The Bay Area is known for its thriving community of independent and experimental filmmakers. There are several outlets (Artists Television Association (ATA), SF Cinematheque, and the Roxie) to see this type of work regularly in San Francisco, not including numerous film nights in bars, restaurants and galleries, and the (practically daily) slate of film festivals large and small.

Shapeshifters is a microcinema program curated by Kathleen Quillian and Gilbert Guerrero at Temescal Arts Center in Oakland. The curators invite a visual artist working with moving images, who then invites an audio artist to work in collaboration. Shapeshifters Cinema is more dynamic than a trip to the movies because at least one component must be performed live, whether that be through on-site film manipulation or live sound accompaniment. Having both worked closely with experimental film and video arts organizations in San Francisco, Quillian and Guerrero felt the need for a new performance and video outlet in the East Bay. The Temescal Art Center is an inspired host to the Shapeshifters program because of its stature as an active community space.

The first program of 2013 features experimental film works by John Davis paired with sound performance from Joshua Churchill. The evening will last about an hour and is comprised of two collaborative pieces. An untitled work by Davis presents an extremely textured 8mm film, which has been hand solarized and tinted, featuring images of refracted sunlight patterns and reflections. Churchill’s instrument of choice in this performance is an electric guitar. Distortions, ghostly reverberations, and ambient notes hang in the air and ethereal chords plunge into darkness before the moving images on screen, adding drama to frames that appear on fire. Fleeting sun shadows move across the film. The two elements together create a simply captivating experience, completely immersing the audience into a land of airy projector light with sounds that fill the space like a weather pattern.

A second piece by Davis contains all new footage, and combines a Super 8 projector and a 16mm analyzer projector running side by side. While an analyzer projector was often used in a sports context to replay and interpret strategy, the film Davis is working with includes footage of urban and natural landscapes as well as people in urban environments. Davis will “perform” this work using the analyzer projector to control the rate at which the audience sees the imagery. Churchill will improvise an aural experience live. He has actually seen little of Davis’ films, choosing instead to face away from the screen and focus on being in concert with the sound of the projector. Rather than choosing to score the piece in advance, he is composing sounds that are in conversation with the immediate atmosphere of the darkened space.

Davis and Churchill are not only providing a rich audio/visual experience but also making the creative process visible. This is what Shapeshifters Cinema is all about.

Shapshifters Cinema takes place the first Sunday of every month, except this month. John Davis and Joshua Churchill’s Shapeshifters program is 8pm, Sunday, January 13, 2013 at Temescal Art Center in Oakland. For more information, visit

John Davis and Joshua Churchill Perform at Oakland’s Shapeshifters Cinema 26 July,2015

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