By Mel Favara
The Persistence of Vision
What is the persistence of vision? How long does the image remain on the eye in a dark room? These are the questions Bruce McClure ruminated over in this morning’s workshop, as he dissected and reassembled his procedure of overlaying loops of film in flickering black and white. McClure’s elemental study of seeing itself is a marriage of the calculated and the randomly generative, born of intellectual inquiry and an intimacy with the film loops themselves—they have tape on them, and scratches, and the viewer senses an evolving relationship between McClure and the celluloid.
Levi Hanes nailed it in his posting on McClure’s films—there is something oddly sentimental, or perhaps better stated, emotionally evocative, about McClure’s abstract projections. Nearly psychoactive in their pulses and twitches, the resulting ragged rectangles of light, darkness, and space are accompanied by the sound the distressed film makes as it traverses the projectors—clicks and thuds McClure stretches into an eerie, sometimes industrial music with distortion pedals. Compelling as the projections themselves are, the conceptual frameworks from which McClure departs add to their depth.
McClure shared with us his interest in physiological psychology, in the illusions made possible by flickering film, and in art that surprises its creator, who, having made certain arbitrary decisions in order to start the machine, waits with the audience to see where it will go. He made frequent reference to a 1950s psych text, which discussed two of the concepts that he works with. The first, Critical Flicker Frequency, or CFF, is the rate at which two bulbs flashing meld together to create a constant light source (as in fluorescents). The second is spatial acuity—the phenomenon of two lights flashing at a rate that causes the appearance of light moving from one source to another, as in a theater marquee, which establishes “the cinematic quality which drew you into the theater in the first place.” Shorn of the trappings of representation in its traditional sense, the projections McClure generates from these precepts are representative of something else, if only the arbitrary conditions he chooses in creating the stretches of black and white on the film loops. He made reference to one of his pieces, in which he cut a strip of black film the length of a room and a strip of white film the height of the room, and projected the loop in the room itself. This kind of construction speaks of a democratic relationship with the medium, and with the artist’s subject—a space narrating its own dimensions in obsessive repetition, restating itself for brief intervals on the screen of the human eye.