Solo for Tumbling Woodblocks

Solo for Tumbling Woodblocks is a compilation tape with video recordings of actions carried out by Belgian artist Filip Francis. Produced by the first production agency for video artists in Belgium, Continental Video (founded in 1974 by ICC director Florent Bex), it contains four different recordings of visually similar, site-specific actions. These are captioned as follows: “1. Solo for Tumbling Woodblocks, 1975, S Annatunnel Antwerpen; 2. Experiments = Crescendo for Tumbling Woodblocks (Failed!); 3. Crescendo for Tumbling Woodblocks (75); 4. Piece for Tumbling Woodblocks at Spectrum Gallery Antwerpen 1975.” The tape’s first recording was made in the pedestrian tunnel connecting the two banks of the River Scheldt in Antwerp. Filip Francis lined up a series of woodblocks over a distance of eighty meters and then pushed over the first block, causing a chain reaction. While it took the artist over two hours to arrange the wooden pieces, the domino effect lasted a mere 40 seconds. In order to be able to follow this rapid movement, Francis decided to mount the camera on a baby carriage that was manually pushed along the row. The Tumbling Woodblocks protocol, so to speak, was iterated eleven times in the period 1975–1978. Even if each action would vary according to its specific time and place, the underlying scenario remained pretty much the same. The musical connotation of the word “solo” in the title originates from the fact that each action (and its recording) was equally conceived as a sound composition. The different sizes and wood varieties of the blocks, normally used for parquet floors, generated a fast-paced acoustic arrangement. The scores would then be notated by the artist in the form of compositional diagrams, which were regularly put on show together with the (performative) installation of woodblocks. This interconnection of the visual and the auditory clearly reflects one of Filip Francis’ key fascinations: the intricate relation between space and time.