Known since the 1980s for his Super-8 films and performances, Luther Price has, in recent years, turned to 16mm film, creating new works from discarded prints of old documentaries, snippets of Hollywood features, and other examples of cinematic detritus. He re-edits the footage by hand, effaces the image through scraping, buries the films to rot and gather mold, and adds chaotic visual patterns using colored inks and permanent markers. For soundtracks, he frequently uses only the brutal electromechanical noise generated by sprocket holes running through the projector’s audio system. Each reel he produces is thereby a unique object, often altered to such an extent that it struggles through the projector, as if playing out the end of film itself; his is a cinema that ecstatically embraces its death drive, so as to achieve maximum potency.
Using some of the same techniques as for his films, the artist also creates handmade slides, which are exhibited here for the first time. Price makes these slides to stand as general representations of his film pieces; when asked to contribute an image of his work for publication, he prefers to submit a slide, rather than reproduce one frame of a filmstrip, because each slide exists as a discrete, independent work. These isolated objects, however, demonstrate just as much strength as the films they are intended to epitomize.
Price typically begins with found footage, which he cuts up and reassembles, combines, and otherwise alters. He often presses other things between the two glass plates of the slides, projecting ants, dirt, and adhesive materials onto the gallery wall. Like his films, these slides are studies of a dying technology, pushing and exploring the qualities of light projected through and onto a variety of transparent, semitransparent, and opaque materials.
Luther Price’s work is on view in the Museum’s third and fourth floor galleries. His work is being screened in the Museum’s second floor film & video gallery March 1 through 4.