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By David Finkelstein | September 1, 2004

This silent film begins with a text, handpainted onto the filmstrip. Because the words are painted onto each individual frame, they jump around wildly and are impossible to read, except for occasional single words (“with” or “the”). These sections alternate with images hand painted onto the film: mostly washes of color (red, green, yellow and blue) with a central squiggly form which writhes around.

This film doesn’t have any new or innovative techniques, compared to handmade films which have been made since the 1940s. However, the important question with a work of art is not “is it innovative?” The important question is “is it good?”

Because the text in the film isn’t legible, it doesn’t have an impact as language per se, and mainly gives an impression of an unclear voice struggling to be understood, or of words which are so full of internal energy that they become vibrating forms. An abstract film such as this can be effective either by being strongly expressive or evocative, or extremely beautiful and striking in color, form, texture, and rhythm. (An example would be Courtney Hoskin’s wonderful recent film, “The Galilean Satellites.”) In Block’s film, the colors, forms, and rhythms have no particular expressive qualities and exhibit no artistic sensibility or skill in their execution.

Block is an intelligent and interesting artist, as can be seen in her film “Strewnpackedcinderwhateverlight” as well as in her texts. Surely she can challenge herself to make more ambitious and better realized work than she does here.

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