Moon Stealing (1994)
Single screen video
3 mins 39 secs
Moon Stealing as low res, transferred from VHS, on Vimeo.
During 1994 Adam Chodzko smuggled a Hi-8 camcorder into cinemas in order to try to ‘steal’ any imagery of the moon that might appear within the background of feature films; A peculiarly specific form of video piracy. (As if, in the future the only reason to go the cinema would be to look for moons, because, perhaps, the real moon had somehow disappeared?). If any did appear, Chodzko would attempt to record a zoom into, or out of the moon, via the camera, ignoring (or overlooking) the intended subject of the scene. Through editing together these illegal moments of wonkily entering and exiting the moon in feature films the viewer is taken from one cinema, audience, and film, to another, using the moon as a transition point or gateway, cutting up the individual cinematic narratives and fragments of dialogue. The moon, as consistent source of light with its power to mesmerise, catalysing serenity or energy in those that pause to perceive it, appears to bring these disparate (earthly) moments together.
Often the fleeting moment of a moon’s appearance in a feature film would be missed by Chodzko, unable to press record and discreetly aim the camera towards the correct location on the screen in time. He would then have to return to the same film several times in order to capture it. Like a moth’s persistent attraction to a light Chodzko’s cinematic phototaxis, a lunacy, also ‘misread’ the presence of moons in the highlight of an eye, or a reflection in a pearl necklace or a car’s headlight, the zoom into the grain of the film dematerialising the things it represented and making any small, circular beam of light apparently lunar. These projected intense spots of light are also, of course, an echo of the bright beam of a cinema’s projector. Finally a ‘real’ moon (rather than one recorded ‘second-hand’), recorded outside the Clapham Picture House cinema after watching a film, ends Moon Stealing.
What is it about the visuality of the moon, (when we notice that the moon looks ‘good’), that causes us to stop and say to each other ‘look at that moon!’ in a way that we rarely do with the sun? This momentary pause in order to wonder interrupts our activities on the earth and allows a second or two of silence, calmness and awe, at something beyond us and despite us, before we return back to ourselves and carry on with our activities. Moon Stealing is partly an exploration into where our attention is held, suspended or lost. The work is bookended by parts of the Pearl & Dean animation (used in cinemas from the 1970’s – late 1990’s) and iconic music that would announce the start of the viewing programme and pull attention away from the social space of the auditorium drawing it into the excitement of the screen image. Chodzko extends, stretches and distorts the opening few seconds of the Pearl & Dean intro drum roll to now last for the duration of this work. In fact it appears that perhaps the whole activity of stealing moons occurs within an imaginary, sited in the opening of a familiar title sequence which itself announces a series of advertisements that appear prior to the main event; the feature film.
The illicit nature of the Moon Stealing activity, in relation to light, relates to Chodzko’s series Flashers (1996) while the notion of an archive or collection of bright circles or holes, detected or cut into multiple disparate images, then acting as a transition point between them, occurs in Sleepers. Hole (2012) and Sleepers (2016). (The form of the hole appear in many of Chodzko’s works including Hole (in the wall of a museum), Somewhere Else, In Order to Complete Them (geothermal holes in the earth), Around and cell-a (holes dug into the ground, revealing or concealing archives) and in Secretors (in gallery walls, seeping fluid)). The sense of looking awry, ‘in ‘the wrong place’, into the periphery of an image, or space, also occurs in works such as Secretors (1993), Loose Disclaimer (2000), From Beyond (1995), Reunion; Salò (1998) etc and an interest in the nocturnal production of events is also shown in works such as Nightvision (1998) and Night Shift (2004). Knots (2013) begins with a moon that is perceived in relation to a navel, both seen as a source of longing for ‘home’.
Excerpt from a log of rushes of the recording process: 1994
Counter reset to 00:00 at end of Kieslowski section.
00:24 Universal ‘Sky’
06.30 Rain, Night, Roof, Bright Light
23:59 ‘He walked toward the light’
28:20 Real Moon: Clapham Common
41: Real Moon: Flat
47:20 Shallow Grave: movement through wood
50:00 Car headlights in wood
59: Natural Born Killers Stars “I see angels”
1:02:27 Sky (brief)
Natural Born Killers
Half way through: shamanic part
00:27 Flicker of flames: flaring tree and chanting
04:47 Moon and clouds “some sin, some awful secret thing”
17:44 “ I’m not getting anything off this” as the screen goes blank
22:00 Credits, Leonard Cohen song: people talking in audience.
1:17:48: La Reine Margot : People with torches gallop away from camera
1:19:08: Pearl necklace and grief
1:19:19: Madness of King George: moon
1:30:21: Moon’/Light Him… “They kneel down in front of the whole congregation”
“Do you believe in God?”
1:30:31: Lights as moons: “Look at those big eyes see what you mean to me”
“Let’s just be rational about this.”
05:18 Opening credits… strong percussion… Move through graveyard….rain….trees
flying saucers, flash of lightening zoom in on light
08:17 Clouds as painted backdrop, laughter, angel : “I’m offering you mortals the bird of peace so you can end this destruction’
11:25. Zoom in to light between people (Good moon!!) “so, when you get in there, shake his legs around…it looks like he’s killing you” Audience laughter
Atom Egoyan Exotica:
00 14 Walking through grass “It seems so surreal doesn’t it? Cough, then off. “did you find anything”?