Sunday, 24 October 2010


In documentaries like Capturing the Friedmans, The Devil and Daniel Johnston and Must Read After My Death, home footage and audio recordings are used to emotive, and frequently disturbing effect as they add another dimension to the personal histories of their subjects. In Gregory Büttner’s 23 Zooms, no one person is the subject – in fact, the artist has no connection to any of the people featured. Büttner compiles a selection of twenty-three found photographs and, with no provenance for any of them, composes a piece of music to complement their presentation. Each photograph is scanned over, certain details zoomed into, before fading to black.

While his ambition may not have been to create a tribute to these strangers, Büttner manages to tap into the pseudoscience of nostalgia to give the viewer little shivers that may represent a superficial connection to each photo. A proponent of musique concrète by trade, Büttner has a clear understanding of the synaesthetic possibilities of film, and the lack of movement in each image suggests that audiovisual memory is freed of temporality. Each musical composition feels diligently constructed, and clear references are made to the iconography in the images – a photograph of an old man with canaries is scored by a slightly tropical composition, while a scratched record accompanies Christmas picture. Büttner’s work is very consciously experimental, and ultimately the film showcases the artist’s music over his filmmaking abilities (one wonders why each picture has to seem so sinister), but it is definitely worth a watch.

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