Filmoteca de Galicia | Thursday June 6th | 7:30 pm | Free entry to all venues until full capacity. It will not be possible to enter the venues after the screening has started.

Morgan Fisher | 1968 | USA | 16 mm | 15 min

A film in 5 sections; each of them is a single roll of 16mm film long. We see a bare room with a young man sitting behind a tape recorder. Another man, played by Fisher himself, busily enters; he tests the recording machine and eventually goes into a back room, which, when illuminated, turns out to be a projection booth. Each section of the film elaborates the situation of the director and his actor working on an unfinished film which gradually becomes the film we are watching, but which is not the film they were working on. Throughout we hear the comments of the two men as they watch the rushes of their film. Watching rushes is part of the necessary procedures of the film making process, which must remain invisible in the finished film. In this work, however, procedure itself is the subject..

Print courtesy of the Morgan Fisher Collection at the Academy Film Archive.

Morgan Fisher | 1970 | USA | 16 mm | 11 min

As its title indicates, the subject in Production Stills is a series of production stills of a film that was never made, and that at the same time is the film we are watching. A perfectly enclosed narrative of its own production: the image is one long take (11 minutes) of a wall on which a hand sequentially pins a number of Polaroids, one after the other. The Polaroids depict the crew making the film; the synchronous sound allows us to hear in ‘real time’, their chatter and the hum of the still camera, so that we can anticipate the photos and assign faces to the voices we hear. (Artefact Festival)

Print courtesy of the Morgan Fisher Collection at the Academy Film Archive.

Morgan Fisher | 1971 | USA | 16 mm | 10 min

The film consists of two shots. Each shot is half of the film. The first shot shows a 200-foot roll of film being loaded into a camera; the second shot shows a second 200-foot roll being unloaded from a second camera. Joining the two shots is a cut from a close-up into the lens of the first camera to the reverse angle, a close-up into the lens of the second camera. Even though there is a cut, Production Footage was shot in continuous time.

The roll being loaded into the camera in the first shot is the roll that will shoot the second shot; the roll being unloaded in the second shot is the roll that shot the first shot. So the roll of film in the first shot contains (if prospectively) the second shot, and the roll of film in the second shot contains the first. Everything that the film contains, it contains twice: as an image and as a picture of the roll of film that contains the image. Each of the two halves of the film contains the other, and together they contain the whole. Production Footage contains itself. (Morgan Fisher).

Print courtesy of the Morgan Fisher Collection at the Academy Film Archive.


Morgan Fisher | 1984 | USA | 16 mm | 35 min

A frame of frames, a piece of pieces, a length of lengths. Standard gauge on substandard; narrower, yes, but longer. An ECU that’s an ELS. Disjecta membra; Hollywood anthologized. A kind of autobiography of its maker, a kind of history of the institution from whose shards it is composed, the commercial motion picture industry. A mutual interrogation between 35mm and 16mm, the gauge of Hollywood and the gauge of the amateur and independent. (Morgan Fisher)

Print courtesy of the Morgan Fisher Collection at the Academy Film Archive.

( )
Morgan Fisher | 2003 | USA | 16 mm | 21 min

() succeeds astonishingly where Frampton’s parallel effort, Hapax Legomena: Remote Control (1972) failed; it uses aleatory methods to release the narrative unconscious of a set of randomly selected films. () is made up entirely of “inserts” from feature films organized according to Oulipian principles. Inserts were usually shot by assistants when star actors, large crews, or expensive sets were not needed. These include details of weapons, wounds, letters, signs, tombstones, machinery, games of chance, timepieces, money, and even intimate caresses. (P. Adams Sitney, “Medium Shots: the Films of Morgan Fisher”, Artforum International)

Print courtesy of the Morgan Fisher Collection at the Academy Film Archive.



When most people say “movie,” they usually have something very specific in mind. A “short” or a “documentary”, in such a line of thinking, are not “movies”, because a movie can only be a fictional feature-length film. Likewise, when one says “cinema”, one thinks of the venue where we go to watch movies with a box of popcorn in our lap. And, if we had to turn those words (movie, cinema) into a graphic cliché, we would have the silhouette of a cinema camera, a director’s chair (one of those folding ones with a canvas seat and back), a film can or a strip of celluloid with its perforations. All of this leads us to a fossilized idea of industrial cinema, and to Hollywood’s ways of doing things, which in turn are also propagated through books and treatises that show us standardized, univocal ways of writing a script, of planning a scene with its axes and match cuts, set lighting, etc. 

