DANA RUTTENBERG NEZA A. MOMIRSKI ELENA WALTON STEFANIE SIXT ANNA GARNER ZINKA BEJTIC VASILISA FORBES JULIE SCHMIDT ANDREASEN VIDEO ART CINEMA PERFORMANCE DANCE THEATRE
Building on the success of the third edition, CinĂŠWomen continues showcasing video practice from around the world. As the ultimate mirror-medium of our times, video is all around us. Despite the proliferation of mainstream cinema, independent films continue to be made â&#x20AC;&#x201C;radical, poetic, and dreamlike films, whose directors work on the edge of the mainstream film industry, never restricting themself to any single field, yet inviting the eye and the mind to travel further. Cinema is no longer the monolithic system based on large capital investiment: in the last decade the technological advances have dramatically changed the economic conditions of cinema production. Revolutions arise from obstinacy. It is not by chance that today one of the protagonists of the digital revolution in cinema is a talented and courageous woman director, Elle Schneider, co-founder along with Joe Rubinstein of the Digital Bolex Project, who after developing a cult-camera harking back to 16mm film aesthetic -a significant leap towards the democratization of technology- is now promoting an application process for a grant for producers employing women in their camera troupes. Only eight percent of 2014's top-grossing films were directed by women: it's time to reverse this trend. However, cinema is not only technology, but ideas, experimentation, and above all dialogue, networking, interaction. Creating and supporting a fertile ground for innovation and dialogue does not necessarily require compromise. Honoring the influence of women in video art and cinema, our womenartconnect.com editorial board, in patnership with Stigmart10 Videofocus, is proud to present a selection of powerful and surreal visions from seven uncompromising outsiders. In these pages you will encounter details on a new wave of filmmakers and videoartists marching away from the Hollywood stereotype, with films like Tripped by Elena Walton; the rebirth of dance cinema with the award winning film Glove Story ; the surreal and disturbing world of young Slovenian filmmaker Neza Agnes Momirski (Page 4); or the multidisciplinary art research by Stefanie Sixt ; the stunning performances by Anna Garner and much more. CinĂŠWomen Board
COVER Still from Glove story, Dana Ruttenberg and Oren Schkedy LEFT Still from Surrogates, Anna Garner TOP Alabama Song Stefanie Sixt and Anina von Molnar
Edition curated by
wac* VIDEO ART CINEMA THEATRE DANCE
EXPERIMENTAL CINEMA WOMENBIENNALE/15
neža agnes momirski “
Neža Agnes Momirski is known for her unique visionary imagery. Her cinema mixes traditional notions of surrealism with a deep interest in complex psychological models, revealing a sophisticated understanding of the mechanisms of identity formation in the digital era. Her film Affinit delivers a highly original vision blending sci-fi elements and metaphysical themes. Neža’s mix of art house and science fiction is a one-of-a-kind experience that leaves you speechless: through a sapient use of lighting and a masterly condensation of film narrative she creates seductive and surreal atmospheres, reminding us of the films of Alain Robbe Grillet. Neža, we want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: how did you come up with the idea for Affinit? My research in general focuses on the juxtaposition of material and virtual realms, which was a starting point for the film concept. I was interested in the formation and the nature of our relationships at present, and their general social implications and effects on perception of self. There is a prevailing feeling of traveling and working a lot, lack of time and consequently more communication apps, dating websites and services. I wanted to create a film in which the sense of physical distance in the realm of communication was examined. Starting from there, I used language and behavior patterns from communication apps to write the film dialogues. The interaction between the main character (Ben) and three female characters, which happens in real space, breathes the sense of formality, the need to reach out, unresponsiveness... Rendering the notion of physicality as a dimension out of reach. Another aspect of relationship patterns, and their fleeting nature notable from apps such as Tinder, relates to individual's perception of self and others. That's the anxious gaze into the screen, to keep oneself in the circle of online presence. It resembles the anxious gaze into the crystal ball, and the desire to see into another dimension. Both contain a promise that there is more to see, giving access to images and information, while indicating a concern and anxiety over the future, one's self online etc... Speaking of the future, there's also an increasing demand for
sustainable products, but the term sustainability is becoming so overused and is often utilized just as a smart marketing strategy. In all fields of human activity including politics, relationships and one's self, levels of anxiety and concerns over regulation are increasing. The story itself is about two business men (Tom and Ben) who create Affinit, a product that offers its users a sustainable lifestyle. The device makes the “effect” of any matter or body omnipresent by means of documented images, and instantly becomes a success. Ones past and future can now be selectively defined and regulated. The story then splits into two directions, Ben's involvements with women and Tom's endeavour to cover up a murder, while depicting life inside the “effect” where the sense of time and space dissolves. The film humours the idea of one's self as a collection of archived images, and the quest to make it “sustainable”. Your work mainly focuses on the perception of reality and self-identity. Could you introduce our readers to these peculiar aspects of your films? I'm interested in language, narrative, communication and mechanisms of functioning and how different mental states, from memory to virtuality and ideology, affect or relate to physical reality. Time and space are perceived in relation to online presence, which somehow alters the perception of physicality. Virtuality creates a different dimension, from which we look back towards the physical. There are dualities in the act of perception that happen due to different dimensions of existence. It's important for human beings to feel connected. The worse horror represents exclusion, from the narrative or life we are a part of. But that possibility is always there, things slip from understanding, just as they do in a dream, and one's identity that's inherently dependent on that understanding, is subjected to transformation. Film can feel like watching a dream, where meanings dissolve and objects and situations gain new ones. With film, it's easy to evoke a sense of juxtaposition between mental image and physical reality. I like to depict the
