SEEING IN THE RAIN – 1981 / 10:00 / 16mm to HD

Photographed through the windshield of a Vancouver city bus and edited according to the rhythms of the bus’ windshield wiper, the film transforms the linear narrative of the bus ride into a temporal construction that can be described as cubist. The effect of the cutting strategy on the actual temporal organization of the film is as remarkable as its effect on our sense of time.

— R. Bruce Elder, Image and Identity

Seeing in the Rain seems to play with Zeno’s arrow paradox (an aesthetic subject particularly relevant to a medium that rest on the illusion of motion created by the motionless sampling of movement) by fragmenting and restructuring the line of forward motion almost cubistically; again, the result reveals a mythic dimension, the science-fiction of space-time, which challenges our habitual orientation procedures. Gallagher’s deadpan imagination, at its best, transcends his models to create structures refreshing in their metaphoric implications and richer for their serio-comic ambivalence.

— Tony Reif; Vancouver Art and Artist 1930 – 1983

Seeing in the Rain was entirely shot through the windshield of a city bus as it rolls down the street in a gray drizzle, picking up and discharging passengers. Almost pedantically musical- the lone windshield wiper is accompanied by the dubbed in sound of a metronome; Gallagher is neither pretentious nor cute. His film embodies the essence of cinema; movement, rhythm and the poignance of ephemeral gestures.

— J. Hoberman, Northwest Film Festival, The Village Voice

Seeing in the Rain is Gallagher’s triumph, a beautifully simple film traversing the city of his birth. Photographed on a single roll of film during Vancouver’s interminable rainfall, Gallagher positions his unmoving camera at the front of a local bus, peering out of its vast windshield into the traffic beyond. The wipers provide a jerky mechanical rhythm, accentuated by machine sounds on the soundtrack. Into this simple figure Gallagher begins to wield his splicer, crosscutting passages of the same journey in an astonishing demonstration of the plasticity of emulsion. Seeing in the Rain ‘s subject is our experience of time, unraveled here in a disjointed travelogue that shatters our notions of linearity and causality. Even as we draw nearer to the closing of the bus loop, we are moved closer and further from the neighboring traffic, pulled in and out of intersections, driven past bridges only to be made to approach them again. Time has become concretized here, like the hands of a watch fob, it has been rendered in spatial terms, as a place which can be entered and exited. Seeing unveils the cinema as a time machine, whose shifting chronologies might finally reverse mortality, or more perfectly mimic an interruptive consciousness. It suggests that the cinema might stand as an image of a perfect memory, a memory in which every detail is restored with such precision that there exists no appreciable difference between memory and it’s reliving.

— Mike Hoolboom; Inside the Pleasure Dome: Fringe Film in Canada

Chris Gallagher’s Seeing in the Rain (1981) continues the artist’s inquiry into time and the frame established in his earlier films Atmosphere(1975) and The Nine O’Clock Gun (1980). A camera is aimed out the front window of a bus traveling through a rainstorm on Granville Street in Vancouver. A windshield wiper demarcates the frame. The bus moves forward along its route, stopping for passengers. At the left end of the wiper’s swing, it acts as a trigger that rearranges the bus’ position on this route, lurching it backwards and forwards, the otherwise linear path subject to gaps, fissures and retreats in time. Figures and vehicles are glimpsed through a veil of rain, becoming focal points on a journey of accelerating discontinuity. The comic stagger of the ride is emphasized by the late chance appearance of an ad on the back of another bus that asks, “What’s stopping you?” This unexpected question, posed by a spatial obstruction, resonates with the overarching temporal obstructions that have caused this linear path to become erratic.

Here, time begins as metronomic, evenly measured, the clicks of the metronome sounding at the left and right limits of the wiper. This wiper, which structures the film, varies its speed. The metronome click is likewise variable, always sounding on the left swing but its rhythm changing and lagging with the wiper. The clicks are mixed with street noise, atmosphere, and the voices of riders. Sound, like vision, is marked by structured conceits, but both embrace chance occurrence. Gallagher maintains an illusion of measured time, of the scientific distance of predetermined structure, but against this a time signature emerges. Metronomic time is misdirection, a foundational system of time that the film endorses, but which it gradually passes beyond. Seeing in the Rain accepts that click as an underlying rhythm, but poses a freer system against it. The stagger becomes unpredictable. The fissures expand and contract. They expand, widening the gap between shots, creating dramatic spatial discontinuities; they contract until the sequence becomes a study of motion and space in minutiae, where passing cars, figures, and receding pavement appear to repeat and stutter. The image skips across time and space, but always forward, toward that horizon, around the elusive present. — Stephen Broomer, from notes for Angular Volume 01