Michael Morris on Steenbeckett
Atom Egoyan visited the Kabakov's Palace of Projects when he was in London working with Gavin Bryars on Doctor Ox's Experiment at the English National Opera. He seemed intruiged by what we did. Much later I visited Atom's studio in Toronto. He was cutting a Beckett film on an old Steenbeck table and showed me the final reel: an unedited twenty-minute take of John Hurt as Krapp, preparing his spool to listen to the last tape. Krapp's analogue world seemed linked to that of the Steenbeck and Atom and I were both struck by the sense of having embarked upon something.
The former Museum of Mankind was a location we had looked at many times with different artists. One of its prosaic spaces was an old viewing theatre and adjoining rooms, piled high with dusty canisters: the Ethnographic Film Library. Atom imagined how all 2,000 feet of celluloid - the single take we had watched in Toronto - might be pulled around the auditorium through a forest of bobbins and sprockets, powered by the motor of a lone Steenbeck, without any idea how long the image nor the sound of Krapp's voice would survice this incessant looping.
Visitors were shown up a darkened staircase into the projection booth, from which you could just about make out the Steenbeck in the room below. Further exploration uncovered an assortment of cluttered back rooms until you were confronted by Krapp again, this time as a voluminous DVD projection - pristine, digitised and immortal.