Photo by Paul Vernon
functioning of mental grids/patterns that connect things into a notion of narrative, and transformation of reality and identity when things slip out of that narrative. Despite the cold setting of Affinit, a combination of terrific direction and cinematography makes the drama terribly raw and human. Your seems to take at heart the teachings of Maya Deren "The task of cinema or any other art form is not to translate hidden messages of the unconscious soul into art but to experiment with the effects contemporary technical devices have on nerves, minds, or souls". How did you get started in experimental filmmaking? The most natural way for me to explore the effects contemporary devices have on their minds, and with that the relation between virtual and material, is through film as a time-based medium. We percept ourselves through linear time-lines, yet in the end it's only the effect that remains, a sensorial impression of that time-line. I decided to start with experimental filmmaking to further my research on the
psychology of characters, behavior, communication and narrative. Film is a great way to experiment with effect, with its inherent tool - the cut â&#x20AC;&#x201C; that makes it a trigger for associations. It involves a lot of layers of production, from writing, to costume, set and directing and postproduction. The focus on details is strong, through which different layers of cognition can be addressed. We would like to explore now your earlier film Looped Alphabet, an absurdist drama revealing a highly original and consistent vision of time and space. Could you introduce our readers to this work? Looped Alphabet is a short film depicting an enclosed pseudo world, exploring the idea of continuous presence in the flow of information. The story unravels in Sharing space where communication devices are staged as architectural elements of the fictional interior. The film is highly staged in all aspects, acting, and cinematography â&#x20AC;&#x201C; reaching quite an absurd level of artificiality. It addresses the sense of hyper-visibility of information and
interaction, so it was important to get varied and highly stylized references as a mix of eras and styles, as a mix of sci-fi and fashion, future and past. The clothing is by Vivienne Westwood, the hairstyles by Pall Mall Barbers. The objects have a sci-fi look of a futuristic product. The film represents a kind of maze of information that simultaneously coexists in the virtual. It depicts space as a pool of information, where personal stories feel misplaced in artificial interpersonal interaction. The narrative is based on the dialogue, which explores verbal expression being increasingly shaped/replaced by the textual expression. A lot of the dialogue is spelled out, as if automated. Specific terms from visual fields of geometry and art history are used to describe the social order in the Sharing space. The language use is imagined as visual, spatial and tangible. As if the Sharing space is a visual representation of linguistic machinery, to which the language is subjected. Which standardizes subjectivation and effaces polysemy. The characters use the geometrical/art terms
to define their relationships, themselves, and the Sharing space, and seemingly stay within its linguistic and spatial choreographies. Seemingly because there's a sense of conflict between subjective perception/poysemy and the order of Sharing space. There's a sense of going back and forth between physical and abstract, virtual and real. Their personal experiences with each other are indistinguishable from the formal arrangement of the space, and prevent any type of intimacy but the staged one. To sum up the story: the main character endeavors to reveal the Alphabet, which would restore conduct in the Sharing space by bringing back the notions of real space and time that got lost in language and communication matrixes, when he finds himself involved deeper and deeper in a hypnotic circle of gossip, news and schemes. This narrative is build from smaller narratives that never reach a conclusion, and becomes a hypnotic experience. As is virtuality, the internet, an endless field of possibilities calling for more and more visual and textual feed to
keep the circle of information spinning, and the notion of connectedness alive. We appreciate the clinical and refined cinematography characterizing your works, whose symmetrical patterns and elegant colors remind us of Alain Robbe Grillet's art-house film Eden and After. Who among international artists and directors influenced your work? There were many works of art, films, music and fashion pieces, that touched me and therefore influenced my work. Some are lost for me to recollect, most of them I don't remember anymore. I kind of take them in and forget about them. I'm mostly influenced by literature and films that are based in dialogue and word plays, which offer me a challenge to be resolved or completely take me out of this world to reveal a different reality. Or they create that feeling with brilliant visual craftsmanship. Fashion can be essential in illustrating a specific time and space, sometimes a surreal fantasy and sometimes displacement from the context. I'm inspired by plays and movies, where psychology of
