Lee Ranaldo & Leah
Leah Singer and Lee Ranaldo present the latest version of their thirty-year collaborative project, known variously as Drift, Sight Unseen and Contre Jour – titles that suggest chance encounters, shadow plays, and the appreciation of the overlooked. Since 1990, the artists have explored how image and sound interact in a live setting. Efforts to break down traditional performer/audience dynamics led to experiments with performing in the round and positioning the projection screen to meet the floor, creating a theatrical performing space. The experiential nature of the performance invites a personal interpretation rather than a fixed exposition or overt narrative. When their collaboration began in 1990, Singer was using two 16mm analytical projectors that enabled the manipulation of the film and provided the opportunity to perform in tandem with the live music; the film could move forward and backwards at various speeds, and stop completely in a freeze frame, gaining the flexibility of an improvising musician. The projectors were the instruments and Singer the performer. Just as a DJ scratches vinyl on two turntables, Singer used the projectors to juxtapose and mix films across a projection screen in real time. The early films were created in Singer’s signature style, 16mm motion picture film shot in a still 35mm camera, abandoning 24 frames per second rhythm in favor of fragmented form. The analyzer’s capabilities allowed for the projection of these unique camera rolls. This meant the very short pieces of film could expand in time, projected frame-by-frame. These sequenced film vignettes, separated by black leader, created a visual score that took on a different shape with each performance. As a result of many practical reasons, digital video files have now replaced analog film but the core principals of the performance remain. The latest evolution in Ranaldo’s performance involves ‘suspended guitar phenomena’, his electric Fender Jazzblaster guitar swinging freely through space like a sonic pendulum. Both player and instrument function as bodies to intercept the front-projected film, interacting with Singer’s constructed sequences, their shadow play on the screen nods in homage to the earliest form of cinema. The range of sounds emitted from the guitar, and further audio material on the film’s soundtrack, create a score that does not illustrate or sync to the film but rather responds to it and catalyzes it. The performance poses a set of divergent possibilities that distinguish and advance our experiences– positive/negative, monochrome/color, on/off, past/present.