Director: Phill Niblock
Year: 1973-74
Time: 96 mins
Phill Niblock
Daniel Goode (Clarinet), David Gibson (Cello), Arthur Stidfole (Bassoon)
Eye of Sound: Shot in the mid-70s, The Movement of People Working has been frequently used as a visual accompaniment to Niblock's live music performances, and it is arguably both the least obvious and the best possible screen expression of his musical vision. The first part of the collection comprises four different 16 mm films (Trabajando and Sur, both divided in two parts) and, except for Sur Dos, recorded in Peru, all were shot in Mexico. The films focus on the almost tactile details of non- or semi-industrialized labor methods in these countries and are almost entirely composed of tight close-ups of hands (Sur) and bodies (Trabajando). Threshing, seeding, weaving, painting, carving or fishing, bodies and hands are set in a relentless and often impersonalized motion that creates a hypnotic tapestry of repeated gestures and diversified techniques of immense choreographic beauty. Niblock's soundtrack, recorded between 1975 and 1980, features the author's characteristic multi-layered "drone" immersions in which one radiant, glowing sound-object is sent into a dynamic but imperceptible chain of simultaneously minuscule and overarching transformations that constantly challenge distinctions between motion and quietude. Despite the apparent contrast between the two dimensions of labor, there is a deep but unfathomable correspondence between the succession of these bright fragmented images and the illusory continuity of Niblock's aural radiance: as if the slow, minute gestures of the hands and torsos that weave and thresh find an unexpected double in the tactile and intricate movement of the musician's workings.
Just click to sound-watch or right-click to eye-grab


Directors: Gerhard Ertl & Sabine Hiebler
Year: 1992
Time: 3 mins
Music: Gerhard Ertl & Sabine Hiebler
Eye of Sound: Having worked on the fringes of Austrian film for many years, Ertl & Hiebler achieved some notoriety with their 2002 feature drama Nogo. Previously, the duo had been associated with a wave of Austrian filmmakers, like Gustav Deutsch, Peter Tscherkassky and Martin Arnold, who in the 90s were doing to cinema what many musicians were starting to do with music: digging through the memories of outdated artefacts and scrapping ready-made products in order to capture de-contextualized materials and subvert or reconsider the sources from which these had ben stolen. Definitely Sanctus focuses on a very particular set of sources - the tradition of Heimat films of the 50s - to reconstruct a highly coherent narrative about a successful reindeer hunt in the Alps. Set against a wicked soundtrack that mixes a continuous, almost hypnotic yodelling sample with a deep bass resonance, the film elegantly orders clichés from the cinematic pastoral fantasies of the 1950s without offering any explicit commentary on the materials: even the violence inherent to the sacrificial act or the religious ceremony that concludes it seem to be mere visual episodes that merit no more attention than the preceding sequences. Definitely Sanctus thus seems to be a strictly formal exercise in which the authors - legitimately, of course - do not offer any perspective on the internal logic of their materials; or, to put it differently, in which Ertl & Hiebler appear to be more interested in the lexicon of the Heimat film than in its grammar.
Just click to eye-watch or left-click to eye-snatch


Year: 1989
Time: 58 mins
Music: Negativland
Eye of Sound: It's probably easy today to dismiss Negativland's activities as trifle, banal or plain stupid. They probably wouldn't be too uncomfortable with that, as they rarely claimed to go beyond the softest platitudes of the entertainment biz. But despite some recognition in some circles and some notoriety due to the famous copyright battle with U2 and Pepsi, the band is perhaps still to be acknowledged as one of the most relevant and prophetic projects in the 80s. In fact, from their first surrealist works on alienated concrète to their later sample-based beat palimpsests, Negativland paved the way for much of today's collage-centered pop culture as seen, for instance, in the increasingly common televised montages of political events and commercial samples for critical or humorous purposes. No Other Possibility, their first video work, showcases the band at a career threshold,  before their U2ploitation move and just after their Christianity hoax. It typically explores the debris of American pop culture, dealing with automobile fetishism, televised preaching, halloween traditions, Marlboro masculinity, soft drinks and MTV. Featuring such iconic culture-jam figures as Reverend Dick, The Weatherman, Dick Vaughn or Crosley Bendix, it expands on the visionary concept of Universal Media Netweb and seamlessly jams live footage, TV excerpts, street interviews and home-recorded theatrical performances in a zapping collage that could well have inspired EBN's ZooTV show. From the brilliant Christianity is Stupid murders hoax to the magical significance of numbers, from lime soda to green slime and lung cancer, No Other Possibility stands as an entertaining essay on pop culture, tele-kinetics and media-noise. And there's also a small boy who, like most people, would prefer bands to have girls playing drums.
Note: This is the first official SOE/UBU collaboration. 
Just click to watch or left-click to snatch. 


