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Chromatic Aberration

The early technologies of colour filmmaking in the 20th century

Chromatic Aberration (2014) is a film by Dr Aura Satz that explores the early technologies of colour filmmaking in the 20th century. Featuring vibrant close-ups of eyes from fledgling archival experiments in colour film, Satz turns the cinematic lens in on itself: from the prosthetic recording eye of the camera, to an evocation of the abstract inner screen of one’s eyelids. The film is inspired by a scene in Powell and Pressberger’s 1946 film A Matter of Life and Death, where the transition from the reality of colour to the black and white of the afterworld is conveyed from the viewpoint of David Niven's eyelid, from inside the body, behind the eyes.

Created using footage from the George Eastman House archive in Rochester, New York, the installation evokes an imagined abstract colour world, a flickering eyelid trapped in a mechanical peephole. The eye shimmers between dreamy reverie, curiosity, terror, defiance and awe. The selection of archival footage is shot in such a way as to highlight its intrinsic colour distortion and misalignment, recalling the blurry effect of looking at a bright light followed by the image-burn on the retina, a series of after-colours under and onto the closed eyelid.

The film was commissioned by the Gallery, Tyneside Cinema (Newcastle) with the participation of George Eastman House (Rochester, New York). After its installation in the Gallery at Tyneside Gallery in 2014, Chromatic Aberration was exhibited alongside film Doorway for Natalie Kalmus (2013) at George Eastman House as part of Eyelids Leaking Light in 2015, to complement the exhibition In Glorious Technicolor.