Sean Dower, Automaton (2006)
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. 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.
Read writer Antosh Wojcik’s poetic response to Automaton HERE, drawing on the visual and mechanical choreography performed by the automated rig as it documents Steve Noble’s epic performance.
Commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella.
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