In and Out of Time



Her Glacial Speed (2001) is one of her most enigmatic works, woven from threads of found footage, distilled into a 4-minute, lyrically surreal, floral thriller. A series of visual states of suspense unfold as intangibly as in a dream. Heller’s most recent film premiered at the New York Film Festival in 2013: Creme 21 circles around the idea of time, yet short-circuits cosmology, research and pure fantasy, science and fiction. Right from the start heavenly bodies break into dance, yet the black and white rumble in outer space remains silent. The central images of this two and a half minute prologue were derived from an educational film about the phenomenon of light. Heller inserts images of retro-futuristic space travel, a man stomps backwards through mud, and unsettling things start to happen. A shadow flits across a wall, somebody stumbles into a vat of sludge, a soiling takes place. Creme 21 involves a voyage through film history. Early cinema plays out in these first scenes, a kind of silent film slapstick that cannot quite deny its proximity to sadism.

Suddenly the film switches to sound and color, undertaking a leap in time: we hear fragments of music, words and meaning while viewing deep purple vistas. Creme 21 values being in color. The sky is its limit, where stars sparkle and clouds pass. Space and time are intangible. Spoken texts and animated illustrations imagine travelling into the past and voyaging to the distant future. Creme 21 is about nanoseconds and spiral patterns—nothing less than the universe. Heller refutes the indivisibility of time, employing the cinematic apparatus to chop images and sounds into bits, rendering the soft clicks of near one thousand film splices audible, inserting the sounds of a music box, freely associating popular science, nature studies and inexplicable experimental procedures; a host of scientific diagrams and instruments serve only to stress the capriciousness of chance. A toy robot stomps across the screen and animated models of the universe illustrate planetary orbits. A return to silence and the deprivation of color concludes a work that seemingly dissociates the visual from the acoustic—and this is exactly how the film demonstrates the poetic potential of cinematic art.

Analog motion pictures constitute Heller’s sphere of activity. She focuses on the materiality of photochemical film, including emulsive punctures, scratches, and random flashes of light – the beautiful mistakes and idiosyncrasies of her chosen medium. While Last Lost (1996) demonstrates a hypnotic reshuffling of 1940s home entertainment cinema, Astor Place (1997) captures people passing a mirrored storefront, methodically slowed to demonstrate the self-choreography of Manhattan street-life. Elsewhere the filmmaker shifts to a dramatic increase in velocity: Ruby Skin (2005) was made out of sentence shreds and visual tatters excised from a magenta-shifted educational film about creative writing. It resembles a post- Burroughsian cut-up etude, an aleatory poem in poisonous green and ruby red. Creme 21 is related to Ruby Skin, in the consummate grace of its Hellerian sound/image staccato whereby tension and serenity embark on entirely surprising alliances.

14’ | 16 mm - HD | B&N | Stereo

1996

Screening format: 16mm

United States

Last Lost

A hypnotic parable about coming of age in a shifty world of slipping terms, “found” in the optically mesmerized fragments of a home market movie about a chimpanzee’s high adventures at Coney Island. A new story is rendered from the filmic vocabulary of the lighthearted original by moving in on background details, slowing down fleeting actions and shifting the psychology of the frame. Last Lost is a silent film in spirit, trying to speak without words, like some dreams.<br /> (E.H.)

10’ | 16 mm - HD | B&W | Silent

1997

Screening format: 16mm

United States

Astor Place

Passersby at Astor Place in New York City speak silent volumes as they move by the mirrored surface of a diner window. I wanted to capture the unscripted choreography of the street, its dance of gazes and riddle of identities. This film is informed by the work of the Lumière brothers, with an eye to permeating an authority of the static camera and establishing a question as to who is watching whom (E.H.) <br /> This Goffmanesque study of how people perform their identities is an enactment of the urban ballet city theorists have described. (Janine Marchessault)

4’ | 16 mm | B&W | Silent

2001

Screening format: 16mm

United States

Her Glacial Speed

Unwitting constellations of meaning rise to a surface of understanding at a place outside of worldly time. This premise becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. An unexpected interior unfolds, made palpable by a trauma that remains abstract. The world as seen in a teardrop of milk.<br /> (E.H.)

