Public Works Productions

Public Works present The Tape-beatles (and Vice Versa)

What are presentations by The Tape-beatles like?

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General description

Conceptual overview


Technical requirements

Screening diagram

Setup examples

Projector distances

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The Chicago Reader

at the Empty Bottle

at the ATA Gallery

at Illinois State U


IN PERFORMANCE The Tape-beatles and Public Works make use of multiple technologies, many of them obsolete, to create a carefully controlled panorama of moving pictures and sounds. From laptop computers to hand-crank gramophones, The groups’ arsenal of instruments spans the century.

In The Grand Delusion (1994), The Tape-beatles began making use of a technique called PolyVision, borrowed from the French silent filmmaker Abel Gance. Gance’s technique was pioneered in the 1920s and anticipated the contemporary wide screen formats, such as Panavision and Cinemascope. Both Public Works and The Tape-beatles have continued using the technique, renamed ‘expanded cinema’, in their presentations for Matter (1997) and Good Times (2001). In their version of ‘expanded cinema’, three 16mm film projectors run simultaneously, creating a wide screen collage of motion pictures made entirely of found footage.

The center image is a tightly edited and scored reel which runs continuously and non-repetitively in wild synch with the audio. During the piece, it is intermittently flanked by projected 16mm film loops from the two other projectors, which serve to complete the spectacle and augment the images on the center screen. Many of the loops represent short films in themselves, with numerous cuts and carefully timed transitions, though few are longer than 3 feet in length. The repetitive quality of the film loops counterpoints the continuous nature of the center reel, and also serves to underscore the continuity and rhythms in the music. Most importantly, perhaps, it provides an opportunity for The Tape-beatles and Public Works to provide commentary in completely visual terms on the footage featured front-and-center.

During their presentations, The Tape-beatles and Public Works have generally presented the ‘expanded cinema’ (our most recently preferred term for PolyVision) for Good Times (2001), Matter (1997), and The Grand Delusion (1994). Other elements have been introduced which are more theatrical and performance-like in nature, such as the ‘Entr’Acte’ which uses a classical gramophone recording played through a paper cone, upon which images are projected by means of a hand-cranked projector. Various other similar presentation fragments are in the works.

Public Works and the Tape-beatles have performed to enthusiastic audiences in such places as the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany; the Center for Contemporary Culture in Barcelona; Walker Art Museum, Minneapolis; Volksbühne im Prater, Berlin; Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley CA; Artists Television Access, San Francisco; Sonic Temple, Pittsburgh; and CSPS in Cedar Rapids; as well as at venues in Prague, Toronto, Montreal, Chicago, among many others too numerous to mention. If you are interested in booking The Tape-beatles in your area, the contact is below.

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