serene velocity

ernie gehr, 1971

In its overall shape Serene Velocity moves from a vibrating pulse within an optical depth to nan accordion-like slamming and stretching of the visual field.

The temporality of the filming excluded any possibility of human action within the corridor. It is divorced from the realm of experience and re-fashioned in a purely cinematic time and space. One exterior event does leak in, however: by the end of the film dawn has broken outside the corridor. A natural light illuminates the previously dark windows in the central doors, making this severe and powerful film a reluctant aubade, in which we are reminded of the extreme distancing from the natural world upon which the film is predicated…Gehr…undermines Snow’s analogy of the zoom lens with a transcendental consciousness. By simultaneously moving both closer and farther away with his lens position he achieves the uncanny effect of obliterating the (assumed) position of the camera at the starting point. This erasure of the ground coincides with the undermining of spatial and temporal authority in the film: they are all strategies for eliminating the selfhood of the film-maker from the film and for objectifying the visual phenomenon of the eventual projection.

from “Visionary Film: the American Avant-Garde 1943-1978″, P. Adams Sitney, Oxford University Press 1979 (2nd edition)

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