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In “Line Drawing” by Poklong Anading, a video camera follows a pencil as it makes its mark on a wall. The resulting image is hypnotic, one line blending into the next, creating the impression of a blurred horizon. As times passes, one cannot tell with certainty where one line ends and the next begins. The same analogy could be used for the Experimental Film and Video Art scene in the Philippines. The seven films in this programme have been arranged in such a way as to give order to our glance.

The first three films (KalawangRed Saga, and The Great Smoke), all shot on celluloid and made in different decades (1990, 2004, and 1980), display the strong social conscience prevalent in Philippine Experimental film. From Kalawang’s damning re-appropriation of imperialistic found sound (the ironic genius of using the Andrews Sisters’ “Rum and Coca Cola”) and footage (images once meant to arouse, now, slowed down, become violent), to the agit-prop of Red Saga, which transcends the limits of its genre by the strength of its poetry, to the humourous and harrowing hand-drawn animation of Roxlee’s The Great Smoke (watch the use of photographs, and take note of the hand from which the sketches fall) – each attempts to alter the meaning of images, or at least their power, through the context in which they’re shown.

Antoinette Jadaone’s it feels to good to be alive serves as an intermission dividing the two sides. The irony of Antoinette’s film, in which a lonely frame is left behind amidst the chaotic cacophony of the busy world, lies not exclusively in its title, but also to the imagery: the film, made entirely on digital video, makes artificial use of the sprockets of the celluloid film frame: looking outward to the individual in a moving world, and inward to the changes in the tools of the trade.
Simple in their formulation yet complex in their execution, the remaining three works each look at the form of the medium with the same attention, the same obsessive detail, as is often paid to the body. Tad Ermitano describes his protagonist (played by himself) as having been sucked into a tightening spiral of video feedback in his Cathode Jam, an apt though lacking description: there is a strange sensual obsession involved in his manipulation of the video image: in the fatal interrogation of video signals. With a similar manic intensity, Poklong explores the ability of video to capture movement in Line Drawing, a classic of Philippine video art (and originally presented on 8 screens) choosing as his subject the most basic of gestures: the drawing of a line on a surface. While Tad takes transmission into question, Poklong movement, Lyle Sacris, in his work-in-progress Self-Portrait, is seeking a single definitive image: taking a gastronomic 7,107 portraits of Filipinos – one for each island the country is known to have.
Lyle’s work is as peculiar as it is fascinating, and the finished product will almost certainly beg the viewer to answer the question, what do you see? With so many images passing so quickly, each appearing for an equal amount of time, the answers, without fail, will be diverse. But it’s a question that is much more interesting than the alternative: what is it? It is the former, more than the latter, which should engage us when trying to classify experimental film or video art.