Assignment: Outer Space!

For those who missed my recital, here is one of those things that were, for a time, part of it.

Deploy the Blurb-O-Tron!

'Assignment: Outer Space' is an audio-visual remix of the 1960 sci-fi film of the same name, which is now in the public domain. Three simultaneous videos offer a surreal take on 1960s space-travel kitsch. Short clips are spliced, looped, and juxtaposed with each other, creating a kind of pseudo-narrative with through-lines that gradually reveal themselves before diverting, merging and almost coalescing into a cohesive whole.

The piece has a clear start and end point – however, it is intended to be looped. This not only adds to the off-kilter nature of the film as a pseudo-narrative, but also harks back to the days of cinemas offering looped film programmes, with audiences entering at their leisure and leaving when they realise that ‘this is where we came in’. I attempt to offer the same sense of entertainment for its own sake, and adventures being glimpsed, but, perhaps, not fully understood.

‘Assignment: Outer Space’ is, by its nature, a piece about recontextualisation and reappropriation. The original film score and soundtrack has been remixed and, often, reinserted at different points in the timeline, whilst being mixed with wholly original composition which incorporates ‘found sound’ elements. I am fascinated with the idea that, in the twenty-first century, we now have immediate access, via the internet, to centuries’ worth of digitised culture. However, the price we pay for this immediacy is in the irreversible degradation of the original source material: just as .mp3s will never approach the audio fidelity of a vinyl record, so video codecs take away much of the detail of a piece of true film.

Before I even began to edit it together, ‘Assignment: Outer Space’ had been degraded twice: once, via celluloid decomposition, and once via the compression and digitisation techniques required for it to be uploaded to the internet. These are the unavoidable marks of history, and they add themselves to the experience of watching old film, just as dust and candle-wax add to the experience of reading an old book in a long-forgotten library.

The piece is intended to be shown as a triptych of 3 simultaneous large-scale projections, on a scale which shows off its low visual fidelity in all its glory. However, I hope that it also works in a smaller format, as above.

Blurb-O-Tron succesfully deployed!


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