selection of excerpts from articles about Steven Ball's
Super-8 as a visual artist with both aesthetic and philosophical/ideological
concerns, he has produced a body of work over the last few years
that goes beyond conventional avant-garde practice in that it
not only fractures and critiques traditional metaphysical views
of the world, but it then pieces together its fractures in totalizing
ways, even if the totalizations are sometimes ironic.
- Bill Mousoulis,
"The Ball Bounces...", Melbourne Super 8 Film Group
Newsletter, Issue 92, June 1994.
from the undergrowth.
A transmission from the fields of electrical
and emotional energies imprinted on the landscape, recorded in
of a disembodied voice were recorded, subjective glimpses cut
through the electrical crackle of the carrier frequency on the
world of reconstructed space and time in a claustrophobic environment
beneath the canopy of trees.
Ball, programme note for Pools Between Land.
and Channel Part 2
Earth and Channel Part 2 is a seminal film in Steven Ball's
work precisely because it acts as an instruction manual for the
viewer as to what to expect from his subsequent films. The idea
of exploring real and imagined terrains and of the relationship
between real and imagined terrains, is a concise summary of the
raison d'être of Ball's films. More importantly,
Ball's work shows a commitment to abstraction; the representation
of real places in the form of a cartographer's charts or the use
of extreme close-ups which baffle us to speak of an aesthetic
of abstraction which acts to confront us with our own desire for
the familiar, the ordinary and the easily appropriated.
Three Three (Maheno) is...) a film of formal sureness and
integrity, it is Ball's masterpiece to date and the one film which
best illustrates the preoccupations found in the earlier Earth
and Channel Part 2. Harmonic Three Three (Maheno)
is a devastatingly apocalyptic vision of a place which is
as much a place of the imagination as it is of the world; a place
found only in one's dreams, but is that not what cinema is for
Filippidis, Review of Quiet Passages (screening of Steven Ball's
Super 8 films), Melbourne Super 8 Film Group Newsletter,
Issue 74, October 1992.
Three Three (Maheno)
I had employed
the practice of reshooting/copying Super 8 in a number of my other
films. This had arisen out of an interest in the film's material
and temporal properties, the possibility of manipulating the time
base and the 'readability' of the image. The first concerted attempt
at this resulted in Harmonic Three Three (Maheno) (Super
8, 1991, 23 mins). I was also concerned with the notion that the
formal process had a parallel with the 'subject', in this case
a rusting shipwreck on Fraser Island. The filmic processes of
image 'decay' and entropy (in a communication model sense through
the addition of a 'noise source': the grain and slower movement
introduced by reshooting through a number of generations.) paralleled
the physical decay and scientific notion of entropy that the shipwreck
was undergoing (metal in contact with salt water over time producing
other compounds, rust for example). This was not however merely
a reductionist formal exercise, something else happens in the
process of watching the film, in its own time, to do more with
I tend to
work on image and sound tracks quite discretely; although in the
working process there is a often a methodological, conceptual
or temporal connection and the two elements are usually produced
within the same time span of days, weeks, or months. I usually
finish soundtracks on separate audio cassette, bringing the two
components together at the last minute, sometimes at the first
public screenings. As precarious as this may sound it keeps the
film fresh, unfinished, at least, until screened and perhaps beyond.
One risk involved can be the unpredictability of a viewers perception.
1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9...However, the Autodidact" by Steven Ball,
Cantrills Filmnotes, Nos. 75/76, 1994.
Passage) There used to be a warning on LP records that during
quiet passages some surface noise may be heard. The main passage
of this film however is far from quiet. It was the first of my
rare excursions into the realm of sound film. Three cartridges
shot in three different locations: North Sydney, the Blue Mountains
and East Gippsland. The sound in camera was malfunctioning and
I was obliged to post dub each roll: a repeated sustained piano
phrase, running water and an old Xavier Cugat recording. I couldn't
conceive of the possibility of editing the film without exploring
the possibilities of the 18 frame delay. I cut the film into 36
and 18 frame sections and spliced to a structure that allowed
for a number of different sequential orderings of the originating
material. As a result the sound in slippage against the image
that it 'corresponds' to does not allow for a determinable relationship
between the two. From this point structure and the film's passage
through the projector determines perception, which is where the
resonance is constructed.
