video is an inside-out variation on DOUBLE NEPHRECTOMY. Here, the video uses projected light to penetrate my own body picturing my sister in her trade as an acupuncturist. While she treats me through burning herbs (moxibustion) and acupuncture needling, the video imagines the body as landscape. The contradiction between her commitment to an ancient healing practice and her dependence for survival on modern high technology medicine is an implicit subtext of the video.
DV Video | Color | Sound | 9 minutes
SUITE: GAZELLE (1998)
This is a portrait of my wife, the artist Katy Martin in her studio painting directly on her own body while imagining a wild animal. While not centered on the theme of family disease like the other four videos, this piece does also explore the body as a site of beauty and abjection.
Color | Sound | 3 minutes
HOME LESS HOME (1990)
People who are homeless reveal homelessness from their own experiences dispelling common misconceptions and prejudices. Told as a personal journey, the film gives a broad analysis of the causes and conditions of homelessness while it analyzes news, TV reports and historical images of poverty. This film presents new ways to look at homelessness, displacing the debate from questions of charity to ones of social justice.
Edited and Co-written by Joanna Kiernan Cinematography by Zoe Beloff and Bill Brand
"Bill Brand's remarkable documentary probes the lifestyles of the homeless population of our city and reveals perhaps the most frightening news of all. Many of those we see outside in cardboard boxes or sleeping bags are not drunks, addicts or lazy, but workers who simply don't earn enough to rent a room in New York." -- The Film Society of Lincoln Center
"The testimony of many homeless people would have been a sufficiently urgent basis for any documentary film on this subject. But Mr. Brand goes further, offering a disquisition on the connection between the condition of the homeless and the consequences of studying it as a series of images" -- Janet Maslin, The New York Times
** Blue Ribbon, American Film and Video Festival ** ** New Directors/ New Films Festival, Museum of Modern Art, NYC ** ** Berlin Film Festival Forum of New Cinema ** ** Rotterdam International Film Festival **
West Virginia industrial landscapes are collaged on an optical printer through a series of jagged shapes that transform the photographed scenes into a semi-abstract kinetic field. The technique developed by Brand in his earlier films, extends the already complex visual idiom by inlaying social, sexual, personal and political subject matter. Woven into the fabric of the film is the story of Fred Carter, a retired coal miner and black lung activist who was framed by the Federal Government in its effort to undercut the black lung movement and to stop his bid for president of the United Mine Workers Association. His story is told through fragments of documentary interviews and by a poet whose narrative forms a counter theme within the film. The film’s thematic content and formal visualizations sit in precarious balance.
Poetic text by Kimiko Hahn Sound composition by Earl Howard
Color | Sound | 39 minutes
TRACY'S FAMILY FOLK FESTIVAL (1983)
This is an impressionistic portrayal of the 1982 folk festival at Tracy and Eloise Schwarz’s farm in Central Pennsylvania. The festival, dedicated that year to the legendary Elizabeth Cotton, includes Bluegrass, Old Timey, Cajun, Country, and Gospel music. In contrast to the easygoing atmosphere of the festival, the film is a frenetic swirl of elaborately collaged shapes derived from traditional Pennsylvania Dutch designs. While sometimes the music seems to animate the image, at others the image itself becomes visual music on its own, eliciting ephemeral and sometimes forlorn emotions. The film offers an unusual meeting of a folk tradition and the avant garde, implying a fundamental connection between the two.
Color | Sound | 10 minutes
CHUCK'S WILL'S WIDOW (1982)
Chuck's Will's Widow is a eulogy for my father and mother whose ashes are spread in the Adirondack mountain woods where the film is shot. Visualized through a field of swirling shapes, the fragmented landscapes weave an emotional fabric containing inexplicable personifications and associations.
