….As if Erik Satie and Albert Pinkham Ryder had taken a helicopter ride in Alaska together in order that they might locate a cipher or secret alphabet in the clouds, the mist and the glacial moraine below. Aerial adumbrations of wilderness unfolding in time like a Chinese landscape painting from the Sixteenth Century. Topography as stand-in for the unconscious. With geology and waterfall as phantasm, a panorama of lost places flickering in the eidetic harbor of dream. Of what was and never will be again, as much in metaphor, in mind, in memory as in actual place. Who am I? Where am I going? What can I become?

David Baker / February, 2011


A trick of the light. 

Film flicker is an aftereffect, a remnant, of an ‘imperfect’ projection, a deficient or inadequate projection speed (frame rate) or shutter speed (flicker rate) that fails to achieve the deception, illusion, artifice of motion that is cinema.  Flicker illuminates and reveals the deceit, testifying to the perceptual machinations that support the cinematic enterprise, strobing the aporia that is at once the eye’s (perception’s) inadequacy and cinema’s (technology’s) success.  Before sound, flicker was often just fact, a trace of the variability of the apparatus (capture and playback) manifest in its display; with synchronization, audio compelled consistency, installing 24fps as industry standard and forcing flicker beyond the frame (of vision).

Sound (and simulacra) swelling, 8, 16, and Super8 stock domesticated flicker’s flares and flashes, registering gaps of memory and light in sitting-room intimacy (amat-eur).  Experimentalists also appropriated, flicker facilitating structuralist speculations on neurophysiology, space, narration (Conrad, Gehr, Frampton).  Contemporary appearances of flicker carry nostalgia: historical (silent film), personal (home movies), but also sensorial -flicker is an afterimage of a (now usually) foreclosed mode of spectatorship that acknowledges means and content coterminously.  Flicker prods the sensorium to process and attend to its processing, film’s glimmering technological manipulation on view (too).

Richard Garet’s Melting Ground flickers gently, pulsating and vibrating, co-opting for video flicker’s effect/aspect of nostalgia.  Sensuous and grainy, strained contrast flattens its single long take, eliciting surface, the tangible materiality of the image plane a collusion (illusion) of light and black and white.  Slow, throbbing changes of focus and intermittent pulsations in exposure require the eye to track finely shifting modulations of depth and content, the quivering mass of unsteady (hand-steady) ground falling away from the camera’s spreading sweep.   Cloud, sky, rock, and ice, trembling monochrome, converge and drift at a pace and degree at once just noticeable and vast.

Relief in sustained flux, scale, space, and scope blur, a vertiginous geo(-)logic commensurate to Garet’s subject.  Hovering at inhuman heights, Melting Ground documents a landscape of visual experience situated between eye and screen: as flicker, focus, light, texture, and movement fugitively constrain or disperse vision, seeing is exposed.  With the image field’s every flare or fade, the monumental ephemerality of glacial movement is transposed to twitching optical musculature, eye clambering a fickle (rock)face, seeking settled traction.

Asher Thal-Nir’s soundtrack echoes with elastic iterations, dislodging temporal trajectory.  Loops, layered irregularly, prompt a slowly evolving asymmetry, melody and its memory suspended between repetition and change, recognition and elision.  Microphone, hearing aid, acts as prosthesis, amplifying the piano’s internal anatomy and transcribing a tender mechanics of hammer and wire.  Ear enveloped by intimate architectonics of instrument, repetition (or near-) erodes aural orientation, perspective, direction. Too forestalling a foothold, Melting Ground‘s soundscape gently disjoins sound and syntax from semantics, parsing perception – a muffled music box quietly compelled to succession rather than progression.

Sight scrambling in the light’s interval of flight, disoriented eyes and ears watch and hear, the workings of perception flooding the void laid open by filmic flaw, blip, digital clip.   Abstraction, linear architectures, moving geometries, and color field layering achieve, in Garet’s earlier video work, similar medi(t)ations on visual perception.  Melting Ground translates these concerns to concrete site, exercising an experiential, phenomen(ologic)al aesthetics within the sphere of referent.  Regarding vision, a panoramic view flickers.

Jennifer Eberhardt, NYC, winter 2011

Richard Garet/Asher Thal-Nir - Melting Ground (contour editions)

I saw this video back in August of 2008 and wrote about it then--it's very welcome to have it back now and to be able to view it multiple times at leisure. To recap, Garet shot flickering b&w footage from a helicopter of the Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska. It's an uninterrupted shot, some 40 minutes long. The camera's gaze replicates that of a calm but extremely interested observer, not blankly staring but occasionally panning to areas of extra interest, slowly, generally keeping the horizon line near the top of the frame, often outside it completely. One easily slips into the mindset of this observer, ceding control. The flicker is most pronounced in the lighter regions and, as there's enhanced contrast in place much of the time, that flicker becomes a major element (though it's not something I recall dwelling on when I first saw it, oddly). Asher's music is piano-sourced, the mics placed inside the body of the instrument, resulting in a resonant, richly-muffled sound, the music itself dreamy in a way that recalls Eno's "On Land" (a comparison I'm sure I've made before--but I think Asher's has, at the same time, a different character, one I like at least as much). There's a wonderful contrast between the music and the grainy rawness of the imagery. Those images themselves flit back and forth between the harsh, cold reality of rock, ice and snow and entirely abstract, pulsating patterns.

