JEFF KEEN TRIBUTE: DAMIAN TOAL

Pulverized Cinema (1990, Jeff Keen)

Jeff’s friends, fans and collaborators offer their memories and recollections of Jeff and his films. Originally published in Film Panic Magazine, issue 1, June 2013

Recent retrospectives and exhibitions in Paris, New York and London have resulted in a renewed critical acclaim and interest in Jeff’s work. From drawings, collage, print, painting and animation, to handmade books, poetry, film, video, sound, to live-art; the sheer volume of work and range of mediums Jeff worked in was staggering. But they are all connected.

We collaborated on Video work together, from 1990 to 2000. For me, the videos we made together are essentially an immersive experience, a total cinema. Just as there are layers of sound and image upon the screen, there are many layers of meaning within the work. But we are not passive viewers. We are part of the story. This is what is both compelling and difficult about the work.

Essentially we were interested in pushing the medium and viewer to the limit. The picture is often disrupted and fragmented at times. I used damaged videotape and breaks in picture signal as transitional devices; editing parallel narratives and using montage, superimposition and crosscutting to build up complex relationships and scenes. We see Jeff, constantly reworking and destroying drawings, props or the very fabric of the film itself. A single line of action, which is decisive, direct, playful and bold. A literal representation of the creative process. The maker’s hand always visible.

One of the key themes of the work was the idea of a true or authentic self. Alter egos such as ‘Dr Gaz’ (the mad scientist and alchemist) and the ‘Plasticator’ (a terminator-style art assassin), or the artist as cyborg fused with his tools, became the films’ heroes and anti-heroes. The work we did together was essentially a portal into Jeff’s brain, and what a wonderful, thoughtful, beguiling and explosive world it is.

I miss working and spending time with Jeff.

Damian Toal is a Digital Artist and filmmaker.