characters plays an important part of the story, but also by new media, new technologies and design, animation and graphics and various digital compositions of moving image. You are a multidisciplinary artist: besides filmmaking, sculpture is important to you: could you explain the role of architectural elements in your cinema? Looped Alphabet and Affinit are films in which the object plays an important role. The objects in Looped Alphabet were incorporated into the film set as architectural elements of the interior. They're techno-linguistic devices, spatially defining communication of characters. As metaphors for the nature of interpersonal relationships, they turn a pattern of forming a dialogue into a spatial entity. A kind of visualization of communication. A kind of indicator of distance yet closeness â&#x20AC;&#x201C; they're matrixes for exchange of meaning. Film happens in space, and that space is important for how we percept the story. I
think of communication and dialogue and social mechanisms of functioning in a very spatial way â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and then also portray them spatially. Sometimes these mechanisms are so transparent they saturate the space with distance or closeness or different ways of relating, invisible but so present. You can almost feel them physically transforming the space, drawing invisible choreographies inside it. Communication device and Affinit, are both objects that in a different way interpret behavior formed around digital technology. Communication device is a table at which one forms a dialogue with another person, but not really. Physical and eye contact is restricted, yet there's a keyboard and a speaker on each side of the table. Affinit, device in the form of a crystal ball, serves as an image archive into which the gaze is turned and enables immersion in the effect produced by these images. Our social communication is adapted to certain matrixes. The film objects render mental architecture conditioned by those matrixes as external and spatial, and the aesthetics of product design which these objects imitate, furthers the idea of disintegration, distance and restricted
subjectivation in the sphere of personal interaction. Despite the futuristic setting, references made in the film still set the action in the twentieth century. We have been really impressed by the balance the have been capable of achieving in this work between classical sensibility and pure experimentation. From the first scenes, the viewer enters into a dreamy filmic mystery. Defining your artistic vision, the topos of labyrinth is no doubt a starting point of your filmmaking. Can you comment this aspect of your cinema? Yes, specifically in Looped Alphabet, I used an intermittent narrative structure to portray the idea of being inside an indefinable space saturated with information. Discontinuous sequences of narrative, dialogues crossing between each other, information is just there but doesn't lead anywhere except into a spinning circle that's feeding on itself. I like to start out with an idea, and then make it into a story that doesn't really have an ending. The story is not still but
continues to evolve through associations, visually and textually, portraying the allusiveness of reality. There is no map especially in Looped Alphabet. It deliberately confuses the viewer, with the use of language and terms that appear out of their context, to bring a sense of abstraction into the notion of time and space and interpersonal relationships. In the beginning of Affinit, a dreamy sequence visually reveals the genesis of the device. It starts with the notion of mortality, its stillness, and then presents a product that can regulate it. The sequence is accompanied by music of Sontag Shogun, who composed the soundtracks for both films, Looped Alphabet and Affinit. The film story is a complex labyrinth of references to situations and social behavior, which all somehow have a sense of mortality underneath.
The gaze, the selfie, importance of a personal narrative online, anxiety to stay connected, circular body muscles where life energy/information flows in and out, sustainable development, circle as a symbol of life and death, etc. Topos of labyrinth allows to associate, and switch between, different fictional and real dimensions of existence, which is why I use it so often in my work. Thanks for sharing your time, Ne탑a, we wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for Ne탑a Agnes Momirski? Have you a particular film in mind? Yes, I'm writing a script for a short film, and developing other projects, while being busy preparing for exhibitions. It's too early to reveal more at this time, but new updates are soon to be on my website www.neagmo.com.
Drawing from semiotics, philosophical, sociological, psychoanalytic theories, my work reflects upon the influence of language, objects, visual aesthetics, and cinematic narrative structures on perception of reality and self-identity. My projects are self-contained fictional worlds, displaying the intertwining of collective and personal within the psyche. Through absurd film narratives and works in forms of installations, drawings and sculptures, I address notions of internal and external forces exchanging in shaping of one's reality. External forces, conditioned by objects, architectural and narrative structures, by means of integration into the Symbolic intertwine with the inner forces, based in man's neurosis over the split in continuity. Intimacy becomes artificial, exposing deeper laying anxiety in the
contemporary society. Works that result from my research portray dualisms inherent to shaping perception, between the physical and virtual, the Real and the Symbolic, public and private. Objects and signs defining fictional orders take the center stage of the narrative, conditioning forms of communication, memory, use of language and behavior patterns of characters. As architectural elements of the interior or hybrid terminologies, they indicate transformation yet cause it at the same time. In my work I form an immediate visual language and employ a combination of classical craftsmanship and modern mediums, with an interest in new technologies and design. N.A.MOMIRSKI
dana ruttenberg & oren shkedy “ ”
