Two of Arnold’s earlier works were presented at a screening at the Pacific Cinematheque, Piece Touchee (1989, B&W, 15min, 16mm) and Passage a L’Acte (1993, B&W, 12min, 16mm) emphasizes the aural potential of his work. Piece Touchee (1989) shatters the viewer’s orientation as a couples’ romantic interaction blossoms into a tumultuous domestic realm.
Arnold plays with our perception: the viewer is not sure whether the initial movement is a result of incrementally expanding edit points or a subtle flux resulting from projection. The movements become more evident as they transform from obsessive repetitive gestures into blistering visual sensations. These gestures, just as the edits that define them, reveal conflicting metaphorical relationships to contemporary experience. Because of the sometimes abrupt, mid-measure edits, they become repetitive trips (as in tripping over), rather than traditional seamless beats. These seemingly aborted units of measure, or trips; units of time outside of conventional measure, can also represent a loss of rhythmic control. The former, as a positive indication of stepping beyond normalized boundaries, denotes an emancipatory transaction; the latter, as pathognomonic (in its obsessive repetition), is an uncanny equivalent to mechanistic, anxiety- manifested , obsessive-compulsive disorders (and the endless repetition of daily routine within conventional social structure). The placid, idealistic romanticism of the original footage (an 18-second excerpt) is laid to waste. Similarly, in Passage a L’Acte, a short segment from To Kill a Mockingbird is mutated: a family breakfast scene is re-articulated as a dysfunctional, stuttering riot. Arnold’s work constantly fluctuates between the visual and aural, positioning the viewer/listener in a constant state of flux. The experience of Arnold’s work is analogous to being jolted out of a dream: the viewer is suddenly stripped of their known realm and faced with a sharp, disorienting new reality.