Mortonçaged 16mm film
I am working on this film piece, a diptych, in which one channel is the visual representation of memory and memory's inability to recall hyper-specific details. In order to achieve this, I was interested in seeing if it is possible to apply the mordançage process to motion picture film. The first issue I ran into was copper chloride- this is a volatile chemical that can wreak havoc on you if not handled properly. Keeping in the interest of eco-friendly alternatives (caffenol development, hydrogen peroxide & citric acid bleaching) I set about to find an effective method of reticulation without the harsh chemicals. This led to mortonçage, which is soda ash, Morton Salt, and a drop* of bleach.
The length of time to "cook" the film varies, but I have found it averages about 30-45 minutes per film strip, though you can cook more than one strip at a time. Note: This process has only been tested on film with an acetate base.
*I want to reiterate how little bleach is actually used. Too much bleach will wipe away the emulsion entirely (plus, you don't want to accidentally make chlorine gas by boiling bleach).
In this image, you can see a blend of reticulation and some veiling.
After a successful test with scrap 16mm strips, I decided it was time to shoot a roll of Super 8 and give it a shot. I needed a break from the emotionally taxing themes my film piece examines, so I let my cat, Baby, run around outside and filmed his day. The result of that shoot led to this piece, Baby's Big Day Out.
An unexpected element of cooking the film is that when the water gets low enough, the film starts to burn a bit, which resulted in the brownish-orange and blue tones.
The song is a cover of Daniel Johnston's MTV debut "I Live My Broken Dreams."
I am really pleased with how the film turned out, despite the fact that it was an assemblage of mangled strips I had to scan. There are three big steps to accomplish for the memory channel of the diptych:
I. Can I reassemble the film strips into a single roll so it can be shipped off and scanned in 2K?
II. What does this look like on color film and how might that process differ?
III. How can I effectively transfer/shoot video to film to retain clarity and quality and then have it undergo this process?
In this still, the emulsion has been completely wiped away in certain spots. This can be impactful as it forces the viewer to fill in the details, as one does with memories. However, too much bleach or overcooking will wipe away the emulsion entirely.
Reticulation to the point of non-representational imagery.
The mordançage process generally affects the least dense portions of the film. In this still, we have an extreme example of veiling over Baby's face and legs.