Dana Ruttenberg and Oren Shkedy have become known for their meticulously choreographed films. Their dance film “Private I's” has been honored with several awards at film festivals over the world for its unique, surreal quality. Similar to how deep unconsciousness creates numerous free associations, Dana and Oren's cinema recalls the flow and disruptions of stream of consciousness. Glove story, their second collaboration, is a thrilling viewing experience, forcing the spectator through a cavalcade of emotions. While it is certainly a cliché to open with a quote, it seems appropriate here as perhaps no sentence better captures the experience of Glove story better than Pina Bausch's words "When you create a new work, the point of departure must be contemporary life -- not existing forms of dance". We are pleased to present Dana and Oren's work for this year's Videofocus Biennale. Dana and Oren, how did you come up with the idea for Glove story? Glove Story was a development of and elaboration on Dana's stage work "Armed". It was inspired by her return to Israel after a 6 month teaching residency in Florida. In the US especially there are very clear boundaries to one's personal space. Even when you're on a packed subway car, there is a certain general awareness to maintaining one another's borders. We travel a lot, however this shift of scenery was somewhat more abrupt. As soon as we landed at the TLV airport, the rules changed completely. We were standing in line and the cart of the person behind us was literally touching Dana's ankle. The terminal wasn't particularly crowded, so there was no actual need to get close. It was just that in his eyes, Dana "ended" exactly where her body did, meaning her back, and it was there that this other person was free to "start". It was a short but meaningful moment. It made us question the notion of lack of personal space in our homeland and how it echoes in other fields of life, namely politics (inner and outer). Borders are probably one of the hottest topics in our region: maintaining borders, opening borders, ownership of space and issues of safety, security, identity and many other "explosive"
issues. So Dana felt she wanted to touch these ideas through a creative choreographic process. That led to "Armed", which later evolved into "Glove Story". You are masters at creating entire scenarious out of small, psycologically charged moments, using everyday moments to build lyrical tapestries of visual poetry. How did you develop your visual imagery? Creating cinematic images is basically bringing metaphors to life in a literal, physical way. What metaphors do is pull the familiar out of context and place it in another. In making an Art work, once you acknowledge the fact that there is no such thing as 'no such thing" and that the world you are about to create can allow for all these digressions, then the possibility opens up for humor, exaggaration, designed misplacement etc. Working in the field of stage dance, where the scenery is more often than not very limited, there is a very long period where you gather wishes for where you would or could place this scene but can't. A bottleneck of desires. And then when you come to plan the shooting, this bottleneck opens up and all these images, places and contexts come pouring out. The imagery in Dance Film is multi layered, since you have the scenery, the "frame" and on top of it ever changing physical images. The choreography meets the visuality of the cinematic language at a concrete physical intersection. As opposed to words that might hover over the visual as notes do over a baseline, movement intertwines with it - it is as much architectural as the architecture of the space, and it sculpts through it. So the challange becomes to have imagery that might be constantly fluid but which maintains its engagement. Your dance-film disregards the use of metaphors and cliché becoming an image of pure sound and vision. In that respect, your art presents many points in common with the ideas of Antonin Artaud, the theatre of Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio or Pippo Delbono's latest works. In your choreography you seek rare moments of spontaneity, which usually appear in extreme situations. Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new project?
Subtitolos, Photo by Nauan Barros
Photo by Paul Vernon
I don't think we disregard metaphors as much as we embrace them so wholeheartedly that they become the reality. If our "imagined" scenarios are recognized as realistic, than we have succeeded in transferring the viewer to another space and time. We don't seek a new reality, but instead are trying to peel off layers to find the reality that resides under our own reality. The reality that we experience innerly is amplified and brought outside, as if you could see everyone's thoughts take shape. Inner dialogues, subtexts, desires and fears come out and play. So it is not a false world but an excavation into the super "real", subjective realities (yes, in the plural). Politeness, maturity, societal codes and norms are removed and what is left is a very raw existence. That is how our work might relate to Artaud's ideas - it is based on the notion that our dreams, dillusions, misconstrued understanding of reality - all become as valid as reality itself (if there was ever any). We go into the shooting days with a plan, but we must remain open and available to what might happen on set. During pre-production and location tours
we figure out the angles, dance "spacings", color schemes, foreseen cuts and matches, camera movements etc. During shooting, we go by the plan but surprises do happen. Film allows us to capture virginal moments, rare "onetakes" that the careful rehearsing of dance, for instance, numbs. In dance, it is usually the studio that gets to see the initial "sparks" which are then digested until they reach the stage. in film, there are rare moments that cannot be traced that are "caught" as a butterfly in the net. In "Glove Story', both water scenes (in the sea and in the shower) could only be shot once, and what you see on the screen are those one-takes. During those onetakes, Shkedy or the DOP might take directorial and artistic decisions of the moment based on something unexpected they see happening at that very moment, and this interesting "dance" happens between them as well, where they might stray away from the plan to react to what happens. Glove story was shot on the Arri ALEXA in collaboration with the
