reading reflection

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Write a one-page report on the assigned readings. This report must be typewritten, double-spaced with a standard 12-point font. The report should accurately and concisely highlight some of the major ideas in each reading while reflecting your own engagement with those ideas. Write in your own words.

ftufir.!r:1 mtlrr"Ea 8 iXrnrlLgj m.m{ IE'mic]n flt'ltrr:|3 Acts of Delay: The Play Between Stillness and Motion in Tom, Tom, :rrr:,nn. i'r rlc.: t:g: I :ME :I.}: "mr::frtrJ T/te Piper's Son "Kn,:*Sl -Lr * tt:,f-{' ErvrNo Rgssear *;r n-l i gi:1*n --: The arrival of Ken Jacobs' Tom, Torn, The Piper's Son in 1969 came as a shock to its audiences: it was "an entirely different way of experiencing fiIm," says Scort MacDonald.l The 6lm is widely recognized to be a classic and was added to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2007. How do we interpret and understand a transgressive underground film like this it still belong, as a critic recently wrote, to "rhe mad-scientist school of film- today? Does making"?2 The counterculture of the late 1960s and early 1970s celebrated the tory aspects. This way filmt hallucina, of engaging with the 6lm was often propagated and endorsed by Ken Jacobs himself.3 Following P. Adams Sitney, the structural filmmakers and critics saw the essen- tial structures of film revealed. David E. James, on the other hand, has suggested that Torn, Torn can be seen as "a post-structuralist rather than a structuralist film, a cricical essay that does not ^, -'. la"6 v --;- 1 --rro;'j : -f !n1- .;::,oril :oot4 Ton- dris la reduce its object-text to a single, simple structure but opens ir to its own difference.'a My own analysis of the film draws on all rhese approaches, but in an age of media transitions, I would edinn like to call particular attention to the wayJacobs negotiates berween different art and media forms. In particular, I will focus on the play between stillness and motion. On one level, this srs6 play addresses the ultimate desire behind every found-footage work: to make the dead come alive again. On another level, it exhibits an opposite tendency. The use of arrests and sudden tinallr freeze frames almost threaten to turn the film into pure stuttering. This may have been one of minut the qualities Sitney saw when he wrote: 'Jacobs insists upon the idea of a film as a dying organism."5Jacobs'methods ofworkingcertainlyplace his works in an ambiguous twilight zone. origtr However, this twilight zone is set up precisely to investigare new visualiries and resonances. The relationship between stillness and motion is as old as the history of art, but it reached a new intensity with cinema. In the beginning, cinema exhibitors were concerned with demon- mate strating the unique capabilities of the new medium of rhe Cinimatlgraphe, as the LumiAre Brothers called their multipurpose machine. Time and again they would asronish their audi- beior ence ges with a special technique of presentation. Before the projectionist stirred life into the ima- by cranking the machine, they would present the moving image as a scilled image. One che ol, 0 suP€rl Tom < cut tc . ionin is a itx vou are cl and e 97 Acrs or DBrat in hundred years lare! one of rhe most striking features of contemporary cinematic Practices and other techmovies theatres, art galleries, and new media is the frequent use of slow motion in the direction refashioned increasingly niques ofdelay. It is as if the moving image has become This develvisible. of d.-onrt."ting its abilitie s to not moye,or to move in ways that are barely new spe eds opmenr has also Leen facilitated by new moving image technologies that are making artists' image moving . Several possible combinations of motion and stillness of modon and new works that play from avant,garde filmmakers to video and new media artists, excel in crealing with indiscernible differences between motion and stillness. In this work, stops, sdll frames' is certainly one of freeze efFects, slow-motion effects, and even stuttering abound. Ken Jacobs he installs a serie s of rhe pioneers of this approach. In his most cele brated work, Tom, Torn, "misplaced" freeze-frames and odd transitions between stillness and motion that render hidden deposits, new stories, and amazing visualities tangible in new ways' he was teaching at St. John's university in New Jacobs began work on Torn, Torn while york in the late 1960s. At thar time, the