Robert Breer’s work seemed very well placed at Baltic. It’s a friendly gallery and the work is being enjoyed not just by the visitors. The gallery attendants also seemed to take great pleasure in the work on the 4th floor, often having to don white gloves and attend to the motorised float sculptures as they occasionally got into difficulties bumbling independently and imperceptibly to and fro.
On the 3rd floor there was a 16mm projection of REcreation on a loop in a black box in the centre of the gallery. I always wondered whether what Noel Burch is saying makes sense, and I think the answer is both not quite, and perfectly, within the context of the film. It seems that Breer made the work, showed it to Burch, who went away and wrote a nonsense poem, with puns that refer to the images, that Breer recorded and edited to the image. It’s only a minute long and it has a perfect tension, I often hold my breath for most of the film. Outside the black box the individual frames are set behind some plexiglass, I had to count the frames to make sure they were all there but then I really appreciated the linear illustration of the work. I’m not sure why they had been blown up to 35mm though. There are 2 mutoscopes from the 1960’s, I wonder what they would have looked like in revolution, one of them was 3D with two eyesights and two sets of paper in circulation. The flip books were equally tantalising, you can get a little look inside some of them on the link to gb agency if you click on drawings and paintings.
Another highlight for me was seeing the A5 index cards that he works upon, showing small sequences from Fuji, 66, and 69. The colours were still extremely vivid in the frames from Fuji, where the colour is mostly spray painted. The cards elegantly illustrate his simple technique and the spareness of his imagery, but it’s within the camera that he creates the extraordinary and magical associations.
The animations were shown in pairs in boxes around the edge of the 4th floor and on monitors on the 3rd. I’ve seen the films quite a few times and sometimes with the man himself and his brilliant stories, but a full retrospective would be good now, a Breer immersion in the dark of the cinema really swills out the brain like a tonic.