talented cinematographer Ram Shweky. The recurrent use of tracking shot shots marked by barely perceivable movements Ă la Peter Greenaway highlights the dualism between movement and fixation, reminding us of Pierre Boulez's modernist composition explosante fixe. We have been also impressed with the way Ram manipulates color in a manner that is both symbolic and aesthetically pleasing. How did you collaborate? We have been collaborating with Ram Shweky for a long while now. Our collaboration on Dance works for the screen began with a series of dance video art works in 2010 (dance loops), continued with "Private I's" in 2012 and most recently again in "Glove Story" in 2013. In that sense, Shweky is familiar with our Artistic sensibility and we three have developed a language of our own together, which evolves from project to project. Each process begins with an introduction of the dance work to be shot. Shweky familiarizes himself with the
themes, the scenes, the characters, the "story" lines and the choreographic imagery. Then we work together to envision and trace the locations that would complete and enhance the images we have in mind, also keeping track of how these places would "talk" with one another, whether they would be part of the same "world". Shkedy and Shweky are then in charge of "freeing" the dance from its former "frontality" (as stage works are mostly envisioned as en-face, meaning to be watched from a single frontal direction) and according to their shooting plan and planned camera work, Ruttenberg changes and manipulates the choreography once again. They create a conscious play between the steadiness or movement of the camera and the steadiness or movement of the dancers, making the camera another "dancer" on the scene. It's already been 15 years since your debut on the international scene, Dana: a constant aspect of your art practice throughout your choreography career has always been
a remarkable effort to expand the existing audiences for dance, stimulating a dynamic multi-media cross-cultural collaboration with artists from different fields. Dance film is a genre that knows no boundaries between high and low culture, nor between visual art, music and theatrical forms. Can you introduce our readers to the multisciplinary nature of your art research? The boundaries between the different genres of art have long become blurry, and this is a blessed thing. Just the other day I was "dragging" my friend to a show. "Is it dance?" she asked. "well, kinda. It's perfomance". "so it's theatre? I see there's text involved" "well, not really". "are the performers dancers?" "some of them" etc. Etc. Each time I create a new piece, the creation calls for different tools. Some creations beg for pure movement, some are based on an existing piece of music, some are created in silence with the soundtrack added only later, while some require the
"intervention" of text - some original text and some quoted - some read live and some recorded. Some need the eye of a designer, some the ear of a musician. Each child is its own world with its own character and needs. When you look at Dance it should trigger your visual sense, your musical, rhythmical or groovy sense, your dramatic or emotional sense and so on. It doesn't matter whether this is achieved by adding or subtracting elements (a production in silence could stimulate your audio sense as much as one bombarded with score from beginning to end, for instance) but one needs to address these many facets of a visible, live art. And take into consideration that it is meant to be seen and experienced by an audience. So indeed, it is multidisciplinary in nature. It is crucial that it extends beyond being the mere personal expression of its creator to being a performance work meant to engage others. That is a shift I see many artists failing at achieving. It's interesting to think that although dance and movement require no language and are the most instinctive and
basic things the human body does from birth, there is still a hesitance from the form as one that is highly challenging to understand or comprehend. In my work I am interested in re-recruiting audiences' sense of adventure, sense of humor and empathy and letting them forgo "comprehending" in turn for experiencing. With that in mind I have most recently created NABA which is an interactive dance work set in a museum, which allows audiences to choose their own soundtrack for the piece using museal audio guides. How did you found the Dana Ruttenberg Dance Group? DRDG is a project-to-project based group, with each project collecting around itself the relevant performers and collaborators for that specific work, with many of the performers re-appearing in several works. The idea of a "group" signifies our interest and desire to collaborate with one another over the span of years. I enjoy collaborating with the same people again and again, as
much as I enjoy discovering and meeting new creative forces. When I came back from my studies in NY in 2003, where I had also started a group (The Red Hill Project) I was completely new to the local scene and it took a long time until I felt I was finally meeting my so-called artistic "soul-mates". It still is rare, I have to say. I hope in the future to also find a studio home for the group, but for now in the unstable political climate in Israel it seems like its not the right timing for that just yet. Perhaps it will happen somewhere else, who knows. ScreensArt is a series of dance art works for the screen under Oren's direction, premiered at Fresh Paint in Tel Aviv .Oren, how did you get started in filmmaking? I originally studied theater and acting. Parallel to that, as I was making my way as a young actor, I felt I was missing a more creative and active role, one that would allow me to take initiative and express myself beyond working off of a given text.