film librarian, Kemp Niver, was comPleting a project never-before-seen that would drastically changd our understanding of early 6lm. Hundre ds of deposits stored print paper archival from film early films were converred into 8mm celluloid Son from Piper's the Torn, and almost forgotten at the Library of Congress. The originai Torn, ten-minute-long one-reeler 1905 was one of the restored films. It is a short silent film comedy, a *'idelr' :Con{e rhis i filmuclna'r-Ken essen- t, Tont res not lv ou'n u'ould media el, this tcome udden one of dying t zone. rented some to show eraman. "I d read about these 'paper prints'at the Library of Congress and Tom' to my class]'Jacobs told Scoct MacDonald.6 Sixty-four years after Bitzer made Torn' foundanorhef filmmaker almost complecely transforms it by turning it into an avant-garde tripod' on a camera Jacobs' footage work using a projector, a translucent screen, and a handheld earn films found-footage many while way' in a special but film, Tont, Tom is a found-footage flatbed a using a collage into films older of this label because the filmmakers insert elements literally refilming ediring able or a computer program, Jacobs created his found-footage film by th. olJ fih right offthe screen (his technique will be discusse d below)' Jacob s' Torn, Tozn con' sisrsoffourparrssrarringwith(A)theoriginal Tom,Torn(l0minutes),followedby(B)Jacobs' and ,op.r.long"t.d refilmin! of the film (90 minutes), then (A) again (another l0 minutes), n""ffy 1Cj, a short epilogue (2 minutes), a split-screen ficker film showing a sttII ftom Tom, lasts for about I12 Torn onthe righc side and a bright fickering to the left. The whole, ABAC, film form is interesting in itself. It is shaped almost like a seminar: initially the -irrrrt.r.ty".Js' stirred' and original piece is presented without interruption (A), then the material is shaken' inti.,r, ,o pi..., (B), before we finally see it all again (n). rne structure itself highlights a very humble, relationship between the "two" films: Bitzert original andJacobs'refashionini. Jacobs' sdll/moving play intervenes wildly but elegantly with Bitzer's Tom' Torn,which 'Tom, of speed and motion. Let me first say a few words about Bitzer's Tom, -".a.rr.r, es. eached .emonumidre r audire studios in Manmade by the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company in one of their "Billy" of the Biograph one Bitzer, hattan. The film was mosr likely shot and directed by G. W. Griffitht camcompany's two principle cameramen at the time. Bitzer later became D.'w. ima- e. One is ltself a story before we go on to analyze Jacobs' version' "bad boy" genre. tVe follow Bitzerrs Tom, Ibrnis a chase story. It operates in the so-called where they steal a pig and e scape. They a young boy, Tom, and his friend during a day at the fair are chased by a horde of villagers before Tom is finally arrested. Jacob s' Tom, Tom is a didacdc step by steP' to and a perverse rephotographing of the original material. He disrobes the film, Oprrc ANrrcs 98 :-t -:] :.1 f- ra .-'. ::{ :-- *,: FIGURE8.I. The opening scene of Billy Bitzer's Tom, Ton, tbe Piper\ Son Rossaak ofthe original paper print deposit at the Library ofCongress. (tlOS). photograph by Eivind the point where the spectator is lost or, perhaps, co-ecsraric. However, this is so much more than just experimental hedonism. His delays, freeze-frames, and close-ups enable vs to see what's realfu there . While some film historians still thoughr of early cinema as primitive cinema, characterized by simple compositional naivetd or filmed theatre, Jacobs put forth its infinite richness with an unsurpassable ingenuity. His efforts, in fact, contributed to a widespread reconceptualization of e arly cinema.8 Describing Bitzert film, wrires: "Seven infinitely Jacobs complex cinetapestries comprise the original film, and the style is not primitive, not uncinematic but the cleanest inspired indication of a path of cinemaric development whose value has only recently been discovered."o Bitzer's Torn' Tom is also an encounter between two important sources: the popular English nursery rhyme for children that tells the story of the legendary Tom the piper's son, and a famous print by Villiam Hogarth entided Southwark Fair from 1733.10 The rhyme gives the story, and Hogarth, in providing the first expository shor, of whichJacobs is so fond, sets rhe scene. The painting depicts a society ofvarious social classes dressed for something that looks like a carnival