Director: Luc Peter
Year: 2000
Time: 42 mins
Christian Marclay
Elliott Sharp & DJ Soulslinger
Lee Ranaldo & Thurston Moore
DJ Olive & Erik M
Eye of Sound: Although the history of musical pillage certainly starts way before the 20th century, the practice of plunderphonics (stealing snippets of pre-recorded sounds, often leaving its sources perfectly recognisable, in order to create something new and normally at odds with its original purposes) arose with the broadening of the aural spectrum brought about by the musique concrète revolution of the 1950s. The fact that it took so long after the invention of the first recording devices to take this decisive step is probably due to the resilience of modern ego-centered concepts of authorship and individuality that, although still prevalent in face of all the contradictory evidence, gradually started weakening after WWII. Inspired by the roads previously paved by concrète musicians and theorists, but also heavily influenced by the worlds of performance art, punk rock and no wave, Christian Marclay was probably the first musician to steal the plunder from the academic domain and to consistently work on the possibilities of disarranging previously ordered sonic artefacts. Long before being a d.j. meant anything more than someone putting one record after the other to make people dance (which is still what it means today), Marclay was exploring old vinyl collections, scratching vinyl in ways unthought of by Bambaataa, destroying needles against turntables and breaking up records in order to discover what lies beneath the groove. In this fairly conventional documentary, Luc Peter offers us a short portrait of Marclay's activities in more recent years, at a time when he's been elevated to avant-stardom by a society reasonably accustomed to the ideas of a musician using ready-made sources or of someone commanding people's respect behind the decks. Marclay briefly discusses his background, methods and artistic purposes, together with considerations on the turntable/record as an instrument or its place in improvisation and pop music. Luc Peter complements those statements with footage from four live performances. The first one, recorded at the IRCAM in Paris, presents us Marclay as he became known to the world: playing solo with his prepared records and turntables. The remaining performance feature Marclay's more recent challenges, i.e. improvising live with musicians from fairly different backgrounds: downtown NY heavy-weight Elliott Sharp and young noise-turntablist Soulslinger at the Tonic; Sonic Youth's guitar men Ranaldo and Moore at the legendary Victoriaville festival; and finally Olive (of the "illbient" collective We) and Erik M (one of the most interesting turntablists of the post- Marclay/Yoshihide/Tétreault generation) at the Centre Pompidou. Record Player hardly goes beyond the intrinsic interest of his subject, which is always a good way to measure one's merit in making a documentary: it is unfortunate, in particular, that no attention whatsoever is payed to Marclay's work as a visual artist (which, as he says, is as much a reflection on sound as his music), that the mighty turntablist's past works aren't even mentioned, and that Peter wasn't able to tap into the artist's known theoretical verve. Nevertheless, Record Player has its strong points: it's clean and sober, it offers us a rare opportunity to see Marclay playing solo and with a few top-notch musicians, and - perhaps even more important and certainly rarer - it gives us a chance to see the man haggling at a local sale for a stack of cheesy old records.


Director: Joan Jonas
Year: 1972
Time: 20 mins
Music: Joan Jonas
Eye of Sound: Vertical Roll is one of those works that seem to surpass their own dimension. For decades, critics have been revisiting this classic video and, much like Persona's Alma when talking to a mute Elizabeth, finding new answers for theoretical problematics that seem to be, before anything else, of their own concern. Which is fine, of course: that's part of the critic's job. But this perhaps excessively theoretical approach has been neglecting aspects that seem vital to Vertical Roll's allure. The piece is structurally very simple: a horizontal strip, resulting from filming a TV set, punctuates transitions between frames to the sound of a hypnotically synched monotonous beat, while Jonas presents excerpts from her Organic Honey theatrical performances. These performances are all structured around the vertical roll that insistently sweeps the screen throughout the piece's 20 minutes, and are mostly framed in a spatially disruptive manner. All such performances seem to have a common theme: they all revolve around common representations of the female body and, therefore, of female sexuality when viewed from the outside, in a continuous flow that seems nauseating for both the performer and the spectator. Such vertigo, nevertheless, appears to derive not so much from the filmed performances but from the performances as they are locked in the film: indeed, the unstopping roll pushing the disjunct images upwards or downwards, synched with a minimal and almost unfloating beat that seems to cause the visual disruption, results in a mind-boggling experience that contorts perception without it being aware of the assault.

