Mind’s Eye

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'The Dante Quartet' (1987) is a short film by experiential filmmaker Stan Brakhage (1933-2003). Made over 6 years, the film was created layering footage shot on 35mm, 70 mm and IMAX film with paint, colour washes, scratching and graphic patterns. A swirling motion of liquid colour, Brakhage's films are abstract art enamoured by the power of light and movement.

Stan Brakhage was one of the first filmmakers to alter the physical state of reels of film for a desired imperfect effect. The majority of his films are absent of a score so that the viewer may be entirely engulfed by a sensory visual experience. Though not all of his film are as abstract as ‘The Dante Quartet’; for example, ‘Window, Water, Baby, Moving’ (1959) graphically documents the pregnancy and birth of his first child.

Fascinated with hypnosis, the binary of dreams and reality and the closed-eye vision of light, Brakhage’s films are about the experience of seeing. In a letter published in ‘Metaphors of Vision’ he explains: “Imagine an eye unruled by man-made laws of perspective, an eye unprejudiced by compositional logic, and eye which does not respond to the name of everything but which must know each object encountered in life through an adventure of perception.”

Frames from Window, Water, Baby, Moving (1959)

Stan Brakhage film

Stan Brakhage ‘The Garden of Eartly Delights’ (1981)

Stan Brakhage scratching film

Stan Brakhage at work

Author: K