Ball, "Edit-Aurally-All", Sonic Eight, Melbourne
Super 8 Film Group Newsletter, Issue 102, May 1995.
and Channel Part 2
He had captured
an experience that was more real to me than any truth that a narrative
cinema or the documentary form often claims to possess. It makes
me think about the difference between knowledge and information
which is often overlooked in this post info-exploded world, in
whose rubble we live our daily lives; where there is often a lot
more info to sift through and a lot less personal sense made of
it than ever before. Harmonic Three Three (Maheno) is imbued
with a sense that transcends such a dichotomy.
of knowledge in an ocean of information creates a sense of gridlock
for those trying to function within it. This somehow reminds me
of an experience Steve related about an ambivalence in the landscape
itself which had occurred while travelling through the outback
near Cooper Pedy:
was one particular experience which was driving out of Cooper
Pedy on the Oodnadatta track, I think it was, it was a very
flat landscape, totally featureless apart from the occasional
rock, and there is a very clear distinction between the blue
sky and the dry arid ground and I remember at one point looking
out of this car and thinking I can look at that point on the
horizon and I know how far away the horizon is in miles but
it appears very close. I had this incredible sensation of knowing
that I was in a big wide open space but feeling very claustrophobic
because there was nothing to focus on, there were no points
of reference, no scale. That notion of bringing claustrophobia
into openness, that notion of conflicting psychological states
is partly what came into Earth and Channel.
to be a seminal experience in Steve's engagement with the Australian
landscape that finds a voice in Earth and Channel Pt
2 and Middle Distance Distant, and a resolution in
such works as Harmonic Three Three (Maheno) and particularly
in Land Gauge in which the film maker's pronouncements
are imbedded in a white noise, the sonic communication of radio
waves that suggest an endlessness, a distance. This is a satisfying
resolution of this problem of showing the vastness and the "void"
of our landscape, so far removed from our experience of the sliced
up, the compartmentalized architectural time-space of our cities
and rim settlements.
- "On Triggering
Steve Ball: Beginning to think through the implications of his
labour" by Dirk de Bruyn, Melbourne Super-8 Film Group Newsletter,
Issue 109, December 1995.
indicates both the scopic and conceptual territory of the film:
taking a look around from west to east and back again (...surveying
through a full half circle). The first part shot in Fremantle
with nautical references (ocean, masts, lighthouses). The second
part shot in East Gippsland, Victoria, with still blurred images
of beach, sea, sky and black and white footage of fishermen, the
voice-over taking up notions suggested by the first part of early
settlement (at sea when it began, three months of water and
then down the west coast of Australia), the uncertainty of
migration (He is English and he's here on some sort of scientific
job, or is it geographic? What does he do exactly?)
towards notions of nomadism and states of continual arrival (The
horizon distant in such a shallow field of sea, never returning
to the same spot or putting down roots) and the paradox of
return, the refrain (...and every day after that I went to
the beach). The third and final part in aerial transit, an
arrival denied by the film's ending.
Ball, programme note for Periscope 180°
by Steven Ball, is the sort of film you could easily drift through.
The images are like shadows, vague in substance and languishing
in an ambient stasis, supported by a soundtrack that gives contextual
nuances to each scene. The total effect is a kind of somnolent
nostalgia, like the disconnected stream of consciousness one might
experience in a dream in which you are forced to squint. Steven
Ball uses a technique to reduce the detail and clarity of the
image, turning it into a ghost of the original. In this way he
seems to draw attention to the flimsiness of the cinematic illusion
that confuses the projected image with real, three-dimensional
- Heinz Boeck
"Naked 8", Cinema Papers, February 1997.
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