The Hey Art, What’s Good? gang were kindly invited along to the Tyneside Cinema to check out a film from their Projections programme, which is a new programme of artists moving image. The motivation behind Projections is that these types of project are generally confined only to a gallery space, so with an entire cinema at their disposal why not utilise it to present a wide range of moving image works in a space designed for screening the moving image?
We went to go see an installation called Decompression by Australian/British artist Sally Golding and London-based electronic artist Spatial (aka Matt Spendlove). You’d be hard-pressed to call what we saw a film, but it was most certainly an experience. If you could imagine a hypnotic cross between a club, a light show, and a cinema you’d be mostly right.There was very little onscreen for a majority of the ‘screening’ aside from a sort of visual static, however this shifted part way through (I honestly couldn’t say when because time meant nothing in this space) to show quotes from a book called Expanded Cinema by Gene Youngblood. This book relates very much to Decompression given that it literally explores the concept of expanding what it means to be a cinema. (I managed to find a PDF of the book which you can access here).
A quote that I saw on screen that really stood out to me was “We have a compulsion to be occupied”, and I think this really hits home in the current age of digital and mobile media (if you haven’t read Rosie’s blog post about FEED by Zara Worth then you definitely should). I know I’m guilty of scrolling through Twitter or Instagram for ages simply because I wanted something to look at, and in the space of the cinema this would concern the images we see onscreen. The dramatic car chase, the quick cut action sequence, beautiful landscape and cityscape shots: a lot of the time they’re just visual fillers. And this can of course extend to the entirety of what we go see at the cinema; so many films have little real consequence and simply just aren’t good or engaging, they’re just something to go see. As such, Decompression works as a sort of response to this, a means to experience cinema in an entirely different way and to have the opportunity to see what that means for them. For me, it meant being completely and utterly mesmerised. I was engrossed in the sights and sounds around me, yet at the same time my mind was wandering very far and wide. I loved it.
This leads me to recall a quote I had to write an essay about at university, by philosopher Theodor Adorno: “Every visit to the cinema leaves me, against all my vigilance, stupider and worse” (Minima Moralia: Reflections on a Damaged Life, p.25). What this can boil down to is that when we go to the cinema to watch a film we essentially stop thinking. Where Hannah Arendt posited her ‘two-in-one’ theory, detailing how thinking to the likes of Socrates would be like two people having a conversation, in the cinema one of these voices would be silenced. There are two distinct ways of combating this ideology, however. One could take it at face value, becoming dumb when faced with imagery on the big screen, or one could look a bit deeper, and come to understand how you have the opportunity to become wholly engrossed by something you otherwise wouldn’t. This is exactly how I was during the screening: engrossed. Being so engrossed actually gave me a lot to think about when it was over, so much so I recorded a podcast and wrote this little essay about it!
I hope you enjoyed this little ramble into academia here, this was such a fantastic piece and it is something I would love to look into further.
Don’t forget to check out the next programme of screenings in Projections at Tyneside Cinema.
Expanded Cinema, Gene Youngblood (here)
Minima Moralia: Reflections of a Damaged Life, Theodor Adorno (here)
Stupider and Worse: The Cultural Politics of Stupidity, David Jenemann (here)