Single Wing Turquoise Bird
Collective and Individual Works
May 23 - August 9, 2014
Single Wing Turquoise Bird (SWTB) was formed in Los Angeles in 1968 as a “light show” to accompany rock concerts staged at the Shrine Exposition Hall, accompanying such legendary groups of the era as Cream, the Velvet Underground, Sly and the Family Stone, The Who, Pink Floyd and the Grateful Dead. Drawing upon the long local history of intersections between avant-garde film and visual music, SWTB evolved into an innovative multimedia unit that collectively improvised real-time composition of projected imagery. In addition to performing in the large rock concert venue, the group performed in more intimate spaces such as the Cinematheque 16, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and a loft above the Fox Venice Theater.
Today these performances can be seen as crucial benchmarks in the evolution of Expanded Cinema, which itself became instrumental in changing the way we think of cinema, the role of the apparatus, and what would later become video art. Disbanded in the early 70's, the SWTB regrouped in 2009 to rehearse, perform, and record new work. In 2010 SWTB participated in the University of Southern California’s Alternative Projections conference, creating a performance recording, Out of Our Depth, for projection at the conference. In 2011, SWTB was commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver to create a full room installation, Invisible Writing, which has since toured museums across the Western United States and has its first Los Angeles showing as part of this exhibit. In 2012, under a grant from the Getty Research Institute, SWTB gave several performances at UCLA’s Broad Art Gallery as part of the Pacific Standard Time initiative. Most recently, in April 2014, under a grant from the University of Southern California’s Visions and Voices program, SWTB took over the largest sound stage of USC’s school of Cinematic Arts for four days of workshops and performances.
The current lineup of SWTB includes original members Larry Janss, David Lebrun, Peter Mays, Jeffrey Perkins and Michael Scroggins, as well as new members Amy Halpern, Shayne Hood, and Mette Rubin. The structure of an SWTB performance evolves through ensemble improvisation within a common screen space. Each performer controls the mix of the individual images they are working with into that of the whole. The synergy resulting from this process creates the potential to yield continuously shifting poetic meaning entrained by the psychic substrate of the moment. The group is divided into three sections based upon their visual instruments. The film section, which originally worked with16mm film, now works with real-time video mixers to project constructed movie sequences which they modulate to blend with the mix on the screen. The slide section works with high intensity xenon 35mm slide projectors equipped with beam steering controls for image positioning and variable speed shutter and color wheels for generating shimmering motion from the phase-shifting flicker of overlaid images. The liquids and transparencies section works with modified ellipsoidal mirror overhead projectors equipped with shutter wheels and color filters capable of modulating images that originate as either large format transparencies or mixtures of liquids manipulated in curved glass plates.
Works on View
From the Single Wing Turquoise Bird Film Section:
by David Lebrun (1968-2010, 14 min., black and white, sound, HD Digital)
In its original form, this film was animated in 1968 as a series of 16mm. high contrast film loops, specifically created for Single Wing Turquoise Bird’s live performances. A few years ago I remade the piece from scratch as a stand-alone film, using digital still photography, Photoshop and other digital tools. The shape of the film that emerged from this process is a journey through the world of human-made shapes and patterns, from chipped stone tools to Gothic cathedrals and from anatomical diagrams to models of molecules and stars
From the Single Wing Turquoise Bird Slide Section:
by Larry Janss and Jeff Perkins (35mm. slides and Kodak Ektagraphic projector)
This is a selection of slides created for use by the Single Wing slide section. Here they are shown in continuous sequence on an Ektagraphic projector; in actual performance they are loaded singly or in pairs and groups into the Gizmotrons, hand-built devices incorporating xenon slide projectors, aiming mirrors, strobe wheels and color wheels. One of these devices is shown nearby.
From the Single Wing Turquoise Bird Liquids Section:
ADAGIO FOR JON AND HELENA
by Michael Scroggins (2009, 5 minutes, color, silent, HD 1080p)
This piece is a continuous-take digital recording of a live solo liquid light projection performance. The work is dedicated to my liquid light teachers, Jon Greene and Helena Lebrun. Jon studied liquid light projection with Helena, who had studied with liquid light projection pioneer Elias Romero. I was fortunate to learn liquid technique from both Jon and Helena when I joined them in the Single Wing Turquoise Bird ensemble. In late 1968 I developed the unique liquid technique seen here so that I could take a solo break during a Single Wing Turquoise Bird performance. As with much of my absolute animation performance work, it is the affective power found at the edges of gestural control and indeterminate chaos that most interests me.
