|Syracuse New Times, Syracuse, New York (1972)
Call Jud Yalkut an experimental filmmaker. He does not deal with story-telling film, but with the invisible -- ideas and emotions. Nor does he structure them in a conventional manner. His aim is to disorganize your traditional methods of preception, and then provide you with some new alternatives. Depending on your personality, the result can be brilliant, or terrible.
But talking to Yalkut, one gets a feeling of vitality, and. that the man is indeed into what he is making. He's got a firm grasp of-what he's doing and where he is heading.) The ideas help one get into his films more
His credits include numerous films and inter-media events. His films have recently been exhibited at the Everson Museum. Long a worker with both video tape and, film, we began talking about the two different media.
TNT: Having worked with both film and video tape, I wonder if you could tell us a bit about the differences between them.
Yalkut: People associate television with immediacy, the impression of "live." With video tape you can see it back immediately, or you can watch it on closed circuit while you are doing it.
Film is different. High speed cameras can photograph things that happened too fast for the eye to see and can slow them down. Conversely, you can go the other way, through time-lapse photography, and show how the sun sets in one minute instead of 45, or how a flower opens. Time contraction and time expansion. And I like to work back and forth between all, the different senses of time. In videotape, unless you get into the area of special effects you get the sense of real time. And that's a very important distinction.
And then with video you have the small screen. In the McLuhan sense, any small bit of information is a low definition image. You have to work to get more information out of it. Film is so large it envelopes you. You find yourself in the middle of it and you're prepared for it.
In terms of the actual use of the medium, their essences are basically different. Even though their aspects are the same kind of manifestation of man, one seems to create a more transcendent record of ephemerality. Things pass by and we try to recollect moments. Sometimes if we're really together we can recall I things perfectly. But we put it on film, or tape and there it is.
It's not quite the same thing; it's a semblance of it and people seem to accept it that way. But in the process it goes through the electronics or the optics and becomes transmited into another thing, and so you get a reflection of reality, or a mirror, or a window . It's not reality. Many people labor under the illusion that film or video is reality, but it's a technological extension of it.
I think of video -- you are looking into the tube, into a light source. The electron beams are hooking up with your retina. In film it's a reflected process, more like the shadows of Plato's cave, if you can use that analogy. It's very much like the dream state.
TNT: Can you tell us a bit about your work in' meshing the two?
Yalkut: I started working with the interrelation of film and video back in 1965 with Nam June Paik. At that time I was very much into the McLuhanistic idea that you can isolate the effect of the media from the content of the media, and often from the package. So you get inside a television set and you film what's going on and you transmute it through editing, superimposition, or any other technique into a filmic experience.
Then you take that film and put it back into video and do things in video that can't be done in film. And you work back and forth through a series of generations that way. You can intermix film and video effects. You make artistic use of the imperfections of the medium and you become more aware of what the limits of the medium are. I use the limit of the medium to define it at the end of the film.
TNT: Any particular reason for the hand-held camera?
Yalkut: Well, I work almost exclusively with the hand-held camera. If I'm shooting animation, or titles, or some special effect then I will use a tripod The camera is an extension of my hands and my eyes, and I've found that by direct manipulation with the hands it reacts to me. Stan Brakhage says that the camera reacts to, like, your heartbeat and every nervous tremor. So as long as that's happening use it to your advantage, rather than letting it catch you unawares.
TNT: The zoom?
Yalkut: The zoom is used differently in different films. In Video Film Concert there's not too much zooming because it is a meditative kind of thing. In portions of it, like the robot sequence in P*AxI-K the camera is constantly moving.
Zooms are great temptations for people to over many people, particularly straight cameramen, will make derogatory comments about independent filmmakers where zooms are being used for aesthetic effects that are quite different from what the straight cameraman is trying to achieve. But it can be used very well.
TNT: How about the flow of film?
Yalkut: There are many ways of doing it. You ca set a camera up on one subject and it's a continuous experience, or you can move with the camera and create a flow that way. Or you can superimpose flow. Or you can take single frames and create certain kind of flow and rhythm. People get used to seeing one kind and they can't see another kind. I think it is very important for filmmakers and artist to emphasize that you must relate to each individual experience individually. It's a question of letting of letting it pass through, acclimatizing yourself to its pace. It's just as you acclimatize yourself to other people.
This all begins with dislocating the ordinary means of perception and then reorienting them into new ways of looking at things. You can do that taking a text, cutting it up and reading it randomly you can do it by cutting up a tape recording, you can do it with superimposition, or you can do it with flickering strobe lite. And you can do it with film and television.
