‘Memory of the Future’

Samuel Towns

Photography by Media Artist and guest professor Joan Grossamn.
Photography by Media Artist and guest professor Joan Grossamn.

The elements of pictures and sound have yielded vastly differing results throughout film history, but nothing in recent memory comes close to the profundity of their coexistence in filmmaker and UMKC guest professor Joan Grossman and David D. McIntire’s collaboration “Memory of the Future,” which was screened at the Kansas City Art Institute campus’ Epperson Auditorium on Tuesday, April 12.

The flyer for “Memory of the Future” defined the project as “uncanny and abstracted images and sounds [merging] and [co-mingling] in both purposeful and unintentional ways.” It was a delight to see the two play off one another.

The assistance of percussionists Jennifer Wagner and Christopher Howard added an unexpected but crucial layer to the experience.

McIntire’s score was in cooperation with their real-life percussion.

At the onset of the presentation, Howard and Wagner’s instrumentation was obvious; the lights were up and the crowd could see with their own eyes the duo’s drumming.

But, as the lights faded and the images came on screen, Howard and Wagner were engulfed in darkness.

When this happened the ability to differentiate between what were McIntire’s pre-recorded sounds and what were the percussionists’ actual noises became quite impossible. The invisible transition was entirely delightful, while simultaneously creating an unnerving quality that permeated throughout the audience.

Much of the video was composed of symmetrical images. These mirrored compositions helped to create something of a more surreal subject matter that came closer to touching on the ineffable.

Joan Grossman
Joan Grossman

Though the images up on the screen were inherently abstracted by this mirroring effect, it was still obvious to the audience what they were of. Most scenes existed as dualities; showing two equal, but opposite forces opposing one another. The flyer expressed this in the following way: “[the] video explores interactions between technology and the natural world.”

For one scene, the frame had been bisected straight down the center. On the left side, an unnaturally symmetrical flame could be seen sparking and flickering and on the right half of the composition, a rippled pond was shown.

In another, more telling portion of the film, infamous footage of the Hindenburg airship disaster was shown on screen. Superimposed text read “all is serene” during its casual, effortless flight from Germany to the States. Howard and Wagner’s drumming echoed the colossal airship’s gracefulness.

Their steadily rising intensity foretold the inevitable; the massive airship burst into flames. Its iron skeleton could be seen bending over itself worthlessly as the now invasive soundtrack reached its peak crescendo.

The film concluded with a serene water shot accompanied by the music’s dying out, seemingly stating that while we’re surrounded by such tragic goings on, we are not without hope.

Joan Grossman is a visiting faculty member from Brooklyn, N.Y. She teaches in the Communication Studies department’s Film Program. Sean Church, one of her most accomplished students, contributed footage for “Memory of the Future.” David D. McIntire directed the 2009 Second International Conference on Minimalist Music at UMKC.

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