Independent Filmmakers Co-operative of Ottawa

EXPANDED CINEMA? 21st century?

Expanded Cinema? 21st century?

Dave Johnson

The term Expanded cinema was first used in the mid 1960’s by artists Carolee Schneemann and Stan Vanderbeek to describe their multimedia performances. Later, in the early 1970’s, a book titled “Expanded Cinema” was published by Gene YoungbloodExpanded Cinema, simply argued, is the form of motion picture projection or exhibition which denies that of the traditional conventions of the industrial model of cinema as known to the mainstream viewer. Expanded Cinema goes beyond a simple projection intended to be viewed passively. This type of cinema becomes more open to experimentation where the artist’s intention and the viewer’s interpretation or experience can become interactive, a performance, sculpture, etc. which is outside the four wall black box cinema. This type of cinema lends itself to be presented in either formal or non-formal settings, such as an art gallery, coffee house, park or even a warehouse. This being said, Expanded Cinema can also be presented in a conventional black box cinema.

Cinema, as described by a former professor, is a medium which contains the elements of light, time and space. Expanded Cinema takes these elements and experiments with, and pushes their boundaries. This is a requirement to what Youngblood describes as a “new consciousness” for media art. In short, Expanded Cinema brings forward, motion picture as a specific art form, and not just a passive viewing experience as prescribed by conventional cinema projected in a commercial theater.

The notion of Expanded Cinema in the 21st century as it relates to “film” is seeing a sense of a revival or, as Youngblood describes, in a different context, a “new consciousness”. In the not so distant past, the simple act of scratching or painting on film, setting up a 16mm projector in public or gallery setting had become something that was not seen as revolutionary or particularly inventive. In fact it could be argued that the avant-garde had become the old-garde. However, with the surge of the digital medium and it’s saturation in the consumer market, emulsion based installations are being presented to the mainstream as a unique and specific art form unto itself. Participants or viewers of emulsion based Expanded Cinema are being drawn to this format, and perceive these “ready-made” objects as sculptural, and the images illuminating the screens (or whatever the artist chooses to project onto) are seen as “intense”, “unique”, “magnificent”, “beautiful” (these are only some of the one word comments taken from viewing participants at the recent presentation by Alex MacKenzie). Expanded Cinema as it relates to film in the 21st century is experiencing a generational changeover and its offspring is coming in the form of new artists and collectives, such as Ottawa’s Windows Collective, Montreal’s DoubleNegative Collective, to name a couple. Furthermore, artists of the Avant-Garde of yesterday are being further celebrated and recognized for their contribution to a form of art and cinema important to the oeuvre of media art.

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