Ken Jacobs’ Nervous System Tour

Date: 3 November 2000 | Season: Ken Jacobs Nervous System

London Film Festival Touring Programme
Friday 3 – Friday 10 November 2000

Distinguished filmmaker Ken Jacobs will present the British premiere performances of the Nervous System, an innovative live projection technique that he has been developing since the mid-1970s. These works will use two adapted 35mm filmstrip projectors containing identical sections of film. Jacobs manipulates the footage by hand, using a special propeller device to act as an adjustable shutter to vary the relationship between the image from each projector. The Nervous System creates a dynamic optical tug-of-war as the mind tries to resolve what IS there with what seems to be there. This is no impenetrable experimental film for the avant-garde elite, it is dazzling cine-magic to astound all ages.

Assisted by his wife Florence, Jacobs operates the Nervous System like a master musician, improvising wildly through intensely rehearsed visual riffs, refining an approach first hinted at in his influential early film wonder Tom, Tom The Piper’s Son (1969). Freeze frames, forward and reverse motion, inverse and mirrored images flicker through the projector as viewers find themselves giggling with disbelief as the screen appears to rotate while the brain tries to interpret what the eyes are seeing. In undermining the basic 24 frames per second principle of standard film practice, Jacobs creates frozen time. Expanding on Muybridge, Marey and the theories of early film, he unlocks the unknown possibilities hidden deep within cinema, the depth of composition that is usually lost in the unretarded flurry of frames. What may appear frozen or stationary, on the screen can imperceptibly develop motion or suddenly rush forward in an orgasm of movement. The thrill of motion overtakes the need for narrative. Rather than pursue lifelike illusion, Jacobs uses Pulfrich 3D and “Eternalism” to break down the image, creating fantastic relationships within the frames of standard, often archival, film, mining cinema to display its unrealised beauty.

For the London Film Festival, Jacobs will present two very different programmes consisting of films and Nervous System pieces, including :-

Bi-Temporal Vision: The Sea (1994), a performance to be viewed through Pulfrich filters. Jacobs re-interprets 15 seconds of footage of reflections on water, producing paradoxical perceptions of movement, the illusion of 3D going beyond any titillating monster movie trick. The unstable, abstract imagery shifts in unbelievable complexity. “The mind is soon at sea, Rorschaching like crazy in the effort to maintain equilibrium”. Jacobs exploits the act of perception to bring to the cinema screen the sophisticated formalism of abstract expressionist or cubist composition.

Ontic Antics with Laurel & Hardy (1998). Using footage from Stan and Ollie’s 1929 short film Berth Marks, Jacobs takes us beyond slapstick, defying time, space and gravity to provide an unimagined visual comedy.


Friday 3 November 2000, London Film Festival
OPENING THE NINETEENTH CENTURY: 1896 (1990, 11 min) Pulfrich 3D 16mm film
BI-TEMPORAL VISION: THE SEA (1994, c.60-70 min) Pulfrich 3D Nervous System

Saturday 4 November 2000, London Film Festival
THE GEORGETOWN LOOP (1996, 11 min) widescreen 35mm film
ONTIC ANTICS STARRING LAUREL & HARDY (1998, 60 min) widescreen Nervous System
BERTH MARKS (1929, 18 min) the original Laurel & Hardy 16mm source film
DISORIENT EXPRESS (1996, 30 min) widescreen 35mm film

Sunday 5 November 2000, London Lux Centre
THE ALPS AND THE JEWS (1986-present, c.60-90 min) Pulfrich 3D dual slide / dual 16mm film (work-in-progress)
+ KIRK AND KERRY ( 1996, 25 min) film by Azazel Jacobs

Tuesday 7 November 2000, Oxford Phoenix Picture House
CRYSTAL PALACE (1997, 25 min) Nervous Magic Lantern
COUPLING (1996, 60 min) Nervous System

Thursday 9 November 2000, Manchester Cornerhouse
ONTIC ANTICS STARRING LAUREL & HARDY (1998, 60 min) widescreen Nervous System
BERTH MARKS (1929, 18 min) the original Laurel & Hardy 16mm source film
DISORIENT EXPRESS (1996, 30 min) widescreen 35mm film

Friday 10 November 2000, Nottingham Broadway Media Centre
CRYSTAL PALACE (1997, 25 min) Nervous Magic Lantern
DISORIENT EXPRESS (1996, 30 min) widescreen 35mm film
PHONOGRAPH (1990, 15 min) audiotape
SLOWSCAN (1981, 10 min) videotape by Ralph Hocking
JACOB’S LADDER (1981, 4 min) film by James Otis
UN PETIT TRAIN DE PLAISIR (1999, 30 min) Nervous System

Ken Jacobs’ Nervous System is a BFI Touring Programme funded by the Arts Council of England and supported by the 44th Regus London Film Festival. The season is curated by Mark Webber.

Thank you Sandra Hebron, Tricia Tuttle, Helen De Witt, Emma Heddich, Catharine Des Forges, Joanna Denham, Ben Cook, Ken and Florence Jacobs.