In Memoriam: Paul Clipson A tribute to a filmmaker with one of the most compelling visions for North American cinema

A eulogy is something no one can ever really comprehend until it sits before them. It’s bittersweet, both a chance to remember how much a person has contributed to your world and a sobering reminder that no further chapters will be added to your experiences with that individual.

It’s also a reminder that our shared time on this planet is so precious and short. To think that I will never again see Paul Clipson fills me with a sorrow that’s impossible to articulate on the page. In this moment, I am not alone in this feeling; those closer to him, both emotionally and geographically, must have an even more acute sense of his passing. Paul Clipson was, put simply, a beautiful, talented human being. The short outpouring below is designed to both celebrate Paul and implore those of you who have not experienced his work to take a moment and discover some of his incredible filmmaking.

Paul was a force, albeit a gentle one. Through his work in film, he created worlds, or rather universes, in which you could find yourself wholly swallowed. Across his years working with Super 8 and 16mm formats, Paul developed an intensely personal approach to the moving image and its projection on screen. It was an approach concerned with memory, perspective, repetition, and mirrored reflection. It exposed the nexus of our exterior and interior worlds, as well as the wonders that lay in that blurry zone of neither here nor there. Furthermore, Paul’s films considered the present and the past in the same instance by creating an alternative sense of time.

Paul’s camera was an extension of his eyes and his mind. Often exploring layering and double exposure, created exclusively through in-camera techniques, he’d meld one layer that seemed to track his retina in the moment with a second layer that appeared to reflect directly his impressionistic memory of those images. The actual and the impressionistic co-existed beautifully in Paul’s visual dialogues. The first few minutes of Paul’s film Love After Love, featuring music by Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, typifies his approach. Paul’s films always created ruptures in time, space, and perception. They asked us to forgo our everyday understanding in favor of his individualized comprehensions of time, subject, light, and the world more broadly.

In the same moment, Paul’s films could create sensations of excitement, nostalgia, and, at times, delirium; his way of editing was sublime, the effect not unlike that of witnessing Brion Gysin’s Dream Machine, where you fall deeper and deeper into the screen with each blink. You begin to exist at the threshold of the conscious and the subconscious in a state verging on hypnagogia. Paul somehow created a sense of rapture and meditation all at once. This hypnagogia, in combination with his contrasting use of color and stark black & white was completely affecting. He created visual memory scapes that embedded themselves within, as you might imagine memory implants could work. His work Origin, soundtracked by Che Chen, captured this sensation so very well.

Seeing Paul at a projector was like watching a master craftsperson, but one who was utterly in love with their tools. I remember watching him intently on a couple of occasions while he was in Australia presenting Hypnosis Display with Grouper. His hands were precise, like surgical tools, but generous, like those of a parent. He was attendant to his images and spent great time ensuring that the way they fell on the screen captured not just the eyes, but more importantly, the viewer’s mind’s eye. Paul’s films were in many respects a gateway, a way of opening us up to other ways of seeing. This opening up, in tandem with the collaborators who he worked with, created a unique situation that at times was absolutely transcendental. I can’t speak to the number of times people came up to him after performances and gushed about the experience they’d just had, only to have Paul humbly smile and say thank you.

I loved Paul Clipson. I can say that without reservation. His work extended my perspective of how the world can be felt. He opened up the everyday and celebrated it, rupturing the mundane, the banal, and the familiar, creating something utterly compelling, saturated, and hypnotic from the simplest of raw materials. I have no doubt his work will continue to grow in stature and recognition. It is a true shame Paul will no longer be here to continue to build upon what is one of the most compelling experimental visions for North American cinema witnessed in this generation.

Thank you, Paul. You were a dear friend, a provocative and inspiring collaborator, and a beautiful artist. We are all poorer not to have you amongst us any longer.

If you want to assist Paul’s family during this time of grief, please contribute to the Paul Clipson Family Memorial Fund.

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