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Inquiry Towards the Practice of Secular Magic

Ross Lipman, an award-winning UCLA film preservationist, has restored or reconstructed work by Kenneth Anger, John Sayles and Charles Burnett. But his own cinema-based artwork is almost the opposite: not the re-establishment of a single original work but the deconstruction and blending of many video documents into a new work.

His latest, The Book of Paradise Has No Author, gets its L.A. premiere Aug. 26-27 at Inquiry Towards the Practice of Secular Magic, a cross-disciplinary event at piXel (+) freQuency, curated by Los Angeles Filmforum.

For this "live documentary," Lipman has snipped several films to carefully selected bits, adding his own imagery, which will be projected with his live narration.

His main sources for Paradise are excerpts of 1972's NBC documentary Cave People of the Philippines, about the isolated, newly discovered Stone Age tribe the Tasaday, and excerpts of a 1986 20/20 exposé called "The Tribe That Never Was," which charges that the 1972 story was a hoax: The tribe was bribed to act primitive, and ruthless dictator Ferdinand Marcos used the pretext of "protecting" the tribe to ban visitors from their area so he could fight insurgents with no press coverage. But in his nimble script, Lipman also incorporates evidence that the tribe really had been isolated for hundreds of years — that the hoax itself could, in fact, be a hoax.

Lipman explores the issues with economy, clarity and a poetic touch. Images of ancient and modern cultures in collision (including famous Vietnam atrocity photos) are contrasted with a cartoon depicting Plato's Allegory of the Cave — both illustrating the controversy over the alleged cave-dwelling Tasaday and illuminating Lipman's own philosophy that we're all in a truth-seeking tribe.

Also featured in the Inquiry are a host of performances and works about transformed reality, including Marcy Saude's illustrated lecture on George Van Tassel, an aeronautical engineer who, inspired by Nikola Tesla and UFO contacts, built the Mojave Desert Integratron time machine; and Stephen Berkman's contemporary ambrotypes, 19th century–looking glass photographs that depict science oddities. —Victoria Ellison

INQUIRY TOWARDS THE PRACTICE OF SECULAR MAGIC | Aug. 26-27 | piXel (+) freQuency | 931 E. Pico Blvd., Ste. 202, L.A. | pixelfrequency.com

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