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An excerpt from a longer paper:

Research in Experimental Cinema


The most formative development in the evolution of my research occurred in the mid 1970s
when I first began to think deeply about the mechanisms and technology of motion pictures. My
attention was particularly drawn to the movie projector and the nature of intermittent projection.
The so-called illusion of motion in cinema is generated out of a mechanical process in which
individual frames (still pictures) are pulled into the projector gate and held for 1/48th of a second
while the beam of projector light passes through them out on to the screen. A rotating shutter then
passes in front of the light, blocking the light for another 1/48th of a second. It is during this brief
moment of darkness that the frame in the gate can be pulled out and the next frame pulled in
without the audience seeing the change. This is precisely where the magic of cinema pulls its
machine-based sleight of hand. The aspect of this sequence that suddenly seemed ripe with
implications for me was the realization that the duration of the dark moment was of equal
duration to the time the screen was illuminated. This meant that a viewer watching a one-hour
movie was actually sitting in total darkness for half an hour. The question that seized my interest
then and has preoccupied me ever since was, what is happening in the viewers mind during the
dark half of the movie?
Pursuing this question led me into a study of visual perception and on to the more general
question of how the brain constructs our moment-to-moment visual experience of the world,
whether those experiences be motion picture images bouncing off of silver screens or the more
fundamental ability to construct a three-dimensional visual world out of the two-dimensional,
upside down images that form on the retinas of the eyes. How are we able to coordinate our eyes
and hands to be able to tie our shoes in the morning or drive our cars at high speeds amidst packs
of other fast-moving cars? These investigations into perception and neuroscience led me to the
general notion that cinema, as a technology, modeled in a material and accessible form, many of
the most basic brain processes that underlie conscious experience. My interest in the ontology of
cinema was not just a curiosity as to how the movies worked. What really interested me was how
this technology might be harnessed to purposes other than realism or naturalism. I had a strong
intuition that streams of individual images passing through movie projectors could do things other
than recreate the appearance of some activity that occurred in front of a movie camera lens at
some other time and some other place.
Beginning in the mid-seventies, I began making short, silent 16 mm films that explored
arrangements of images along the film strip that were not based on the continuity laid down by
movie cameras. These films were fast moving works that attempted to work with the projectors
inherent flicker to fuse small numbers of individual frames into continuously evolving motion
pictures. My primary interest in all these films was to create perceptually ambiguous visual
experiences that would force the conscious mind and the pre-conscious mind (where perceptual
decision making occurs at speeds faster than thought) to move towards each other. This was not
to be a cinema of ideas but rather one of direct experiences. This interest in the perceptual and
optical possibilities of cinema has remained consistent throughout my filmmaking career.