“The projected rectangle is seldom as energized as in the 13 minutes of Chuck’s Will’s Widow, a film by Bill Brand. This movie pulverizes space. Brand uses a jagged, free-form traveling matte to combine two separate images in a constantly shuffling jigsaw pattern. The overall field resembles a flock of origami birds, a moving linoleum floor, or maybe a Dubuffet mosaic. The scenes Brand combines are all bucolic – rolling hills, an apple orchard, a country road – but the effect is hardly tranquil. The seemingly random motion of the interpenetrated planes – as dizzying to decode as a Cubist still life and flashing as fast as a disco stobe – provides an exhilarating experience of cinema as pure kinesis.” - J. Hoberman, Voice, June 19, 1984
Color | Silent | 13 minutes
• Split Decision (1979)
• Works in the Field (1978)
• Texas Farm Workers March For Human Rights (1977)
• The Trail to Koskimo: His First Hunt (1976)
• Cartoons (1974-75) • Before the Fact • An Angry Dog • It Dawn Down • The Central Finger • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin • New York State Primaries • Still at Work
• Acts of Light • Rate of Change (1972) • Angular Momentum (1973) • Circles of Confusion (1974)
This film is a scrambled narrative that illustrates, in soap opera fashion, life of artists in Lower Manhattan and at the same time dramatizes questions about the nature of filmic representation. Split decision is a boxing term used when the judges divide their votes in finding a winner. In this case the fight is between the two heroes of the film who are seen intermittently in a bar, negotiating a pick-up, and at home, breaking up in a domestic quarrel. The fight is also in the telling, between modes of conventional representation and modes of radical representation - between conventional continuity editing, and abstraction created through computer generated grids. The film features an appearance by Carolee Schneemann and digital imaging from before the era of personal computers.
16mm | color | sound | 15 min
“The fact that the film embraces narrative shows how far Brand has come since emerging in the early ‘70’s as a virtuoso of American structural cinema. ‘Split Decision’ may go down in history as the first-ever topological melodrama, combining a witty scenario on conversational ambivalence with a frenzy of visual ambivalence, produced by fragmentation of the image into a kind of spatio-temporal mosaic.” - Time Out, London, July 13-19, 1979
WORKS IN THE FIELD (1978)
Mountain landscapes, Manhattan cityscapes and images from magazine covers and television news are fragmented through optical printing with computer generated mattes. Intercut with a found documentary about family life in Malaysia, the film becomes an essay on reading. Watching the film is like an accelerated game of Concentration with glimpses of the image appearing inside swirling grids. The juxtaposition of the gridded sequences to the conventionally assembled Malaysian footage formulates an inquiry into the nature and meaning of the "document" in cinema.
Color | Silent | 40 minutes
TEXAS FARM WORKERS MARCH FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (1977)
This is an agit-prop film made for the Texas Farm Workers Union at the conclusion of their cross-country march to repeal parts of the Taft-Hartley labor law.
16mm | color | silent | 7 min
THE TRAIL TO KOSKIMO: HIST FIRST HUNT (1976)
This film chronicles an artistic and personal quest through an assortment of in-camera and optical printing experiments. Shutter effects and swarming dots fragment the filmic surface so the picture oscillates between abstraction and recognition. The soundtrack quotes excerpts from anthropologist Franz Boas’ 1930 text about a Kwakiutl Indian shaman. The story serves as a metaphor for the struggle of the artist practicing a new visual language. In the Boas text, a man relates his learning the ways of a shaman. Doubting the magic in shamanistic practice, he strives to understand traditional methods in order to discover the truth. Though he learns the secrets of his teachers and finds only tricks, he nonetheless becomes a powerful and famous shaman himself. This film is about the desire to master the magic of the image while following a path of doubt and skepticism.
Color | Sound | 34 minutes
CARTOONS: BEFORE THE FACT (1974)
Made at S.U.N.Y. at Binghamton as a class exercise, filmmaker Saul Levine performs with students who each try to mimic his previously recorded phrase and then try to imitate each other imitating the recording.
From "Cartoons" (1974-75)
Cartoons is series of short playful films that pose riddles or jokes about Structural Film concepts in avant-garde film.
b&w | Sound | 6 minutes
CARTOONS: AN ANGRY DOG (1974)
AN ANGRY DOG is a hand-held animation made from a Cracker Jack toy.
16mm | color | silent | 5 1/2 min
CARTOONS: IT DAWN DOWN (1974)
In IT DAWN DOWN an ordinary take-up reel spins to make colorful and delicate patterns even though the film is black and white.
16mm | b/w | silent | 5 1/2 min
CARTOONS: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN (1974)
Flickering flames viewed through air vents of a wood burning pot belly stove resemble the shutter of a film projector.
CARTOONS: THE CENTRAL FINGER
THE CENTRAL FINGER creates a perspectival puzzle with the hand of a mannequin.
16mm | color | silent | 5 1/2 min
CARTOONS: NEW YORK STATE PRIMARIES
NEW YORK STATE PRIMARIES shows stenciled lettering that dissolve between the words, “red,” “blue,” and “green” but don’t create secondary colors. The film is a response to Saul Levine’s 1972 NOTE: CHICAGO REDS AND BLUES.
