Close Up

22 October 2017: Electric Forest


Close-Up presents a rare opportunity to experience Finnish experimental films as selected and introduced by Mika Taanila. The programme is a path in an electrified Nordic forestry, guided by three pioneers of artist’s film in Finland: Eino Ruutsalo, a wild painter who turned to 35mm celluloid, Erkki Kurenniemi, futurist inventor and Dadaist working on 16mm and Pasi ”Sleeping” Myllymäki, a graphic designer who made over forty enigmatic super 8mm sound films. All shorts with turbulent music scores.

Kineettisiä kuvia
Eino Ruutsalo
1962 | 7 min | B/W | Digital

The opening gambit of Finnish abstract film. The method used to make the film is stated in the opening credits: "Designed and painted by Eino Ruutsalo." The film is made almost entirely without a camera, by painting, writing, etching, punching and scratching the film stock. Ruutsalo worked for two years on the film. The final five-minute collage is three minutes shorter than the original concept and consists of about 8,600 frames or 'individual paintings' as Ruutsalo called them. for freedom. The graphic and fast-paced camera choreography picks up speed throughout the film, culminating in a sequence where the flying bird (dancer Riitta Vainio) is shot down. The percussion-dominated score was again composed by Otto Donner, and the choreographies were by Riitta Vainio, a pioneer of modern dance in Finland.

Two Chickens
Eino Ruutsalo
1964 | 4 min | Colour | Digital

According to Ruutsalo himself, Two Chickens was composed spontaneously on waste footage. The piece is a hysterical cavalcade of images featuring a nude female (actor Ritva Vepsä), awkward auditions, cream crackers, a floating feather and excessive amounts of paint and colour. The pictures fly past at a breathless pace, with Ruutsalo manipulating them in a fit of intuitive frenzy. The sophisticated tape collage by Otto Donner on the soundtrack is a forgotten highlight of Finnish film music. Two Chickens is cinematic action painting, and in its condensed expressiveness, Ruutsalo's most idiomatic and durable masterpiece.

Electronics in the World of Tomorrow
Erkki Kurenniemi
1964 | 5 min | Colour | Digital

Where is information technology most eroticized? In computer magazines. Close-ups reveal the full decorativity of integrated circuits and other components in the colourful clippings from the American Electronics magazine. When Kurenniemi makes them spin on the turntable, their charm becomes vertiginous. The choreography of electronics in the world of tomorrow is combined with the somewhat classic imagery of 1960s Finland: a man approaches his summer house by boat.

Flora & Fauna
Erkki Kurenniemi
1965 | 5’59 min | Colour | Digital

Flora & Fauna embraces the dark charms of nature. Rich, colourful close-ups of flowers, leaves, ants, spiders, and inchworms blend into the silent mystique of water and woods.

Jan Bark & Erkki Kurenniemi
1966/2013 | 14 min | B/W | 35mm

Spindrift is 1966 short film by Jan Bark and Erkki Kurenniemi, reconstructed in by Mika Taanila in 2013.

Spindrift was a project initiated by Swedish composer/musician Jan Bark. In 1965 he proposed SVT to produce an experiment for a new kind of “music for black and white TV”, exploring audiovisual synesthesia. Bark’s friend Erkki Kurenniemi programmed the animations with Pace TR-48 analogue computer at Helsinki University’s Department of Nuclear Physics where he was hired as an assistant while being a student at the same time. These animated sequences were then shot directly off the computer screen, some of them treated with optical printer later on.

Spindrift was completed in 1966 and premiered at Computer Music Seminar, Dipoli, Espoo on the 28th of October 1967 on 16mm film print. On the 15th of December 1968 it was broadcasted by SVT. No further screenings are known. The screening print and the negative of Spindrift are no longer at SVT archives. They are lost, most likely destroyed accidentally in the early 1970s.

The reconstructed film is a not the definite form of what Bark and Kurenniemi achieved. The editing is based on the surviving 16mm positive ”work copy” film reel, which has been cleaned and re-scanned. The soundtrack is compiled from the two 1/4” unedited tapes containing music composed for the film, edited now on the basis of Bark’s hand-written “mixing process chart”. This reconstruction of sound and image was done with the help of Bark’s work diaries, laboratory notes and reminiscences of people who were involved in the making or saw the film screened in 1967.

Good Night
Pasi “Sleeping” Myllymäki
1978 | 7 min | Colour | Digital

Based on a Polaroid picture of Pasi's face taken by a fellow employee at Iittala. Myllymäki enlarged the picture, rasterised it and turned it into a graphic, almost abstract, series of variations. The cinematic self-portrait was Myllymäki's breakthrough in the 8-mm film community. It was awarded the silver medal in the fantasy series of the Finnish DIY film-makers' competition, and was selected to be included in the international "Olympic games" of amateur cinema, the Unica Annual Festival, held in Baku in the Soviet Union. The film was a comment on the sleepiness of the amateur film-maker circles, down to its very title. "It is visually a perfect synthesis of kinetics and surrealism. Good Night signifies a breakthrough into the bruised zone between insomnia and nightmare," Myllymäki wrote in his preface to the film. This is the film that signalled the beginning of Myllymäki's collaboration with Risto Laakkonen.

3000 Cars
Pasi “Sleeping” Myllymäki
1980 | 2’28 min | Colour | Digital

3000 Cars was an instant minimalist classic, and one of Myllymäki's best-known films. Using stop motion, Laakkonen and Myllymäki shot the front grilles of cars in the parking lots of supermarkets in their home town. Appearing always at the same point in the frame, the headlights create an extraordinary flickering effect as they flash by, frame by frame. A 13-second sequence repeats over and over again until the optimum duration of three minutes is reached. On the soundtrack, the monotonous ticking of Myllymäki's acoustic guitar is accelerated close to hysteria by increasing the playback speed.

Pasi “Sleeping” Myllymäki
1979 | 3’37 min | Colour | Digital

A formalist experimentation based on the visual idea of the stave: a folded sheet of paper changes its tone with the alteration of light and sound. The humming sound of acoustic guitar is alienated by manipulating the speed of a reel-to-reel recorder.

Horizontal is the most mysterious of all Myllymäki's films. It is a controlled formalist experiment with lights, colours and sound. The background of the film is made up of the swaying hum of an acoustic guitar produced by manipulating the speed of a reel-to-reel tape recorder. A sheet of paper folded into an accordion changes its colour as the lights change. According to Myllymäki, the purpose of the precise synchronisation of the film is to emphasise the underlying "concept of musical notation".

Eino Ruutsalo
1991, 11 min | Colour | Digital

Eino Ruutsalo’s cinematic testament. Includes discarded footage from his films and kinetic experiments, as well as unexposed stock. These clips were treated by throwing them on the floor and walking on them. On the electronic soundtrack, we hear a collective stream of consciousness by Donner, Kurenniemi and Ruutsalo from 1967.

Part one of our Mika Taanila programme, curated by Stanley Schtinter.