Last Saturday, I caught the Rose Lowder program at Anthology, which was the final leg of her short US tour of Boston, Milwaukee, Chicago and New York. Lowder is a French filmmaker currently teaching at the University of Paris whose work is not often shown publicly in the States. Since the late 1970s she has made about 50 16mm films, many as short as 1 minute in length but as dense and electric as any of Peter Kubelka's or Paul Sharits'. Several devoted fans of her work in Pittsburgh organized this series of screenings in an attempt to bring her to a wider audience, and the artist was happy to be on hand and explain her process to the neophytes present. Lowder told us many interesting details of her life, including her unlikely entrance into the world of experimental filmmaking. She had become interested in the genre as early as the 1960s, when sound poet Bob Cobbing showed films like Genet's Un Chant d'Amour in the back room of his London bookstore. After studying at several art schools internationally, she found a job as a BBC film editor--a position she held for at least ten years, and the main reason she no longer edits her own films (aside from the simple joining of two reels together). Indeed, each of Lowder's films is made in the camera, and she is well-known for filming in a non-linear fashion--often exposing later parts of the film strip before others, then rewinding and filling in the caesuras of her work-in-progress. This keeps the artistic process loose and pliable while saving Lowder from the over-indulgences of post-photographic editing.
Here is LES TOURNESOLS COLORÉS (1983), which can be streamed from Light Cone (Lowder's distribution outlet). And here is the same film being projected at Light Industry in 2009, with a soundtrack by Lucky Dragons, aka Luke Fishbeck, who probably doesn't need an introduction.
The film was shot frame by frame on 16 mm over the course of 8 hours (making it more linear than later films by RL) with frequent changes in exposure and focal point, giving the flowers a nervous, thrashing quality unlike the calm pastoral scene we are accustomed to. It should be noted that Lowder, by her own admission, spent three years studying perception before venturing to make her own avant-garde films; and each of her crystalline products must be viewed in light of this quasi-scientific investigation of optical phenomena.