I began by shooting a short independent film titled "There Are No Small Parts" which ironically deals with the grey reality of being a B-rated single-line actor. The experience of writing and shooting this film, though still very rough and raw, reinforced my gut feeling that this was something I wanted to follow up on. Interestingly, most directors I come in contact with come from a background of film studies, and their field of expertise is the visual aspect. Since I come from theater, I am interested and focused on the work with the actors and performers on set, which if you think of it is crucial. The visual side has many "parents" on set from the DOP through the designers and multiple assistants. The performance aspect, however, is solely upon the director to shape and direct. My work in TV began with a long period of assisting in which I was able to observe others and learn and later I began directing myself. The work on Dance Film happened in parallel to that, through meeting Dana and our two worlds colliding - cinema and movement. At first we were very hesitant about the possibility to create a succesful two dimensional dance work that would do justice to both genres, but later found that when done
right, dance and film actually compliment and enhance one another beyond imagination. Dana, in an interview conducted by Ayelet Dekel, you say "Our lives are choreographed, little girls know what it means to be feminine; gender is choreographed". Can you better introduce our readers to this concept? Behavior is choreographed, it's not a concept I invented. Gender is choreographed: think of how one smokes a cigarette or struts down a street, even the way we make love is choreographed. One can "act his age" or "through like a girl" or "be sexy" on command, without realizing they actually know what that should look like. We make ourself ״recognizable״ through the choreography we perform. I would say most of our behavior is not an intuitive manifestation of our true self but instead a set of learned subconscious "moves'. We pick these up through various means - in media, in interaction with others, and we unknowingly embrace these choreographies. When we stray away from our intended '"dance" we might get
feedback from our surroundings signalling us we are off "the track". We love artists crossing the boundaries of cinematic genres. We have previously mentioned the greatest German choreographer Pina Bausch. Indeed, it would be interesting to compare your films to the surreal atmospheres of Die Klage der Kaiserin. Can you tell us your biggest influences in art ? Pina Bausch is undoubtedly a major influence on us. Bausch gave voice to the human existence, and showed people on stage. Yes, they were at times virtuosic creatures, but always human. Her mind worked simultaneously as a choreographer, as a director and as a sociologist or anthropologist. She, for one, was extremely invested in exploring societal choreographies and bringing them to the stage. And she always made room for humor as a tool to first invite us in and then throw a pie in our faces. Another big influence is the Israeli playwright and director Hanoch Levin, perhaps the most influential voice in Israeli Theater. Levin was interested in man as an absurd,
flawed, childlike creature, whom we can all identify with on the most basic levels. His characters cry and pass gas and have sex and yearn and envy, they are wonderfully imperfect and most of all - they are a reflection of us. Humor, again, is a big part of his work. In film, most lately, Wes Anderson is someone whose work we follow closely. His immaculate attention to detail and his visual style, symmetry and again - humor, make watching his films a multi-faceted adventure. The drama occurs at once in the story line and in the visual sphere. His realities are so "designed" that you can never place them here or there. They are not fantastical or part of an imaginary world but they create a hyperrealistic world in which every detail - word, object, move - get our attention. Thanks for sharing your time, Dana and Oren, we wish you all the best with your artist career. What's next for you? Have you a new project in mind? Our next project is in the works. We are expecting two boys in a few months. So our next joined film will probably not happen until 2016. You can follow us at: www.screensart.com or www.drdg.co.il
Zinka Bejtic's fashion video Split reveals a masterly use of geometric patterns and black and white cinematography. Multidisciplinary artist and eclectic personality working as art director, designer and film editor too, in this film Zinka succeeds in exploring asymmetry and contrast in her models reminding us of the pre-Dadaist experiment in photography by Francis Bruguiere. Zinka, how did you get started in filmmaking? I was always fascinated with the relationship between sound and image. Even though my formal education was in visual communication, after graduating from the university I decided that I wanted to explore the moving image - postproduction to be more specific. So, I became the video editor first, which for most directors is the best way to start their film careers. Learning to direct a film through the editor’s eyes is priceless experience for a director. On the other hand, having background in graphic design gave me an advantage in the world of film because I tend to look at the aesthetics of a screen from a different perspective. This combination and exposure to both radically different professions spontaneously developed my passion for art film, a format that liberates me and enables me to develop my creative style. Which is, like you said, eclectic. I like simplicity in form and complexity in meaning. Art film rejects the mainstream conventions and explores the the medium itself, it is personal and I like the fact that my films can be interpreted on many different levels, depending on social or cultural aspect of the person watching. We love artists and cinematographers crossing the boundaries of cinematic genres. We have been impressed by the stunning baroque imagery present in your fashion art film If I Don't. Could you introduce our readers to this work?
