Annabel Nicolson
Like Carolee Schneemann, Nicolson came to film from painting, and had seen Lye and McLaren's direct films before making her own cameraless painted and scratched loop Abstract no. 1 in 1969. For Slides, made the following year, Nicolson taped and sewed together pieces of 8-, 16-, and 35mm slides of her abstract paintings. She then held the strand, moving it up and down, slowly and then more quickly, as it went through the same Co-op printer that Schneemann had used to fashion Plumb Line. Nicolson describes the film as "a clear development from my painting, something that I felt comfortable with that I could hold it in my hand. I could respond to the material, it was in my hands rather than in a camera." By transforming the slide, that staple of art-history lectures, into material for a new kind of direct film, Nicolson was staking her claim for a space in two areas of artistic production dominated by men: abstract painting and abstract filmmaking. The technique of sewing also connotes an ironic stance toward the notion of "women's work," even as it provides a new means of manipulating film by hand. For Reel Time, Nicolson put even more pressure on this concept--as well as on the material of the film itself. Reel Time saw the artist sewing celluloid in real time as a projection performance at the Co-op. She ran a loop of film from the ceiling, through the sewing machine where she sat, and back into the projector. Another projector, situated behind Nicolson, projected her shadow onto another screen. As the film loop passed through the sewing machine, the black leader tore, emitting shards of light onto the screen as the film deteriorated. Ultimately, the film snaps, and the image escapes the screen. Nicholson would splice the film and start again, continuing the process until the film was physically too shredded to be projected. Usually considered to be an example of materialist/structuralist film and expanded cinema, this cameraless project nevertheless epitomizes the hands-on manipulation of film and artisanal intervention into the filmstrip that marks handmade cinema. Nicolson's employment of the sewing machine is a motif taken up by later filmmakers such as Gibson, Reeves, and Reble.

Sample Media:

Reel Time (1973)