"Along with magician's assistant Flo, I have presented live film-performance since 1975 but other spectacles before that, including 3D shadowplay (with shadows reaching into the audience), in an ongoing investigation of "expanded cinema". This will be a performance with the Nervous Magic Lantern, a device so elemental it puts us in the running with the very earliest inventors of cinema. You will see Abstract Expressionism in depth, monster-creations of dark and light forming and reforming without film or electronics, live! and without 3D spectacles but with 3D available to be seen even by the single-eyed. A projection of evolving and moving, twisting and turning dimensional forms that could've happened before the invention of film, though Abstract-Expressionism had to come first to prepare minds. Light will pulse throughout, not to everyone's pleasure, but no pulse/no hallucination. (Do not prepare with drugs, the Nervous Magic Lantern is the drug.) Accompanied by the surround-sounds of the New York subway and its joyful inhabitants."
—Ken Jacobs, 2014
Part of Ken Jacobs’ Nervous Magic Lantern series of performances, Time Squared uses projected light, the most basic ingredient of cinema, to create hallucinatory optical effects. Colored slides, a lens, and a spinning shutter are hand manipulated by the artist to animate the patterns reflected onto the screen, creating stereoscopic effects without celluloid or video.
Alongside numerous film and video productions, and extensive work with 3D filmmaking techniques, avant-garde film pioneer Ken Jacobs has explored the histories and technologies of the moving image through projector performances for the past five decades, both in shadow plays and with the Nervous System—an apparatus consisting of two 16mm projectors with identical strips of film that create the illusion of spatial depth.
Time Squared Nervous Magic Lantern performance is by Ken Jacobs, assisted by Florence Jacobs. Sound gathered from the New York Subways.
Ken Jacobs was born in Brooklyn in 1933 and lives and works in New York City. A pioneer of the American film avant-garde of the 1960s and '70s, Jacobs is a central figure in post-war experimental cinema. From his first films of the late 1950s to his recent experiments with digital video, his investigations and innovations have influenced countless artists. He has received numerous awards, including the Maya Deren Award and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, as well as grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the New York State Council on the Arts. In 1969, with the help of Larry Gottheim and Gottheim’s students (one of whom was J. Hoberman, current senior film critic for the Village Voice), Jacobs began the Cinema Department at SUNY Binghamton and taught there until 2002. His films, videos, and performances have been received at such international venues as the Berlin Film Festival, the London Film Festival; the Hong Kong Film Festival; the New York Film Festival; the American Museum of the Moving Image, Astoria, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and The Museum of Modern Art, New York. He was a featured filmmaker at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in 2004, and Courtisane Festival, Ghent in 2014.
“Silent cinema was never this silent. This is hands-on projection with projectionist as main moving part. Objects are manipulated within this essence of a machine while, onscreen, we see a vast 3D churning and morphing that could have been made to happen before the invention of film and film-transport devices. And perhaps they were, but minds were not ready for the results.”