How did you come up with the idea for If I Don't.? If I don’t was a project done for the fashion association Modiko from Sarajevo, in cooperation with the British Council. I was assigned a group of four different designers Amna Kunovac Zekic, Jasna Hadzimehmedovic Bekric, Ata Omerbasic and Milan Senic and my task was to create a concept for the film that would provide a platform for four different outfits to be represented in one single film. At the time, we’ve had a great pleasure of meeting prominent British fashion filmmakers Kathryn Ferguson, Elisha Smith – Leverock and fashion designer David Saunders of brand DavidDavid and the opportunity to collaborate with them in a three-day workshop. Even though fashion film format is mostly non-narrative, my idea was to include a simple storyline that still was in a way abstract and very much open to the interpretation. The film asks a question how does what we put on alter our personalities? As the ideals of beauty change, the concept of empowerment through fashion remains strong as it suggests self-expression and identifies the idea of beauty as the tool for conceptualization of positive self-image rather than a simple interpretation of clothes. Metamorphosis through fashion indicates that power is in the hands of the subject and not the observer. In the film, four different personalities emerge out of the single character. This type of expression suggests the choice, freedom, strength, power and control, attributes that signify beauty in the modern society. Fashion takes on the symbolic and aesthetic role and communicates on different levels offering a glimpse of the lifestyle, personality and character, making the very idea of beauty that much more intriguing and more complex to interpret. We were filming in Sarajevo national theatre warehouse, a set that helped us create a contemporary and mystical world. It was great working with the fashion designers and lot of fun
on the set. Later, I continued to work with Milan Senic who was behind styling and fashion design for Split, my most recent film. Your art is rich of references. It is very difficult for contemporary artists to quote the classical age, however, sometimes this kind of research is not simply an attitude to quotation: it could give astonishing results, just think of Romeo Castellucci's incredible works, which are rich of quotation from Italian paintings...we have really appreciated the contrast between baroque costumes from the 18th century and contemporary location in If I Don't. Could you introduce our readers to this particular aspect of this work? This contrast was exactly what gave character to the film. The idea was to create a surreal environment that would visually suggest the fantasy, dream or escapism of some kind. Contrasts of many sorts are evident in my work and I think
it’s the idea of juxtaposition of unexpected elements that creates tension, necessary to engage the audience. Since this format relies heavily on the aesthetics of the screen rather than the storyline and the narrative, it’s important to give it tension and advance the aesthetic appeal in such way. There is a suggestive aspect of the horror genre implied through the technical conventions of the film. The sound was an important element through which the sense of uneasiness was introduced. I wanted it to seem mysterious and unexpected, I wanted the fear of the unknown to be the main protagonist. The film begins with that in mind and ends with a realization that it is imaginary. This notion led to the title that poses a question “If I don’t”. We always think about what if I do something, but I think it’s more important to think about the opposite. What if I don’t?
What draws you to a particular subject? I like to explore the problematic of modern society through visualization of simple storylines where most of the action is open for interpretation. I like to suggest and not show things literally. I place a lot of focus on the visual expression, graphic elements not only through abstract imagery but also laws of the frame and mise-en-scene, visual contrast, colors and movement. Subjects of my work often explore dichotomies between inside and outside, polished and rough, physical and emotional.I’m very passionate about fashion and fashion film. I believe that today, more than ever it’s an outlet for representing values and beliefs. It has never been so easy to brand oneself, yet so hard to be distinguished. Both, fashion and advertising are ever-changing arts according to the public demand. Short films created on behalf of the brands represent the artistic approach to
marketing and its impact on the culture and society is yet to become clear. As advertisers are adapting to the new mediums, so do filmmakers by employing the conventions and creating films that are works of art. The internet will continue to provide a platform for promotion of such medium through brands’ websites, social media as well as popular sites like ShowStudio. This change of industry standard presents new and different expectations for all aspects of fashion world. It does bring a modern twist to what we see as aesthetic quality and it challenges the previous notions of fashion as art. This switch to fashion film can only make the fashion industry a more legitimised art form and allow the more natural penetration into our perception with main role – to define what is beautiful. As an artist, how important do you think it is to teach what you practice? I’ve been fortunate enough to have two
careers that I love and care about deeply. Besides being a practicing artist and filmmaker I am a full-time professor of art and design. I’ve been teaching for twelve years in different countries. For the past year, I’ve had a great pleasure of living in the United Arab Emirates and teaching at the College of Architecture Art and Design at the American University of Sharjah. I am amazed at how talented and ambitious the students are today. How fast they learn and pick up information, new trends and techniques. I love spending time with my students and watching them get that ‘a-ha’ moment, seeing the spark in their eyes and excitement when they become consumed by the project. I recognize myself in them, remember those wonderful moments when you forget to eat, drink or sleep because you’re so engaged in your work, when you know that you’re creating something that will push your personal boundaries and take you to the new creative level. It’s great for me to be able
to do my own work but at the same time to also have an opportunity to open the doors for someone else, show them the way. Teaching methodologies today and undergoing significant changes. As educators, we have to adapt to, not only new and constantly changing technologies, but to new pacing and different mindsets. Students learn much faster today, they are generally speaking more technically up to speed and more innovative. They don’t take things for granted but instead challenge everything, which is a step forward from the type of linear education my generation used to have. And even though everything is accessible online and you can teach yourself just about anything if you want, still, I think the idea of someone standing in front of them not so much to teach them or feed them information but inspire them is very important. In today’s busy world, children often lack real role models. I am not implying that I should be one, but more often then not, I feel that I am. And
