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Remembering Peter Hutton (1944–2016)

by Joan Retallack


Frames from Hutton's 16mm film At Sea, 2007.

Peter Hutton was an American filmmaker who spent many years of his youth at sea in the US Merchant Marine. His celebrated films, widely acclaimed for their luminous integrity, blurred the divide between still photography and cinema. Lingering, contemplative shots of water, sky, land, and cityscape opened camera and eye to the unexpected thrill of minute changes in stillness, making both seem as wondrously improbable as they actually are. Beloved by his students, he taught for three decades at Bard College in the Hudson Valley—subject of many of his films. Poet and essayist Joan Retallack remembers her colleague with the text below, which consists of lines from Lucretius's poem De Rerum Natura in transvariation from the Latin and the W.H.D. Rouse translation.

 

Textual Projection for Peter Hutton

In the stillness of the frame the imperceptible is sensed just before moving to the edge of visibility.

 

In De Rerum Natura Lucretius says – One further point in this matter I desire you to understand: that while the elements are being carried downward by their own weight in a straight line through the void, at times indeterminate and in indeterminate places, they swerve a little from their course, just so much as you might call a slight change of motion. For if they were not apt to incline, all would fall forever downward like raindrops into the profound void, no element striking any other: and so nature would never have produced anything.  

 

In De Rerum Natura Lucretius says – One further point in this matter I desire you to understand: that while the elements are being carried downward by their own weight in a straight line through the void, at times indeterminate and in indeterminate places, they swerve a little from their course, just so much as you might call a slight change of motion. For if they were not apt to incline, all would fall forever downward like raindrops into the profound void, no element striking any other: and so nature would never have produced anything.

 

a incline into and                                      call to raindrops

 

 

Joan Retallack is author of The Poethical Wager and Procedural Elegies / Western Civ Cont’d—an Artforum Best Book of 2010. Other poetry includes Memnoir, Mongrelisme, How To Do Things With Words, and Errata 5uite. She collaborated with John Cage on MUSICAGE—a volume of their conversations published by Wesleyan University Press—and has written extensively on Gertrude Stein. Retallack is John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Professor Emerita of Humanities at Bard College.

Tags:
poetry
experimental film
memorial
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