A very beautiful collaborative work, highly recommended.

Now, if they'd only release that Asher video shown that same evening 2 1/2 years ago...

Brian Olewnick, Just Outside, 3/05/11

Richard Garet & Asher Thal-Nir 'Melting Ground' Dvdr (Contour Editions, 2011)

Illuminations of Flicker-

"Richard Garet's melting ground," writes Jennifer Eberhardt, "flickers gently, pulsating and vibrating, co-opting for video flicker's affect/aspect of nostalgia."

The gentle pulsating affect of film flicker has the power to evoke a sense of nostalgia from not only those who've grown up with it, but also from observers of more recent generations, whose association's with the phenomenon stem from a lack of interaction with old forms of film screening technology. New generations -- rather knee-jerkingly -- perceive phenomena like flicker and discoloration as film defects. Melting Ground, however, utilizes these "defects" purposefully to evoke emotions, like nostalgia, usually associated with outdated technology, much like how philip Jeck or DJ Olive inject record crackle into their work, revealing, for a brief moment, windows into the past.

The visual portion of Melting Ground is a single, uninterrupted hand-held shot of the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska, as taken from inside a helicopter by Richard Garet. The footage was further processed by way of digital manipulation, in which, the natural condition, light, motion, rhythm, and duration were altered. Asher Thal-Nir provides a simple yet stunning soundtrack of the internal workings of a closely mic'd piano, while additionally he added looped fragments to create irregular structures within the piece.

The work unfolds slowly, gently panning across a sepia-saturated glacial landscape. Depth perception becomes a struggle to maintain on the part of the observer as the camera moves from high to low areas of contrast, on occasion the whole of a mountain side becomes drowned out by a pulsating white sky only to have, a few frames later, that same sky just as quickly retreat into the background. The disorientation and the overall blurred-focus style of the film allows one to really get lost in it's changing forms.

Eventually, Impossible figures reveal themselves in the snow and rock: human faces, roads of endless tire marks, close-ups of a fringed tablecloth, and Jesus on the cross, at times allowing me to forget the true nature of what it really is that I am looking at, not a place of complete and utter barrenness but one of life and movement, steeped in history.

It's difficult to "score" a film, and all too often the outcome is anything but good. But Asher managed to create a rather complimentary piece of music here that's as bleak and yet, warming, as Garet's visuals are. Compelling work and another winner for Contour Editions.

Adrian Dziewanski, Scrapyard Forecast, 3/9/11

Richard Garet & Asher Thal-Nir “Melting Ground” , Contour Editions

Here's a beautiful dvd-r from Richard Garet and Asher Thal-Nir. While Garet's greysmear minimalism has hypnotized us via his previous releases, it's his visual sensibility that provides the sublime, slow-motion drama here. Asher, too, is an exceptional understated composer whose signature lines of soft-focus static gird his musical accompaniment to Garet's film. There are only a few interlocking elements to the sounds and visuals for Melting Ground, with Garet providing a single tracking shot of a series of Alaskan glaciers viewed from above by way of helicopter; and Asher's piano interludes look back to the delicate compositions of Satie, hovering above that audio snow that he so often uses within his work. The treatment that Garet gives to his film is quite remarkable, as he really does an excellent job in simulating the antique patina of a hand-cranked camera whose imperfect motion creates a pulsing flicker with overexposed flashes of bleaching white and Rorschach blots of underexposed inky blacks. Coupled with a fine coat of fabricated film-dust, scratches, and debris, the film itself has the bruised visual corollary to so many of the sounds generated out of Phillip Jeck's vintage turntables. The pacing of the film is deliberately slow, panning across enormous mountains of crumpled earth jutting out of looming banks of suspended fog and vast patterned surfaces of ice. The effect is one of a found-piece of film, uncovered from somewhere deep within one of those glaciers as an artifact from a lost team of explorers. The elegiac timbre of Asher's composition supports a similar antiquity, given the early 20th century references he seems to be making. Even the softened static that grounds all of his clustered piano notes, seem to have been extracted from the surface noise of a wax cylinder from that same time period. There is a sense of wonder, awe, fear, and beauty to this piece, one that parallels Leif Elggren's minimalist abstraction Arranging for an Opening of a Teleport to Shangri-La, which appropriated Frank Capra's early film Lost Horizon into a smear of drone and slow-burning visuals. Melting Ground's magic lantern approach to the material gives it more of a haunted, excavated aesthetic, with all of it addressing an allusion to the perils of climate change, especially in its impact upon the glaciers which hold so much of the world's fresh water. Limited to a mere 150 copies, and nicely packaged in an oversized folio.

