One of the most accomplished experimental filmmakers working today, Bill Morrison finds and redeploys lesser-known and forgotten moments from film history. He is deeply interested in celluloid as a physical, fragile material; the 35mm nitrate film he finds in archives and transfers to video is notorious for its extreme flammability, and tendency to decay. Morrison’s work thus operates between documentary and preservation. Given the predisposition to entropy of his physical sources, Morrison’s films are a demonstration of faith in what is otherwise feared, and certainly doomed to perish.
Cycles & Loops is an installation of abstractions made specifically for gallery presentation. The loops have neither beginning nor end, but rather allow for an open-ended engagement on both an intellectual and an aesthetic level. Though stripped of its original context, each offers a semblance of a narrative—we recognize people happily dancing, a woman awaking from slumber, a group of children gazing through a window in wonderment—and yet the minimal story lines do not lead to any resolution, just repeating again and again. These cinematic relics create poetic abstractions in the gallery space. The wavering, ephemeral fragments ask an existential question: How to preserve what cannot be preserved?
Bill Morrison, Clip from Dawson City: Frozen Time, 2016. 2K video, black and white, color, sound. 120 min. Courtesy of the artist.
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Banner image: Bill Morrison, Still from Blue Dancers (detail). 2K video, black and white, color, sound. Original source material unknown. 35mm film, black and white, 19 sec. (loop). Sourced from the Library of Congress. Courtesy of the artist.