Lucy Skaer and Aurélien Froment review by Bryony Bond
The doors closed on the projection room at the Lyric cinema Leeds, in 1988. The cut film left to curl on the floor, the two Kalee projectors, made by a local firm that had been an international leader in projector manufacture, turned off and left to rust. The Lyric stopped being a cinema. It lost its seats and screen, and became variously a warehouse, a light bulb factory and eventually a church. All the while, the projectors remained; maybe too heavy, or too worthless to move. Their dark lenses projecting nothing, only reflecting the changing space before them.
Lucy Skaer and Pavilion, the Leeds-based commissioning organisation, found the Lyric in 2011 and Skaer’s installation Film for an Abandoned Projector is, in her own words ‘an attempt to create the memory of the machine.’ Pavilion refurbished the projectors and made them work again. A new screen was installed, the Lyric’s name in neon light renewed and a hole punched in the wall that had been constructed across the balcony, allowing the projectors’ light to fill the cinema again.
In Skaer’s film, brief unconnected scenes quickly follow each other. Hands pick peaches from trees in sunlight. Billiard balls collide and cling together. The sun sets in a room overlooking a harbour. Tomatoes float, their skin opening in hot water. A thick copper wire on a concrete floor. A glittering mineral surface. The film loops seamlessly, moving from colour to black white, falling in and out of focus.
Film for an Abandoned Projector also turns in on itself. The screen fills with the green light from a chemical flame, footage of the filament in the Kalee projector, the light illuminating its own image. The front door of the Lyric, opens and closes as the church group come and go. It’s a strange sensation, being moved from outside to in, but in capturing these haptic experiences on film, and physically running them through the machine, it is as if Skaer returns these fond sensations to the projectors.
Film for an Abandoned Projector seems an appropriate work for the Lyric, not only because of Leeds’ history in the projector industry, but also because of Louis Le Prince; the man that many film historians now credit as the inventor of motion pictures. Le Prince’s earliest films, Roundhay Garden Scene and Leeds Bridge, were shot just a couple of miles from the Lyric. It is in this history and context that Pavilion commissions new work.
Another Pavilion project will play throughout the winter in another Leeds cinema. Aurélien Froment’s series of short films, 9 Intervals, will be cut between the trailer and the main feature, disrupting casual viewing with short sketches by the artist. With these often subtle, but significant commissions, Pavilion are supporting important work that explores the nature of film and site-specificity. Skaer’s contemplative film will only ever be shown at the Lyric in Leeds, a fitting tribute to the projectors and to the city’s motion picture heritage.
Lucy Skaer Film for an abandoned projector
Lyric Picture House, Armley
29th September - 15th December 2011
Aurélien Froment 9 Intervals
Hyde Park Picture House
18th November - 26th January 2011