MATERIALISM AND BEYOND Lee Hang jun’s Expanded Cinema

Kim, Ji-Hoon

Lee’s expanded cinema works in the mid-2000s encompass multi-screen projection performances in which various found footage that he physically and chemically processed is presented in collaboration with Korean and foreign improvisation and electronic musicians, including Korean noise music artist Hong Chulki. Generally, found footage filmmaking includes a variety of practices based on the selection, processing, and rearrangement of images from existing films and videos, with the intention of de-contextualizing them and creating new meanings out of their new associations or configurations. In this sense, a dominant trope is the characterization of the found footage filmmaker as collector or historian. Lee’s found footage works, however, originate from his idea that this characterization is not the only way of dealing with and defining found footage in the history of experimental cinema. He states, “The ambiguity of the term ‘found’ has mainly assumed such attitudes as ‘collecting and gathering,’ or ‘discovering and finding,’ and the idea of expanding the status of the filmmaker into historian or ethnographer has been responsible for many misconceptions that affect the ways that we understand the various characters of found footage films.”

(......) Lee’s Film Walk, initially conceived in 2011, is a performance in which he accomplishes a real-time transformation of the multiple processes by which film perforations are combined with the components of the cinematic apparatus, including a projector. At first sight, the work is composed of an array of activities, such as stretching out film stock mounted on four 16mm projectors and walking around the gallery space in various directions. However, the performance is not merely the sum of these activities. Lee disregards the normative operation of the projector for the standard presentation of the filmic image on the screen and instead connects the perforations on the filmstrip to the sound head of the projector. When Lee pulls the filmstrip so that it is interlocked with the perforations, which should normally be linked to its optical track, they function as a soundtrack. In addition, Lee’s real-time manipulation associated with pulling out the filmstrip creates flexibility according to its speed and direction, and the nature of the noise is at once determined unpredictably and automatically (that is, a perforation makes an audible tone as it is interlocked with the projector).

In this way, Film Walk dramatizes the material components of the filmstrip and the processes by which it is connected to the projector as an event. This idea is based on Lee’s application of what Le Grice has called “Real Time/Space,” in which the idea of projection as event occupies a central position. Lee explains his underlying idea for Film Walk in the same manner as Le Grice: “The number of these noises corresponds exactly to the length of time. The accumulation of perforation sound replaces that of film frames. This is a very transparent and pedagogical performance that everyone is capable of making.” From this perspective, it can be said that Film Walk is intended to present the elements of the film medium at physical and perceptual levels and, simultaneously, connect the production of film with the viewer’s reception of it. The “process” revealed in Film Walk is more than presenting the filmstrip and the projector as material substrates of film. Rather, the space of Lee’s performance simultaneously evokes an array of locations in which the cinematic apparatus functions and the film experience takes place: not simply in the movie theater, but also the darkroom, editing room, and projection booth. Lee’s activities in this piece, including mounting the filmstrip’s perforations on the projector’s sound head and pulling it freely through the galley space, are seen as improvisational transformations of the instructional behaviors that the filmmaker and the projectionist should make for the completion of filmmaking and projection. Lee has clarified that Film Walk investigates the individual existence of these various places (or “rooms”) and the intimate coexistence of all works performed in them: “We need rooms of various characters, including the inventory, the meeting place, the production studio, the theater, and the exhibition space, all of which are sometimes invisible but exist individually for the limitations and possibilities of film. These rooms are juxtaposed side by side (sometimes they need to be invisible or visualized), and are completely open to always being arranged in new ways.”