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Associative Lyrical Formalist May 4th 2023 – Come Home Journal #13

Turns out I’m an Associative Formalist filmmaker in the lyrical tradition. Who knew? Well Bill Mousoulis knew, and called me a formalist in this review. Set me to thinking and researching off down rabbit holes I knew were there, somewhere, but had avoided until now.

I always felt on the outside of art, without definition. It suited me well, if I couldn’t be defined then I had no limits. I’ve played so often with words meant to define my work, describe what I do and with words that I dislike as descriptors.

In explaining my love of analogue film and projection to someone, as a way to define what it is I do, she replied before I could finish ‘oh the weird stuff?’

That didn’t worry me so much, this kind of thing is not for everyone. As a friend reminds me ‘the Australian audience for this stuff is very small’.

So here are some words I have found, love, like, hate, would never:

Moving Image – an image that moves. This is clear, precise and exactly the work I produce in both film and foto. Love it.

Avant-garde – sounds enticing, new, challenging, out there. In reality it is a military term (advance guard) for people used as cannon fodder. Don’t like.

Experimental – sounds kinda weird, like the maker has no idea of what they want. In reality most experimental filmmakers know what they want to achieve. Not a big fan but I’ll take it if I have to.

Formalist – sounds prescriptive, restrictive. However it’s where issues of form overwhelm issues of content. A formalist explores light, motion, sound and image. Doesn’t completely describe me but again I’ll take it.

Non-narrrative – sounds like there is no story, but all films tell stories, or leave messages, or impart feelings. And then there is the story the audience bring to it. Misnomer for mine!

Video Art – video is a format, a word and a feeling. It conjures for me the 70s and all its clunky lunky funkiness. Not for me Lorraine.

Associative – linking together emotions, perceptions, ideas or symbols. I love this, I do this all the time.

Structural – looks to more formal principles, the material of film to follow a particular logic or problem. Not for me.

Lyrical or Expressive – expressing emotion and belief, emphasising a personal vision and voice. Love it, this is very me.

Impressionism – the bare impression of form, with unblended colour with natural light. After the art movement. Again love it, also me.

There are many other traditions of experimental film, these tingled my fancy! And I obey my fancy at every opportunity.

Counter Culture anyone? Women were there too but you’d never know it!

“The countercultural impulses of many of the U.S.-based experimental filmmakers of the 1960s, such as Stan Brakhage, Jonas Mekas, Andy Warhol, and Jack Smith, were reflected in the preferred term underground film. The American experimental film community established its own alternative exhibition theaters and distribution cooperatives. The exchanges fostered among artists and audiences profoundly influenced later generations of filmmakers working with film as personal expression.”

― University of Idaho

Today’s mantra, say it out loud: “I’ll be whoever I want to be.”


MAIN IMAGE CREDIT: Film Still by Erin M McCuskey


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