<-Previous page      Next page->

  • 1859
  • When Worlds Collude
  • Fred Worden: "...modern masters at mid-career"
  • The After Life
  • Here
  • Everyday Bad Dream
  • Throbs
  • North Shore
  • Time's Arrow
  • One
  • REVIEWS of Fred Worden Films:

    More reviews from Michael Sicinski

    October 8, 2007

    North Shore

    Worden's latest might be a sort of semi-homage to Ken Jacobs, since it uses many of the techniques (strobing, left / right oscillation, rotating forms) that characterize the Nervous System, particularly in its video incarnation. But Worden has been working for years now at exploring the tension between surface and depth in the abstract image, the cognitive zone where the push and pull of masses and voids across the screen prompts discrete phenomena to coagulate into an all-over activation of the picture plane. North Shore takes this approach in a bizarre new direction, since (as was the case with Worden's last Views entry, Everyday Bad Dream) it is nearly impossible to discern just what one is looking at until the very last. (And even then, I'm not 100% sure.)

    We begin with two alternating left and right forms, kidney-shaped and white against a penetrating darkness. Soon, spots and slashes cut away at the vast black expanse, and eventually Worden is hitting us with a full-tilt barrage of viscous semi-forms, some horizontal like liquid spills across an eye-level coffee table, some vertical and pendulous, like motor oil pooling around an elongated, amber-colored disc. These forms mutate and flow, always flickering by so quickly as to prevent any actually visible motion. Tiny shifts of light glinting across the black field are the only hints that objects are there. Incomplete concentric circle-slashes, like the stains left by the bottom of a coffee pot, swirl and evaporate as well.

    Is Worden taunting us, seeing just how little solidity is necessary for the human brain to perceive an on-screen form? And what of the radiant slices out of the black -- pure white but also beige, rusty orange, and greenish brown? Eventually, either by dint of forced exposure or perhaps Worden tipping his hand, a hypothesis emerges. We've been seeing light glinting off a pitch black body of water at night, photographed and presented in radically fragmented patterns. The title makes sense all of a sudden, but Worden's atomic fission of one of cinema's favorite abstract tropes (from the Nouvelle Vague to post-Brakhage romanticism) has an unusual impact.

    When you try to look at North Shore with "objective knowledge," the film becomes more confusing, not less. This means Worden has successfully found new, eye-rattling promise in a grand old idea.