hysteria

hysteria
4 minutes, 35mm (1.37), sound, 2006
made with the support of lift & the new directions in cinema series 2006

An unstable community leads to accusations and panic. Re-considering the Salem witch trials of 1692. Then doesn’t always seem so far off from now.

In hysteria, Christina Battle refers more obliquely to the contemporary political climate using schoolbook illustrations of the Salem witch trials. She works the surface of the film in distinctive ways, lifting the emulsion to add new wrinkles to the image one frame at a time.- Chris Gehman & Andréa Picard (tiff 2006)

Like nostalgia (april 2001 to present), this film is made up entirely of drawings. They show a house from the past century, the cartoonish figure of a man, a woman’s uplifted face praying, and then another. They are lent movement through the act of hand processing, a hail of scratches and blemishes course through the picture, reminding us that we are watching a loop of emulsion unspool. The image turns briefly and occasionally from positive to negative, the likely result of “flashing” the film in the development process, quickly exposing it to light “prematurely.” This technique emphasizes the dual nature of the chemical image. Typically negatives are printed to create a positive for viewing. By showing us both at the same time, the artist remarks upon the usually hidden “dual” nature of the picture—and it is hardly a coincidence that these technical namings (negative versus positive) carry distinct moral implications.

A Puritan woman points at another in a gesture of accusation while a crowd looks on, an arm points at a woman praying in front of a tribunal. Near the two minute mark the cartoonish figure of a man returns, this time emulsion lifted, flickering and shaking in an agitated dance. Dark figures in distress slide through the frame, there is a hanging, and then the emulsion lift frenzy is over. The silhouette of a hanged woman stands clear, a reminder of witch hunts past and present, the easy seduction of surfaces, and the migrations of names to these surfaces. Kike, polack, fairy, nigger, witch. [Mike Hoolboom, 2007]