Free Radicals: dance experiences in experimental cinema

— programme by Bárbara Janicas

Wednesdays at Galeria Zé dos Bois (Rua da Barroca, 59)
Fridays at ZDB 8 Marvila (Praça David Leandro da Silva, 2)

Ed Emshwiller_Film with three dancers 3

All the sessions of the cycle take place on Wednesdays, at 7pm, at ZDB, and will be repeated on Fridays of the same week, at 10pm, at ZDB 8 Marvila.

This cycle invites you to discover another history of experimental cinema under the sign of dance, through a series of unavoidable and unclassifiable films which, recalling the mysterious formula of the philosopher Jean-François Lyotard, are capable of making you realise that “seeing is a dance”. From the first phenakistoscope showing the successive stages of a dancer’s pirouette, to the chronophotographic decompositions of the famous Pas de deux filmed by Norman McLaren; from the first captures of serpentine dances painted by hand on film, to the miraculous adaptations of post-modern choreographies through multiple exposures and other kaleidoscopic effects conceived by Ed Emshwiller; from Maya Deren’s “choreography for the camera” studies, to Marie Menken’s “somatic camera” improvisations; from Len Lye’s tribal scribble trances recorded on film, to the random configurations of moving luminous forms generated by AI. .. A “dancing impulse” deeply anchored in the conception and perception of the movement of images accompanies the evolution of experimental cinematographic forms over the decades. This dancing impulse, which is not reduced to body postures and academic dance steps, emanates from the creative gestures of various filmmakers and has repercussions in the sensitive experiences that the films themselves propose to viewers, impelling them to dance with their gaze in front of the camera.

In three themed sessions – “Pioneers of cine-dance”, “Black & light dances” and “Bodies and graphics / graphic choreas” – and a session in honour of Ed Emshwiller – an experimental filmmaker and video art pioneer who collaborated with American choreographers Alwin Nikolais and Carolyn Carlson in the 1960s and 1970s, this cycle highlights and confronts several emblematic cine-dances from the history of the genre, with some of the works by “free radicals” that challenge and push the boundaries of the discipline, or even with more recent creations that revisit this cine-choreographic legacy in the light of digital cinema technologies. Stolen from the major film “scratched” on film by the precursor of direct animation Len Lye – who in turn was inspired by the chemical phenomenon of the same name – the expression “free radicals” that gives this programme its title evokes the primitive and impulsive, excessive and even transgressive dimension of dance movement before its codification through academic choreographic figures: in other words, these are works that seek less to sublimate or crystallise choreographic art, than to reconnect with the primordial experience of dance in its state of coreia (from the Greek khoreía) still without spelling (graphê). Conceived as an extension of the filmmakers’ somatic experiences, which are seen as transmissible to viewers through a kind of “kinaesthetic empathy”, the films chosen thus allow us to see how sharing a vocation or a dancing impulse can elucidate the most radical dimensions of the movements of the images, which experimental cinema invites us to experience through our own bodies and gazes.

July 3rd - Pioneers of cine-dance

60-minute session, presented by Bárbara Janicas.

Thèmes et variations 
Germaine Dulac, 1928
16mm, b&w, sil., 9min

A study in choreography for camera
Maya Deren, 1945
16mm, b&w, sil., 3min

Ritual in transfigured time
Maya Deren, 1946
16mm, b&w, sil., 15min

Visual Variations on Noguchi
Marie Menken, 1945
Digital, b&w, sound, 4min

Arabesque for Kenneth Anger
Marie Menken, 1961
Digital, color, sound, 4min

Sara Kathryn Arledge, 1946
Digital, color, sound, 6min

Amy Greenfield, 1973
16mm, b&w, sil., 11min30

Tall Arches
Doris Chase, 1974
16mm, color, sound, 640

Full information here.

July 10th — Black & Light Dances

50min session.

Symphonie diagonale
Viking Eggeling, 1924
Digital, b&w, sil., 3min30

Free Radicals
Len Lye, 1958-79
16mm, b&w, sound (optic), 4min30

The very eye of night
Maya Deren, 1958
16mm, b&w, sound (optic), 15min

Pas de deux
Norman McLaren, 1968
16mm, b&w, sound (optic), 13min20

46 bis
Pascal Baes, 1988
16mm, b&w, sound (optic), 4min

Marie Menken, 1964-66
Digital, color, silent, 6min50

Bruce Conner, 1966
Digital, b&w, sound, 5min

Full information here.

July 17th — Bodies and graphs / Graphic choreas

50min session.

Lichtspiel Opus I
Walter Ruttmann, 1921
Digital, color, sound, 10min

Pat O’Neill, 196
16mm, color, sound (optic), 10min

Rainbow dance
Len Lye, 1936
16mm, color, sound (optic), 5min

Reasons to be glad
Jeff Scher, 1980
16mm, color, sound, 4min

Begone Dull Care
Norman McLaren & Evelyn Lambert, 1949
Digital, color, sound, 7min50

Theodore Ushev, 2012
Digital, color, sound, 3min30

Dancing in the grain
Dominique Willoughby, 2023
Digital, color, sound, 5min

Noé Balthazard, 2023
Digital, color, sound, 5min40

Full information here.

July 24th — Tribute to Ed Emshwiller

60min session.

Dance Chromatic
Ed Emshwiller, 1959
Digital, color, sound, 7min

Ed Emshwiller, 1962
Digital, b&w, sound (optic), 5min

Ed Emshwiller, 1963
Digital, color, sound (optic), 16min

Film with three dancers
Ed Emshwiller, 1970
Digital, color, sound, 21min

Self trio
Ed Emshwiller, 1976
Digital, color, sound, 8min

Full information here.

Bárbara Janicas

Bárbara Janicas is a research associate at the ESTCA laboratory at the Université Paris 8, where she teaches several subjects in the cinema degree programme, and is the author of a thesis entitled Pulsions dansantes du cinéma expérimental sur pellicule (2021). Currently in charge of the experimental cinema collection at Cinédoc Paris Films Coop and a member of the organising team for the Novembre expérimental festival, Bárbara Janicas is also a member of the editorial committee of the magazine Images secondes and the film criticism collective À Pala de Walsh.

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