Paul Clipson/Grouper: Hypnosis Display
In Person: Paul Clipson and Grouper
Exploring impressionistic, emotional and sensory environments found within the vast natural and urban landscapes of America. Neither image nor sound takes precedence: the two interact and combine preserving a raw sense of the discovery that field recordings and in-camera edited film rushes often yield. Hypnosis Display was commissioned by Opera North Projects.
(Paul Clipson/Liz Harris)
“After about ten minutes, I felt myself starting to melt into the piece: content to let it guide me where it wanted to go. There’s a definite flow or sequence that develops across Hypnosis Display and it’s one that reveals the personal (and clearly complex) feelings that Clipson and Harris have for the American landscapes reflected. The body and nature dominate early images: those aforementioned facial close-ups interspersing with sheep trekking across forest land. As the most inescapable nation on film thanks to Hollywood’s 20th century stranglehold, there remains an interesting jarring in a work intended to be about ‘modern America’ starting out with such untouched, rural landscapes. Accompanied by Harris’ embryonic vocal drones, for me this section seemed to meditate on America’s ‘morning light,’ exploring its pre-nation innocence with a focus based in nature, rather than that of pilgrims, Native Americans, or Tea Parties.
“Reflections on America’s expansion westward and rise to dominance followed: freight trains and rail tracks, highways and the wide-open road. Sounds of Harris’ field recordings of passing cars and boat engines enter, none more referential than that of serene whistling, filling the mind with stock images of Westerns and Steamboat Willie. Caught mostly in black and white, it’s hard not sensing desecration as we see modern commuters looking out on dilapidated buildings, Clipson’s camera crawling across these damaged structures with more class than much of the ruin porn dominating thoughts on modern Detroit. In the closing section of Hypnosis Display, night falls as we arrive at the late-capital America of strip clubs and late night bars, of seedy neon signs and the overworked, undernourished speed-test of city life. Harris’ soundtrack is at its most powerful here: murky tape hiss and machinic drones moves to a hellish, continuous booming beat that plays out in the closing minutes—half-industrial, half-apocalyptic. Political overtones surface in this shady close: just what is this nightmare we created? Where is it headed?
At various moments throughout came the sounds of interviewees talking about their dreams, the grainy, distant recording quality giving them an air of privacy and secrecy. These touched on the frustrations of reassembling the visions of a previous night, of the feeling of a pleasant, happy dream sliding inexorably into something nightmarish, unpleasant and uncomfortable. These shifts fit closely with Freud’s descriptions of ‘The Uncanny,’ of how your own unrecognized reflection in a mirror involves a sudden slip in to a deeply uncertain state. I’d want to listen to the soundtrack in more detail before making judgments on where Hypnosis Display fits with Grouper’s other releases, but I left feeling that that fluidity between dream/nightmare and the knowable/unknowable is an important way of thinking about her work. I’d love her to make another The Man Who Died In His Boat, but it’s easy to pinpoint why Harris producing continuous, extended works makes so much sense, and why its one she’s clearly got much joy from in recent years. At one moment, her childlike whispers into the microphone are as warm as a summer’s day; but as you’re soaking up the prettiness, calamity and chaos are only ever a moment around the corner.” (Robert Darnell, writing for Dummy)
Paul Clipson is a San Francisco-based filmmaker who often collaborates with sound artists and musicians on films, live performances and installations. His work has been exhibited and performed both nationally and internationally at such festivals as the New York Film Festival, Edinburgh Film Festival and the Rotterdam International Film Festival. His Super 8 and 16mm films aim to bring to light subconscious visual preoccupations that reveal themselves while working in a stream of consciousness manner, combining densely layered, in-camera edited studies of figurative and abstract environments, in a process that encourages unplanned-for results, responding to and conversing with the temporal qualities of musical composition and live performance.
Liz Harris lives and works on the Oregon Coast. She has been recording, performing, and releasing solo material under the name Grouper since 2005 on various imprints including Kranky, Type and her own YELLOWELECTRIC. Her work is characterized by a fascination with paradox, literal and impressionistic experience of environment and human behavior. Her music compositions have been commissioned and shown across Europe and the United States, including Galerie Zdb in Portugal, the Berkeley Art Museum in California and Issue Project Room in NYC. She has recently completed art and music residencies in Lisbon, Marfa TX, and the Bunya Mountains, and was awarded residencies in 2014 with Signal Fire and The Ucross Foundation.
CROSSROADS 2015 receives generous support from: the San Francisco Arts Commission, San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund/Grants for the Arts, Fleischhacker Foundation, Zellerbach Family Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and The Willow Foundation