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Ross Lipman's Urban Decay

Ross Lipman's The Cropping of the Spectacle

Many Angelenos know Ross Lipman as the man behind stunning film restorations — Shadows (1959), Killer of Sheep (1977), The Exiles (1961) — but fewer are aware of his double life as an internationally acclaimed film, video and performance artist. He's a keen-eyed, softly bohemian globe-trotter and a wizard with the optical printer, and his exploratory and personal works investigating the theme of urban ruins will screen at REDCAT on Tuesday, March 30.

Lipman's repertoire often highlights unique social groups with whom he has lived; his 35mm memoir-in-progress, Keep Warm, Burn Britain!, remembers drifters from the mid-'80s squatting movement in East London. Inspired by a Walker Percy critique of photography, Lipman chose to leave his camera behind and reconstruct his experience through maps and images acquired later. The first evocative, free-flowing 17 minutes are complete and serve as prologue to the unfinished feature.

A summary of his collage work in the 1980s, 10-17-88 (1989) is a heavily processed assembly of decrepit 16 mm found footage — weary faces from a Jewish ghetto during World War II, environmental pollution and destruction — that merges past and present into an expression of personal identity. Its somber but lyrical tone is intensified by music clips ranging from Debussy to Louis Armstrong's soulful rendition of Duke Ellington's "Solitude."

East London was again the setting of his quasi-narrative Rhythm 06 (2008). A woman (played by Carolyn Roy) in personal reverie wanders through a dilapidated room, cold winter light spilling through a window; she gazes at objects, including an angelic figurine. It's a mysterious and intense portrait of the emotional detritus of post-Thatcher England, a mood piece that literally shifts in and out of focus and creates a strong, palpitating sense of the woman's fragile psyche.

Lipman's 2008 cycle of experimental DV shorts, The Perfect Heart of Flux, includes Clean MRF/Dirty MRF, which documents the recovery of refuse. Footage of conveyor belts littered with trash, piles of industrial plastic, and a flaming Christmas tree in the concrete channel of the Los Angeles River are slowed down visually and aurally, an effect that lends them an ethereal, nightmarish quality.

The 25-minute The Cropping of the Spectacle (2008) is the kind of live, multimedia "magic lantern" show that has become a Lipman specialty. Drawing from his restoration of Emile de Antonio's Point of Order (1964), a summary of the Army-McCarthy hearings, Lipman situates the film's production within a larger ideological context. It was first performed in 2008, and he will deliver the presentation live at REDCAT.

Lipman's oeuvre combines a high degree of technical craft with piercing and reflective observation; given that his films have screened in venues from Taipei to London, it's high time L.A. audiences discovered this local treasure.

Ross Lipman: Urban Ruins, Found Moments

Tues., March 30, 8:30 p.m.; REDCAT, 631 W. 2nd. St., L.A.; redcat.org


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