It was only after distinguishing herself as a renowned sculptor and artist that Margaret Honda (b. 1961) began to work in cinema. Her films to date—the 70mm Spectrum Reverse Spectrum (2014), the 35mm Color Correction (2015) and the 16mm Wildflowers—each bring to bear the same exactitude of material and method as her art practice by harnessing the photochemical processes refined over a century by the film industry to produce commercial exhibition prints. For the three films Honda closely collaborated with Hollywood professionals, lab technicians whose unique contributions to cinema are all too rarely acknowledged or engaged and who have been facing an until now delayed extinction as the studios and commercial interests conspire to make film an obsolete luxury afforded only to elite auteurs. The result of Honda’s patient collaborations are films in the purest sense, unique photochemical objects, shaped and stamped by the precisely controlled variables of chemical, temperature and those calibrated yet intuitive decisions and compensations that the lab technicians alone are able to make. As objects that must be projected in a theater to be experienced and understood, Honda’s films are vital interventions that demand a committed spectator and institution able to appreciate cinema refined to its purest quintessence, as the controlled projection of light through a plastic and photochemical substrate. Honda’s films—often both camera-less and imageless—give vital life to the texture and grain and palpable experience of film as film, freed from the burden of representing and meaning more than the already profound surface. Honda’s imageless films also embrace cinema as a pure mode of conceptual and, in a sense, performance art, as objects that give renewed meaning to the post-Duchampian object and find meaning and resonance in the emotive traces and resonances of industrial production.
For her first HFA program, Honda will present three films: two versions of her short 16mm work Wildflowers, first in French and then in English—both spoken by fellow filmmaker-artist Morgan Fisher—followed by her celebrated work on 35mm, Color Correction. The HFA is pleased to welcome MIT List Visual Art Center Director of Exhibitions and Curator Henriette Huldisch to join the post-screening conversation. The Harvard Film Archive gratefully acknowledges its partnership with the Radcliffe Institute seminar organized by artists Matt Saunders and Jennifer Bornstein. – Haden Guest
For my first film I used only 70mm print stock, a printer and a timing tape specifically made to control the printer’s light valves in order to produce the color spectrum. When I saw that the tape alone served as the printing element, I understood I could make a film using existing timing tapes from any movie. That was the idea for Color Correction. I was able to get timing tapes from an unknown recent narrative feature. For my purposes, the tapes could have come from any other film of the same type and era. This interchangeability of printing elements and the strict rules for finding and printing them are the basis for making Color Correction as a multiple, using a different set of tapes for each print. While working on Color Correction, I was given two 16mm Kodachrome magazines and I used these to make Wildflowers. Kodachrome processing had stopped a couple of years before, so I knew I was basically working with black-and-white negative. I decided to shoot California wildflowers. In the midst of a drought, they made me think of the material I was about to use—something known for its color but facing a limited future. The magazines had expired in the early 1960s, and as I was shooting I could hear the emulsion crumbling off the base. I couldn’t have tried to make the film you’re seeing. It made itself.
Wildflowers (Fleurs sauvages)Directed by Margaret Honda.
US, 2015, 16mm, black & white, 3 min.
WildflowersDirected by Margaret Honda.
US, 2015, 16mm, black & white, 3 min.