In a way, Morgan Fisher (Washington DC, 1942) is the missing link between that Hollywood idea of films and experimental cinema, thanks to a series of works that intelligently break down the conventions of industrial cinema with humour, in a line of conceptual thought that smacks of avant-garde. Most of Fisher’s films are true meta-cinema, films that say “You’re watching a movie,” and the movie you’re watching is about making a movie that has been emptied of any content other than just that. Fisher’s films have been called “structural cinema” due to their material approach to cinema, but the truth is that this idea is not entirely correct, since his interest is directed more towards conventional procedures, which in the years when he began working in the late sixties inevitably involved working with celluloid, projectors, synchronization methods, cameras and other paraphernalia (which, curiously, all continues to graphically represent cinema). Each film is a carefully thought-out system, where the ultimate decisions are taken by industrial standards: the duration of the film reels, the apparatus most often used, the regulated procedures, and the predetermined categories. Fisher, who is also a painter and adapts this way of doing things to painting, has expressed his closeness to Duchamp and the ready-made, and in a certain way what he does in his cinema is to place that industrially manufactured object in front of our eyes so that what is important in the work is not the work itself but the gesture it proclaims. 

The two programmes we are dedicating to Fisher’s work do not follow a strict chronological order in his filmography. Programme 1 focuses on Fisher’s oblique look at everything behind and to the sides of Hollywood films, Fisher’s films being placed in order according to what would be the order of production for a film. We begin with the preparatory phases of a film in The Director and His Actor Look at Footage Showing Preparations for an Unmade Film (2), moving on to films that allude to the filming: Production Stills is a film that consists of documenting its own filming, and Production Footage shows us how a roll of film is loaded before shooting, and how it is unloaded when it is over in a twofold play of perspectives that we recognize from the cameras filming and being filmed. The length of these films, or of their parts, is determined by the length of the reels of film, expressing Fisher’s love of standards. Editing, the next phase in producing a film, is expressed here in films such as Standard Gauge, in which Fisher traces out a kind of autobiography linked to industrial assembly procedures (a sphere in which he worked in the sixties), based on their leftovers, clippings and waste material. It is, in turn, a story of 35 mm film, the standard format in industrial cinema, narrated in a single 16 mm shot in which we literally see the strip of celluloid. Finally, also alluding to editing and a certain side of commercial cinema practices, () is composed of “inserts”, close-up shots of objects and actions made to streamline the montage, and which were normally shot by assistants (residual processes that allude, again, to those sidelines and backrooms of film productions). The found footage that we saw in its materiality in Standard Gauge fills the screen here, with what was almost always conceived as filler now making up the main material of the film we are seeing. 

The second programme delves into processes involving the technical side and which refer to operating machines in cinema. To begin with, Projection Instructions makes us aware of the existence of a projector and a projectionist thanks to a series of instructions and gestures that turn the projectionist into the protagonist. Picture and Sound Rushes deals with the sound and the usual sound recording procedures (whether synchronized or not) in the industry. Cue Rolls shows us a close-up of a film synchronizer, a device used to convey a set of instructions to the person who cuts the negative so as to assemble the final copies of a film in cinema. Phi Phenomenon alludes to operating the camera and the projector, via the foundation of cinema: the Phi phenomenon, an optical illusion of our brain that makes us perceive apparent continuous movement when there is a succession of static images. Here, it is here humorously shown with a static shot of a watch in which the minute hand is moving so slowly that we cannot really “see” that movement. Then 240x refers to a part of the projector, the Maltese cross, which causes the intermittent movement of the film drive. In this case, we see Fisher throughout the process of producing a film with this matter, breaking down and re-animating his “subject.” This idea of devices at work can be seen more obliquely in Documentary Footage, through the recorder that appears in the film along with a woman. The title, “documentary footage” returns again to self-referencing: not only does the film play with one of the canonical codes of documentaries, the interview, but it uses a continual shot to faithfully document Fisher’s premise or score so as to establish a dialogue between the machine and the performer, between the immediate past and the future, between the being and the record of it recorded.

Elena Duque