The Space Between is a 12-minute 12-second film by Karen Mirza and Brad Butler, artistic collaborators since 1980 and founders of the artist film production space lab, set up in 2004: an artist-run space for the production, discussion and dissemination of practices engaged with the moving image, politics, technology and aesthetics. Though the duo indulge in a range of mediums they are well known as filmmakers and have garnered an international reputation through the production of numerous film installation pieces. The Space Between is one of three films in the ‘locational’ works of Mirza and Butler that ‘take a single visual observation as a point of departure’ for the development of a film; diversity in image is created through the multiplicity of angles and techniques. The second film/installation in the series, Structural Constellation (2006) indicates the attitude taken towards the subjects in the films; it uses a 360 degree rotation of a laterally panning camera in an effort to diminish the linear perspective of a single scene and change the perspective of the viewer in relation to the documented physical space — in this case a New York street corner — represented through three repeating films screened stacked upon one another.


Structural Constellation installation at Tate Britain. Photo credit: Mirza and Butler

The Space Between also uses the mechanism of rotation to destabilise perception. The film physically documents small sections of architecture — a non-descript hallway and a strip of balconies demonstrating the elevation of a modernist tower — in their tacit motionless state. Sections of relatively still footage of these objects, always from fixed longitudinal positions but at varying degrees of latitude (the architecture always remains in shot) are edited to produce a distinguishable horizontal or vertical panning motion, or sustained static image. The corollary is the addition of depth to the visual field, which emerges from idiosyncrasies inherent in the original images that are layered, interjected, and transposed with one another to create an often dizzying amount of movement, that never loses the subject, but creates a level of abstraction that allows the viewer to have a visually subjective experience.

The film, like much of Mirza and Butler’s work, is intentionally open-ended and susceptible to multiple interpretations; the collaborators’ practice often takes a viewpoint that refuses consensus views and employs education ( workshops) through film as the emancipatory device that fosters the unlearning of ‘views that dominate our understanding of particular phenomena’ (Locating The Exception and the Rule: One reading in an open system). The dialectical interaction of content and form — and the divergence from traditional methods to convey subjects within film, e.g. interpreting architecture in a less objective way than experiential popular wisdom anticipates — which provides a tension in Mirza and Butler’s work, is the reflexive device which amplifies the viewers non-standard perspective — with respect to the content — of the images.

Reeling The Real is a website dedicated to the discussion of all kinds of moving image including documentary, film essays, archive re-use, artists' moving image and more.

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