16mm | Color | Silent | 5 1/2 min
CARTOONS: STILL AT WORK
STILL AT WORK, a self-portrait of the artist in his studio, takes a still photograph and animates it through a grid of random dots.
16mm | Color | Silent | 4 minutes
ACTS OF LIGHT - PART 2: ANGULAR MOMENTUM (1973)
Here, by contrast [to Rate of Change], the film is richly sensuous. Again nearly continuous color changes rotate around a spectrum, but this time at varying speeds of rotation and degrees of intensity. The colors on the left start nearly white and rotate very slowly. As the film progresses the color value become darker and the speed of rotation increases until, by the end, the color is nearly black and rotates around the spectrum about once per second. On the right, the opposite occurs. It starts black and progresses nearly to white. The varying rates of rotation determine the moment combination of colors.
The film has an improvised electronic soundtrack by Richard Teitelbaum.
Color | Sound | 20 minutes
ACTS OF LIGHT - PART 1: RATE OF CHANGE (1972)
ACTS OF LIGHT is a trilogy consisting of RATE OF CHANGE, ANGULAR MOMENTUM, and CIRCLES OF CONFUSION. Together they develop a study of pure color based on the notion that film is essentially change and not motion. The films build one on the other as first pure change, then relational change, and finally, irrational change. They can be seen together or as separate works.
Rate of Change has no original, no frames, only slow continuously shifting colors, cycling around the perimeter of the spectrum. The changes are so slow as to be unseen, yet they alter perception of the color.
Color | Silent | 18 minutes
ACTS OF LIGHT - PART 3: CIRCLES OF CONFUSION (1974)
In this film, circles of colored light (red, green, blue) pulsate and flicker as they move around the frame. Where they intersect, they display a variety of secondary colors. The term, circles of confusion belongs to the physics of the lenses. Here it has to do with the focus of light. Here it refers to the focus of mental and emotional energies as an irrational system for composing a film.
16mm | Color | Sound | 15 minutes
Demolition of a Wall (1973)
DEMOLITION OF A WALL takes six frames of the falling wall from the 1896 Lumiere film and shows reorders these six frames in all their permutations. With a score for piano that follows a similar pattern the film resembles change ringing, a musical form developed in England in the 17th century where the tuned bells of a church tower are rung in a series of mathematical patterns called "changes". In the original Lumiere film, we see Lumiere himself directing workers demolish the wall while a mysterious man in the background watches. In its first commercial screening, Lumiere showed the film forward and backward. Here, we see 718 additional variations on the theme.
16mm | b/w | sound | 30 min
TOUCH TONE PHONE FILM (1973)
TOUCH TONE PHONE FILM scrambles the system by which film represents time and motion. In the film, a phone rings and a woman gets up to answer it. Although the event is recorded on film, we only see it as a sliding strip.
b/w | sound | 8 minutes
An old tree sits on a mound in an Ohio farm field. The filming of the tree and the metrical editing of the film is organized around the tree's natural elements: water, earth, root ends, roots, trunk, limbs, branches, leaves and sun.
b/w | Sound | 8 minutes
A simple home movie of a cat is reprocessed through a 'Zip-a-tone' dot pattern making a complex of layers. In combination with freeze frames, positive and negative, and color motion, this work attempts to visually construct a system of overlays like those in Baroque musical composition.
Color | Silent | 8 minutes
A view of a gas station is seen from inside, behind a multi-paneled tire ad display. In a 2 1/2 minute sequence, a simple series of ordinary gas station events is seen intermittently through the opening display. This sequence is then divided and rearranged 7 times in reverse order. Each time the divisions are greater in number (smaller in size) until finally the film appears to move smoothly backwards, divided by a single frame. The inspiration for the film as well as the title is derived from information theory where a 'moment' is defined as the shortest duration at which no distinction can be made between units of information. This work is a demonstration and exploration of the line between human information and machine information. It dynamically reveals film's basic unit, the frame.
b/w | Sound | 25 minutes
ALWAYS OPEN / NEVER CLOSED (1971)
A woman wakes up, gets dressed, makes breakfast and walks down the street. This daily ritual becomes extraordinary seen in a trance-like structure of continuous lap dissolves and continuous spectral color shifts.
A claymation and abstract object animation consisting of organic shapes and crocheted afghan squares synchronized to an original guitar duet by classmates Ray Goldstein and Nick Katzman. This is Bill Brand's first 16mm film completed in 1969 while a student at Antioch College.