MUHAMMAD BABAR SULEMAN
Manhattan reframed: 24 images of New York City featuring frames and windows of all manners played at 24 frames per second.
The proposed screening format for 24FRAMES is within an installation where an analog (or, alternatively, digital) control allows the audience/participants to access each frame.
Short Film + Installation
New York City
24FRAMES is a short film that peers through the windows around us. In a play of vision, perception and motion, the film explores the power of frames in exposing, concealing, shaping and constraining what we see and how we see it. The only way to immerse in the film's imagery is to see it frame by frame.
Windows are like portals. From the inside they allow the observer to look beyond and, from the outside, they reveal what’s inside. However, the very frame of the window inherently constrains what we see: at times the frame captures a thing of pure beauty, at other times it cruelly exposes an ugly detail. Always inviting a glance into another world, windows never give us the whole picture- allowing us access to only the parts visible through their frames.
Frames are omnipresent in art. Under the painter’s brush, a painting exists within a frame and beauty extends only so far as the boundaries around it. Drawing from artists including American greats like Edward Hopper (who was similarly obsessed with windows and the many things they expose and conceal- as in his famous painting ‘Nighthawks’) and Andrew Wyeth (whose ‘Looking Out, Looking In’ retrospective was recently exhibited at the National Gallery of Art), 24FRAMES is a short film that offers a unique look at the subject by emphasizing the frames through which we see all that is visible to us. Alert to the medium itself- film is but a sequence of frames itself- 24FRAMES looks through many windows but also makes us aware of the film frames that act as a vessel for the imagery. Visually and kinetically influenced by Chris Marker’s black and white still photography in La Jetee, 24FRAMES is constructed as a sequence of visuals that provide us an inside look- a window as it were- into the first day of snowfall in New York. Inspired by manifestos of constraints like Lars Von Trier’s Five Obstructions, the creators gave themselves the following constraints:
- The film will be shot and completed within 24 days to achieve symmetry with the 24 frames chosen for it
- The film will be shot with no additional lighting, props, actors or any artificial setup
- The final visuals that make the cut will be curated with the objective to expose details that have largely been neglected by the mainstream way New York is framed. Call it ‘Manhattan, Reframed’
Other important avant-garde influences on the film include the moving image and sculpture works by Marcel Duchamp. His ‘Anemic Cinema’ has a fixation with concentric circles not unlike the obsession with frames in this film. One of the images in the film- a toilet seat- is a direct nod to Duchamp’s infamous ‘Urinal’. Similarly, Man Ray’s film ‘Le Retour A la Raison’ focuses on geometrical shapes just as 24FRAMES concentrates on largely rectangular frames.
Finally, the film’s credits that bookend on either end pay significant tribute to Marv Newland’s ‘Bambi Meets Godzilla’ while also making a wholly medium-alert statement about frames: the film’s running length (excluding credits/titles) is just one second. The blink-and-you-will-miss-it imagery runs at a rate of 24 frames per second and, thus, can only be accessed in longer durations if the film is played frame by frame, a provocative method for calling attention to the mechanism of how moving images are constructed. This calls to mind the experimentations of British filmmaker Antony Balch who ran his films at different frame rates to analyze the effect on viewing experiences. However, unlike Balch who wanted to find the shortest span of time in which an audience could take in a scene, 24FRAMES purposefully challenges the audience and highlights the limitations of the human ability to take in and process imagery that has not been tailored for their convenience.
The film is intended as extended cinema and its proposed presentation format at an art exhibit would include screening the actual film on a standard screen alongside 24 separate screens that randomly show an individual frame from the film. To access the actual order designed by the filmmakers, the audience will have to interact with the screening of the film using provided controls and access the imagery frame by frame.
Director and Writer: Babar Suleman
Director of Photography and Editor: Jiaqi Liu
Special Thanks: Ezgi Ucar