Jim Haynes, Aquarius, 3/11

Richard Garet & Asher Thal-Nir “Melting Ground” , Contour Editions

Only a handful of releases in, and Garet’s imprint is proving to be both brave and ambitious in the presentation of multimedia works, and this latest edition DVD is no exception. Melting Ground is best appreciated on a large format screen, with quality audio, but that should not hinder anyone lesser endowed. Transcribed from a fortuitous helicopter journey across the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska in 2005, this single tracking shot marries serene, slightly surreal imagery with Asher’s filigree piano piece, creating a restless tension between sound and image. Rendered in stark monochrome, the video aspect of this collaboration flickers and pulsates like an aging Super 8 movie. This deliberate intervention, (along with various other subtle treatments) lends the film an air of dreamlike nostalgia, with the landscape, already rinsed and de-saturated, becoming more of a vehicle for something approaching the painterly surfaces of early De Kooning or Tapies. Perhaps Tapies is the more likely simile with his obsessive fascination for strained and patinated surfaces, his walls and textural fields metaphorically manifesting the marks and mental scars resulting from psychic damage incurred during the Spanish Civil War.  Garet’s treatments though, have a sensitivity, a lightness of touch that renders serene a landscape that is alive with tectonic activity; the filmic pulsations and treatments perhaps becoming the visual corollary of the stark and violently transitional geology of the area. Asher’s slowly evolving looped fragments of a piano’s internal mechanics create a harmonious compliment to the visuals, with minutely cross-phased fragments creating textural moirés, unintentional melodic structures that once again offer a nuanced reference to the turbulent, shifting landscapes of the glacier. As with Garet’s visual references, Asher’s soundscape rarely detracts from it’s central theme, transitions are subtle, yet significant as the piece gently blossoms.
Here is a DVD that challenges the norm, and transcends anything that resembles the technologically obsessed fads or fashions that currently permeate the art world. Where most new media artists exploit software based methodologies, Garet actively opts for something altogether more organic, with little  human intervention, allowing the piece to unfold its delicately, and deliciously shifting geometries.

BGN – WHITE_LINE, 4/25/11


A DVD containing 43 minutes of black and white footage (by Garet) accompanied by Asher’s acoustic suggestions of quiet malaise in a metropolitan mire. The video, previously subjected to a series of processing phases, was shot from a helicopter during a trip over an Alaskan glacier. The imagery, constantly flickering due to the manipulations and the occasional rhythmic shadow given by the helicopter’s rotors, allows the spectator to enter a state of trance if the focus is entirely absorbed by the screen. What happens is that the brain starts individuating a way to blend the uninhabited landscape’s inbuilt designs into different entities. A huge rock becomes an animal’s head; the contrasts between darker hues and bright flashes generate sudden calls of attention to what appears as blinking lights, ultimately turning out to be just sundrenched ice. The soundtrack consists in a classic Asher creation, based on two fundamental components. The first is a piano recorded from the inside, very close to the hammers, whose uncomplicated figurations get looped and superimposed to produce a softened irregularity bathed in the sort of moody dimness that defines the Boston composer’s best work. The melodic material is surrounded – make that almost engulfed – by a massive presence of static hiss, perhaps deriving from shortwaves, attributing a feel of ventilated steadiness to the sonic grain. An unassumingly beautiful supplement for late evenings where all that remains is the consideration of worthlessness as a systematic clause for anything one decides to do.

Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes, May 31, 2011

Richard Garet + Asher Thal-Nir - Melting Ground

Flying over the Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, Alaska... ...videotaping mazes of crevasses, peaks blurred by clouds, sinuous lines drawn by snow... ...running upon hidden details, unusual forms, mapping concrete entities... Coupling this with subtle piano touches, added to the scenario, softly cadenced, echoing tunes that come one after the other, without stopping...

"Melting Ground", audiovisual product, result of a collaboration between Richard Garet and Asher Thal-Nir, can be summed up with these words. The video content (by Garet) consists of a hand-held shot, 43 minutes long, that goes back to 2005. Uninterrupted sequence heavily re-edited by Richard, "stained" through superimposition of a flickering effect covering the whole running time. In addition, the decision to opt for a B&W format which, associated with shadowy timbres of sound, gives a retro feeling to the footage.

Asher took care of the audio section, by offering a single piece that runs parallel to the video and fits splendidly in the flowing images. A piano and nothing else. Gestures captured by microphones placed inside its body (Asher already resorted to this compositional paradigm, successfully, in a recent past), the pressing of keys distinctly audible, series of notes which periodically repeat themselves, a pulsating melody intentionally mingled with a persistent noise generated by the helicopter blades.

The filmed scenes show various areas of the location with variable depth of field: as soon as the camera operates at close range, amorphous elements manifest themselves, irregular strokes stand out, granular textures become more pronounced. Spontaneous variations in light intensity, needed to make the rest... The music goes with the frames, slowly proceeding, emphasizing and coloring them.

Fruitful synergy, indeed, and really special work that enriches the catalogue, falling perfectly within the conceptual ambit of the label.

Giuseppe Angelucci, Spiritual Archives, July 7, 2011