Colour Opponent Process

Aura Satz, Doorway for Natalie Kalmus (still), 2013

Aura Satz, Doorway for Natalie Kalmus (still), 2013

Aura Satz, Installation view of Colour Opponent Process, Paradise Row Gallery, 2013

Aura Satz, Joan the Woman - with Voice #2, Duratrans print framed in lighbox with audio, 2013

Aura Satz, Doorway for Natalie Kalmus (still), 2013

Colour Opponent Process

Saturday, March 8, 2014 to Saturday, April 19, 2014
Opening Reception:
April 12,
2:00PM to 5:00PM
About the Exhibition: 

Centred around the use of colour in moving image technology, Satz explores the disorienting technicolour prismatic effects of the lamp house of a 35mm colour film printer. In her film Doorway for Natalie Kalmus, minute shifts across an abstract colour spectrum, punctuated by a mechanical soundtrack, evoke kaleidoscopic perceptual after-images bringing to mind Paul Sharits, Dario Argento and The Wizard of Oz. Natalie Kalmus was the ex-wife of technicolour inventor Herbert Kalmus, and was the colour consultant for hundreds of colour films, including The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus and many other movies. She would draw up colour scores for each film like a music score, according to her theory of "Colour Consciousness". For the soundtrack Aura Satz has collaborated with composer Steven Severin, founding member of Siouxsie and the Banshees. Alongside the film, the exhibition also features 35mm film-strip 'colour code' works.

Continuing her interest in women's impact on technology, particularly their contributions to early film history, Satz will also present Joan the Woman - With Voice, a series of three photographic lightboxes which relate to cinematic representations of Joan of Arc in early colour film. Cecile B. deMille's silent feature Joan the Woman (1916), starring opera singer Geraldine Farrar, is mostly monochrome, except for the culminating flame sequence in which Joan of Arc is burned at the stake. This remarkable orange coloured climax was the first ever use of the Handschiegl colour technology, a semi-automatic stenciling process, which removed the painstaking labour of hand-tinting and hand-stencilling which had characterised the introduction of colour in the film industry up until then. The repetitive, menial and dexterous task of adding colour frame by frame was mostly relegated to female labour, and some film factories such as the Pathe laboratory in Vincennes employed hundreds of women for colour printing.

The addition of colour onto black and white stock often created layers of abstraction, accentuating the body's disappearance in shimmering instances of flames, explosions, puffs of smoke and magical disappearance acts. Colour, added by invisible female hands, frequently served to subsume the film's actresses into a realm of abstraction. Joan's hands are only just discernible from the dense layering of smoke, flame, and colour. Within the lightboxes are embedded sounds composed and performed by Norwegian vocalist Maja Ratkje, to counter both the silence of the original film, as well as the Inquisition's challenging and final silencing of the voice of Joan of Arc, and the three voices she allegedly heard.

This exhibition is co-presented with the Images Festival. A special thank you to Paradise Row for making this project possible. 


Essay by Esther Leslie:

Artist Biography: 

The work of Aura Satz encompasses film, sound, performance and sculpture. In recent years she has made a collection of films that look closely at sound visualisation through various technologies and acoustic devices such as the Chladni plate, the Ruben's tube, the theremin, mechanical music, phonograph grooves, and drawn/optical sound. Her films engage with the materiality of these technologies and the resulting sound patterns - codes in the act of formation - and how these destabilise paradigms of writing and readership. The camerawork tends to pore over its subject, zooming in visually and acoustically until it becomes abstracted in scale and context, and reconfigured to evoke a new anatomy or landscape of sorts -an architectural structure, or a writing system. The film narratives often explore the more metaphorical, literary and cinematic associations, whilst the visuals provide an intimate encounter with archaic and obsolete sound technologies, exploring their de-familiarized sculptural and tactile qualities, and revealing new ways of thinking about sound. She is particularly interested in technologies, which are on the cusp of invention or obsolescence, at the point in time when their purpose, their ergonomic relationship to bodies, and the ways in which they might be modelled on physical or psychic human functions are at their most unstable.


Esther Leslie is Professor of Political Aesthetics at Birkbeck, University of London, UK. Her first book was Walter Benjamin: Overpowering Conformism (Pluto, 2000). She has also written a biography of Benjamin which was published by Reaktion in 2007. In 2002 she published Hollywood Flatlands: Animation, Critical Theory, and the Avant Garde (Verso), and Synthetic Worlds: Art, Nature and the Chemical Industry (Reaktion) appeared in 2005. Derelicts, a study of the effects of war on the critical writings of Benjamin, Adorno, Schjwitters, Kracauer and others was published by Unkant in 2014. She is currently writing a book on liquid crystals, and together with Ben Watson runs the website