Director, cinematography, editing, and music: Aaron Dylan Kearns
Release Date: November 29, 2017
The Thinklematter Visual (TV) series is, in concept, a multi part instillation of multiple minute long short films. The films are meant to be projected in a box-like room with plain walls, with each entry of the series being played simultaneously on each wall of the room, including the floor and ceiling. The number of shorts in the series is indefinite.
Watching Thinklematter Visual (TV): 1
Commentary by HMK
First there is sound, a low gurgle of a roar combined with a high pitched tone. At 13 seconds we see a small, still picture at the screen's center, and are likely to be unable to distinguish what it may be even as the composition forces us to focus in on two black rectangle figures that stand out toward the center. At 17 seconds, the screen is suddenly fully enveloped with several flights of a stairwell up which the camera is peering. Perhaps now the viewer may realize that the still image at the beginning was also of a stairwell, a different view, but we've no opportunity to think about this. After the several seconds of the still image, as the camera pans down and sweeps across the stairs we have the sense of decidedly swift, aggressive movement accompanying the gurgling roar and additional sheered air sounds that compel the viewer along. I am personally familiar with the stairwell, but at the opening, the camera pointed up, it blends with numerous others so as to be generic. That is momentary, for the camera sweeping across the landing, over a radiant heater, to a door, alters the emotional perspective again, personalizing the environment. These are not just stairs. We are in a place. The camera rests upon the door. I am familiar with the different camera techniques of the filmmaker and just how personal his eye is, so that we are drawn behind the camera and, in this instance, may almost feel as though we are an animal's eyes focusing upon the door, the sensation of the animal caused by the soundscape, the low gurgling roar, which is is organic but alien, the high piercing tone making it even more so. At least that is how I feel with a 2nd or a 3rd viewing. The first viewing I instead was simply, suddenly in the environment myself. First there was the camera's view, which became suddenly my view.
Usually in a film, when one is shown a door in this manner, something is going to happen with it. The camera will advance to the door or the door will open. We have been trained, in cinema and story, to expect a focus upon a door to mean using the door. But, at 30 seconds, as soon as we are certain that something will happen with that door, the scene cuts from the door to a film negative collage of numbers and letters moving over a negative of a Japanese street scene of individuals walking toward and away from a camera that also continually, evenly retreats from the scene. The harsh horizontal shadows of the people, white against black in the negative, may remind of the horizontal lines of the stairs in the stairwell we just left. Within the steady movement of these individuals, our eye may begin to focus upon the black jacket of a child, carried by an adult, who incessantly proceeds toward us as the camera smoothly retreats. Perhaps on the second viewing, one will realize how that black square of the child's jacket occupies the center of the screen, stabilizing our focus in all this movement, taking us back to the two rectangles of the still image with which the film had opened. The child in the center creates a kind of soothing familiarity in a dramatically brief period of time.
When we usually see numbers like this on a screen, laid over the people, we are trained to expect a countdown, 3...2...1...0, and then with the zero we would cut to something else. Instead, we realize that the numbers aren't doing what we expected, just as we had expected to become involved in the door but that hadn't happened as well. The numbers are stuck. They keep moving between 3 and 4. And as soon as we may realize this the screen goes black.
The Thinklematter Visuals are intended to be watched all at once on walls of a space such as a gallery. But I appreciate them singularly. And, especially, with this first one, knowing we are to watch these on the walls of a gallery space, as I envision the stairwell on such a wall, then the door superimposed on a wall, when the film shifts to the negative street scene I fathom how, if one is truly involved, how dramatic that cut would be, as if the door in that wall has indeed opened after all, with suddenly all these individuals walking forward toward one, ever moving toward making their way out of the wall, while the child's shirt in the center seizes the eye and again personalizes the scene, just as the door had personalized the previous scene. We keep pretty equidistant from the moving figures, sometimes a little closer, sometimes a little further away, so the numbers moving between 3 and 4 and 3 become rational, though we've no idea if this was the intention of the artist.
Then, boom, we are out. The screen returns briefly to the still image that opened the film of the black of a window viewed in a stairwell, the image so grainy it is difficult to tell whether this too is a negative image. We are given no time to think about it for the film is done.
All of the above experienced within a brief minute and 8 seconds.
Such is the drama of abstract cinema.