THE HAT (1999)

Director: Michèle Cournoyer
Year: 1999
Time: 6 mins
Jean Derome
Joane Hétu, Jean René, Rainer Wiens, Pierre Janguay
Fabieene Bélair, Normand Duilbeault
Eye of Sound: The apparent simplicity of The Hat's design hides a raw and violent tale of an untimely coming of age. We first see the hat covering a man's face whose body appears on the ear of a naked woman who dances to the sound of a sleazy funk beat at a strip club. The funk is gone and we now see the dancer as a child being approached by the hat. The hat then reappears as a hand moving up underneath her dress and as the ballet suit the little girl wears as a normal child. Back to the funk, we again see the naked dancer, surrounded by men with hats. Soon we are presented with an explicit depiction of the hat's latent significance: a phallic image, on a narrower level, but also a wider symbol of male violence and domination over women. Disturbing images of the dancer's body metamorphosing into a phallus seem to suggest that this exterior object is now an integral part of the victim's existence, while her appearance as a cigarette on the mouth of the man with the hat obviously alludes to her consumption by her abuser and her own combustion down this memory flame. As if it hadn't been explicit enough, Cournoyer concludes the film with a final depiction of the founding moment of this long-term incestuous relationship, a moment in which the relatively clean lines that make up The Hat become nervously and irreparably blotted and smeared. The music, created by Jean Derome with a host of musicians from the Canadian musique actuelle scene, is intricately connected to The Hat's narrative. The score moves swiftly between the sleaze beats of the strip-club (which are never as banal as proper strip music), short pizzicato sections depicting the victim's normal childhood in her ballet lessons, and dense, tense sound sculptures (sometimes recalling Frith's Technology of Tears) that add up to the latent violence of the narrative. The constant temporal and dramatic shifts of The Hat are ingeniously supported by Derome's score, which, much like the film's images, is based on transitions and metamorphoses rather than on cuts and contrasts - as if, as Chris Robinson pointed out, we're dealing with an endless rape or, in an alternative phrasing, as if no rape ever really ends.

PIG (1998)

Director: Nico B.
Year: 1998
Time: 22 mins
Music: Rozz Williams
Eye of Sound: What initially looks like a bleaker tribute to the noir tradition soon proves to be a disturbing semi-gore flick that seems to breathe the air of a cathartic confessional reverie. Nico B., known mostly as the founder of vintage erotica label Cult Epics, joins efforts with Rozz Williams (of, er, Christian Death fame) to produce an intense and potentially traumatic tale of ritual murder, sadism and sexual violence that seems designed not so much to shock as to exorcise (or simply exercise, i.e. act out) the personal obsessions of the author(s) - perhaps rendering it all the more shocking. Mostly plotless, Pig documents the last hours in the relationship between a sexually complex murderer and his apparently willing and sexually complex victim. The camera obsessively focuses on the details of the progressive degradation that leads to murder, managing to suggest a shared erotic significance without any direct allusion to it. Im many ways, Pig seems to be out of its time: the connections between SM imagery, sexual violence and ritualized or mystic murder, associated with the film's arty black & white and Rozz's "industrial" noise soundtrack, would locate Pig somewhere in the European pathos of the 80s. Such anachronisms hardly hinder the movie's disturbing realism and its obvious approaches to snuff territory. And, in the end, it may not be so easy to point out who's actually the Pig here.


Director: Joelle de la Casinière & Montfaucon Research Center
Year: 1984
Time: 9 mins
Music: Jacques Lederlin & Joelle de la Casinière
Eye of Sound: Video on Channel, of which The Sound of Eye is presenting a short excerpt, was an innovative and visionary project in the early 80s. Lead by legendary creative maelstrom Joelle de la Casinière, the project invited several video-artists to produce twenty short pieces of three minutes each. Its central concept was to collage video and TV footage according to a simple rule: the screen would be split in two or three parts, two thirds being reserved for video and one third for TV. More, these pieces had to follow a series of geometrical rules in the splitting of the screen, so that the same distribution of the visual field would be repeated over and over again. Finally, a TV channel, a magazine and a radio broadcast were associated to the project, probably making Video on Channel (Vidéo à la Chaine) the most multimedia-oriented work ever produced at the time. The excerpt presented here features three pieces, entitled "Fast Food", "Video Catalogue" and "Video Art". The first one juxtaposes footage of hamburger-related activities, rap imagery, sports, explosions, etc. Jacques Lederlin reads a poem by Casinière in which sentences are constantly rearranged to make a statement on the relation between fast-food and video, both recently introduced in Europe by then. Lederlin's voice is given a rhythmic flow that makes it resemble a faux-rap, all the more displaced due to a cold sample-based instrumentation that sounds like Dreyblatt trying to enter Grandmaster Flash territory. The other pieces feature Casinière's voice set against samples and rhythmic structures that strongly recall Ikue Mori's works of the 90s. In "Video Catalogue",  Casinière's poem shuffles what seems to be a video-shopping advertisement for lamps, while the screen contrasts images of sports and fauna with expensive-looking design chandeliers. Finally, "Video Art" juxtaposes the concept of video art with surveillance cameras, producing an almost Farockian comment on CCTV as "art on art" and "double entry art".