HOLD IT, KULESHOV
by Shayne Hood (1989, 4 minutes, black and white, sound, NTSC SD)
This classic film school montage exercise based on takes from the TV series “Gunsmoke” has been cut on 3/4”U-matic videotape to contextualize the material in an unconventional examination of image and sound relationships. Russian media theorist Anatoly Prokhorov saw in this piece an illustration of Soviet montage theory, including the Kuleshov effect (the radical effect of immediate context on the meaning of an image). Kuleshov’s theories are also relevant in understanding the power of the perceptually subliminal rapid weave of disparate images experienced during sections of a Single Wing Turquoise Bird performance.
Projection 16:9 screen
by Peter Mays (2010, 17 minutes, color, sound, HD Digital)
This film grew out of short animations made from mandalas and other Tibetan Buddhist artwork, originally created for use as loops in Single Wing performances. The film has an ABA structure, with the central section referencing western magic, the Tarot, and the Tree of Life. It is a companion film to Aleph, which was made next and explores alchemy. Both are available for viewing on Vimeo.
by Michael Scroggins (2010, 7 minutes, color, sound, HD 1080p)
Limn is one in an ongoing series of continuous take high definition digital recordings of live solo liquid light projection performances. This particular work was performed during a set of recording sessions with Single Wing Turquoise Bird during the late summer of 2010. The projection was improvised in response to the affective power of a recording of improvised music by Pauline Oliveros, Stuart Dempster, and Panaiotis, performing in an early instantiation of the "Deep Listening" project.
SLUM GODDESS GOES TO NEW MEXICO
by Larry Janss (1970-2010, 7 minutes, color, sound, photographed in 16mm, edited in HD Digital)
Bobby, Larry and Linda embark on an acid-drenched journey to visit their friend Dennis in New Mexico. Having brought only 10 minutes of film and needing 40, Larry ran the film through the camera 4 times
THE WHITE GODDESS
by David Lebrun (2010, 4 min., color, sound, HD Digital)
About 3000 BC, artists in the Cycladic Islands made marble female figurines of a startling and streamlined modernity. Rigidly erect, with arms often folded, often found recumbent in graves, they have been called (by archaeologist Marija Gimbutas) the White Death Goddess. About 2000 are known in collections worldwide; for this piece I photographed over 200 in museums in Greece and the United States, and have attempted to bring their evolution and variety to life through digital morphing.“The White Goddess” is part of a much larger project, “The Forms: Four Worlds”, a series of museum and gallery installations which will use animation techniques to explore archetypal figures and forms in a cross-section of world cultures.
by Amy Halpern (1982, 1 minute, color, silent, 16 mm., presented here in HD Digital)
Invocation is a film intended as a benediction, a come-hither, an invitation to pass across a threshold. Invocation is a temporary sculpture, which exists only as long as the hands describe it, and briefly in the after-image they induce in the eyes. It is also an element among Single Wing’s ingredients. Invocation functions as a portal, especially so here, presented on double screens forming a doorway to encourage entering the space of our group piece, Invisible Writing.
by Single Wing Turquoise Bird (47 minutes, color, sound, 2011, HD Digital;
Recorded with RED camera from improvised live studio performance using 4 overhead projectors, 8 slide projectors, and 2 digital video projectors)
Invisible Writing was commissioned by the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art as part of the traveling exhibition “West of Center: Art and the Counterculture Experiment in America”. The 47-minute piece is a high definition record of live improvisation in which the eight artists of SWTB blend intimate and cosmic images to music in real time on a single screen. Layered scenes of dream and nightmare, myth and legend, landscape and memory emerge from and melt back into a liquid world. Original score by Miroslav Tadić
by Jeff Perkins (1968-2010, 5 minute continuous loop, videotaped slide performance)
This is a 4 slide projection piece which originated in 1968. This version was performed in my NYC studio in 2010. It was made with 4 Kodak slide projectors using shutter wheels operating at varying intervals. The use of multiple versions of the same image (in this case a white circle) projected in rapid alternation while varying their size and alignment to create various illusions of motion and depth is a basic strategy of the Single Wing slide section.