Recently EYE was part of a quite exciting project involving the re-enactment of the software code filmmaker and computer artist Bart Vegter used to create his computer abstract animation film ‘De Tijd’ in 2008.
In 2011 after the filmmaker passed away, his complete archive was donated to EYE. We had already previously worked on the restoration of his films, but this was the first time we received a filmmaker’s archive made up of a diverse range of media testifying to the different image-making techniques he used during his lifetime; together with previously unreleased 16mm or 8mm early films, the boxes also included old hard-drives and floppy disks containing the software code he wrote to make his computer films.
As the expertise of our film curators and restorers lies primarily in the preservation of analogue and digital film rather than computer art the computer-based artefacts in Vegter’s archive presented us with a number of challenges. In order to bring us closer to understanding and appreciating the working method of Bart Vegter, and his use of the computer as a creative medium, EYE commissioned Bram Bogaerts and Jesper Vos to respond to this archive. We asked the designers to focus specifically on the preservation and access of the self-written software code. The result is ‘Machine Room’; a large-scale spatial installation which is a real-time visualization of the computer code Vegter used to make his 2008 film ‘De Tijd’ and at the same time a study of the life-span of software codes.
Who was Bart Vegter and why is he important to us?
Bart Vegter (1940-2011) was an experimental filmmaker who lived and worked in Rotterdam. He is often considered one of the pioneers of abstract animation in The Netherlands.Initially Vegter did not train as a filmmaker. In his twenties he studied Electronic Engineering at Eindhoven University and, following this, went on to work as an engineer for a number of large corporations. After working in this field for almost two decades Vegter decided he wanted a career change. In 1976 he began to channel his energy into experimental cinema. He started attending Frans Zwartjes’ Cine Workshop at the Psychopolis Free Academy of Art in the Hague (Vrije Akademie). During his time here he was introduced to the work of a number of prominent Dutch experimental filmmakers and animators. Jacques Verbeek, Paul de Mol and Karin Wiertz, as well as the artists associated with 1960s and 1970s American experimental cinema, influenced Vegter’s early film work.
During his first years as a film-maker, he worked mainly with traditional animation techniques. In 1981 he made his first experimental film, Horizontalen. This film, along with In Need of Space (1983), De Hemel is Vierkant (1985), and Four Moves (1987), was filmed on 16mm and made by using traditional methods like cuts-outs, cell overlays and other printing techniques. From the 1990's Vegter started to use computer generated images in his films, the first one of this kind was Nacht-Licht (1993). The films that followed, Space-Modulation (1994), Forest-Views (1999), Zwerk (2004), and De Tijd (2008) all were made using his self-written computer software code. These computer-made films were transferred back to film for projection copies on 16mm and 35mm. Vegter continued to make films using this technique up until his death in 2011.
Still from De hemel is vierkantStill from Horizontalen Vegter’s switch to computers was based upon his desire to combine his technical background with his creative interests and to be able to explore a new medium. Though Vegter’s use of computers changed the aesthetics of his films, his overall approach to filmmaking remained the same throughout his life. He was interested in exploring the inherent qualities/rules of processes present in physical realities or perceptual experiences. As Joost Rekveld writes on Vegter: “He had an eye for intriguing visual phenomena…He took many pictures of sand patterns in the dunes, enjoyed the rhythmic circular waves in a puddle when it was raining, admired the light projections on his wall caused by the sun’s rays reflected off windows and through trees, and wondered why he could only see the reflection of his cactus in the window when he was moving it…In a way, besides their beauty and originality, perhaps the strongest statement the films of Bart Vegter make is that they share his admiration, curiosity and above all his pure attention for the visual world.” The computer-made films of Bart Vegter are the end result of a long process which starts with a self-written software code that either creates or manipulates an image. These codes could be considered the DNA of the film but contrary to film, they cannot be read or easily accessed by third parties. Researching the Bart Vegter software code for the project ‘Machine Room’ is a first step into understanding how he worked with the computer and could hopefully provide interesting insights into computer art in general and its preservation, an area of interest not yet widely spread among film archives but in need of attention due to the speedy technical obsolescence of equipment and softwares. In the future we hope to develop and expand upon this area of research. For more information on this project you can watch the short documentary we produced for Art-Tube with interviews of Bogaerts and Vos, Martijn van Boven and Simona Monizza.
