Hierarchy of Particles

November 28, 2016
BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts
Brussels, Belgium

La montagne, par sa forme pyramidale, révèle l’existence d’une intelligence parfaite au sein de l’univers. Le pouvoir qu’elle a de se fondre en brume révèle les possibilités infinies qu’a la matière de changer d’apparence.

The mountain, in its pyramid form, reveals the existence of a perfect intelligence within the universe. The power that it has to dissolve into the mist then reveals the infinite possibilities that matter has to change appearance.

— Etel Adnan, Voyage au Mont Tamalpaïs (1986)

Hierarchy of Particles is a program of films and videos that explore particles and fragments of image and sound through a variety of formats – from image-processing of video signals, to high-contrast and hand-processed or manipulated celluloid film stock, and re-purposed film footage and warbled audio fragments.

Du haut de ces pyramides, derrière by Yves Dymen (Petrov) (France, 2015, 16mm, color, silent, 5 min)
Artifacts by Woody Vasulka (USA, 1981, video, 24 min)
H(i)J by Guillaume Cailleau (Germany, 2009, 16mm, b&w, silent, 6 min)
If the war continues by Jonathan Schwartz (USA, 2012, 16mm, color, sound, 5 min)
Keying Distinctions by Peer Bode (USA, 1978, video, b&w, 3.5 min)
Second Sighted by Deborah Stratman (USA, 2015, video, color, sound, 5 min)


Du haut de ces pyramides, derrière was filmed in 1972 or 1973 during a march of the Women’s Liberation Movement and the Homosexual Front for Revolutionary Action in Paris. The intention of filming was less to document the march, and more to participate in the jubilatory frenzy of the day. The roll of film—30 meters of Ektrachrome—was misplaced and forgotten, only to be re-discovered several times by the filmmaker before it was processed finally in 2014, more than 40 years later, at the artist-run film lab L’Abominable in La Courneuve, France. The result was a surprise for the filmmaker, as the images of the people marching only remain as traces beneath a wash of celluloid.



In Artifacts, Woody Vasulka experiments with constructing and deconstructing digital visual imagery. Moreover, he is interested in the possible ways of manipulating the electronic vocabulary on the basis of algorithms. The videotape visualizes this process-oriented restructuring of analogue into digital images. Line composition and pixel structure are revealed as the visual effects of digital “scanning,” where the modulation of x/y-signals causes horizontal and vertical expansion and the gradual deceleration and acceleration of image data ultimately generates morph effects. In constructing digital visual imagery, and, in particular through stripping the electronic vocabulary off its “material” algorithmic basis, Artifacts is, first of all, a dialogue between analog and digital image processing. — Yvonne Spielmann

“There is a certain behavior of the electronic image that is unique… It’s liquid, it’s shapeable, it’s clay, it’s an art material, it exists independently.” Woody Vasulka, “The Vasulkas: Interview with video artists Woody and Steina Vasulka,” Cantrills Filmnotes, No. 13 (1973).



H(i)J is a hand-processed film that is extremely rich in contrast. More than with standard black-and-white material, the black and white here seem to lead their own lives, conquering the entire film frame in turns. A visualisation of solitary silence, a figure at sea, change and conception.

Guillaume Cailleau’s works range from 16mm film and HD video to multimedia installations and performance. He is a member of the collective LaborBerlin, devoted to preserving and developing the creative possibilities of the celluloid film format and DIY processing, as well as Hanna’s Atelier for Sonorous Arts Ljubljana (Slovenia), an institution promoting and researching sound based art forms. He also cooperates with several choreographers and performers, creating video for the stage.


Deborah Stratman’s Second Sighted was made in collaboration with composer Olivia Block and by invitation of the Chicago Film Archives, utilizing solely films from their collection. Images and sounds included are from: Aging of Lakes American Engineer Chicago Breakdown Evolution of Landscapes Falling Water Geologic Time Gwendolyn Brooks Ocean Dynamics Race Relations The Seventh Wonder WLS Chicago Work of the Sea.

Deborah Stratman is a Chicago-based artist and filmmaker interested in landscapes and systems. Much of her work points to the relationships between physical environments and human struggles for power and control that play out on the land. Recent projects have addressed freedom, expansionism, surveillance, sonic warfare, public speech, ghosts, sinkholes, levitation, propagation, orthoptera, raptors, comets and faith. She has exhibited internationally at venues including MoMA NY, Centre Pompidou, Hammer Museum, Mercer Union, Witte de With, the Whitney Biennial and festivals including Sundance, Viennale, CPH/DOX, Oberhausen, Ann Arbor, Full Frame, Rotterdam and Berlinale. Stratman is the recipient of Fulbright, Guggenheim and USA Collins fellowships, a Creative Capital grant and an Alpert Award. She lives in Chicago where she teaches at the University of Illinois.


“The video image is a physical phenomenon. It is in its form structural and architectural. The image in its simplest form is voltage and frequency.” Peer Bode, “Representation and Abstraction in Video,” (paper presented at Perspectives on Television conference, Owego, New York, 1981).

“Bricks, white noise, video. Free floating sync, altered, drifting camera: video image and time. Keying permutations, switching via gray level values, using a modified b+w Sony special effects generator (SEG). Building the building, one brick at a time. In video what is a brick? In spite of what was then a fierce cultural doxa, an anti-materialist pressure, and being quite anti-anti-materialist I was working hard to coax out significant features as expressive intensity zones, electronic energy points always engaging with the signals.”  —Peer Bode

Working in film until the early 1970s, Peer Bode was first exposed to electronics by his father Harold Bode, a developer of the first modular audio synthesizer. He worked as program coordinator for the Experimental Television Center in Owego, New York, collaborating with resident artist/engineers in constructing prototype imaging tools, thus continuing his commitment to “tool expansion” and “personal studio making.” Recognizing the limits imposed by designers of industrial and consumer technology, Bode sought to externalize the “hidden coding and control structures” of the video signal. His videotapes investigate the semiotics and phenomenology of the medium, specifically through the synthesis of audio and video signals.


Drawing and writing are at the core of if the war continues (2012), a film with a hypnotizing sense of diagonal light and movement. The title refers to the 1917 Hermann Hesse short story…

In if the war continues, men and women ski jump from a three hundred and seventy-four feet high ramp, soaring throughout the gelid air of Vermont, where Schwartz lives. Jumpers move from right to left like the carriage return of a typewriter, while the landscape and rays of sunlight thrust lines in the opposite direction. The somehow nostalgic, slowed-down editing of the images contrasts with the preeminence of pounding sound, accompanied by a degraded, almost unintelligible narration from a cassette tape about the life and work of the German writer. As Schwartz points out, the soundtrack shares some similarities with Popul Vuh’s electronic score at the opening of Werner Herzog’s The Great Ecstasy of the Sculptor Steiner (1974). This sound has the quality of a forgotten mantra or a robotic plea. The repeated motion swerves towards Nietzsche’s idea of eternal return—the temptation and fascination of going back to the origins by jumping away.  —Mónica Savirón

Jonathan Schwartz is an American experimental filmmaker based in Brattleboro, Vermont who has been making poetic non-fiction 16mm films for over a decade. In both his travel films and his diary films he draws influence from traditional approaches to observational filmmaking as well as from mentors Saul Levine and Mark LaPore. The soundtracks to his films are stitched together from rich textural field recordings and subdued sync-sound that slides above the images.

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