Andrea Callard’s Super 8
This week’s post comes from Siobhan Hagan, a graduate of NYU’s MIAP program, who is now working as an assistant in the Media Unit of the BG Preservation & Conservation Department.
As the Fales finding aid for the Andrea Callard Papers states on their website, the collection of this artist/art educator consists of “materials relating to the downtown New York art scene in the late 1970s and 1980s. The collection contains a particularly rich series on Collaborative Projects, Inc. (Colab), a non-profit arts group which Andrea Callard helped create.” It contains many types of material: drawings, paintings, audio cassettes, Super 8mm film, and vinyl records.
I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Andrea Callard through my Film Preservation class I took this past spring semester, part of NYU’s Moving Image Archiving and Preservation program. Our professor Bill Brand (another renowned media artist/educator/archivist) arranged a class trip to the audio restoration house Trackwise, where my fellow classmates and I were able to observe one of Ms. Callard’s films undergo the professional restoration process. More recently, I have begun working in the Preservation and Conservation Department’s Film Preservation Lab on the inspection and repair of the above mentioned Super 8mm films in the Callard collection. I have been able to look at many unique, original Callard productions.
Inspecting a film is kind of like window shopping: you can see how beautiful an item is, sparkling radiantly under well-placed lights, but there is still that glass-wall separating you from experiencing this gem in its originally intended mode. Not only that, but the Super 8mm format has its ups and downs when handling in a preservation environment. First, it is extremely small: I imagine that attempting to wind a Super 8mm film strip onto a take-up reel is similar to what Gulliver would look like if he ever knitted a sweater for a Lilliputian child. Typically the film will stay in its correct place just until you think it is completely subdued. Then, suddenly, the film will slip from your gloved, mammoth hands, wildly splay itself in every which way except the way which you want. Naturally, it follows that the frames are also extremely small. As many of these films are untitled, I am oftentimes squinting through a loupe in order to write a description for Fales while I process the collection.
But I can’t get too frustrated with Super 8. It is an obsolete format, with only a smattering of hobbyists and enthusiasts making up its market nowadays. This makes it harder to get supplies for inspection, repair, and storage. I can’t help but feel sympathy for the neglected, younger red-headed step-sibling of 16mm. Plus, it is pretty amazing to see how much detail and brilliance these little guys can record.
Every day I get to come face-to-face with a sneering alligator, or a leaf-ridden street in South America, or a vibrantly abstract underwater perspective of stained-glass windows. The intensely engaging images make the challenge of handling Super 8mm film worth it, along with knowing that in my small way I am helping to preserve these small-format films to enchant and instruct for another day.
Photo of Super 8 and Standard 8mm (hopefully Callard’s) Super 8 was introduced in 1965 by Eastman Kodak intended for making home movies, industrial films, educational films, artistic and independently produced films. This format was different from the Standard 8mm as the sprocket holes along the edge of the film strip were smaller, increasing the size of the image. On the Artists Network Database, Ms. Callard wrote, “I use simple technical strategies that are accessible and from many places on the consumer_professional continuum.” Her use of Super 8mm film is illustrative of this statement: it was a film format designed for the consumer market in its ease of use and cost, yet was still able to capture high quality images. Presently Andrea Callard uses newer technologies in her work, particularly in sound recording. Repositioning Myself in the Marketplace and AudioBus B61 are two sound projects that Ms. Callard has worked on recently. Details on these works and others of Ms. Callard’s can be found at www.andreacallard.com.
–Siobhan Hagan, MIAP-NYU 2010