Monday, December 26, 2016

Flash Short/Short Flash (a crossword in the form of an experimental film)

For the second time in two weeks, I'm posting two crosswords in the same day, but this time's a little bit different - this isn't the sort of crossword that you can solve. The crossword was inspired an experimental film from 1960 called Arnulf Rainer, by the Austrian filmmaker Peter Kubelka. Arnulf Rainer consists of only two different images (a completely black screen, and a completely white screen), which alternate in a complicated pattern, with the images lasting sometimes as short as a single frame, and sometimes for seconds on end. The result is a disorienting experience (you can watch it here, as long as you're not prone to seizures), and it even inaugurated a miniature genre in the experimental film world, called the "flicker film."

I got to thinking about what the cruciverbal equivalent of something like Arnulf Rainer would be, and what I came up with was a crossword where a single arrangement of letters can lead to two completely distinct solutions, depending on where you overlay the black squares. This turns out to be very difficult to construct - in a normal crossword, each letter is used in exactly two words, but here, most letters are used in four words (two in each solution), which makes things exponentially trickier. I tried doing a standard 15 by 15 grid, but it turned out to be a herculean task, so I shrunk it down to 8 by 8.

The result is an experimental short called Flash Short/Short Flash, which you can watch on Vimeo here. It uses precisely the same flickering pattern as Arnulf Rainer, except that it's slightly shorter because I used the equivalent of 25 frames per second instead of 24 frames per second, to make things easier. It's also silent, whereas Arnulf Rainer uses flickering sound similarly to how it uses images. The effect ends up being pretty significantly different, since the images have some content beyond just black and white - it doesn't mess with your visual perception at such a fundamental level, but hopefully the flicker alters how you perceive the patterns of letters in the grid.