I have begun reading The Garden in the Machine by Scott MacDonald, which explores representations of nature and landscape (often gardens specifically) in American avant-garde film. Many of the individual studies (of Larry Gottheim’s Fog Line, Babette Mangolte’s The Sky on Location for example) draw attention to the conflict between images of nature/wilderness and the equipment required to capture them: the idea that any photographic depiction is by definition a technological construction.
MacDonald writes of the ‘grid’ that development has imposed on natural process, which is referenced in Gottheim’s films through electricity lines, fences etc. that divide and measure his frame as they divide and measure the landscape he explores.
‘Gottheim was quite well aware that the “natural world” was visible at most through the interstices of the layers of technology within which we live.’ (p.41)
Grids and divisions have been important ideas in another video study I am developing (Hoad Hill), which uses glass and mirrors to fracture and re-construct images of a hillside in Cumbria.
MacDonald writes of Fog Line: ‘the lines within and around this image mitigate against our penetration of the space and draw our attention to the graphic make-up of the frame … To the extent that we do see and measure the scene before us … we realize that we are seeing not Nature but photography’s transformation of it.’
Glimpse of the Garden also features in MacDonald’s study: Menken’s use of close-up, her hand-held camera, her sweeping gestures. The way her film acts as a catalogue of ways ‘in which a camera can glimpse’. I am excited to think of my slide-animation piece as dealing with the act of ‘glimpsing’: that is ‘to see or perceive briefly’, ‘a momentary or partial view’.