Reviewed at the University Galleries, Center for Visual Arts, Illinois State University, October 2001
Whether in the guise of Public Works Productions, creating analog/digital sound compositions, or the Tape-beatles, assembling found-footage art cinema, Lloyd Dunn and John Heck have collaborated with a varying rotation of partners to make non-traditional media. Operating with a mindset that an artist can create original works through the manipulation of pre-existing materials (akin to cut-and-paste collage zines and well before today’s digital assemblages) as well as release his work “into the public domain,” the duo has pressed forth with wide-ranging experiments since meeting at the University of Iowa in the late 1980s.
One of their chosen presentation formats, “expanded cinema,” is derived from a faux-widescreen facsimile adopted by the French filmmaker Abel Gance (Napoleon, 1927) well before the widescreen ratio became a viewing staple. With Gance’s “PolyVision,” multiple projectors would throw images onto the screen in a horizontal row, thereby replicating a complete image that would fill one’s peripheral vision. In the Tape-beatles’ reconfiguration of the process, one central, non-repeating stream of images with soundtrack runs throughout the duration, while two additional projectors, one to each side of the primary one, intermittently display short looped sequences adjacent to the main montage. Meant to complement or contrast either the primary imagery or soundtrack, these elements actually add a live performance element, as the artists must carefully switch these reels throughout and synch them correctly with the main reel.
After apparently more cohesive outings in The Grand Delusion (1992) and Matter (1994), the Tape-beatles return with their third “expanded cinema,” Good Times, several years in the making and preceded by a 1999 soundtrack album of the same name. Much more interesting structurally than thematically, the film juxtaposes found footage from typical sources — commercials, news reels, training films, propaganda, and so on — to comment on the profuse ways that the spoils of pre-millennium American economy have affected our every-day lives. Implications alternate expectedly between the positive and negative, and the lack of emotional conviction doesn’t allow the details contained therein to stick with much resonance, In that sense, Good Times is a partial misnomer, as well-intended meaning and irony alone do not a satisfying film experience make.
from Microfilm: The Magazine of Personal Cinema in Action
by Jason Pankoke