where small monkeys, men, and puppets garher togerher under different flags. Significantly, Bitzer takes as srarring points two older media, a rhyme and a print. k ls as lf Bitzer underscores this conglomerate of different and competing media by celebrating the new abilities of his own medium, namely movement. Jacobs tends co reverse the process. paradoxically he reveals the amazingplay of motion in Birzer's film by dissecting and fragmenting the teeming motions through a series of scills and delays. He freezes the image of the opening scene pec the Jacr slor Pos rr'h, aPr intr lnt( mo ind duc tiva visil Acrs or DrreY ofthe village fair several times and even reduces its size to a postcard or print, 99 as ifto strengthen rhe original film's association with Hogarth's engraving. ThusJacobs makes the film renegotiate its original relationship to immobility. Each tableau in Bitzer's original constitutes one scene and ofFers elaborations ofone or two types of movement. The first scene is at the fair, a marke t place ; it's teeming with life-jugglers, a female tightrope walker, kids, players, and thieves' The study of human locomotion closes in on an elegant theft of handkerchiefs imposreally comes to the forefront when Jacobs sible to spot at normal spee d, or after Tom steals the pig and a large group of roaring villagers start chasing him. Part of the fun comes from the fact chat each person in the group of pursuers has to go through the same series of movements set up by the two feeing boys. Here Jacobs' remake becomes a wild version of Eadweard Muybridge s scientific motion studies. The crowd runs rhrough doors, windows, and holes in a fence. While it easily goes unnoticed in the original film, Jacobs' freezes and repetitions reveal the fact that a woman gets stuck in the fence' people even crawl through a {replace, climb up (l) and out the pipe and onto the roof, from which they slide down and,into a long jump before they finally hit the ground. Elsewhere they barn, up a ladder, men and women alike, only to jump into a haystack' Jacobs also of all kinds are spors an escaping bird and debris in the air, like foating spaceships. Movements articulated is also variety on. This and so demonstrated. Running, jumping, rolling, crawling, run inro rv Eivind a from scene to scene . If Che movements in one sc€ne Progress horizontally (across the stage)' (up a ladder). they will in the next scene move verrically (offa roof ) and then diagonally (A) to Jacobs' reworking (B), one when the film abruptly cuts from Bitzer's Tom, Torn. a immediately norices that in comparison ro the original it has a grainy, pointillist texture and that he or she has entered another that universe where another aesthetic logic is operating. The change in quality is due to the fact the film is now rephotographed through a screen. Contrary to what many film historians have I in this believed, Jacobs doe s nor use an oprical printer her..t The way filmic data are processed fatter, more compressed ch more $ to see sense ofspace. The speccator realizes cinema, whole setup is key to understandingJacobs' conresration of the boundaries between media. The infinite nfinitely film serup can be understood as an interface between the archival and the performative. The Two baby. newborn their was made in Jacobs' New York Ioft while his wife Flo was nursing people actively took part in the production of the 6lm: a person operating a projector behind uncine- ih. ,.r..r-, lespread (Jacobs), and a camera operator (Jacobs and his friendJordan Meyers) in front of it. lar Eng- with a hand-controllable clutch that allowed for Jacobs used an RCA home sound-projector in slowing and even stopping the fi1m.12 Jacobs directed the activities and edited the material camera handheld fexible an extremely The serup creares the impression of ,n, and a where framing change s from shot to 'alue has postproduction. the the action Painters. The camera be come s can itself spring a performative biush or stylus behlnd the small screen, which at any moment sets the into movement. Since the whole 6lm is recorded without sound, we can only imagine the rat looks iniEnse communicarion be twe en Jacobs and his assistant as they try to coordinate freezes, slow motions, ficker effects, and single-frame advances. The intimate hands-on teamwork lets them indulge in free-floating and sPontaneous interaction with the projected image ' This way of pro- gives :nt flags. .t is as if the new 'aradoxi- rting the n8 