by Mitchell Conway · June 22, 2015
Julia Miller, Lizi Breit | Howard Ash
A stormy shoreline streaked by a rotating lighthouse beam opens an aesthetically stunning portrayal of grief, where nightmare and mourning fade into one another. Manual Cinema’s ADA/AVA is a shadow puppet tale of loss as losing half of oneself. The simple routine of elderly twins, who as we see from the photographs of their lives together that dot the halls seem to have been inseparable, forms the framework for Ada to reckon with her sister Ava’s departure. Revisiting those daily habits expresses how just picking up a toothbrush can be a reminder that the life built for two is now inhabited solitarily. Ada enters a carnival mirror maze, and as the screen divides, reality dissolves; terror and despair take hold.
Four overhead projectors with often overlapping images are synced with masked performers, recorded then re-projected onto a higher screen to create what could appear to be an animated silent film, were it not that we could see the process of its creation below. The depth and variety of imagery designers Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace and Julia Miller have created using those simple mechanisms is quite impressive; the flickering flames of a stovetop, falling rain, and funhouse mirrors would seem to me far beyond the scope of projected shadows, were it not for their implementation here.
You may have seen shadow puppetry before, but I can almost guarantee you’ve never seen it done with the level of complexity and precision of Manual Cinema.