Refining Light

The Anteroom, Dunedin

15/03/2014 - 15/03/2014

Dunedin Fringe 2014

Production Details

Refining Light is multi-media ‘expanded cinema’, with film as the dominant medium. 

25 local filmmakers and musicians combine to bring you this event.

A sister event to the long-running Lines of Flight festival, it shares many of the same participants and organisers. The combination of experimental film-making, improvised musical accompaniment, and a character-filled venue and garden promises to make this a wonderful community event. 

The two shows have separate content. 

Programme 1#:- Kim Pieters (video/projection) with Peter Stapleton (drums/percussion) & Peter Porteous (guitar); Anet Neutze (video/projection) with Richard Scowan (a.k.a. W.Belfry Bats; tape loop music); Phoebe Mackenzie (pre-recorded video/image) & Nick Graham (pre-recorded noise score); Rubbish Film Unit (Chris Schmeltz with Kerian Varaine). 

Programme 2#:- Esta de Jong (video/projection) with Motoko Kikkawa (performer/voice); Campbell Walker (video/projection) with Sally Anne McIntyre (a.k.a. Radio Cegeste; radiophonic music / score); Tokerau Wilson (projection/video-gaming) with Murderbike (score/sound); Charlotte Parallel (mobile projection & sound); Ted Whitaker (video/projection & actor-surgeon) with Troy Naumoff (piano/percussion) & Samin Son (video-tape-percussion).


at the Anteroom, Port Chalmers (Dunedin)

2pm & 7pm, 15 Mar 2014


Metonymic Trust (Dunedin) Kim Pieters (video/projection) with Peter Stapleton (drums/percussion) & Peter Porteous (guitar); Anet Neutze (video/projection) with Richard Scowan (a.k.a. W.Belfry Bats; tape loop music); Phoebe Mackenzie (pre-recorded video/image) & Nick Graham (pre-recorded noise score); Rubbish Film Unit (Chris Schmeltz with Kerian Varaine). Esta de Jong (video/projection) with Motoko Kikkawa (performer/voice); Campbell Walker (video/projection) with Sally Anne McIntyre (a.k.a. Radio Cegeste; radiophonic music / score); Tokerau Wilson (projection/video-gaming) with Murderbike (score/sound); Charlotte Parallel (mobile projection & sound); Ted Whitaker (video/projection & actor-surgeon) with Troy Naumoff (piano/percussion) & Samin Son (video-tape-percussion).

Performance Art , Multi-discipline ,

8 hours

Some magic, some scope to muse, some room to improve

Review by Jonathan W. Marshall 19th Mar 2014

The annual avant-music / sound art festival Lines of Flight was not staged as part of the Dunedin Fringe festival this year, so organiser Peter Porteous teamed up with film-maker Campbell Walker for a program of live music/sound performances staged with projected moving image.

Walker and Porteous framed the Metonymic event as a program of Expanded Cinema, a term promulgated by film-maker / critic Gene Youngblood, and defined as live, one-off cinematic events which work with, and depend on, the specific space and temporal experience of their screening. Drawing on influential composer John Cage’s pluralistic definition of “theatre” as “simply … something which engages both the eye and the ear,” the classic work of Expanded Cinema is Anthony McCall’s Line Describing a Cone (1973), in which a projection in a smoky room of a line moving around a circle slowly creates in the space a cone of light.

If McCall and Youngblood are taken as the model, many works in Metonymic struggled to accord with it. The use of video—rather than the more palpably material medium of analogue, chemical emulsion film itself upon which Expanded Cinema was initially predicated—was disappointing, but if one is to go with digital-projection, one would have thought all of the artists could have improvised the visuals—at least in terms of how they were screened in the space—but not all did.

Tokerau Wilson (projection/video-gaming) with Murderbike (score/sound); and

Kim Pieters (video/projection) with Peter Stapleton (drums/percussion) & Peter Porteous (guitar)

Toki Wilson did at least play a rather absorbing, old skool pixelated game which was projected whilst the hard throb and electronics of Murderbike gave things a dark, dreamy edge. More commonly though, completed films were played flat against the back wall, and some musicians even stood on a small stage in front of the screen as they performed live. Not a very unconventional or experimental way of presenting sound/vision interactions, though still quite entertaining.

