Decasia

Decasia ★★★★

The first time I stumbled upon Stan Brakhage's work was magical. It was 2016, I was in the third year of my undergraduate degree at University and was working on one of my final projects; three short non-narrative films binded by the same original soundtrack. Researching into non-narrative and experimental film during this time really fuelled my passion for cinema; and Brakhage was a huge turning point for me. Works like Mothlight and Stellar introduced me to a side of the avant-garde that I'd never considered before. A textural, motion led experience. Visual delights without justification. I'm beginning to feel the same way with Bill Morrison and his work.

From the moment we're born, we're in a slow and gradual state of decay. Just like celluloid; what starts as a clean crisp being, slowly deteriorates and becomes unrecognisable, but the process is still beautiful. Bill Morrison's work with archival footage and lost media is fantastic; turning the old and forgotten into something new and mesmerising. It's like plunderphonics; a term coined by John Oswald in his 1985 essay 'Plunderphonics, or Audio Piracy as a Compositional Prerogative'. Oswald was a composer and experimental music producer working with sound collage- taking a variety of sounds from a plethora of different sources and manipulating them and reappropriating them to create something new and solely innovative. Morrison treats these warped film excerpts as his compositional tools, splicing them, speeding them up, rearranging them to build this structure that builds and breaks along with the music. It rises, it falls, the music swells and dips. The momentum feels like it continually rises, gradually building and building over the course of an hour; like a cinematic version of the shepherds tone. The music slips in and out of phase constantly; the detuned pianos and orchestral pads only add to the sombre nature of the decaying visuals.

The rhythm of Morrison's edit mirrors the movement of the grain on the celluloid; the awkward stains and bruises of time leave perplexing and beautiful marks that create visual patterns and abstract dances on screen. Decasia is simultaneously a magical work of abstraction and an important piece of film archival.

I had the opportunity to pitch a few questions to Morrison thanks to Calvin and his wonderful outlet 'The Twin Geeks'; check out the interview here.

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