About the Handmade Cinema Project

This web project visualizes the relationships detailed in my book, Making Images Move: Handmade Cinema and the Other Arts (University of California Press, 2020). It is a redesign and expansion of the first Handmade Cinema site that launched in 2012 and which received the award for Best Electronic Reference Site by the Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association in 2015.

“Handmade Cinema” allows users to explore the world of artisanal moving image production by providing information on the practices and themes of a sampling of the field’s major figures. “Handmade Cinema” is also designed to allow users to quickly glean the many connections between artists, their ideas, and the media they used.

What is Handmade Cinema? Rather than represent the world by photographic means, handmade moving-image artists seek to create new ways of seeing. Think of a Pollock or a Kandinsky that moves, a hand-drawn score that produces music when read by a film projector, or a mechanical apparatus that fractures light and bends time. Handmade cinema includes: painted, scratched, and treated film, hand-drawn soundtracks, and the artisanal construction of devices to make moving images (color organs, kinetic sculpture, light show apparatus, analog video synthesizers).

In the popular imagination—and in the majority of scholarship and criticism on the subject—the power of cinema is rooted in its photographic representation of the world and its ability to marshal images in the service of fictional or documentary narratives. This project contends that handmade films, which reject cinema’s putative indexical relation to reality in favor of abstract form, otherworldly color, textural richness, and sensory depth, serve as ideal objects with which to challenge–and subsequently, to reshape–our definition of what constitutes the moving image.

By recovering the range of forms, tools, and intentions that make up the moving image’s shadow history, “Handmade Cinema” seeks to enlighten our awareness of the intersection of art and media in the 20th century, and enrich our understanding—and appreciation—of what is to come.

Suggestions for Further Reading

  • Brakhage, Stan. Brakhage Scrapbook : collected writings, 1964-1980, ed. Robert A. Haller. New Paltz, NY: Documentext, 1982.
  • Brougher, Kerry, “Visual Music Culture.” In Visual Music: Synaesthesia in Art and Music since 1900. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2005: 88-179.
  • Dann, Kevin T. Bright Colors Falsely Seen: Synaesthesia and the Search for Transcendental Knowledge. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998.
  • Davis, Douglas. Art and the Future: A History/Prophecy of the Collaboration between Science, Technology, and Art. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1973.
  • Eros, Bradley. “There Will Be Projections In All Dimensions….” Millennium Film Journal, nos. 43/44 (Summer 2005): 63-100.
  • Haller, Robert A., ed. First Light. New York: Anthology Film Archives, 1998.
  • Hatfield, Jackie, “Expanded Cinema and its Relationship to the Avant-Garde.” Millennium Film Journal, nos. 39/40 (Winter 2003): 51-65.
  • Horrocks, Roger, Len Lye: A Biography. Auckland, N.Z: Auckland University Press, 2001.
  • James, David E. “Expanded Cinema in Los Angeles: The Single Wing Turquoise Bird.” Millennium Film Journal no. 43/44 (Summer 2005): 9-31.
  • James, Richard S. “Avant-Garde Sound-on-Film Techniques and Their Relationship to Electro-Acoustic Music.” The Musical Quarterly, vol. 72, no. 1
    (1986): 74-89.
  • Joseph, Branden W. Beyond the Dream Syndicate: Tony Conrad and the Arts after Cage. New York: Zone Books, 2008.
  • Keefer, Cindy. “Cosmic Cinema and the Vortex Concerts.” In Cosmos: En Busca de los Orígenes de Kupka a Kubrick, ed. Estíbaliz Pérez Garciá and Maite
  • Martín. San Sebastian: TEA Tenerife Espacio de las Artes, 2008: 360-371.
  • Levin, Thomas Y. “Tones From Out of Nowhere: Rudolph Pfenninger and the Archaeology of Synthetic Sound,” Grey Room 12 (Fall 2003): 32-79.
  • Meigh-Andrews, Chris. A History of Video Art: The Development of Form and Function. NY: Berg, 2006.
  • Moritz, William. “Abstract Film and Color Music.” in Maurice Tuchman, ed., The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890-1985. (Los Angeles County Museum of
    Art Exhibition Catalog, New York: Abbeville Press, 1986): 297-312
  • Passuth, Krisztina. Moholy-Nagy. London: Thames & Hudson, 1985.
  • Perchuk, Andrew, and Rani Singh, eds. Harry Smith: The Avant-Garde in the American Vernacular. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2010.
  • Popper, Frank. Origins and Development of Kinetic Art. Trans. Stephen Bann Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, 1968.
  • Russett, Robert and Cecile Starr. Experimental Animation: An Illustrated Anthology. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1976.
  • Sitney, P. Adams. Visionary Film: The American Avant-Garde third edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
  • Wees, William C. Light Moving in Time: Studies in the Visual Aesthetics of Avant-Garde Film. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.
  • Youngblood, Gene. Expanded Cinema. Vancouver: Clarke, Irwin & Company Limited, 1970.

Additional Links