Nothing Means Nothing: A Selection of Recent Found Footage Works

Programmed by Clint Enns & Leslie Supnet. Presented by The Fabulous Festival of Fringe Film in Durham, Ontario on July 24, 2015.

Ghosts are never just ghosts; they provide us with an insight into what haunts our culture.1

Andrew Smith in “Hauntings”

Archival documents are ghosts from the past that when released from their burial ground, the archive, are freed to haunt the present. Found footage films are made from moving image archival documents that are reinvigorate through a change in context providing these disembodied spirits with a site to haunt.

The works in Nothing Means Nothing appropriate found footage from various sources that linger our collective memories. The footage – from found home movies, discarded trailers, popular television shows, Youtube videos and arthouse cinema – is re-edited to creating a new context, providing the footage with a new life. These works ask the viewer to examine the meaning of the original documents while forming a relationship between the viewer, the archive and history.

Black Horse by Joana Silva appropriates and re-animates a famous scene from Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1966 masterpiece Andrei Rublev providing the scene with a new materiality. In the layers of paper, Silva allows the viewer to re-discover the beauty in original scene, however, through a completely different lens.

Both LJ Frezza’s Nothing and Chance Taylor’s Sal Mineo’s Locker use footage from popular culture to explore elements implicit in the original footage. Sal Mineo’s Locker takes various audio interviews with actor, as well as scenes from the actor’s films, allowing Mineo to nostalgically remember past love affairs. In the late 1960s Mineo became one of the first major actors in Hollywood to publicly acknowledge his homosexuality and was often discriminated against by not being considered “appropriate” for many leading roles. 

Nothing takes all the episodes of Seinfeld and creates a piece in which literally nothing happens. Seinfeld, a “show about nothing,” ran for nine seasons on NBC from July 5, 1989, to May 14, 1998. A barrage of B roll accompanied by Jonathan Wolff signature slap bass theme (that was made entirely with his mouth and recorded on a synthesizer) forever etched into our memories in LJ Frezza’s hilarious self-reflexive piece. 

Repetition of imagery and sound is also found in Josh Hite’s Cliffs Quarries Bridges and Dams.  Hite takes footage from Youtube in which people are throwing objects (including themselves) into bodies of water and reassembles them into a work that is structured around the various camera people’s responses. Cliffs Quarries Bridges and Dams exploits the pleasure and humour derived from watching things create a splash.

The use of found footage in experimental documentary problematize the construction of “facts” through a reflective interrogation of media images. In Kami Chisholm’s Overpass, we witness a tense afternoon drive on a freeway in Los Angeles through Chisholm’s memories narrated to famous news footage of the1994 OJ Simpson car chase. OJ Simpson, football and film star had led police on a low-speed chase along the Los Angeles freeways shortly before his arrest for the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman. Overpass explores the popular and public narrative of OJ Simpson, gendered violence, spectacle and interpersonal violence. 

Bluewater by Christine Negus uses personal narrative and found home movies from the 90s to explore rural Ontario life and familial loss. Described by Jon Davies as “Ontario Gothic,”2 the piece brings together video stills of a quiet house filled with trinkets that we assume to be the narrator’s dead grandmother’s, found elementary school footage of 11 -12 year-olds hamming it up for the camera, a Christmas-town traffic jam, and images of the municipality of Bluewater, Ontario revealing, with discomfort and sadness, the characteristics of home.

Winston Hacking and Andrew Zuckerman’s The Public Slaw is literally that, a delicious psychedelic coleslaw of images and sounds from the public domain that have been materially manipulated using emulsion lifting, hand painting, scratching, and other forms of direct animation. The artists don’t hold back serve up a colourful and momentous found footage Frankenstein that took 7 years to make.

The works in this program reflect artists who use found footage in various ways, from deconstructing cinematic language, playing with the materiality of the image to investigating history and place. While there are a range of approaches, these works speak to the archival imagination and fever to resuscitate the discards and memories of our history to better understand the cultural landscape today.


Black Horse | Joana Silva | 2013 | 1 min. | DV
Cliffs Quarries Bridges and Dams | Josh Hite | 2012 | 4 min. | DV
Overpass | Kami Chisholm | 2014 | 5 min. | DV
Sal Mineo’s Locker | Chance Taylor | 2015 | 9 min. | DV
Nothing | LJ Frezza | 2014 | 7 min. | DV
BLUEWATER | Christine Negus | 2007 | 7 min. | DV
The Public Slaw | Winston Hacking & Andrew Zuckerman | 2014 | 17 min. | 35mm->DV

  1. Andrew Smith, “Hauntings,” in The Routledge Companion to Gothic, ed. Catherine Spooner and Emma McEvoy (London: Routledge, 2007), 153. []
  2. Jon Davies, “Christine Negus: you can’t spell slaughter without laughter.” (Toronto: Gallery TWP, 2012), 1. []