The city’s longest-running organization dedicated to weekly screenings of experimental film, documentaries, animation and video art.

November 9: Stephanie Maxwell Visual Music


Sunday November 9, 2008, 7:00 pm

Los Angeles Filmforum presents
Stephanie Maxwell Visual Music
Stephanie Maxwell in person!!

Co-presentation with the iotaCenter.

Stephanie Maxwell specializes in hand-painted experimental abstract animation. After performing a variety of painting, marking and engraving techniques directly onto 35mm film stock, Maxwell rephotographs each frame of the film using a digital feed camera and digital frame capture, sometimes employing additional manipulations such as bending and twisting the film, layering film frames together, and progressive alterations of the image during the frame by frame rephotography.

This screening will feature selections from Maxwell’s work from 1984 through her two newest works from 2008, as well as a twelve-minute short documentary about Maxwell’s filmmaking process, with footage of the artist at work. Two short clips from the documentary and a few select clips from the films are available on the iotaCenter YouTube channel.

The aesthetic of Maxwell’s films has changed since she began creating films in the 1980’s, and the transformation of her techniques and style will be apparent by viewing her films chronologically. The themes and imagery in her films vary widely – from that of a biological nature (GA, 1984), to staged, but painterly, graphical works (Somewhere, 1999) to interpretations of the metaphysical – time, reality, existence (Time Streams, 2003 and Runa’s Spell, 2007).

Some of the combinations of sound and imagery in Maxwell’s work are haunting and lovely, as in Runa’s Spell, where a close-up of what appears to be a colorful microscopic organism is accompanied by the distant sound of a woman lamenting in musical form. In Reflecting Pool (2006), a dark, ominous background is lit up with neon reflections of sand animation combined with images of microscopic organisms in a watery matrix. The music reflects and reacts to the evolving revelations in this three-movement work.

“Stephanie Maxwell’s work gets me. Her work is fuelled by a breathless, giddy energy and passion that seeps through every whore of a pore. Like a child, she is excited by a seemingly minute discovery — like an anthill, river or a rock. Maxwell’s work is an extension of that explorative part of our childhood. She has a tenacious fascination with the natural world; a world that too many of us (myself included) have left behind in favor of simulated realities.” – Chris Robinson, Animation World Magazine

Films include:

GA (1984, 5 mins, miniDV)
Animal motifs are represented in a diurnal, abstract motion world. Music: prerecorded vocals and percussion work from Ghana.

Please Don’t Stop (1989, 5 mins, miniDV)
A wild road journey through both representational and abstract landscapes.
Music: original electronic sound score.

Outermost (1998, 5 mins, miniDV)
In this jointly, interactively conceived and realized work, the creators attempted to achieve unique correlations between colorful abstract animated film imagery and complementary musical textures and colors. The goal was to create a work in which musical ideas and visual images are perceived to “chase” each other, to “dance,” and to pull apart and come back together again in cyclical arcs. The music was mainly realized by computer analysis, re-synthesis and transformation of a rich palette of non-Western and Western acoustic sound sources, and through rhythmic and harmonic patterns created by both algorithmic and intuitive compositional procedures.
Collaboration with Allan Schindler, composer.

Somewhere (1999, 5 mins, miniDV)
Somewhere aims to create a fluid, high energy, game-like effect, intricate in its construction but often impulsive and sometimes unpredictable in its constantly shifting focus and gestures. ‘Close’, ‘distant’ and illusory spatial perceptions, and a play between symmetrical and asymmetrical patterns (which often “turn on a dime”) underlie the formal design and expression of both the imagery and the music. Many of the musical sounds were created by computer acoustical analysis and, during re-synthesis, transformation of instrumental, vocal and environmental sounds. Algorithmic programs written by the composer generated many of the rhythmic, melodic and textural ideas, but others were created the “old fashioned” way, at the composer’s piano.
Collaboration with Allan Schindler, composer.

Fragments (2000, 7 mins, miniDV)
An abstract work in which light, movement, space and sound conjure the existence of a character in personal turmoil and transformation. The music relies heavily on computer analysis and re-synthesis of real world sounds, as well as the ‘chopping’ of pre-existing sounds into tiny fragments and then recombining them in such a way as that they take on new identities. The visuals are ‘real time’ animations of objects and graphic materials that were transformed using experimental frame extraction and recombination techniques in digital post-production.
Collaboration with Greg Wilder, composer.

terra incognita (2001, 4 ½ mins, miniDV)
A fusion of imagery and music expressing an ever-changing flux and paradox in perceived space and location and involves notions of navigation, geometry, and mapping. The basic sound sources, including mbira, pygmy pipe and gamelan metallophone tones, were digitally transformed and then contrapuntally layered, inter-cut, diced and threaded into a pulsating “web” design suggested by the visual imagery.
Collaboration with Allan Schindler, composer.

passe-partout (2002, 6 mins, miniDV)
An abstract film/music composition that conjures an atmosphere where an aerial mobile is magically suspended in a three-dimensional space. The floating pendants of the mobile each reveal a mysterious world filled with unique visual and aural forms, movements and gestures. The computer-generated music consists of continuous variations and transformations of a seemingly simple but open-ended harmonic theme that caroms through many key centers. However, this theme takes shape gradually, and is heard most clearly in a choral setting only after all five “protagonists” of the work have been introduced.
Collaboration with Allan Schindler, composer.

