Dirk de Bruyn
article was originally published in the Melbourne Super 8 Group
Newsletter, No. 130, November 1997.
night at about 10:30 p.m., the Lounge at 243 Swanston Walk, Melbourne,
transforms from a café to a nightclub. The transition is
like dusk descending. The mood changes as the upstairs space darkens
up. The crowd changes, it is no longer so important to talk, more
important to look and pose as the sound slowly takes over. Coloured
cloth is slowly draped through the space and Nick Ostrovskis is
there in the background setting up his four Super 8 projectors.
With a light strapped to his head he looks a bit like a miner inspecting
a coalface. The projectors are placed on pedestals in corners, near
the roof, in much the same kind of places you would expect to find
surveillance cameras in a high security prison or at the casino.
The Super 8 projectors are small and unobtrusive. It takes awhile
to set them up, people have to be moved, the ladder has to be put
in the right position, the loops checked, focus just has to be right
and at just the right angle, with the right speed and rhythm.
start to flicker as the projectors are lined up and focused during
this period of transitory atmos. The first two loops of a butterfly
and a frog with other scratched shapes are projected onto a maroon
wall. The frog is split, projected onto a corner, kind of zoomed
in and out like in Ostrovskis' film Brain Surge (16mm,
16 mins, 1992).
and butterfly are slightly radical avatars to animate and weave
into the nightclub space. They suggest something, not fully formed,
incomplete. Traditionally, the symbol of the butterfly has been
used to represent the psyche itself, to suggest an inward flight
of the mind. Its two pairs of wings represent four parts of the
mind, two highly developed, the other two not. The amphibious
mobility and cycle of the frog is like an eternally returning
to an embryonic state. Nick's frog resembles an embryo, and because
it is placed in a loop, an embryo in an eternal freefall. Taking
a Jungian tack, the frog as embryo symbolises the new-born self,
suggests a creativity turned inward, the sexual drive so subliminated.
eroticised and celebratory cave these animated symbols are ephemeral
graffiti, light splashed against the walls of a cloistered public
space. The loops are short visual Haikus, mantras, they are like
words or phrases continually stuttered out. It is interesting
how perception works with the repetition of imagery. With every
cycle the imagination seemingly adding something new or changing
it. Next week it actually will be something new. Next week it
will be abstract patterns. The mood will be slightly different.
There is also a series of Roller Blade images planned - stiletto
heels and thongs on roller blades and a Karate night and some
African based imagery is being developed as well. It has got to
the stage of producing images specifically for this site.
been doing this every week for a year now, taking over the film
loop show from Hector Hazard when he went back to England. It
had started because the manager, Michael Kelly, had seen a screening
of Hector's in a take away coffee lounge on the other side of
Swanston Walk and invited him to do something at the Lounge. Now
it is part of the furniture, regular as clockwork, real grassroots
stuff, a great workshop / crucible to try out ideas, images, check
out the reaction and see how things are moulded by the beat (which
at times is almost physical).
Of the other
two projectors one is set up to screen onto a blue cloth and the
other onto a composite red and yellow. These coloured sheets are
hung down from the roof, the last projector includes an anamorphic
lens that breaks one image into many. These images are also loops
of butterflies and frogs, in squares, zooming in and out. These
loops run at different speeds, slowly than the other two, at 6
fps. Varying the rhythms in this way allows a syncing, a melding
with the music, in fact the music kind of drives the loops' rhythms.
Nick says that presently he is using black and white images, some
off-cuts from Brain Surge and other films. The contrast
of the black and white projects clearly onto the coloured sheets
and walls and also over the artwork that is placed around the
walls. Initially white sheets were used with more coloured images
but that became too predictable. The Super 8 projectors and the
film loops are quite resilient. Once they are running, that's
it for the night. The 20-second loops run 5 hours non-stop and
can last up to 5 sessions if he wants to reuse them that many
times. That's quite a few thousand passes through the gate and
seems a lot better than the life of 16mm. film. Cement splicers
work the best, cause less broken sprockets. Which projectors were
the most resilient and kindest to the films also had to be worked
out. It turned out that the most appropriate were not the most
of attention is not these loops, of course, but the music and
the evolving mass on the dancefloor. There is also one of those
rotating mirror globes helping out. The artist's brief is to provide
a backdrop. It is like set design. It's a business. Most punters
there would not be conscious of his contribution. Nor would they
know that he is a unique and accomplished film artist. Fiercely
independent, self-made, who has developed some outstanding techniques,
bits and pieces which have filtered their way through the show
during the year. In 1996 it worked the other way too with the
creating of his Super 8 film Lounge Loops (3 mins, with
sound by Chris Knowles).
introduced to film making in 1982 via a course on Super 8 film
making run through RMIT Union Arts by Chris Knowles while Chris
was Artist in Residence. He promptly went out and bought 10 rolls
of Super 8 rolls and shot his first film, Backyard, where
he put his camera through its paces with single frames, zooms,
pans, etc. Involvement in the early Fringe Network screenings
followed and a further introduction to "artist made films"
through a program of local experimental work put together by Corinne
Cantrill at the Glasshouse Cinema again under the auspices of
RMIT Union Arts then run by John Smithies.
the rephotographing techniques and abstractions quite a bit of
time lapse has also been produced when working in jobs that had
panoramic views worth recording. That strain dried up in 1989.
A change of surroundings will eventually change that. Some of
it has shown up at the Lounge; bits of the sun moving across a
building, ships moving through port. The output of film work has
remained prolific, innovative, searching and experimental. The
most recent films include Lens Spasm (16mm, 3 mins, 1995),
Rough Geometry (Super 8, 5 mins, 1993), Architectural
Symbols (Super 8, 8 mins, 1993), and Stained Glass Landscape
(Super 8, silent, 8 mins, 1993).
paid for the film presentation at the Lounge (like I said, it's
a business). Most options make the artists pay for the dubious
honour of having their work included. The Lounge presentation
falls and rises on the artists' ingenuity. This activity is not
subsidised by any cultural or arts funding grant. It is out there
in the market place. He is unperturbed and completely unfazed
about a recent funding rejection for a grant to make a film: nobody
owes him a living. He will do it anyway. There are five films
waiting to be made, 45 minutes worth of material waiting to be
sharpened up in this ongoing obsession. Part of this upcoming
work is a 16mm film Figure Drawings that reworks and reanimates
images created while attending figure drawing classes. Some of
these images, again, have found their way onto the walls of the
Lounge. Ostrovskis is also philosophical about the emergence of
the kind of work he is involved in creating and the seeming corresponding
emergence of Digital Media. He finds a lot of the way computer
visuals cold and bland, lacking the sensual and illuminating texture
of film and feels that these things go in cycles. Therefore it
is only a matter of time before filmic visual art is re-emphasised,
before interest in it is re-ignited. Certainly the animated visuals
at the Lounge could not be done as effectively (both economically
and visually) any other way. This is artistic practice of self-sufficiency,
making the most of things, taking on opportunities as they arise
coupled with an unswerving belief in one's path. What is priceless
is the depth of experience and commitment that comes with it.
Dirk de Bruyn, November 1997.
Quotes from articles on Nick
to Nick Ostrovskis profile