Many people assume that cinema irrevocably involves the utilization of a camera. Well, in some instances it doesn’t. In this context, I am particularly thinking of the Don of experimental cinema, Stan Brakhage. Brakhage is a true moving image art experimenter and one of his simple, yet most creative works is “Mothlight” (you can watch a 1 minute clip of the film here). What makes this cinematic work so unique is that it is a completely camera-less film.
After viewing the film, many spectators initially question what flashed before their eyes for a whole 4 minutes. The images presented in this cinematic work are far from discernible, which makes the ambiguity of this piece quite fascinating.
What I feel makes this cinematic work innovative is how Brakhage used pieces of bug wings, leaves, grass and plant material from his own backyard and put these objects onto a film strip and ran it through a projector. It gives the images a very organic and mesmerizing texture.
It just goes to show that cinematic art doesn’t always require a camera. In fact, Brakhage (among many other experimental artists) have proven that cinematic art doesn’t necessarily need to be coherent and narrative-driven at all. Moving image art – especially in the experimental realm, is just as important (if not more) than your average box-office hit as it subverts our expectations and opens our minds to so many forms of visual possibilities. Indeed, cinematic art is a wonderful artistic medium that allow artists to convey innermost feelings, anxieties, revelations and political stances in ways other artistic mediums cannot achieve.
Stan Brakhage even concluded the film by signing his name like a true artist.
(Fun fact: Brakhage achieved this by physically scratching his name onto the film strip)
If that’s not imaginative, I don’t know what is.