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The Unburied Experience: Visceral Filmmaking

     As a part of the 2014 Jorgensen Guest Filmmaker Lecture series at Indiana University, Josephine Decker (Thou Wast Mild and Lovely, Butter on the Latch) and Russell Sheaffer (Acetate Diary, Thou Wast Mild and Lovely) performed “The Unburied Experience: Visceral Filmmaking.”  The event was unlike any other Jorgensen to date; rather than a talk, it was an improvisational film production event in which Decker and Sheaffer created a found-footage experimental film live in front of the audience.

      About six weeks prior to the lecture, Jon Vickers, director of IU Cinema, gave Sheaffer a personal 16mm print of the Odessa Steps sequence from the 1925 film Battleship Potemkin. Sheaffer then cut the film into 100-foot segments and buried them in his garden each week to allow the film stock to begin decomposing. At the performance on October 3, the filmmakers unearthed the deteriorated footage with the help of the audience, re-edited it into a new project, and projected the new film — all in 90 minutes. Although Decker said this was her first attempt at making a found footage film, the project reflected her work’s ongoing exploration of “immersive experience, what it means for the audience to experience something instead of observe it.”

The resulting film (part of which can be viewed below) was a piece of strange magic, projecting mud and turning the familiar scenes of Battleship Potemkin into a surreal, uncanny new work.