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Retrospectroscope (1997), 16mm, 5 minutes, silent. The "Retrospectroscope" apparatus has gone through many incarnations; its presence belies the processes that have created it. As a paracinematic device, it traces an evolutionary trajectory, encircling the viewer in a procession of flickering fantasies of fragmented lyricism. Retrospectroscope is a reinvention that simulates the illusion of the analysis of motion to recall early mysteries of the quest for this very discovery, now taken for granted. The Muses of Cinema, represented by the female figures on the huge spinning wheel, have emerged from a dark Neoclassical past. Streams of images revolve, in an attempt to harness notions of a cinematic prehistory tracing past motions and gestures to burn their dance on the surface of the retinas. The five-minute film, also known as Retrospectroscope, is testament to the apparatus, and was described in the San Francisco Bay Guardian as “A spinning flashing UFO/roulette wheel of Athenian proportions.”

This film was derived from a kinetic sculpture made using a single sheet of Plexiglas 5 ft. in diameter, and was mounted directly on a stand and illuminated from behind. As an optical device, its function was to create the illusion of moving images utilizing large format still images. A variation of the phenakistoscope, and many other such devices, my apparatus represents the need to re-explore the synthesis of years of scientific discoveries that culminated in the cinema, as we know it today. As the phenakistoscope established the "stroboscopic effect," this concept inspired me to use actual strobes, the intermittent element of which acted as a shutter. The basic phenomena of the combined physics of kinetics frequency of light, velocity and flicker fusion constitute the piece on a material level. These elements converge to animate still images originally shot on film. The series of images are photographic transparencies either shot using the still camera to animate as the originator of the images, or used to re-photograph images originally shot on motion picture film using the analyst projector as a tool to harness the ephemeral image. Currently, a shift in our perception has already been dissembled and fragmented through computer-based technology in the ways in which spatial temporal realms are challenging our views about how space is constructed. The installation as a whole provides a link to this evolving, perceptual trajectory. The film was derived from an installation that was part of the 125th Anniversary celebration of the San Francisco Art Institute and inspired by Edweard Muybridge and other early chronophotographers. Muybridge might possibly be the first to have projected motion pictures when he used his zoopraxiscope to demonstrate images of a trotting hose at the San Francisco Art Association in 1878. Retrospectroscope was in the list of top ten films in 1997, by Film Threat On-line.

Please note: dimensions are variable as the 16mm film print is projected. Film print does not include a 16mm projector. Work includes a Certificate of Authenticity.


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About Kerry Laitala

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Kerry Laitala grew up on the Maine coast, while developing a chronic passion for old things. She attended Massachusetts College of Art studying Photography and Film and received her Masters degree from the San Francisco Art Institute in Film. She has been awarded the Princess Grace Award in 1996, and the Special Projects Grant from PGF in 2004 and 2007. Awards have also been received from the Black Maria Film Festival and Big Muddy Film Festival and the San Francisco International Film Festival as well as residency at the Academie Schloss Solitude near Stuttgart, Germany. Laitala is a media archeologist who investigates the past and retrieves cultural artifacts from the limbo of forgotten things. Her penchant for medical imagery and artifacts of decay springs from occupations in medical and dental institutions where she works during the day when she is not teaching film classes at the San Francisco Art Institute. Laitala is deeply invested in the process of working directly with the film medium, and is involved in all aspects of production: shooting, developing, editing and sound design as well as optically printing much of the material to transform it into celluloid gems of uncanny resonance. Laitala has recently expanded her terrain to work in a series of light/ motion/color experiments called the Chromatic Cocktail Series. Several of these works have screened in Europe and she is currently working on live chroma performances and installations involving multip projectors and 3D chromadepth technology. Laitala is also continuing her explorations with Expanded cinema / Projector performance works with sound collaborations with Bay Area sound artists Neal Johnson and John Davis.

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Terms & Conditions

Please note for international shipment, it is the Buyer’s sole responsibility to identify and obtain any necessary export, import, or other permit or license for the lot. Paddle8 and the seller make no representations or warranties as to whether any lot is or is not subject to export or import restrictions. The delay in obtaining or the denial of any permit or license shall not justify cancellation or rescission of the sale contract or any delay in payment. By bidding on this work, buyer agrees to the Terms & Conditions as outlined in the following Memorandum of Understanding: This Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) constitutes an agreement between the buyer and the filmmaker and San Francisco Cinematheque, regarding the acquisition by the buyer of this single 16mm film print. Its terms are outlined below and will be agreed upon by the buyer and filmmaker and San Francisco Cinematheque prior to delivery of this print.

1. This print is provided to the buyer for his/her personal private viewing and use. Ownership of this print may not be transferred, via sale, gift, trade/barter, donation, will or any other means without the express consent of the filmmaker or his/her agent. On such occasion as buyer desires to terminate his/her possession of this print (including by means such as sale, gift, trade/barter, donation as well as through disposal or destruction) he/she must consult with the filmmaker or his/her agent prior to action and offer a return of the print at no cost to either party. It is understood that the buyer, in taking possession of this print, will be in no way responsible for its distribution, dissemination or use by the filmmaker (or any other parties), except as specified in this MOU.

2. Exhibition of this print is restricted to personal private use by the buyer. The (private) exhibition of this print is restricted to groups numbering less than twenty persons. Public exhibitions (whether for free or for charge) of this print are prohibited without the express consent of the filmmaker or his/her agent. This print is not to be lent, rented or otherwise provided to others for exhibition (public or private). The buyer must be present at each projection of this print.

3. The filmmaker retains copyright of this work and retains all rights to its reproduction, reformatting and exhibition (other than those private exhibition uses outlined in this MOU). This print may not be reproduced in any way, including by such means as optical and contact printing and transfer to digital or analog video formats. This film may not be televised. Documentation of screenings/exhibitions of this film (including filming via film or video cameras and such devices as cellular phones, tablet computers, etc.) is expressly prohibited. Similarly, the soundtrack of this film may not be duplicated, extracted, excerpted or broadcast. The buyer is solely responsible to restrict and prohibit such use, reuse or documentation.

4. On the occasion of inquiry for use by third parties for such purposes as scholarly or curatorial research and/or potential use in exhibition, archiving and preservation, such access shall be provided solely at the discretion of the buyer, in consultation with the filmmaker or his/her agent.

5. This work, in whole or in part, may not be excerpted or incorporated into derivative forms, films, artworks or displays, including (but not limited to) its use in documentary or experimental films, found footage collage films, projection performances and the like. While viewing, inspection and examination of this print (via such means as rewinds, flatbed editor/viewing devices and analytic projection) is encouraged, this print is not to be publicly exhibited in these forms without the express consent of the filmmaker or his/her agent.

6. The buyer will notify the filmmaker and San Francisco Cinematheque within 10 days of receipt of the print of any complaint or concern regarding the print, including, for example, reporting on unsatisfactory print condition.

Retrospectroscope, 1997
Lot Number 32
16mm film print
Courtesy of the artist

Online bidding for this work ended on November 15, 2014 at 3:00pm ET.

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