Filmmaker Ernie Gehr Explores the Art of Film and Video

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San Francisco-based avant-garde filmmaker Ernie Gehr is one of the preeminent explorers of cinema as a medium with a body of work that extends more than 40 years. In the last decade, he has turned his attention to the specificity of the medium of digital video, creating a series of explorations that are at once aesthetic experiments and also allegories for the challenging transition between film and video, both cultural and technical. REDCAT will showcase these recent projects, alongside highlights from Gehr's earlier work with film, in a special two-night show on Monday, November 14, and Tuesday, November 15 at 8:30 p.m.

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Serene VerocityGehr's best known work investigates cinematic time and space - the rigorous, hypnotic Serene Velocity from 1971, a 23-minute silent film made by shifting the focal length on the camera's lens at regular intervals, is a hallmark of structuralist cinema. It's also a hallmark of visual and conceptual spectacle, challenging viewers to consider the camera, space and time while experiencing those elements in an incredibly visceral way.

Gehr's more recent digital projects similarly explore the specificity of the medium. Crystal Palace is described by the filmmaker as "an ode to digital interlace," and captures images of freshly fallen snow on large, stately trees near Lake Tahoe. Gehr halts the images, examining the spaces or intervals in between. The frozen imagery and the frozen frames mesh, but more significantly, the piece also "performs" the transition from film to digital video, capturing a desire for stability in a moment of shattering transition.

Crystal PalaceAbracadabra is a dazzling exploration of layered kaleidoscopic imagery with frames within frames and footage of landscapes opening and then closing inward in a kind of rhythmic pulsing. The mesmerizing piece is graphically extraordinary, producing a sense of curiosity and wonder as you at once experience the spectacle while trying to parse how it was created.

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is a short visual poem of layered images of a neighborhood, capturing divergent perspectives and suggesting the passage of time. The conceit is simple, but the video illustrates a more monumental notion about history and the sedimenting of everyday life in specific spaces.

To see Gehr's work is to witness the care and precision of aesthetic investigation, while also experiencing a sense of awe for the very profound workings of two different technologies. See Gehr's newer digital work at REDCAT on Monday, November 14, at 8:30 p.m., and his earlier works, including Serene Velocity, on Tuesday, November 15, at 8:30 p.m.

About the Author

Holly Willis teaches in USC's School of Cinematic Arts and writes about new media art.
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