Kim Pieters’ untitled film accompanied by Peter Stapleton on drums/percussion, and Peter Porteous on distorted guitar, followed this relatively conventional model. The grainy, almost hallucinatory coloured images of a sprinkler in front of which cars slowly passed was engaging, and when Porteous and Stapleton got into a good, heavy noise groove akin to a wall of sound, the collaboration was certainly forceful.

Unfortunately however neither musician seemed to actually be paying any attention to the film, and so when it ran out and froze on the last image, Porteous and Stapleton kept on for some minutes. This would seem to suggest that the visuals were ultimately superfluous to their musical collaboration. Even a good video-jockey at a dance club can do better than that.

Phoebe Mackenzie (pre-recorded video/image) & Nick Graham (pre-recorded noise score)

Even less well suited to the program was the offering from Phoebe Mackenzie and Nick Graham: a piece of pre-recorded video art with a noise score. Mackenzie sourced her images from old Cher exercise videos, flaring out the colour and using Cher’s visage as a semi-transparent frame through which one saw yet more Chers. If this sounds kinda horrible, it was—but perhaps that was the point: a kind of revoltathon in sound and image?

Having said this, most of the other works in the program presented a more expansive use of space which came closer to the idea of a one-off Happening or quasi-theatrical event such as Cage, McCall, Youngblood and their peers were associated with.

Esta de Jong (video/projection) with Motoko Kikkawa (performer/voice)

Esta de Jong for example offered a black and white video of Motoko Kikkawa wearing a wig of long, white hair such as features in the costume of the ganguro grrls of Harrajuku and Shibuya areas in Tokyo, as well as in Japanese folk tales about ghosts and witches. Shot from the waist up and in slow motion, arms partially raised, hands balled or failing, the head and body moved side to side and become endlessly tangled as if in a winding sheet. This echoed one of the sequences from the famous Japanese film Kwaidan (1964), in which a noble returns to the house of a woman he betrayed years ago, only to become tangled, haunted and throttled by her impressive head of hair, now flying loose from her skull.

Kikkawa lay prone beneath the projection, a microphone close to her lips, as she whispered in Japanese. Intermittently the emotion of what she was saying, and the link produced between her and her doppelganger on screen, caused her to gesture upwards at her other self, as if to touch or massage the figure, or her body lifted slightly about the shoulders as she too shuffled from one side to another. The slowed pace of movement, the projected figure’s ambiguous expression, and the fact that almost none of the audience would have been able to tell what was being said, gave the performance a pleasantly measured, meditative tone. Despite suggesting something that approached horror and frenzy, by withholding both information and affect, the piece gave one considerable scope to muse.

Charlotte Parallel (mobile projection & sound)

Charlotte Parallel got the audience out of the main space and into the garden for a truly event-style work. With a light projector and DVD-player strapped onto a tray hanging about her waist, Parallel selectively illuminated parts of the garden, creating rough colour effects by holding flapping plastic sheets before the lens. As we moved out across the grass, the first sight and sound we were introduced to was three figures seated about a shallow pool, blowing into tubes immersed therein, creating a bubbling drone. Apparently the rest of the score consisted of snippets of performances from earlier in the program, though this was not apparent to me, and I am not sure many others realised this.

Either way, as the wind picked up, sound effects of a train on the tracks and bells (or was it effects? the railway line was but a few yards away) joined in with the chorus of the actual wind amongst the trees overhead. In short the pleasure of the piece depended in no small part on the simple presentation of this experience as “art” and so causing us to look and listen more closely to what was around us than we might otherwise do.

Little else occurred though, and whilst gazing at different coloured grass in the inky, Port Chalmers night, is quite magical, it felt if anything too close to the precedents and contexts out of which Cage’s Happenings and Youngblood’s Expanded Cinema evolved, particularly recalling the rough, DIY improvisatory spirit of Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters. Their Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test was doubtless more effective for those who had actually taken LSD, and without something to help Claire’s pedestrian sights and sounds reach a certain hallucinatory intensity, the work perhaps needed to be a bit less unfocussed and expansive, to chose an effect and develop it (such as more precise lighting, colour and focussed shapes).

