Zach McLane “returns” to FP with a new video work plus expanded notes since his last and first visit to Hong Kong in September 2018. In renewed confidence of his own language, in words or images, Zach turned a strip of trashed 35mm film found in a backyard creek into the preserved evidence of an unknown yet concrete history. A documentary impulse of his pushed physical marks, scratches and patterning into the materialization of an absence now surfacing as perceivable forms and motions, through digital re-mediation. 

During the summer of 2016, I found a strip of 35mm film in a creek behind my friend’s apartment. Peering down into the creek we realized that the strip of film that we saw dipped into the mud. We decided to take off our shoes and venture in, pulling out what ended up being over twenty feet of film, which we then proceeded to clean, dry, and examine.

Finding this film began something for me. I became obsessed with it. I stared at the film, analyzing each and every inch, searching for the remains of whatever images it once held. I wanted something, even if only a fragment of what might have been the original images. “This river has always been filled with trash,” an old woman yelled down to us when we pulled the entrenched filmstrip out of the mud. Was it simply another piece of trash? I demanded the film speak. But I couldn’t find anything; the film retained nothing. Or it might be better to say the film retained everything, took everything in, and when it ended up in the creek it swallowed everything it could, holding onto algae, dirt, and grime. Removed from the 35mm is all of those images that clung to the surface—they’ve dissolved, slipped away, sailed down the river. Maybe they were never there to begin with.

What is left when the meaning you are looking for is gone? On the film strip I found an illegible history in strange patterns of brown and green, a part of the river that now clings to its surface. In my own digital images, I seek to find those moments in which another kind of meaning appears. In an error, a glitch, an accidental photograph, I search for my own language. I find those images and compile them, rip them up, and paste them back together. Video making is that practice of finding those languages within digital images. It is a process of sampling and collaging a personal archive, one which continues to grow.

Digital images are coded information. Their material support are their algorithms, interpreted and displayed on our screens. These algorithms compress data in order for images to take up as little space as possible. Images are always on the move. They are sent in a text, downloaded, forwarded in an email, uploaded and downloaded again. They become smaller and smaller, and slowly, something happens. Once hidden patterns become more and more visible; solid colors become seas of swirling noise; a strange shape appears where nothing was present before. Algorithms begin to consume the image as what was once represented clearly is slowly pulled apart. Two years ago, I took a video of the reflections of light on water and didn’t know what it would be used for. Now it appears in Tearing (2019), duplicated, degraded, edited, and realized in a form that is entirely unrecognizable from where it began. Suddenly, an opening: a hundred thousand tiny pixels pour out, spilling out their secrets. It is here that I pick up my tools. Ripping off a new page and starting fresh. Tearing.

(Zach McLane, March 2019, Los Angeles)

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Related Readings 相關閱讀:

[Floating Teatime 據點一杯茶] “Crossing the Distance Between Reading and Speaking” by Zach McLane

[Floating Events 據點打開門] “Between Memory + Image 在記憶+影像之間 (7 videographers on what they do with a camera)”

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Below: quotations from the minute-long loop Tearing (2019) by Zach McLane