Project Overview

Automaton was one of six short artists’ videos first commissioned for the project ‘Single Shot’ – a 2006 initiative which explored the myriad possibilities of shooting a film in one single take. Automaton pivots on the regulated movements of a motion control rig, deployed to spotlight the intricate dynamics of a six-minute drum solo by acclaimed percussionist and improvising musician, Steve Noble. One of the background assumptions behind many people’s perceptions of music is that a drummer is the metronome of a band – its repetitive, robotic heartbeat. Here, though, it is the computer-controlled camera that is the automaton – a pre-programmed ‘click track’ around which the player is encouraged to extemporise. As the camera orbits, the drumbeat follows, and responds. As the camera goes through its repertoire of tilts and swivels, Noble rolls out his armoury of fills and frills. Jazz grooves morph into free-form time signatures; bass-drum thumps dissolve into delicate mallet and cymbal work. Alluding to his formative interests in sculpture, Dower foregrounds the materiality of the drum kit itself, its curves and surfaces, rims and membranes. Drumming is often said to aspire to the right combination of technique and ‘feel’. Dower’s film strikes a similar deft balance between the innovations of automation and the enduring virtues of human touch.


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