Experimental filmmaker to lecture at McDaniel College

A still from Margaret Rorison's film "The Road to Kalmar" is shown. The film is an example of Rorison's experimental work, playing with the juxtaposition of sound and images through time.
A still from Margaret Rorison's film "The Road to Kalmar" is shown. The film is an example of Rorison's experimental work, playing with the juxtaposition of sound and images through time. (Submitted photo,)

After years of struggling to define herself in her poetry and painting, artist Margaret Rorison found her medium of choice in experimental filmmaking.

"I had been painting and writing for years. I started to feel pretty limited by those two media," said Rorison, who will be giving a lecture at McDaniel College on Thursday.


"I felt that I ruined a lot of paintings, because I wanted to capture changes over time, and I would keep altering them. Because I love writing and storytelling so much, I decided I would try my hand with the moving image."

Rorison's films eschew traditional narratives, a characteristic of experimental films, for dreamlike images frequently based in natural and urban landscapes. Rorison described her work as being visual poetry that moves in time. Rorison's work has been shown at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art and the Ann Arbor Film Festival in Michigan, and she serves on the Maryland Film Festival Screening Committee.


At her lecture, Rorison said she's going to discuss her transition into filmmaking as well as the experimental film series "Sight Unseen," which she co-created with Lorenzo Gattorna, a fellow filmmaker. The series, based in Baltimore, showcases non-narrative film, video and cinema.

Rorison said they aim to host screenings of artistic films that people might not have a chance to see in other venues.

"I think for me, I'm interested that filmmaking creates an experience for the viewer. Since it involves time, it's a very unique way of experiencing art," Rorison said. "My films are what you could consider avant-garde, non-narrative or experimental."

Rorison said her style of filmmaking allows her to combine aspects of nearly every form of art into one.

"It allows me to work with my love of sound and language and storytelling and color and form. It's very intuitive and it allows me to combine these various elements that I felt very stimulated by when I painted and wrote."

The lecture is being hosted by McDaniel's Art and Art History department. Associate professor Steve Pearson, who arranged the lecture, said he was instantly drawn to Rorison's work.

Pearson first saw Rorison's work through the Baltimore Baker Artist Awards, which honor local musicians and visual artists.

"I really liked Margaret's work. I like that she works in film stills or traditional photo as well as cinema," Pearson said. "The idea is that we'll bring in people from the community who are interested in cinema as well as the people who normally attend [the lecture series]."

Pearson said it is Rorison's experience and worldliness he feels is valuable to share with the community.

"It seems like she's doing a lot of work in addressing more of a global theme, with some of her work focusing on other places like Chernobyl or Berlin," Pearson said, referencing the site of the infamous nuclear incident in Ukraine. "She's looking at the world beyond Baltimore and sees beyond the city."

Rorison said she will be showing clips from her newest unfinished work at the lecture, but she is currently planning a new project that will see her moving past experimental shorts.

"So far, I've only made short films, but I have ideas and different pieces of an idea for a larger piece," Rorison said. "My grandfather and I were very close, and a lot of my films are about him. He died about two years ago, but I feel like I still have more to say about him in a way that could only be shared through a much longer piece."


Unlike many young filmmakers who gravitate toward working with digital or high-definition cameras, Rorison said she is still in love with the look and feel of true film.

"When I first started thinking about working with the moving image, I started working with a basic video camera. I started to feel like I didn't have the amount of control I wanted," Rorison said. "I had to deal with exporting the video and learning about glitches and compression and codecs and it seemed like the language of video was slowing down the process. Film felt more direct."

Since moving on from the digital camera, Rorison began shooting her films in 8 mm and 16 mm, similar to the types of film used in home movies or low-budget films from the pre-digital era.

"I got so excited to shoot with a Bolex, which is a 16 mm film camera. You hand-to-hand crank the motor. It wasn't motorized, so you could only get about 30 seconds of footage before you have to crank again," Rorison said. "I like the limitations it sets. It's minimal setup, and the tech equipment wasn't too complicated. It allows me to think about what the image is to me."

Pearson said he hopes the lecture series inspires a new wave of artists in Carroll County.

"It's important for students and community members to see how an artist evolves and comes up with ideas," Pearson said. "They can see how they approach their creative thinking. There isn't one path; there are multiple paths to becoming a professional in any field. Art is fluid, and there are multiple media at their fingertips."

Reach staff writer Jacob deNobel at 410-857-7890 or jacob.denobel@carrollcountytimes.com.

If you go

What: Margaret Rorison: Visiting Artist Lecture

When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 2

Where: Room 104, Peterson Hall, McDaniel College, 2 College Hill Road, Westminster

For more information: Visit http://www.mcdaniel.edu or call 410-848-7000.

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