Director: Takeshi Murata
Year: 2007
Time: 5 mins
Music: Robert Beatty
Eye of Sound: Set against a hypnotic crescendo of looped layers of high-pitched electro-bliss that sounds like something Ikeda and Aube would produce over a calm breakfast meeting under a soft summer breeze, Pink Dot is a somewhat less abrasive approach to the Murata trade-mark digital corruption wash. Some critics will have a lot to say about the pulsating pink/blue dot that keeps assaulting the screen, associating it with "the eye of perception" or "the viewer's ego", but Murata's force and relative popularity lies in the simple and almost brute force of his distortion apparatus and the constant game of hide and seek between figuration and abstraction that his source materials are forced into. In Pink Dot, Murata invites none other than John Rambo to his glitch chamber, making his ruthless enemies draw first blood in the swampy and moisty miasma of a pixeled war theatre where explosions created by lysergic grenades go pink and the jungle becomes an ectoplasmic aquarium in which the quintessential Vietnam anti-hero is camouflaged by his own digital irreality. There are no friendly civilians.
Dedicated to Comrade Yotte


Director: Henri Storck
Year: 1929
Time: 11 mins
Joachim Brackx
Els Mondelaers
Hermes Ensemble
Eye of Sound: A landmark in the history of moving images, Scenes from Ostende is one of the most beautiful and less surrealist films by Henri Storck. Which need not imply any form of cinematic realism. Quite the contrary: Storck's camera and editing aim at pure constructions of rhythmical and visual abstraction, both gradually unfolding as the film progresses. There is at the same time a documental aspect to Ostende, with clear temporal and spatial borders, and with a thematic focus that excludes the whimsical, symbolic or aleatory imagery associations that characterize much of the early surrealist cinematography. Ostende ("east-end") is a port-town in Flanders, washed by the cold waters of the North Sea, and Storck proposes a documentation of its landscapes and argonauts: thematically organized in six sections, the camera elegantly moves from the port and anchors to the wind, the dunes, the foam and, finally, the North Sea. Composed in 2008, Brackx's soundtrack closely follows the rhythms and kinetic waves of the screen and offers a different movement for each of the film's chapters. Each of these sections seems to offer a commentary on its corresponding theme, forming a parallel narrative in which the North Sea is presented as a release from land and its anchors. The more abstract, "free" and moving sections are those on foam, wind and dunes, while the anchors are given an almost lugubrious tone by its stark, mechanized strings. Finally, the longest section, comprising almost half of the film, focuses on the North Sea and reprises the opening section on the port: Mondelaers sings a beautiful poem in which the sea is said to be "more beautiful than cathedrals" and to offer a "death without suffering". Brackx thus captures and underlines what seems to be the latent signification of the images' poetic progression from land to sea - a creative interpretive gesture that is not only rare in scores for silent films but also, I believe, tremendously accurate.


Director: Maria Beatty
Year: 1997
Time: 27 mins
Music: John Zorn
Eye of Sound: No kinds of love are better than others. I suppose that most true BDSM enthusiasts may feel that Beatty's films are too arty, too slow, too glamorous and too soft for their own onanistic or viewing taste. And I bet that they appeal more to a sexually conservative crowd than to the average SM porn consumer. Beatty herself is a legend in "the field" as a performance artist, and is known to be an enthusiastic submissive practitioner. The Black Glove focuses precisely on the submissive end of the relationship, acted out by a character/actress named TV Sabrina, while the dominant character, known as Mistress Morgana, is far less explored by Beatty's camera. The film benefits from an insider's knowledge of techniques and fantasies and, despite its general "softness", may shock some viewers for its explicit shots. The gorgeous black and white footage is comparable to the finest noir movies, and part of the film's glamorous aura owes much to it. Despite this general glamor, also supported by model-like performers, I believe that The Black Glove is also an intentionally disturbing film that proposes a not so peaceful gaze at the world of domination, submissiveness, and the dark forces behind human sexuality. John Zorn's score is certainly responsible for much of this unsettling result: a sober, fireworks-free concrète collage of single-note tones and hi-fi field recordings that range from humming voice arrangements and snippets to fiery and watery soundscapes. On their own, perhaps, the images and the music could be more psychologically neutral, but their combination results in an unsettling, however fascinating, experience.