By Stephen Broomer
This short text was written to accompany Chris Gallagher’s Seeing in the Rain (1981), for the liner notes of Angular Volume 01, a DVD curated by Albert Alcoz and Alberto Cabrera Bernal featuring works by a broad range of international experimental filmmakers and media artists. The disc, released in an edition of 150, can be ordered through Angular’s website http://angularfilms.com/shop.html.
Chris Gallagher’s Seeing in the Rain (1981) continues the artist’s inquiry into time and the frame established in his earlier films Atmosphere (1975) and The Nine O’Clock Gun (1980). A camera is aimed out the front window of a bus traveling through a rainstorm on Granville Street in Vancouver. A windshield wiper demarcates the frame. The bus moves forward along its route, stopping for passengers. At the left end of the wiper’s swing, it acts as a trigger that rearranges the bus’s position on this route, lurching it backwards and forwards, the otherwise linear path subject to gaps, fissures and retreats in time. Figures and vehicles are glimpsed through a veil of rain, becoming focal points on a journey of accelerating discontinuity. The comic stagger of the ride is emphasized by the late chance appearance of an ad on the back of another bus that asks, “What’s stopping you?” This unexpected question, posed by a spatial obstruction, resonates with the overarching temporal obstructions that have caused this linear path to become erratic.
Here, time begins as metronomic, evenly measured, the clicks of the metronome sounding at the left and right limits of the wiper. This wiper, which structures the film, varies its speed. The metronome click is likewise variable, always sounding on the left swing but its rhythm changing and lagging with the wiper. The clicks are mixed with street noise, atmosphere, and the voices of riders. Sound, like vision, is marked by structured conceits, but both embrace chance occurrence. Gallagher maintains an illusion of measured time, of the scientific distance of predetermined structure, but against this a time signature emerges. Metronomic time is misdirection, a foundational system of time that the film endorses, but which it gradually passes beyond. Seeing in the Rain accepts that click as an underlying rhythm, but poses a freer system against it. The stagger becomes unpredictable. The fissures expand and contract. They expand, widening the gap between shots, creating dramatic spatial discontinuities; they contract until the sequence becomes a study of motion and space in minutiae, where passing cars, figures, and receding pavement appear to repeat and stutter. The image skips across time and space, but always forward, toward that horizon, around the elusive present.
The Angular Volume 01 DVD also includes Stephen Broomer’s Spirits in Season with and accompanying essay by Brett Kashmere.