by Laia Nadal
Music never stops; it is only the listening that is intermittent.
— Henry David Thoreau
As our gaze becomes more highly attuned, we are able to hear silent images, read and feel them. This is especially the case when watching films that lack narration, and more concretely when watching films that make reference to their own form. As P. Adams Sitney would say about structural film, “It’s cinema of the mind, rather than the eye”, as it involves a meditation on its medium.
Anna Thew, who initially started working as a painter between 1972 and 1983, transitioned to filmmaking, a practice she has maintained ever since, in which she either abolished or otherwise shifted any notion of narrative. In 2003, she filmed Autumn Rush for Kurt Kren and Winter and Spring and Summer, wherein she suggests a reading exercise, the flicker images serving as our sheet music. We don’t listen to the melody, but we can read its visual rhythm, its cadence, and its surefire state of existence as music. Even with its absence of camera movement, we find different parameters that could define its rhythm and even melody. We can feel it as we associate notes with the variations of the colours, the density, the variety of tree species we are able to spot and their shapes across the four seasons. Each reel consists of over 3,500 images with mathematically planned sections, improvised cross rhythms, especifically 2/3 and 4/3, polyrhythms that resemble John Coltrane’s Afro Blue or Frédéric Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu. Thew points out that the passage of time has a melody.
Its essential split screen provides significant contrast between the images, and although its stroboscopic phenomenon is reduced when we are focused on the two screens, it still achieves communication with our bodies. Our little bodies in front of the big screen, illuminated on and off, as if the light was hitting them, as if the light could keep going through them. But the truth is that the light stays in us, because we don’t remember the film’s literality, but the sensory experience, the memory of how it makes us feel. Thew’s film might not be about the movement of images, but rather a light vibration in the surface of our body.
In the words of Anna Thew, Autumn is dedicated to Kurt Kren after Bäume Im Herbst, Winter to her father, who died in 1999, Spring to Rose Lowder after Parcelle and Summer to her mother.