This article was written by 15 year old filmmaker Kaisi Haarstad. Haarstad is a TVbyGirls Core Girl and, at the age of 8, was the youngest filmmaker to be screened in a Girls in the Director’s Chair film festival.
Last Wednesday, I had the pleasure of viewing Bruce McClure’s tech rehearsal and conversing with him after.
As a young filmmaker, I was enthralled with how meticulously he worked to engage his audience and enhance his work. I t was great to hear about the methods he used to create his piece. He gave the group a basic understanding of how film works and explained that he would use analog projectors to create intense configurations of light and sound. In addition to talking about his use of film, he also discussed the use of guitar peddles in his work. He told us how he came to use guitar peddles in his work. When working in his studio, a friend watched and suggested the use of the peddles to manipulate the sound. Once he tried it, he never performed without them. As a struggling college student, Mr. McClure had originally wanted to create drawings and paintings. However he found the combination of expensive art materials and the amount of space needed to house such art to be problematic, so he turned to less conventional methods of making visual art that would free him of space and money – creating combinations of light and sound that could only be performed live.
The following day, I attended Mr. McClure’s performance in the Walker’s Cinema. At first, the fast paced images and music was slightly stressful, but as the crowd became used to it, the rhythmic patterns of the sounds and lights made the experience quite relaxing. This performance followed a pattern like a book complete with an intro, body, climax, and conclusion. As with any good story, the climax could be quite stressful at times. However, he took care not to leave his audience uncomfortable for too long. He concluded his performance by turning the images and sound into a soothing rhythm of simple beats allowing the audience to relax and enjoy the resolution of the cacophony.
At the beginning of the performance, the images faded from seemingly random dancing light splotches to a calming image of beautiful birds of pure light. The image suddenly changed to circles and squares of one color occupied the center of the screen while a brilliantly bright light flashed across the entire screen in random intervals. It was bright enough that you wanted to cover your eyes to shield them from its brilliance. Captivatingly the image made me keep my eyes open, but when I managed to close my eyes, it only intensified the performance – the exact opposite of each image flashed on the back of my eye lids. I loved the odd sensation of the power given off by it. As I became use to the flashing brilliance of the full screen light, the image transformed into two new brilliant colors of the full screen flashing in succession to the partial screen in a pattern and speed that, looking at the projectors, looked like the sound of someone drumming their fingers on a table. While looking at the screen, it seemed as though there were four different projectors flashing different colored lights at the screen while, in reality, there were only three. Even though there were not many elements, each second of this performance was drastically different from the next and nothing ever seemed to repeat itself. In the end I asked myself, “How could something so stressful relax me?”
The sound, with its rhythmic patterns, loud volumes, and intense timings, was also something not easily captured or described outside of a live performance. At first, the volume was soft, with a single beat about once a measure and which gradually increased in speed. The second you got used to the single beat, the number of notes increased. However, by this time you were transfixed with the images flashing across the screen to the point that you heard it just as a light background to the image. The sound became faster paced and more intense every second through out the performance and when I listened, I heard more sounds than he was playing. In reality, the performance was enhanced by tricks that your mind would play on you. Near the end of the piece, it became so intense that many people had to leave because they simply could not stand the intensity any longer. About five minutes later, he gradually slowed the music, matching the pace of the beginning, cutting out images and any other sound allowing the audience to focus entirely on the rhythm of the piece and at the same time allowing people to adjust to the reality and hidden, rolling rhythm of everyday life.
After the performance, I was left in awe and unable to really think about anything else while my eyes and ears adjusted to normal sound and light. This performance was nothing like anything I had ever heard or seen before. It was inspiring to see what a person could do with some average equipment and an imagination. This performance showed me the intensity and beauty in things most people take for granted, sound and light. It took the everyday action of turning on and off lights and listening to basic sounds to the extremes. In all honesty, no description could ever replicate the full feeling of the piece. In my mind, few things could ever be equivalent to Mr. McClure’s performance and I look forward to seeing him perform again when next he returns to the Twins Cities.