As part of Savinder Bual’s larger body of work, this programme focuses on her ‘low-fi’, ‘pre-cinematic’ experiments, and their presentation as videos. In these works, Bual focuses on unraveling the magic, and the history(s) of cinema through ingeniously simple mechanical illusions. Her methods can bewilder in their pre-cinematic sense, while also provide a way into their own demystification, as a space able to ‘ignite an element of wonder at the illusion of cinema, giving the everyday enough of a twist to allow the imagination to run free.’ Placing herself at a beginning of cinema, Bual takes the role of a ‘cinema pioneer’ exploring methods of illusionism that sit between ‘the pre-cinematic and the digital.’ Presented here collectively, Bual’s mechanical works become a showcase of her various methods, little vignettes brought to stage that invite us to question the ‘immateriality of video’, and how we can see past this into the ‘tangible everyday’.

Javasu, 2019

Beanstalk, 2020

Wing, 2014

Flight, 2013

Froglessness, 2014

Frog, 2013 (also featured in All Creatures Great and Small)

Walk Cycle, 2018

Punch, 2019

Lovers, 2016

Agni, 2017

Trompo, 2017

Sphere, 2017

Thaumascope2, 2012

Statues, 2020

Looking further into Bual’s mechanical methods, we focus here on the manner in which she ‘juxtaposes’ her mechanical processes within the ‘immateriality’ of the video recording. Bual achieves this juxtaposition by documenting her pre-cinematic techniques as if they were historic artefacts; like video demonstrations of museum acquisitions. This sensibility is continued in the mechanisms themselves, which appear outdated/historic; as well as their subject matter, featuring mythological sea monsters and classical animation. On the surface, Bual’s methods of documentation could appear nothing more than the ‘proper’ conduct, and can function on this level; but the nuances of Bual’s collected works, her political undercurrent, suggests there is more to this. 

Bual’s typological setup of the formal locked-off camera, often in monochrome, generates a deadpan expectation we associate with the sterile, anthropologic distancing attempted in museum conservation. These stable aesthetics inform the viewer that this is a documentation, that we should look beyond the ‘immaterial’ video record, to the importance of the documented artefact, that which is being presented though is separate from the viewer; and its original context.

Bual’s lighthearted kinetic works are able to subvert these preconceptions, contrasting the lifeless nature of these conventions, as her playful, inventive, even funny methods form a human connection with the documented object. Life and energy is poured into this devoid context of the Westernised artefact, a juxtaposition that is able to critique this system, while ensuring that her mechanical methods are taken seriously by the virtue of their own documentation.

Bual’s simple methods are able to raise a critique of professionalisation methods through her ingenious use of aesthetic contexts within her playful studies, generating a dialogue between the immaterial and tangible that reignites forgotten and/or neglected ideas. Bual is able to navigate these ideas through her temporal ambiguity, breaking down narratives, conventions, and assumptions, as a plausible counterargument to the linear newness of modernity and post. They offer a diffracted view of the professionalised context and cinematic progress that highlights the relevance for fun and creativity that is juxtaposed within works that are able to teeter on the edge of conservative demonstration of the historic artefact, and absurdist critique of timeless wonderment.