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Personal Translations, Lounge

Stefanie Schulte Strathaus suggested the film WVLNT (Wavelength For Those Who Don’t Have the Time) by Michael Snow, 45 min, 1967

From Advent calendar to lucky bag: on translating time into space, past into present and film into art
A commentary by Stefanie Schulte Strathaus

Wavelength (1967) is one of the works of structural film which allows one to genuinely experience what cinema is. For 45 minutes 16mm film runs through a projector, accompanied by a rising pure tone: linear time which parses space. The camera moves (contrary to collective memory discontinuously) through a loft towards a segment of wall between two windows. A picture that hangs there shows the surface of the sea, at first still (photography) and then choppy (film). The formal level is juxtaposed by the threat of the Real: persons appear in view, the phone rings; it seems as if someone has been killed.

“Given the film's durational strategy, we feel every minute of the time it takes to traverse the space of the loft to get to the infinite space of the photograph of waves—and the fade to white—at the film's end. The film inspires as much boredom and frustration as intrigue and epiphany...” (Michael Zryd)

Thirty-six years later curator requests pile up from a digital future in which space parses time and film is no longer form but content. They ask about a digital version for the exhibition room. There isn’t one, but probably a translation: WVLNT (Wavelength For Those Who Don’t Have the Time). The précis says: “Originally 45 minutes, now 15!”

WVLNT is made up of simultaneities instead of subsequent sequences. Forty-five minutes of analogue image and sound material is divided into three sections, superimposed and digitalized. Nothing of the story is lost, but the narrative itself is no longer needed: a spatial strategy in which we can view each and every nook and cranny over and over again and discover something, without something happening to us. When moments of action exist simultaneously, they elude the logic of narration. If the viewer was once exposed to the tension of encountering the unexpected, of being surprised or disappointed, now they can make sure that nothing is hidden in any corner of the room. There is no cinema that falls dark, no speakers from which uncontrollable sounds are emitted, the coloration (now even brighter) remains constant. So too the insert by the Beatles: “Strawberry Fields Forever”.

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