10’ | 16 mm | B&W | Silent

2004

Screening format: 16mm

United States

Behind This Soft Eclipse

I was imagining a collaboration of parallel worlds or a kind of doubled consciousness, a sense of the corporeal and the riddle of absence. The body of the film depends on a spine of interlocking contrasts in the form of negative and positive space, day and night shots, under and above water elements. These are cut on motion and qualities of light that are sometimes gentle and sometimes jarring, to convey the tender labor of hosting a balance. A crossing of paths behind the seen in the wake of one who no longer walks the curve of the world. <br /> (E.H.)

4’ | 16 mm | Color | Stereo

2005

Screening format: 16mm

United States

Ruby Skin

A found footage film that taps into the poetic tradition of the language cut-up, while taking filmic advantage of the 26-frame displacement between sound and image inherent to the optical soundtrack system of 16 mm film. The magenta-shifted fragments of an educational film on “Reaching Your Reader” reveal their chemistry where the splicing tape ripped a “ruby skin” of the emulsion away from the base of the film, leaving a green tear at the edit points. Ruby Skin is a material homage to the disappearing medium and some of its idiosyncrasies. (E.H.) <br /> A jarring rhythmic hiccup is introduced into the original films, impeding our cognitive ability to see through to the image, throwing us back to the filmstrip itself. (Mike Kiscinski)

2’ | 8 mm - 35 mm - blow-up | Color | Silent

1978 - 2010

Formato de proyección: 35mm

Austria - United States

One

The first film I ever made consists of the first roll of film I ever shot, entitled One. I made it for the first film class Keith Sanborn taught, in 1978 at the Department of Media Studies at the University of Buffalo, when he was a graduate student working with Hollis Frampton. I was 17. The assignment was to make a film using one roll of Super 8 film, without moving the camera. The result is a kind of poetic/cinematic one-liner. It is in tune with the structuralist spirit of the day—to my surprise. <br /> (E.H.)

4’ | 8 mm - 35 mm - blow-up | Color | Silent

1982 - 2010

Formato de proyección: 35mm

Austria - United States

Juice

A slow motion blow-up to 35 mm foregrounds the kinetic serendipity of a handhold portrait shot in 1980 and entirely edited in-camera. At the time I explored the groundbreaking portability and technical features of Super 8 to capture the wild intensity of my dog Juice as we played in a down and out neighborhood in Buffalo, New York. In 2009 I treated the film as an objet trouvé—without bettering its formal quirks and lags—documenting the so-called “amateur” nature of the medium and an unselfconscious phase of filmmaking practice. <br /> (E.H.)

5’ | 8mm - 35 mm - blow-up | Color - B&W | Stereo

1981 - 2010

Formato de proyección: 35mm

Austria - United States

Self-Examination Remote Control

A fragile Super 8 self-portrait rediscovered on 35 mm, made by a struggling nineteen year old discontented with the pseudo-Brakhagean spectacle presented by her fellow students at the end of the 1970’s. I shot with remote control and intercut magnetic striped passages of black to record my quandary. The paradoxical predicament of being both subject and object in myself resulted in a film that represents a perhaps obligatory phase of cinematic narcissism in the early work of an aspiring avant-garde filmmaker. <br /> (E.H.)

10’ | 16 mm - HD CAM | Color - B&W | Stereo

2013

Screening format: Standard-definition digital video

Austria - United States

Creme 21

The stars are going haywire. A vision of heavenly bodies in wild disarray recurs in Eve Heller’s Creme 21. Assembled out of found moving images procured from old features and educational movies, Heller’s film begins and ends with a tunnel vision of outer space. From the suspended state of an astronaut we return to earth, fleeting shadows animate rooms, a slime-covered man is raised to his feet. Two eyes open hesitantly; we see how they begin to see. After the silent black and white prologue, sound and color are tuned in. Brief fragments of music and spoken commentary are strung together in the form of a cut-up, accompanied by the soft audio clicks of close to a thousand tape-spliced edit points—a symphony of shattered sentences and synthetic/exotic sound collages.

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