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Hand Grenade

Gill Eatherley
1971
8mins Colour 16mm
2,3 or 4 Screen film

Hand Grenade

At first sight Hand Grenade is an abstract work in the tradition of Hy Hirsh or Mary Ellen Bute

However this short energetic extravaganza was the result of a massively laborious but traditional film-making process. The initial material was shot on 16mm black and white stock in a pitch-black space. Each single frame was exposed often for several minutes with the camera shutter open whilst Eatherley drew around various objects in space, including her own body, using a single low voltage flashlight bulb. She would than move a little in space and repeat the action for the next frame. It was a process of animation where the subject moved progressively in space. The objects being drawn were never seen directly - they could only be sensed or inferred by mentally linking the consistent end points of the light traces. As a result the object became a ghost - an absence defining a presence.

This first process produced just two or three minutes of black and white negative - black lines on a white background. Using the contact printer then installed at the London Film-makers Co-operative, Eatherley made a new high contrast negative and positive - strong white lines on dense black. The next stage involved reprinting this black and white footage onto colour film, using colour filters which transformed the white lines into strong colour. Colour filters were also used to transform the negative image, creating black lines on a coloured background. Eatherley did not end the process there but went on to superimpose the coloured negative and positive images to produce coloured lines on a coloured background. She then edited all the material so that the three screens, following different but symmetrical variations, were orchestrated to fit with the music. The work belongs as much to the environment of a rock club as the cinema or gallery.

Adapted from 'Gill Eatherley' by Malcolm Le Grice. Sept 2004. To read the full essay go to Gill Eatherley Home Page.

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