Anet Neutze (video/projection) with Richard Scowan (a.k.a. W.Belfry Bats; tape loop music)

More successful were the distorted magnetic tape improvisations of Richard Scowan (a.k.a. W.Belfry Bats) performed to Anet Neutze’s pre-recorded video. Richard’s visible attention to the images he crouched on the floor infront was intense. Moving off the platform which had served as the stage for Porteous and Stapleton, Scowan carefully placed a group of aging small, handheld tape-players and a mini reel-to-reel player around him, shifting them about at various points, re-recording what was being played and then playing it back at one level remove, the sounds changed by their movement through the space or how their playback through these crackly old devices altered the sonic carpet about us.

The main projection was also enhanced and multiplied by two other simultaneous sets of images at the back of the space, one on a side wall which showed a loop of rocks and waves on a deserted beach, whilst another at the back showed the slow descent of a white circle against a field of black, presumably the arc of the moon at night.

Aside from clearly being theatre in almost exactly Cage’s definition (several of Cage’s 1960s works performed live to dance employed reel-to-reel recorders and players;, the relation between image and sound was profound. Neutze’s projection began with a distorted bumblebee, twisting around on its head on the ground, the gentle, repetitive “thunks!” of the score and low hum acting as a mediated buzz—much as the imagery also mediated our relation to the natural.

Shifting between sights of birds, landscapes, and extraordinarily beautiful tricks of the light as sun came through doors or other obstacles—echoing Stan Brakhage’s quintessential experimental film, Text of Light (1974)—the live collaboration here recreated Brakhage’s Walt-Whitman-inspired melancholy homages to nature. We approached such sublime sights and sounds in this work, but not in any original, pristine or immediate form—rather through fabricated illusions of digital media and dying analogue acoustics.

The artists’ careful placement of objects, sounds, and images which functioned according to different rules and times (the rear projections acting as drones behind a more active frontal screen) served as a remarkably simple way to activate the whole space, and produce a theatrical, multi-focussed event. When put together with the use of this very space to gently diffract the performance, and the clicking, looping quality of the sound and the vision, this reminded me most of the theatrical projection works of Wetgate ( If this piece was altogether more modest and less polished than Wetgate, this was because here it was an improvised experiment for Scowan and Neutze, and not because of any weaker skills on their parts as artists.

Campbell Walker (video/projection) with Sally Anne McIntyre (a.k.a. Radio Cegeste; radiophonic music / score)

If one is to be more exclusionary than Cage—who was after all a bit of a hippie—and demand “theatre” involves a human subject as its main agent or topic, then film-maker Campbell Walker’s collaboration with digital and radiophonic composer Sally Anne McIntyre (a.k.a. Radio Cegeste; would certainly conform.

The experimental film form of snatches of shots of a stylish male figure, punctuated by short poetic texts within the score, placed their material within the ethos of the French New Wave. The preference of both artists for vintage fashion that would not be out of place in Breathless (1960) or Made in USA (1966) makes Goddard an obvious point of reference—although one could cite many of Goddard’s peers instead.

Campbell manipulated in real time two main projections, thrown towards a corner and at an obtuse angle, so that the double-screen produced became akin to a folded rebus, drawing material and forces into it. Walker intermittently closed off or reflected the second projector, so that light fell against the spectators, making them too the subject of these halting meditations. McIntyre crouched to one side of the screens, her gaze in profile becoming effectively assimilated into the imagery of the work, as was Campbell’s somewhat more distracting and foregrounded presence some distance away, against the front of the audience bank.

McIntyre scattered all around the venue little clusters of small transistor radios through which (if I understand correctly) she was able to generate a small broadcasting network of her own. Often beginning with materials played on her antique portable vinyl-record player, this material was then picked up by one or more of the radios, which she held near the record player’s own pick-ups, adding yet more layers of surface noise, scratchy aural substances, and hums, which populated the venue as both an invisible force (radio waves) and colonies of speakers (the radios themselves).

The imagery consisted of sparse concrete and glass spaces, or cropped portions of bodies (shoes, etc), with focus being diffuse or fixed on the far distance rather than the blurred objects in the foreground. Glass, rain, and rain on glass often served a function akin to the sound processing, the effects on light and distortions of shape affecting how we saw these materials, directing focus towards surfaces and obstructions rather to what lies behind. In a particularly beautiful moment, the camera gazed at the reflection of grey and white water droplets cast from the window onto the roof of an apartment.

