The Nervous System places two identical filmprints on two projectors capable of single-frame advance and freeze. The twin prints step through the projectors frame by frame as dictated by the artist-projectionist, caught somewhere between movie and slideshow. They tend to advance slightly out of synchronization, usually with only a single frame difference. Difference makes for movement and uncanny three-dimensional space-illusions when a spinning propeller up front, between the two projectors, interrupts and alternates their cast images. Tiny shifts in the way the two images overlap onscreen create radically different visual effects. The throbbing flicker (avoid viewing if you have a history of epilepsy) is necessary to the creation of "eternalisms", unfrozen slices of time, sustained movements going nowheres unlike anything in life. For instance, without discernable start and stop and repeat-points, a neck may turn... eternally. I enjoy mining existing film, seeing more of what film remembers, what's missed when it clicks by at Normal Speed. Normal Speed is good! It tells us stories and much more but it is inefficient at gleaning more than the surface from the film-ribbon. And there's already so much film. Let's draw some of it out for a deeper look, toy with it, take it into a new light with inventive and expressive projection. Freud would suggest doing so as a way to look into our minds. A dose of formulated craziness can be refreshingly therapeutic (see "Hellzapoppin", 1941). For instance: 2 ½ -D is hard to conceive. Things should either be flat or in depth. Yet the lit rectangle doubly cast by The Nervous System presents us with an impossible mix of the flat -our usual reading of forms reshaping as they slide across the screen, one with the screen, and the deep -here the screen punctured by the point formed by our twin sightlines, blown open, fragmented, its surface seemingly divided among myriad objects reaching forward and back of the actual screen-plane, and something inbetween, with both flat and deep claiming appearances unto their respective realms. Things get twisted, caught in this optical tug-of-war. It's The Nervous System! putting the tangle into rectangle, and leaving it a wreck. "Time/motion study" hardly suggests the exercise in ecstacy this can be. Or that we're touching on the essence of cinema, its original impetus: vivisection of the moment. After a century of cinema industrialized, standardized, economically determined and "rationalized", we need a return to the possibilities of a Cubist cinema (Cubism would've been unthinkable without the revelations of pioneering cinema). KJ "With his nervous system film performances, Jacobs wrings changes out of startled frames and makes the infinitesimal matter. Ontic Antics - the simple shift of a vowel or the advance of a film frame creates a world of difference in definition and character. Basking in that shade of difference Jacobs plumbs the frame with surgical decisiveness and amatory delicacy. Welcome to microtonal cinema. Taking Laurel and Hardy's Berthmarks as point of departure, Jacobs supercedes slapstick, moving into the deeper dimensions of the human comedy - psychological imbroglios, time-space predicaments, the unruliness of uncooperative gravity, the unlimited expressiveness of the limited body hallucinated into Rorschaching deliveries. Laurel and Hardy the perfect imperfect -a symbiotic couple straight out of the end times of Samuel Beckett. Both capricious and aggressive in their steadfastness, their loyalty is ruptured and repaired several times per picture. Physically versatile mechanically underdeveloped and overly ambitious their inept perfectionism steers them toward heaving adversity and infantile grasping. Their bodies are inclined to awkward ballet- mingling and confusing into a roly- poly polymorphous entity where girth meets skin and bones. Ken Jacobs Nervous System is inclined towards magical disorientations where contours dissolve or overlap morphing the animate and the inanimate and letting the melding paradoxes of two dimensional forms rise into an activated and buoyantly volumetric "negative space". The comic duo of Stan and Ollie are the perfect foil for such transformations. Jacobs elicits poignant and suggestive forms from this timeless yet aging celluloid. Latent sexual force foams to the surface giving new adhesions and blur to the compositions and birthing new perceptions." -Mark McElhatten

Filmmaker
Ken Jacobs
Premiere
-
Country
USA
Year
1998
Medium
16mm
Length
80’
Language