Inferno (1980). Images courtesy the White Noise Gallery
An hour of a film is made up of approximately 129,000 individual photographs or frames. Sculptor and photographer, Jason Shulman, however, has turned them into one, creating an entire exhibition of abstract photographic compositions that collapse all of the frames in a film into a single, composite image. Through long-exposure techniques, each frame is stacked on top of each other—the sound is removed, and the totality of the film’s discourse is condensed into a single emotional imprint. The results are a stark contrast to MovieDNA, a graphic design project that composites every frame of a movie into a vertical composition, or Reddit’s collective attempt to reduce entire films down into single blocks of color. The abstract frames of Shulman’s Fast Forward exhibition at the White Noise Gallery in Rome marry the intricate and muddy character of an expressionist painting with the stillness of a photograph.
Danger: Diabolik (1968)
The majority of the movies subject in Shulman’s work are Italian films made during the 60s and 70s, with the exception of a few titles like La Vita e bella and La Grande Bellezza, a film by Paolo Sorrentino released in 2013. Much like the process artists of the 70s, Shulman’s work explores the technical mechanics and limitations of art-making. He says he can’t predict whether or not a film will produce an impactful image and that each of the films used in the exhibition were selected based on his own aesthetic precedents.
La Dolce Vita (1960)
The more Shulman thinks about his photographs of films, the more he realizes that their origins hark back to childhood days when he collected 8mm film. “I found it miraculous, this row of tiny pictures that transformed into a seamless narrative when fed through a projector,” he tells The Creators Project. “Back then you could find feature films radically edited down to different lengths. There was a 50-foot King Kong—two and a half minutes; a 200-foot King Kong—ten minutes, etc. The unsung geniuses who did this managed to retain the sense of the films within these matryoshka doll reels: 50′, 200′, 400′.”
No one shot is fully discernible in each composition, but if you squint hard enough, more-recognizable features appear as ghostly outlines. “It’s a kind of action painting in which the central creative gesture is not executed by the artist but produced by the unfolding of the film itself in front of the camera,” writes the White Noise Gallery. “Shulman accepts the work of the camera and then develops the image much as any photographer would.”
Per Un Pugno di Dollari (A Fistful of Dollars) (1964)
Salo o le 120 Giornate di Sodoma (Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom) (1975)
Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo (The Gospel According to St. Matthew) (1964)
Fast Forward is one show of a three-part series put on by White Noise, The Trilogy of Silence. The series speaks about humanity through absence: three artists depict their subjects through their rawest and most expressive forms, where space, time, and sound are unpacked for presented a new for reinterpretation. The other shows in The Trilogy of Silence series are Lee Madgwick’s Stand-By and Mar Hernández’s Rewind exhibition. Learn more about the shows here, and check out the rest of Jason Shulman’s work on his website.