You might not be familiar with the name but Karl is a Canadian experimental filmmaker whose videos, projections and stills have been an integral part of the band Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Me and a few friends got to witness them perform together last summer, an event I can only describe as a post-apocalyptic yet poetic requiem for the decline of western civilization. A doomed sense of helplessness but with a few hints of sunshine here and there, or as fellow Canadians No Means No put it: ‘In every defeat, there will be a victory’.
What was fascinating was that the projectionist was situated in the middle of the dance floor with actual rolls of film dangling everywhere. Lemieux was as busy as the group onstage and his imagery seamlessly blended with the music and in fact became the visual focus and served to obscure the players themselves. One could draw parallels here with the psychedelic 60’s ‘happenings’ but really the projection of improvised imagery is where it ends. I’m not sure the kids were really ‘grooving’ to this multi media spectacle. But you could connect this to other film and music collaborations such as Jem Cohen/Fugazi and Ge.Sus/Crass, where imagery takes part in the process rather than just documents it.
Karl Lemieux: ‘I’ve never been a musician or seriously learned to play an instrument, but, to some extent, I prefer music to film. It’s something I wish I could share in. Especially the improvisational part, where the musicians get together and communicate by sound. They respond to each other and create this whole thing all together. I think that’s what brought me to performance, because it involves controlling an instrument. But instead of sound rhythms or sound vibrations its light rhythms and the physical experience of light.’
The key figure for the filmmaker seems to be one Pierre Hébert, whose projection work dates back to the 70’s but that’s all I know at this stage. This character warrants further investigation in another post, and it will be interesting to see their similarities and differences in approach. Karl’s loops of 16mm film are bleached, burnt, hand-painted and god knows what else until they resemble a lost home video tainted by some kind of radio activity. A bleak, post-industrial-grey, abstract expressionist, dream-logic travelogue of the damned. Or something like that, you dear reader, may see it from another angle.