Troubling the Image: 4 Films by Pat O'Neill

72 mins.
Directed by Pat O`Neill

Part of the series X: Unknown Quantity. Click for more information.

 Q+A with Josh Guilford, Visiting Assistant Professor of English in Film and Media Studies at Amherst College.

A program of shorts by Pat O'Neill, a founding father of the Los Angeles avant-garde who has worked between the industry and the underground for a half century.

Best known for his innovative optical effects and experimental depictions of the California landscape, O'Neill appears in person to present four recent 35mm films: COREOPSIS (1998), TROUBLE IN THE IMAGE (1996), SQUIRTGUN/STEPPRINT (1998), and HORIZONTAL BOUNDRIES (2008).

1998, color, silent, 7.5 min
"O'Neill found an envelope labeled 'Helen's Coreopsis' with seeds from a 1935 visit his mother had made to her sister in Nebraska. His film COREOPSIS was made by scratching into developed and discarded pieces of film stock revealing pink, yellow and clear layers. This remnant of his memory of her is performed and inscribed in these excised layers." - Erika Suderburg

1996, 35mm, color, sound, 38 min
TROUBLE IN THE IMAGE is a collection of visual and auditory ideas, many of which seem to radiate a sense of internal conflict, irony and rage. The film has no continuing characters, but is made up of dozens of performances dislodged from other contexts. These are often relocated into contemporary industrial landscapes, or interrupted by the chopping, shredding, or flattening of special-effects technology turned against itself. All is not lost, however. The reward is to be found in immersion within a space of complex and intricate formal relationships, where subject matter is almost irrelevant. The film was accumulated over a seventeen-year period by a filmmaker who continues to insist that film can be an art form independent of storytelling.

1998, b&w, silent, 3.5 min
"SQUIRTGUN/STEPPRINT... consists of base materials, raw stock ‘attacked’ with a squirt gun loaded with developer, fixed and then loop printed. Like COREOPSIS, SQUIRTGUN/STEPPRINT bypasses any camera-recording device… While bedrock, film stock, entropic captures, fires, transparent people, and mutating film layers provide an alchemical arsenal of perpetual transformative promise in COREOPSIS, SQUIRTGUN/STEPPRINT literally fixes a transformative stream in order to wash the viewer in its macrocosmic projection. Aggregate, translucent, sandwiched, multi-temporal modes of composition require this flow and this definition, and return us to what makes film form, what causes film to capture form.” - Erika Suderburg

2008, color, sound, 23 min
An exploration of landscape, representation, and the formal characteristics of 35mm shot primarily in Los Angeles, which approaches this city as an uncertain subject, a displaced location in space and time. “The title HORIZONTAL BOUNDRIES,” says O’Neill, “refers to frame lines - the boundaries between one image and the next on a roll of motion picture film. These lines, usually hidden by the projector gate, are revealed as subject matter and as a means of dividing the screen into as many as four very wide images, stacked one above the other. They represent many places, and a few people,” producing “synthetic depictions of locations built up of multiple and disparate parts,” which allow diverse locales, images, persons, and sounds to “interact in ways not usually possible.”

About Pat O'Neill:
Pat O’Neill has been deeply involved in Los Angeles culture since the late 1960’s. A founding father of the city’s avant-garde film scene, an influential professor at CalArts, and an optical effects pioneer, he has worked between the industry and the underground for a half century. He is best known for his highly graphic assemblage films from the early 1960’s onwards, several of which are now considered classics, including “7362” (1967), “Saugus Series” (1974), “Water and Power” (1989), and “Trouble in the Image” (1996).

Throughout his career he has gained an international following, with recent retrospectives shown at the Tate Modern (London), the Whitney Museum (New York), and the Centre Pompidou (Paris). He has received the Maya Deren Award from AFI, the Persistence of Vision Award from the San Francisco Film Festival, and the Sundance Grand Jury Prize (for his first feature, “Water and Power”), as well as grants from the Guggenheim and the Rockefeller foundations. His work has been the focus of solo and group exhibitions at ZKM Center for Art and Media (Karlsrhue); Tate Liverpool; Vancouver Art Gallery; Museum of Modern Art (New York); The Jewish Museum (New York); The Kitchen (New York); Walker Art Center (Minneapolis); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles); Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles, CA); and Los Angeles FilmForum. He lives and works in Los Angeles.