scene shor-not unlike ducing images is very far from the production of an ordinary movie' optical (the Cartesian, controllable, PerspecJacobs breaks the boundary separadng an tival) space from a haptic space. In the case ofhaptic space, a near-sighted sense of toucbingthe visible with che eye takes over and renders a distance d far-sightedness or an ove rview impossible. r00 Oprrc ANrrcs ln other terms, we can say that the technological storage system of film, which, when projected, depends on a mathematically delineated number of frames per second, is in this particular performance turned into an intensified capricious pulse. \fhat was automared and predetermined becomes arbitrary and associative. A living or biological system replaces a technological system. Through a wild investigation of odd visualities and speeds-fickers; visual effecrs created by super-high speeds that cause the image to become totally blurred and gradually take on anorher kind of movement; and the gradual transformation of abstract fields-Jacobs indulges in a kind of acinema. Here, energies and motions in the potential "misuse" or rarher inventive sabotage of elements of the cinematic apparatus are produced. The visual impressions conjured forth are beyond the image in any ordinary sense of the word and invite a kind of bodily and physical interaction. The flicker effects engage the body in the most literal sense, as the eye physically, sometimes painfully, has to work with the play of light and blurs. This phase of absolute losrness or ecstasy so dear to many of tJ-re underground filmmakers of the time is rare in much of todayt art. Narrative and Abstracrion Having shown the original Torn, Tom in its entirety, Jacobs next moves inro a close-up of the crowd in the opening scene. The close-up makes the image even grainier. Close-ups were rarely used in early cinema, and not used at all in Bitze r's film. This makes Jacobs' use of close-up focus even more striking and unusual. In Jacobs' shot, a group of people are viewed from the waist down. There are no face s, only fee t, legs, and hips. It is unclear ar this poinr who is playing the part of Tbm. Jacobs focuses on the legs of a boy standing in the foreground. His pants really separate is wearingwhite pants with dark stripes. He seems to walk around aimlessly. Suddenly,Jacobs focuses in on what seems to be the exchange of a fewwords (or perhaps an object is exchanged) between this boy and the juggler. The boy is Tom's helper, or rather a boy him from the crowd. He who decides to follow Tom during the first half of the chase before he simply disappears, somewhere in the middle of the film, never to show up again.Jacobs'keen focus on rhis odd boy, and absrrai ence. l pleasu mann. not on the actual Tom, highlights the unresolved incongruities ofthe narrative. Next, a man with a pig on a leash walks up to this odd boy and hastily hands him the leash. The man needs help so stance he can play what looks like a game of cards or dice. Here Jacobs reveals what can be called an of r-isu important narrative unit, His ap "cardinal function" in the narrative that was not readily apparenr in the original film.l3 He goes right to che core of the film's narrarive and focuses on che pragmatics stillner of plot: highlighting, pedagogically, two somewhat hidden details-the mysterious exchange onacl a Franz en a boy and the juggler (what happens here ?) and a cardinal event, a boy is given the pig. createS After showing rhis sequence of images moving ar a consranr "normal" speed, Jacobs freezes the frame on a wide shot that shows the boy holding the pig in front of the crowd while black ihe pigt owner seems to play a game in the background. Then the image moves unevenly, in a slow single-frame advance, as ifJacobs is trying to capture another cardinal evenr. The next freeze, coming afterjusr a few seconds, shows the odd boy being approached by another boy, orher who will eventually curn out to be the real Tom, the pipert son. the freeze is a close-up of the two of them. Up to this point,Jacobs'focus has been on rhe congruities and incongruities of take rh be twe the narrative, on carrying out a kind of experimenral plot analysis. Then, suddenly, somewhat out of nowhere, Jacobs freezes an image of a super-close-up of something rhat is abstract and seemingly not fixed to any of the plot events in the image. \fe see a large , white, glowing are a 1 the ver r famou be r-a{ Hofm; ture pl abstrac pleasur Acrs or DtleY It could