Sugar Maple Stand (9 minutes, 16 mm, 1990) follows the efforts of a certified agency as approved by the Board of Review of the Canadian Lumber Standard Committee. (Certification by the Board of Review is limited to the inspection and grading of untreated lumber in the field, structural and shop grades. It does not include the grading or inspection of any treated material, poles, piles, cross-arms, car lumber, ties, etc. which are not within the scope of Canadian Lumber Standards.)
“Sugar Maple Stand features an elongated ‘take’ into the tree line, a black and white stare into a windswept negative where black is white and objects are felt only in their absence. This reversed gestalt is accompanied by a track that plays out the inspection bureau of the film’s title. Rummaging clumsily through their natural surround they seem to break everything they touch, until the image itself dissolves into a universe of molecules – a shattered montage of parts that reveals the scientific imperative of the bureaucrats. Their vision of inspection converts this forest into a chaos of molecular orbits – objects in an object world that may be graded, razed, stacked and sold.” (Elia Casiti, The City)
Sound by Kaiser Nietzsche (from the Heterology LP)
Sugar Maple Stand is another film made in the forest, this time using a high contrast b/w stock and shooting through the trees into the sunlight behind. It appears in negative so the trees and leaves are white, while the sunlight is dark. Every time the wind blows the leaves shift, their white shapes swelling and turning, causing an immense movement through the frame. The general effect is one of fragmentation, as if you’d taken a tree and smashed it into little bits so that all that was left were light stains flickering where once stood a tree. The camera zooms slowly and the abstraction becomes more pronounced, finally becoming clear film. Then the original scene reappears, a wide shot of the trees overhead – only now we see someone struggling to climb up towards them, struggling in silence, appearing small beneath the looming forest. He crosses painfully, then falls back into the frame, lost in the glare of the film’s close. His brief tenure suggests the merely human is a temporary distraction.
The soundtrack hails from a couple of folks who call themselves Kaiser Nietzsche, tape heads who hear music everywhere they venture. Occupying a studio they heave bottles, break up the place, throw chairs around, empty bins, all with a Japanese ear for the spaces between sounds, listening to the shatter resound between four walls. It’s a beautiful piece all by itself. Together with the picture of a shattered treeline it suggests a scientific view of nature under the microscope, an atomized world of broken where forests like this could just get sawn down or ignored because they’re just things in the way of other things. Hence the sound (the crashing and knocking about). It represents the inspectors of the title, the Sugar Maple Stand inspection bureaucrats, passing through forests. When they leave the trees are restored again, overlooking an isolated climber who slouches towards an order unused to humanity. In a drama of ecology.