Intermittent, short portrait shots of Walker—and his own literal presence in the space, as he sat at the side, or his shoes echoed across the performance venue as he moved to the back to turn on or off one of Sally’s radios—helped give the work a sense that we, and possibly the onscreen “protagonist” (if that is what he was) were searching for a character, for a sense of self, perhaps even a woman (the mistress of the radio?). All very Goddard indeed; Existentialism with vaguely film noir styling, and probably the finest collaboration from Walker and Cegeste that I have attended.

Ted Whitaker (video/projection/actor-surgeon) with Troy Naumoff (piano/percussion) & Samin Son (videotape-percussion).

The crescendo of this impressive, varied event was possibly the most insane, and certainly amongst the most theatrical, of the works in the program. Things began with Troy Naumoff playing the piano in a broken, neo-Romantic manner, whilst behind him lay Ted Whitaker wearing what looked like a white, cardboard version of those ice-packs you wear around your eyes to preserve your skin. Arms wrapped tight about his torso, Whitaker rocked from side to side, disturbing the thin white cords which ran from either side of his mask.

Projected onto a flat-screen television in front of Naumoff was what Whitaker was seeing, the first images being of the roof of the venue we all were in. Beside this was another television, which began to show a travelogue of sorts, moving from beaches to roads, and eventually closing in darkness.

Whitaker’s rising to a standing position though soon eclipsed any interest in this, as he came forward to a sort of low dais just in front of the main screen and pulled away a black sheet to reveal a wax doll, which he proceeded to clumsily probe with a scalpel. Naumoff abandoned the piano here to reveal another two small screens, each showing a head shot of one of the performers, apparently engaging in debate: Naumoff with some passion, his large beard jerking about, Whitaker seemingly more reserved—or possibly just bewildered. No sound of this was offered however, and our protagonists mouthed their words at great speed, the video playing back in at least double time.

Needless to say Naumoff’s semi-acoustic music became more violent at this point, as he abandoned the piano to manipulate plastics and other materials. The third figure, a serious-looking crouching man wearing sunglasses (Samin Son) now began to unfurl old VHS videotapes noisily, their crackling rustle adding to the aural chaos.

Meanwhile Whitaker began to discover small transistors within the flesh of the doll. The discoveries so overwhelmed him, that he eventually collapsed back on the floor from whence he had risen, a fleshy live-recording zombie, and here the performance ended with a flourish.

Although themes of mediation and a fear of the cyborg did emerge from within all this, in the end it can only really be described as a kind of psychotic travelogue, or perhaps a nightmarish version of the worst debate about technology you have ever had with anyone. Crazier even than the Kool-Aid Acid Test, the piece nevertheless worked because of the way the artists successfully introduced new elements and surprises just as the audience might have been getting tired of what was being presented.

Even if it did not add up to much more than a feast of bizarre stimulants roughly hammered together then thrown with conviction at the audience (Eisenstein’s “montage of attractions,” anyone?), it was certainly great fun, and a wonderful way to end this mini-festival, proving again that even if we cannot all agree on the definition of theatre—or Expanded Cinema for that matter—there is plenty of theatricality within sound art and the related disciplines which were on display.




Dr Jonathan W Marshall April 22nd, 2015

See also:-

Dr Jonathan W Marshall March 30th, 2014

You are of course right. I showed up @ 2pm, stayed nearly til end (missing 1 piece I think, the one you mentioned) and came back in the evening. Although it was touch and go, I managed to be able to attend the whole evening. As a critic paid precisely nothing (yes, that's right Theatreview fans --- we get absolutely NADA!), I thought that was pretty good. Campbell did tell me I missed a really interesting piece. Such is life. If you do it again, a more detailed media release would help (the Facebook page only listed artists, and the order on the night even changed).

Look forward to what you do next! Email me direct at

super 8 March 25th, 2014

"The use of video—rather than the more palpably material medium of analogue, chemical emulsion film itself upon which Expanded Cinema was initially predicated—was disappointing, " the one act you would appear to have missed was indeed a live, analouge super 8mm/8mm film performance by the rubbish film unit.

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