Paul Rowley & David Philips (in collaboration with Tim Blue)
1 December 2009 - 8 January 2010
"Surface Noise" is a new collaborative video work by artists David Phillips, Paul Rowley and Tim Blue. The artists worked with proprietary instruments typically used in film restoration labs to scan 35mm film prints for damage. By re-programming the machines, the artists were able to isolate only the damaged elements of old film prints, the dust, dirt, and scratches. The original film was then deleted from the files, and what remains is a digital record of the markings of time and use on the physical material of the film itself. This extraction process becomes recorded as a digital portrait of physical residue.
The image is abstract, but holds on to briefly discernible traces of the original in fleeting flashes and bursts of grainy activity. The images and films selected focus in particular on excerpts from the archives of cinema which depict political conflict, demonstrations, riots, and state interventions in public assembly. As the damaged images rush across the screen, interesting parallels emerge between the mechanics of cinema and patterns social disturbance and unrest.
The process of creating the soundtrack followed the making of the images. The artists began with audible time code tracks, bursts of digital signal that are used to keep image and audio in sync on tape, and transferred them to old quarter inch reel-to-reel magnetic tape decks. The tape deck was then played much like an instrument as the signals were fed back into a computer. The results are sounds that are rooted in the strict rigidity of time stamped formats, but yet take on a perceptible human component as the signal is degraded and re-recorded.