audio/video ~ 7:36
In 2015, Russell Sheaffer and I sat down in a room on Maple St. in Bloomington, IN to experiment with the possibilities of film-audio collaboration. We enlisted the help of Nzingha Kendall to read entries from Russell's diary. Not all, but much of the work was done sitting in a room together, moving back and forth between visuals and audio, letting one influence the other.

Here's the write-up for it on Russell's Artless Media website (
On Surgery attempts to replicate the physical process of bone surgery on the body of 16mm film stock.

        By wetting raw, unprocessed 16mm color negative film, separating out the photosensitive emulsion from the base of the film using a medical scalpel, and then reapplying the layers, the only images visible are representative of the scars left on the film. The music for the film is taken entirely from the sound of the projection of the 16mm film and from a reading of one of Sheaffer’s post-surgical diary entries.

       On Surgery is the fourth installation in the Acetate Diary Tetralogy (which also includes Blood on the Window, Broken Jaw​, and the eponymous Acetate Diary), a series of collaborative works that explore the intersections of trauma, memory, and abstraction.
If you're interested in seeing the film in its entirety, it was last seen streaming on Kanopy. If you can't find it there, contact If you'd just like to hear the audio, e-mail me.
Our work on this film led to us putting together a workshop for the New Orleans Film Festival in 2015 that explored some of the film and audio processes we were using in On Surgery. The workshop has a two-part structure, the first exploring physical film manipulation. There's a short break to telecine the visuals/audio from the film, turning it into a digital file. The second part allows the participants to then manipulate their work from part one in an interface designed in Max/MSP that allows them to digitally manipulate the audio and video (in Jitter) and then to save their new manipulations. We later presented it to the Ann Arbor Film Festival.
Here's the write-up from Artless Media:
As film and video become ever more polarized, the 16mm Etching and Digital Manipulation Workshop — which debuted at the New Orleans Film Festival in October 2015 — is a two-session film production class that aims to help filmmakers to see a bridge that crosses between mediums, encouraging a workflow that combines film and video to create innovative, abstract works.

In Part One, participants learn how to make moving images by etching into unexposed 16mm film. We experiment with different tools and approaches to etching and will explore the ability to create sound by hand by etching into the optical audio section of the 16mm emulsion, something that is impossible in an exclusively digital workflow.​​​​​​​
In Part Two of the workshop, participants use the material created during part one to explore the digital manipulation of handmade films, including the manipulation of both the image and audio tracks. Different editing stations are set up for participants to use, allowing them to examine, enlarge, alter, and create in a way that is impossible in an exclusively film-based workflow.
Back to Top