Paul Bush

2001 | 00:05:30 | United States | English | Color | Stereo | 4:3 | Film

Collection: Single Titles

Tags: Animation, Dance, European Film/Video, Film or Videomaking, Performance

The orchestra begins and a male and female dancer move from opposite sides of the stage. The dancers embrace and begin the White Swan pas de deux from the ballet Swan Lake. However this is not the ballet as it is normally performed. The choreography has been re-staged so that in every single frame the two original dancers have been replaced by the bodies of four new dancers. The movement remains continuous, the characteristics of the dancers’ movements and gestures the same, but in each frame a different person occupies the dancers’ body spaces. A parasitic population has completely taken over the body of its host while allowing its movements and mannerisms to remain intact.

With the aid of a line tester that can hold and recall a series of frames, sequences from a well-known ballet are recalled frame by frame. As each frame is recalled, a person is placed in the position that was occupied by the dancer in the original sequence. The live feed from a video assist and the frame from the original sequence are aligned. The person holds in frozen motion the dancer’s exact position. A film camera takes a single frame of this. Then the next frame of the sequence is recalled and a new person takes up position in the body space of the dancer. A new sequence exactly the length of the original is filmed.

The psychologist A.R. Luria believed that our understanding of the world is constructed from two complimentary versions of the things around us. In one we ‘catch on the fly’ what is needed of what is in front of our eyes. The other is a wold organized in time with a causal structure, a world of plans and intentions and therefore narrative. Using Luria’s model, film works in this way; a single frame held for a fraction of a second is our sample of the world around. A second frame in which elements are slightly different suggests movement. The organizational capacity of the frontal cortical system comes into play and a temporal structure is perceived – the shot.

In PAS DE DEUX DE DEUX, each frame is incompatible with the next, but the whole sequence conforms to a pattern of movement that we are familiar with – the pas de deux from classical ballet. The puzzle and the solution are apparent at the same time. But while the intellect understands the solution, the senses simply cannot untangle the puzzle, any more than we can see an isolated single frame out of a continuous sequence of film. PAS DE DEUX DE DEUX subverts the processes (both physiological and mechanical) by which film works, and uses to do this a piece of equipment (the line tester) which is an essential device employed in that most arduous and least subverted area of film trickery, animation.

The pas de deux provides a vocabulary of movement, walking, running, lifting, moments of stillness then movement again, that are ideal for this exploration of perception. But much more important, this technique adds another extra magical dimension to dance. Movement triumphs against a succession of still single frames. The sexual and sensual elements present in a pas de deux are emphasized by the sudden orgy of bodies embracing on the dance floor as if to illustrate Freud’s aphorism about sexual intercourse: when a couple make love it is not just two people on the bed but four – because both parents of the couple are influencing the actions of their offspring.

This technique, however visually intangible, is also curiously material and physical, the effect of the slight change in body movement from frame to frame providing an illusion of three dimensions. The eye of the viewer sees into the spaces around the bodies of the dancers resulting from the impossibility of each fitting exactly into the others shape.

This film is the necessary and curious result of the action of the single frame mechanism of a film camera and human movements. PAS DE DEUX DE DEUX continues the investigation of the frame and its relationship to the shot which was begun in the Bush’s earlier film Furniture Poetry and continued with Jekyll and Hyde. This is an exploration in which science is tempered with humor, and one which is led by an instinctive and experimental approach to the techniques and equipment of filmmaking rather than any prescriptive ideas either about the psychology of perception, Freudian analysis, film or ballet.

The White Swan pas de deux from Swan Lake as originally danced by Marina Semenova and Yuri Kondratov in 1946 is re-enacted by Yalckun Abdurehim, Matthew Hawkins, Camille Litalien and Franziska Rosenzweig.

This title is also available on Paul Bush Pixilated.

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