On Tuesday 15th March 2016, in collaboration with ArtEZ, EYE will present ‘Machine Room’, the EYE-commissioned installation by interaction designers Bram Bogaerts and Jesper Vos.
To know more about the project Machine Room you can watch this short video reportage by Bram Bogaerts and Jesper Vos.
Simona Monizza, Curator Experimental Film & Ruth Sweeney, internTag:experimental film, computer, digital, technology, interactive, interaction, archive
In the early 2000s the EYE Filmmuseum received a large amount of film-related materials (in particular about Dutch silent film) through the estate of film collector and historian Geoffrey Donaldson (1929-2002). In a previous blog entry we already talked about the archive of the Kinsbergen family which was created from the materials from this particular archive. Another part of the collection which has recently been inventoried consisted of 2 boxes containing 8 binders with material about the British author Henry Rider Haggard. Six of which contained information about films adapted from Haggard's works. Haggard, who is most widely known for his adventure stories set in exotic locations (predominately the jungles of Africa), is widely regarded as one of the first people to popularize the so-called “Lost World” literary genre.
Henry Rider Haggard was born in Bradenham (Norfolk) on June 22nd 1856 as the eight of ten children. As the son of a barrister he was educated at Ipswich Grammar school and by private tutors. At age 19 he was sent to southern Africa as part of the staff of Sir Henry Bulwer, the governor of the South African province Natal. He was present during the signing of the treaty with the Boers (settlers in that region who had predominately Dutch ancestry) and the annexation of the Transvaal region by the British government. He later became head of his own government department. On August 11, 1880 he married Mariana Louisa Margitson and returned to England after the Transvaal gained independence in 1884. They had four children, one son (who tragically died from measles at age 10) and three daughters who he named after characters from his books. His first commercial success came with his fourth book, “King Solomon’s Mines”, an adventure novel in the vein of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island”. Among his most popular creations were Allan Quatermain, the hero of “King Solomon’s Mines” (and it's sequels), and Ayesha, the title character of his fifth book “She” (the novel that was most frequently adapted to the screen, at least 13 adaptations according to Donaldson).
Donaldson collected everything he could find about films made from Haggard's books ranging from the earliest silent versions till the most recent film adaptation of "Allan Quatermain", “Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold” (USA, 1987) with Richard Chamberlain and Sharon Stone. The latter a sequel to the 1985 film "King Solomon's Mines" which tried but failed to reach the same level of success as Spielberg's Indiana Jones movies. The meticulously research contained personal notes in which Donaldson gave further details about the cast and crew and discussed whether the film should be considered part of the Haggard filmography. In some cases, as with the Méliès film “La Danse du Feu” (France 1899) he concluded that the film should not be considered as a adaptation of “She”, as some other film historians had suggested.
Among the materials collected were more than 300 photographs and (vintage) postcards aquired from a number of archives around the world as well as a few original publicity items such as brochures, pressbooks and posters.
Donaldson's research included information about some of the more obscure versions of Haggard adaptations such as a Musical version of "She" called "Malika Salomi" (India, 1953) from India and a TV version of "King Solomon's Mines" from South Africa as well as a variety of photographs from lost silent films such as two US films from 1917 "Heart and Soul" and "Cleopatra" starring the famous Vamp Theda Bara.
Those familiar with Dutch silent film might be particularily interested in the Austrian silent film "Die Sklavenkönigin" (1924), a version of the novel "Moon of Israel". One of the stars of the movie was the Chilean actor Adelqui Migliar who is most famous for appearing in a great number of Dutch productions. This connection is quite remarkable given the fact that Donaldson was particularily interested in Dutch film, spoke out against the claim by earlier Dutch filmscholars that the Netherlands had not been very prolific during the silent film era and is well-known for writing "Of Joy and Sorrow" an indepth filmography about the Dutch silent film period.
Dana Pastor, intern filmrelated collectionTag:silent film, sound film, Geoffrey Donaldson, H. Rider Haggard, stille film, archief, collectie, collection, archive, lost films, adaptation