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19 October 2018: Bill Morrison: The State of Decay


Bill Morrison has spent more than two decades integrating archival footage in various states of decay into new artworks, frequently collaborating with contemporary composers who create scores for the resulting work. Morrison's robust and diverse filmography – more than 30 projects to date – has been presented in museums, theaters, galleries, and concert halls around the world. Morrison uses the physical decomposition of 35mm nitrate film as the catalyst for his existential narratives, creating work that investigates the tension between archives and memory.

We’re thrilled to welcome Bill Morrison to present a selection of films from across his career including Decasia on 35mm and his most recent short, The Letter. Morrison will be in conversation with Gareth Evans following the screening.

Bill Morrison
1992 | 6 min | B/W & Colour | Digital

"Footprints is an impressionistic fusion of film history and poetic vision. Bill Morrison achieves a lyrical examination of the process of perception and the development of motion pictures. Alternately humorous and edgy, Morrison’s rhythmic editing gives the film a visual pulse, like a heartbeat." – Jan Christopher Horak

"One of his most virtuosic [films], Footprints is a six-minute riff on technology and evolution that combines the 20th Century Fox logo, Muybridge, Island of the Lost Souls, running animals and a Deren-inspired walk in the sand." – Manohla Dargis

Death Train
Bill Morrison
1993 | 18 min | B/W | Digital

"A history of cinema is played out during the film’s lifetime. Early train footage and zoetrope animation are combined with mid-century newsreel and educational films, finally concluding in a long, modern, aerial shot. Each frame is a compartment in the train of film, pausing briefly before our eyes to be observed, thereby living its life in this screening, while being carried to the Hereafter." – Bill Morrison

Decasia: The State of Decay
Bill Morrison
2002 | 66 min | B/W | 35mm  

Decasia is composed entirely of decaying, nitrate-based archival footage. But Decasia does more than merely celebrate the psychedelic beauty of decay, as Morrison has deliberately chosen images which seem to push back against their own physical disintegration. This inspiring, haunting tapestry of long lost, partially erased images – nuns leading a slow-moving cortege of schoolchildren, the rescue of a man from drowning, a boxer relentlessly targeting his mysteriously obliterated opponent – testifies not only to the fragile nature of film but to the transience of all human endeavour. Set to an eerie symphonic score by Michael Gordon, Decasia reminds us, as Morrison himself puts it, of the many dreams we forget upon waking.

The Letter
Bill Morrison
2018 | 13 min | Colour | Digital

Using the discarded, deteriorating remnants from seven silent film titles, filmmaker Bill Morrison braids a story of intertwining love triangles that pivots between the accounts of two women.