Time Streams (2003, 5 ½ mins, miniDV)
The spiral-like structure and unbroken momentum of this film/music composition suggest intersecting streams or ribbons of time: not simply the familiar (although perhaps illusory) forward, linear, march-of-clock time, but rather a nexus in which backwards time (e.g., dreams, recollections and déjà vu), parallel temporalities, and the non-continuous splicing together of segments of time are equally prominent. The principal sound sources of the music are generic samples such as digitized recordings of instrumental and vocal tones, and of environmental sounds such as ice cubes and ping-pong balls. However, in re-synthesis the spectral structures (tone colors) of these sounds often have been retooled and their attack and decay articulations have been altered.
Collaboration with Allan Schindler, composer.

Reflecting Pool (2004, 9 mins, miniDV)
Sometimes the smallest event can have the most profound repercussions. Reflecting Pool creates a contemplative but highly charged visual and musical expedition through a cycle of chaos and recovery. The music for Reflecting Pool includes processed saxophone signals to produce various colors and textures that have been layered with musical compositions of sampled sounds. Live performances of this work include saxophone played with a prerecorded soundtrack synced with the imagery. In addition to painting on film, the techniques used to create the imagery of this multi-layered work include sand animation, and animated recordings of changing light reflections and movements of microscopic water creatures.
Collaboration with Randall Hall (composer/musician) and Matt Costanza (filmmaker).

Second Sight (2005, 5 ½ mins, miniDV)
A passage through a mist in which perception is ultimately clarified and sharpened rather than obscured. The computer-generated music of Second Sight features cyclical returns of a nucleus of core ideas, which alternate with a continuous progression of new ideas.
Collaboration with Allan Schindler (composer) and Peter Byrne (media artist).

All That Remains (2006, 6 mins, miniDV)
An intricate mosaic of sequences of animated abstract images and musical passages that create a chaotic, yet coherent and tightly choreographed portrayal of figurative matter in perpetual decomposition. The sound consists of dynamic and evolving patterns of music textures and phrases. Dense masses of granular particles often converge to create progressive patterns of movement, which alternate with recurring looped vocal passages.
Collaboration with Michaela Eremiasova, composer.

Runa’s Spell (2007, 3 ½ mins, miniDV)
This work conveys a moment of connectedness with the sensual persuasions of an imaginary world. The image and music interact in a dramatic way to deepen and enhance the perception of an abstracted experience not far removed from its earthy provenance. The music attempts to create a spiritual sense of journey through the fractional evocation of ancient Egyptian folk song. The sonorous texture of trembling and contorted sound-images illustrates the hesitation, solitude and endless dreamscape of the human mind.
Collaboration with Michaela Eremiasova, composer.

Currents (2008, 6 mins, miniDV)
In this abstract work, the filmmaker and the composer create a tapestry of textures that emerge as washes of sound, color and motion. Tone and light follow changing currents in evolving variations that coalesce in alternating densities toward a final surge. This work was premiered in Rochester, New York in 2008 as video projection with live musical string quartet.
Collaboration wit Michaela Eremiasova and Jairo Duarte-Lopez, composers.

End To End (2008, 4 ½ mins, miniDV)
End To End presents a choreography of abstract form and space where background and foreground move in complementary arrangements of tempo and rhythm as the moving composition evolves and changes over time. The imagery was created using paint-on-film, object and copier art animation techniques. The post production was accomplished using After Effects and Final Cut Pro software programs.

End to End was produced as a graphic score for Open Music Ensemble composers and live performers. Eyes and Ears: Sound Needs Image Part II, Hallwalls (Buffalo, New York – 2008).

The Art Form of Stephanie Maxwell (2007, 12 mins, miniDV)
The Art Form of Stephanie Maxwell presents the artist in her studio at home where she creates and builds her unusual experimental animations. Maxwell discusses her work, and demonstrates original processes and technical discoveries that have resulted in the unique image and motion expressions that characterize her work. In this documentary, the artist is seen at her light table where she hand-makes imagery, and at her camera where she manipulates and re-photographs the handmade film to create some spectacular effects. There are many clips from her body of work that demonstrate the uniqueness of her ideas and her image experimentation, and the complex and profound approach to cinema that distinguish her as a master of the art form of experimental animation. Additionally, composer Allan Schindler discusses their collaborative endeavors and talks about the nature of ‘true collaboration’.

Total Running Time: 89 minutes

About Stephanie Maxwell:

Stephanie Maxwell is Professor in the School of Film and Animation at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York. Her teaching includes courses in film, video and animation production (including experimental processes), and history of animation. She has curated and presented film programs internationally and taught abroad on several occasions. Ms. Maxwell has been producing her unusual animated works for over 20 years. Numerous exhibitions of her award-winning work include international film, multimedia, and television programs and festivals. Her works are collected by museums and universities as works of art. See more on her website.