IN RETROGRADE: LAWRENCE JORDAN + JOHN DAVIS (USA)

Nature is made to conspire with spirit to emancipate us. Certain mechanical changes, a small alteration in our local position apprizes us of a dualism. We are strangely affected by seeing the shore from a moving ship, from a balloon, or through the tints of an unusual sky. The least change in our point of view, gives the whole world a pictorial air… Nay, the most wonted objects (make a very slight change in the point of vision), please us most… Turn the eyes upside down, by looking at the landscape through your legs, and how agreeable the picture, though you have seen it any time these twenty years! - Ralph Waldo Emerson

SUMMARY

Extending their collaboration on two of Jordan’s last three films, Jordan and Davis push their exchange into a performance of live animation and music. Jordan manually controls the film image from a 16mm analyst film projector, allowing the rhythmic movement of the film frame forwards and backwards at variable speeds, as well as the ability to freeze single frames for extended durations. Davis employs analogue synthesizers in conversation with the lyrically manipulated film, creating an immersive audio/visual environment as corollary to the celluloid image. The set is largely improvised for both performers, allowing chance to undermine expectations – a dialogue rendered significant through mechanically driven yet spiritually bound light and sound.

CONCEPT

Drawing on the two artists’ interest in chance collaboration and the spiritual synergy of forms, these performances are a rare opportunity for viewers to witness a contemporary musician performing live with an extant pioneer of avant-garde American cinema. Now in his late seventies, Jordan continues to broaden his expression and push boundaries, engaging viewers with a generous spirit of collaboration.

FILM STILLS (16mm COLLAGE ANIMATION FOOTAGE)

SAMPLE AUDIO

ARTIST BIOS

LAWRENCE JORDAN

Known principally as a maverick spirit in the world of avant-garde American cinema, Lawrence Jordan played an important role in the late 1950s and early 1960s San Francisco art scene. Jordan has made over fifty experimental films, including a number of fanciful, filmic animations made from collaged cut outs of Victorian engravings. The animations extend dreamlike imagery of collaged landscape into a cinematic realm of transformation and free form symbolism. Jordan seeks to delve into the deep structures and Jungian connotations of the mythological images his films reference. His alchemical approach to imagery creates what he has called the “theater of the mind, which you construct. That is the Underworld… the realm of the imagination. You have to have a place to work with images.”

Jordan founded the film department of the San Francisco Art institute in 1969 and taught there for over thirty years. He made his own box assemblages in Cornell’s lyrically evocative style since the mid-1960s. Many feature ingenious mechanical and kinetic effects. He continues to make films and box collages at his home and studio in Petaluma where he has lived since 1978.

Interview with Lawrence Jordan c. 2010 with Doniphan Blair for Canyon Cinema

Article by P. Adams Sitney for Artforum, April, 2009

JOHN DAVIS

John works with electro-acoustic music, incorporating field recordings, analogue synthesizer and electric guitar. His music has been released on the Root Strata, Digitalis, Students of Decay and Peasant Magik labels in the US. Most recently as a filmmaker, his 16mm found footage film Mark You Make Believe My Dear, Yes was included in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s Long Play: Bruce Conner and the Singles Collection, and his video Between Subjects was featured as part of a collection of highlights from the past twenty years at the Freewaves Biennial of Experimental Video and Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

John lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area, and studied film under Lawrence Jordan at the San Francisco Art Institute where he received his MFA in 1999.

Right off the bat, I knew I was in for a treat. Slow rolling drones unfurl while high-register synth melodies sparkle and whir until the low-end drops out and Davis’ synths oscillate into the cosmos – all in the first five minutes, though it feels like eons (in a good way).  - Curran Fallis for Foxy Digitalis

RECENT COLLABORATIONS

“COSMIC ALCHEMY” By Lawrence Jordan, Soundtrack by John Davis (16mm, 24 min, 2010)

On ancient star maps of magnificent color quality, experimental animator Lawrence Jordan takes the viewer out of this world into a world of cosmic imagination. COSMIC ALCHEMY is thematically and visually consistent with Jordan’s earlier shorts and yet, set to an evocative score by John Davis, the filmmaker has crossed into an unfamiliar and richly rewarding territory of metaphoric complexity. For the handful of folks unfamiliar with Jordan’s work, COSMIC ALCHEMY will leave you desperately wanting more. For the rest, already quite familiar with his brilliance, this film will install a fresh appreciation for Jordan’s justifiable position among experimental cinema’s ascended masters. - Fandor

Preview

“SOLAR SIGHT” By Lawrence Jordan, soundtrack by John Davis. (16mm, 16 min. 2011)

A question I had in mind was: what is the place of the human being in the cosmos? More and more we think about what is ‘beyond’. Less and less is art concerned. I don’t know why. The question may seem a bit grandiose, but I have approached it quite simply in the film. For one thing, I have never worked with color photography as primary background to cut-out animation before. I was surprised that the result was so powerful (helped by John Davis’ very resonant music). - Lawrence Jordan

It was liberating to release human figures into an apperception of suggested space, along with the primordial enigma of the revolving sphere.

Preview

LIVE ANIMATION & SOUND at STUDIO QEURCUS, OAKLAND, CA 6/11/11, Analyst film projector by Lawrence Jordan, music by John Davis

6/11/11 performance poster

PERFORMANCE PROPOSAL TECHNICAL RIDER

EQUIPMENT PROVIDED:

1. Two 16mm analyst film projectors (one backup)
2. Music equipment

EQUIPMENT REQUIRED:

1. At a minimum (depending on venue size) 12′ x 9′ projection screen/surface
2. One 4-channel stereo mixer
3. Two self-powered speakers or monitors with amplification)
4. One small to medium sized amplifier for musician (12″ speaker)
5. One vocal microphone with boom stand
6. Cabling to/from musical equipment, projector, mixer and PA
7. One table approx. 1′ x 1′ for projectionist
8. One table approx. 2′x3′ for musician
9. One 5′ tall pedestal for film projector with minimum 1′ x 1′ surface
10. Two 18″ high chairs without arms

FLOOR PLAN

CONTACT