Show Times: Experimentalists with Tomonari Nishikawa and Chris Kennedy

by Eric Twardzik / Beacon Staff • October 13, 2011

, Beacon Correspondent/strong

Two directors will showcase their literally “hands-on” approach to filmmaking as part  of the Department of Visual and Media Arts’ ongoing film series. In one of cinema’s most unusual methods, Tomonari Nishikawa and Chris Kennedy alter film by hand to create unpredictable effects, transforming the celluloid strip itself into the artist’s canvas.

These two experimental auteurs will present some of their short films at the Paramount Center on Tuesday at 9 p.m. in the Bright Family Screening Room.

Nishikawa and Kennedy share many methods in their exploration of film’s physical properties. These include hand-processing — in which film is handled to leave bleach marks, sprocket holes and scratches — and incorporating multiple exposures and found footage.

The directors engage with the material to change it both physically and symbolically. In his short film emShake’n Bake/em, for example, Nishikawa took found footage — a Kraft foods commercial for “Shake’n Bake” chicken — and, according to the Los Angeles Film Forum, developed it in a solution made from coffee and baking soda to literally mix the themes of filming and cooking.

The appeal of Nishikawa’s work, however, comes not just from his unique editing techniques, but also from the way that he finds beauty and intensity in the everyday. Many of his films were shot by hand in public places on a Super 8 camera. He equates the Super 8 with an artist’s sketch pad: Just as a painter might scribble the everyday beauty he sees in the day while on the run, Nishikawa travels with his camera. These films of otherwise mundane locations and scenes are elevated by his eye for movement, light, and tone to create a whole other world.

Toronto-based Kennedy, who writes and programs films when he isn’t directing, uses the physical manipulation of celluloid to examine the relationship between film and the consciousness — how our mind meets images and interacts with them.

Nishikawa and Kennedy show that to challenge conventions, you’ve got to get your hands dirty.

emTwardzik can be reached at eric_twardzik@emerson.edu./em