TNT: The result certainly wouldn't be a narrative film.
Yalkut: Right. The thematic material has much to with perceptions and of levels of consciousness These to me are the most important “messages.”
In certain films I try to direct one toward looking at things in different ways in order to give different perceptions. Make them conscious of levels of penetration into reality. Those microphotographs on the wall show us patterns of things which exist in reality but when blown up out of their normal proportion become abstractions. Every form of transmutatic in media is an abstraction into another form.
Many filmmakers are now getting into other forms of abstraction. The static approach observes one thing for a long period of time. Or you have the kinetic approach. Or you have a very tactile or sensual approach. This is usually used with people, but can also get into inanimate objects like earth flowers, textures of things; and the microcosm and the macrocosm, and their juxtaposition . You are hurled between the antipodes of perception. Huxley talked about that in Heaven and Hell - the antipodes of the mind, where you can be hurled between one end and the other and you must find the equilibrium, your center.
TNT: Where do the ideas come from?
Yalkut: The media, of course, is any tool the artist uses to transmit his inspiration. Now the transmission process always has to stem from some kind of inner vision. The inner vision maybe stimulated by something personal, or something- within one's self, or something mystical, or something in the environment. It can be anything.
And I believe you can make a film or video tape about anything. If you penetrate into the essence of it, you can make an interesting film about anything. But you must get into the essence of it, the "isness" or "such-ness" of it. You can do it many different ways. You can do a film about a chair where you move around it, shooting single frames and creating a vortex of movement around this chair. Or you could do a much more fragmented cubistic aspect. Or you could do a straight-on thing, like a still life. Or you could get right up close to it and abstract portions of it, like the legs. Taking a very simple thing like that, all the different areas of approach express something differently.
TNT: A lot of your films are filled with multiple images. Do you have a special reason for this?
Yalkut: I feel that in one image off film that you're basically working with two dimensional confined space, a frame of reference. Any illusion of depth is just that - an illusion. But you can work with levels. Rather than trying to get the Renaissance concept of perspective in there, you get one plane becoming more dominate than another one. It's a sense of dynamics. You have many different levels, so that each time you see the film you see a different thing, or a different level, or things keep revealing themselves.
The important thing is that in the flow of images as in reality, something will seize your attention one time, while another thing will seize your attention another time. In the same space. These attention planes, one behind another, offer themselves to you and allow you to swim through them and pick out whatever pertains to you at the moment.
TNT: Are they random or planned out?
Yalkut: It's a combination of both. Recently I just came across a reference to Eisenstein where he talks about the sense of organicness and the sense .of what he calls "pathos," which is a sense of emotional intensity. I would prefer to call it ecstasy because I use it in a sense of that which takes you out of yourself.
Hans Richtor talked about the combination of chance and control, chaos and anti-chaos, art and anti-art. The dada movement was an example of that. How a reaction against art became art. And you have to be aware of this. So I try, as much as possible in shooting, to react as spontaneously as possible and that's the chance element. It's the chance element as exemplified by the I Ching, where you become aware of cosmic flows and forces, and you move within them and in response to them. And you let them take you and you don't superimpose yourself upon them. The control element is the human creative ego, putting it into a final form for release. It must take place simultaneously.
TNT: Should you consciously attempt to increase the potential for different perceptions at different times?
Yalkut: Film is a trying to transcend the ephemeral in putting down something that can be relived. But each time it is relived it is a different experience. Every time you see a film you are a different person, and although the film emulsion may remain the same as a record and become a form of control, you change each time. Your physiological /psychological set changes.
I am against anything in film which remains static. Film is a method of probing, of exploration, of extending the neurological network of man out into his environment and back into himself to feel out his fullness of being.
TNT: Is there a limit? Do you have any ideas of what parameters you can reach?
Yalkut: They are constantly expanding. Constantly redefining themselves. Henry Miller has said that one day art will be unnecessary because all people will be living artistically. Film has come like open eye vision. We've discovered interior worlds and realities and experienced so much of that that now we are able to reflect that back into the world. So the within and without become intermeshed. There is no other way.
Things are moving to the point where we can program our own brain waves--we already have alpha training devices. In time, we will become more conversant of the invisible in ourselves.
Eventually it may be possible for one mind to communicate a vision to another mind. And hopefully, for all of mankind to share a collective vision in its fullness. That would be the ultimate end. That would be the apotheosis of mankind and at that point man would no longer be man. He'd be something more divine and more angelic.