be a close-up of almost few dots of grainy darkne ss scatte red on the periphery. ladies in the background, or perhaps the anything, perhaps a pair ofpanrs, the dress ofone ofthe The freeze lasts for about three seconds clown, dressed in a white leotard. It is impossible to say' on the Projector make the image cranks few and then, suddenly, the image is stirred to life. A dark dots jump across a large white area' move. Jacobs' camera is still held in a close-up position: bodies, but we cannot tell' The we may infer that the movements refer to garments on moving eighc seconds, and then there is a blackout' close-up ofthese abstract movements lasm for about the black line separating two p.rh"p, as a resuk of a freeze in combination with a close-up on blade on L"-.r, or a shadow effect caused by the projector aPpafatus. Most likely it is the rotor screen the leaving lens, projector! the projector that has suddenly been halted in front ofthe with a new freeze .o-pl.r.ly d"rk. The blackout lasts for about two seconds before it is replaced and a man behind him' They ,ho*i.,g an image of two men in medium close.up, the clown of the juggier and the white shirt on the somehow mek into one large figure as the white outfit rest of their bodies appear as scattered man behind him merge into one large white area' The creates a huge abstract form in the image dark dors. The loss ofcontours, delineation, and clarity be seen as investigations into "older rhar srresses its flatness. These odd abstractions can arguably painting and some of the ae sthetic media" and their visualitie s, and, in particular, into abstract wasJacobs' teacher at an early stage principles at play there. After all, the painter Hans Hofmann with ojected, rlar per- :rmined Isystem. eated by another in akind rotage forth of are physical liy, some)stness or dayt art. 'up of the rere rarely of abstract expressionism into i., hi, ."r..r. Jacobs' playful way of incorporating the concerns of the fascinating and daring characteristics Tom, Torncan be seen not only as a tribute to some Dadaistic "foreign" to cinema, but also as an attempt at "comme ntingi' pe rhaps as a e-up focus the waist ng of a visuality the Part gated by otber media' ioke, on how these abstractions can be investi felt that, in opposition to figurative art' Some abstract expressionist painters and critics a more powerful sense of presrbstract expressionism off.r.d ptr.r vision and communicated " for this art was one of disinterested aesthetic ence. The mode of reception deemed appropriate by both Clement Greenberg and Hans Hofpleasure and contemplatio.r. This vi.w was shared opposition between the abstract and the figurative ' Iv separate 'ound aimperhaps an rther a boy ears, some- *r"n,',.t'1".ob, i,-tu.rtig"t", this modernist ld boy, and libidinal, or Dadaistic' play with this classical appear in Torn, Tom throtgh the inscription ,rance. on the one hand, modernist abstractions paintings by Hofmann and lr t;"ftrn, or "quotes" infreeze-ftames that resemble well-known His approach incorporates amanwith :eds help so >e called an aPParent :pragmatics us exchange ren the pig. reed, Jacobs crowd while a a subversive eye and of these quotes are "commented" upon through a sly play freeze-frame Tozrt, Torn is the sudden abstract ,:i-llness and motion. The first example of this in "quote" a typical large Kline painting' This close-up .-,r a close-up, which might even be said to planes' a large white area and a black area' The ::e ate s a ,rr"rrg. play between two contrasting a plane and more of a line on :,:ck plane i, Jo.r-r.*h"t unstable and is, perhaps, in parts, less of vision of painting by -::-3 \.erge of becoming a plane. Here Jacobs investigates the modernist Franz Kline. in nevenly, in a . On the orher hand, ,."'i., ,i.".tr. lh. the paintings by pl"y ofilack-and-white forms begins to look like many of nt. The next and Mark Rothko can all :inous abstract expressionists: Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, another bov, :,. r,aguely >se-up ofthe ongruities oi Iy, somewhat abstract and glowing area ::*

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Klosevin
School: UT Austin

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A Report on Jacob’s “Tom, Tom the Piper’s Son”
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A Report on Jacob’s “Tom, Tom the Piper’s Son”
From Jacob’s method of film-making, acts of delay, and effe...

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