Close Up

2 April 2015: Guy Sherwin: Short Film Series


"100 reels of epiphanies, time-lapse studies, ordinary objects and scenes rendered strange and ambiguous." – Michael O' Pray

As part of our Teaser Screening series taking place in our library, we're delighted to present Guy Sherwin's Short Film Series. You - the audience - will choose the film from the Series and Guy Sherwin will discuss each of them afterwards!

Short Film Series
Guy Sherwin
1975-2014 | 3 min each | B/W | Digital

This ongoing and incredibly diverse series examines themes of Landscape, Auto-Biography, Portraiture and act as exquisite, controlled studies of light as well as demonstrations of a wide range of filming techniques. An enduring concern with the subtle relationship between two fundamental elements of film, time and light underlies his work and Sherwin brings his subject matter into conjunction with a particular filming procedure and allows them to feed off each other with a beautiful playfulness and formal rigour.

Notes on Short Film Series 1975-2014

Short Film Series is a loose set of films that I began in the mid-seventies and have returned to at intervals in subsequent decades. The films are held together by a set of common parameters; all films are black & white, silent, and approximately three minutes long. The duration was determined initially by the length of the film roll on which they are made – all films were shot using 16mm film in 100’ lengths. Many of the films were made in one shot, i.e. exposing the film in a single three-minute take. Others use the three-minute length as a given constraint.

The Series is ongoing and open-ended. There is no fixed number of films, no fixed order in which they are shown, and no fixed way in which they are shown (hence no certain reading of the work is possible). Initially the films were made for single-screen cinema projection in groups of between four and twelve and preferably with the projector in the room to give a thread of sound. Each film was separated from the next by about ten seconds of black leader, thus discouraging a linear reading of the films.

Since 2000, individual films from the Series have been shown in other ways such as 16mm looped projection (or sometimes DV loop) exhibited in a gallery. Cycle and Tree Reflection have been shown in purpose-built installations, for example Cycle projected onto the floor. Tree Reflection 2 uses two mechanically-interlocked projectors laced with a single loop of film that passes forwards through one projector and backwards through the other, reflecting the way the film was printed. Night Train and Chimney later acquired soundtracks (Chimney was re-titled Canon 2000) and these versions have been included in my series Train Films, the subject of a future DVD publication. Finally, a few of the films made around 1997/8 have a second life as part of Animal Studies 1998-2003. Titles: GnatsCatCootsTree ReflectionTree & Cloud.

Publishing the films on DVD has also created new ways of viewing the work. The random-play feature allows films to follow one another at random, unsurprisingly, but perhaps on more than one screen. 34 films is too many to view in one sitting, and the ways that people access DVD is not controllable. This publication anticipates that new and different kinds of screening (and interpretation?) will be possible through this digital form.

A technical note. The majority of the films included on the DVD have been transferred directly to DV from the original 16mm camera negatives. This gives rise to greater detail than was possible when I first printed the films, using equipment at the London Film-Makers’ Co-operative. However for this DVD I have graded the films to approximate the quality of those original prints, i.e. with strong contrast and deep blacks. Apart from that necessary grading of light, the films on the DVD remain in their original form.

It is acknowledged that the physical processes of film-making are becoming increasingly unfamiliar to viewers since the advent of digital video. However, unlike digital processes they are far more open to our understanding. For example the relation of light to aperture to shutter speed (the stuff of darkroom photography) is basic physics and quite easily understood. In these films it is my intention that such processes are evident in the work, accessible to the viewer and as significant as any overt subject of the film.

The Short Film Series reflects my ongoing interest in perception and in the power of observation to reveal truths about the world; specifically, how film records and relays appearances of the world, and how we make sense of such images. The process by which each film in the Series is made is important to the work and understood through looking. The Series values image over word as primary source of reflection and enquiry. Ignore these words! – Guy Sherwin, June 2014