that gives me a great responsibility as I spend time with them, shaping their minds and helping them pave the way into the future. In my opinion, educating someone means feeding them with passion and information to keep the excitement and positive energy. Everyone will be good at doing what they love. Finding what that is represents the hardest thing for most people. I feel very honored and privileged to have that opportunity and I sincerely enjoy being able to share my skills and my knowledge with students. And there’s nothing more wonderful than being blown away by an amazing project they created because I was able to inspire them. Your video production is very miscellaneous: how has your production processes changed over the years? Right after graduation I started working as the editor. I’ve edited short films and
documentaries mostly. As we know, editor defines a documentary so this is where I’ve practiced making decisions and learned about story structure, whether it’s linear or non-linear. I am still fascinated by documentary films. I think there are so many stories to be told and I wish I had more time to dedicate to this segment of filmmaking. Yet, the short format, art film was what captured my attention mostly because of the creative freedom. I love working in teams however, I also like to be able to determine the visual language of the film based on the mood and of course, the sound. The sound fascinates me, its relationship to the image, the rhythm in general whether visceral or aural is something that I tend to explore while creating films, while editing. I’ve been fortunate to have worked with the team of same people who know my directing style and who understand the process that I always go through when envisioning an idea. Most of my films were shot in Sarajevo, a city that is full of
interesting, enthusiastic and talented people who are always excited to collaborate on a creative project. We have said that your art is rich of references. Who among international artists influenced your work? There are many artists whose work I admire. I am fascinated with the concept of associational form in which the film’s parts are juxtaposed to suggest similarities, contrasts, concepts, emotions, and expressive qualities. One of my favorite early art films is Filmstudie by Hans Richter from 1925. Early surrealist art films are great source of inspiration for fashion filmmakers. The same technical conventions expressed through sound and editing used in today’s contemporary films can be traced back to Fernand Leger, Man Ray and Kenneth Anger and Germaine Dulac whose film La coquille et le clergyman was considered a first surrealist
film ever. Personally, I draw inspiration from films made by John Whitney, visual experiments by Ernie Gehr and editing by Chris Welsby, a British experimental filmmaker and multimedia artist. Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts, Zinka. What's next for Zinka Bejtic? Are there any film projects on the horizon? The new academic year has just started so I’ll definitely be very busy teaching. I’ll be teaching a course in Experimental Film and I am looking forward to a great semester. In terms of professional work, there are few films lined up, footage has already been shot and it’s waiting for the right time, that moment of inspiration when I will most probably edit everything overnight I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me. Thank you so much.
stefanie sixt “
Photo by courtesy of Lassina Badolo
With the advent of digital software, a new generation of abstract filmmakers has emerged, which tends to refer back to more metaphysical approach of earlier pioneers such as Wilfred and Belson. Stefanie Sixt's cinema invite the viewer into a haunted, totally subjective flow of clean figurative images, taking at heart Jonas Mekas's words" When I am filming everything is determined by my memory, my past, so that this "direct" filmming becomes also a mode of reflection". Her fascinating dance video Alabama Song (2010), awarded with the Silver Award at ITVA in Frankfurt, embraces a surreal aesthetic blending a heady mix of philosophical ideas, nightmarish atmospheres, and overt allegory. Her later works are marked by a rigourous and radical experimentation, featuring a high degree of abstractness. Stefanie, how did you get started in experimental cinema?
Bertolt Brecht and Antonin Artaud. Can you introduce our readers to this video dance work? As mentioned above „Alabama Song“ does as the whole opera „Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny“ - have a strong reference to nowadays. Not only that a huge percentage of people are mainly money oriented regarding their priorities in life (the peak of this development can be seen in Las Vegas, the most crazy place I have ever visited in my life) but also the discussion about the definition of the female role in society is still an ongoing process. In parts women in the 20s were further developed than we are today. Women are trying to handle the difficulty of the balancing act between career and family and moreover are fighting for being considered equally in their jobs. Bjök just talked about the difficulties that are still going on in this regard. Sorry, I am getting lost, it is such a wide field… Well taken down to the point in the video the dancer plays the role of the whore and the housewife until she liberates herself in the end, gets rid of all the roles society has meant her to play.
Back in 2007 a friend from Vienna called me and asked if I was interested in presenting visuals on their New Years event. As I was very busy at that time I had to learn the software within a very short period of time and create enough footage to keep the excitement fresh throughout the night. During my research I found dancers out of the 20s and discovered the famous movie „Metropolis“ with the human-machine Maria. I was immediately fascinated by the atmosphere and power of this movie, the reflection of social and economic imbalances back then, as well as the approach to the traditional role of women. Today, both have become to highly topical themes again. By using excerpts of the movie and overlaying them with coloured abstract graphics i created a reference between the 20ies and nowadays. I realised i do not necessarily need a narrative story / film to express myself. That´s how i got into the field of live visuals and non-narrative audiovisual producing.
I was about to create a piece for the Brecht Festival in Augsburg in 2010. As i had met Anina in summer 2009 and we were planing to produce a dance video together we started reflecting and researching. Anina told me that her grandmother used to sing in an opera… back then… We found out that her grandmother was singing in the opera „Rise and fall of the City of Mahagonny“ in the 30ies. This was quite crazy of course. So her grandchild provides the binding link to nowadays. To be honest i don´t remember why I chose „Alabama Song“. Somehow I was very clear about that. Later we also got in touch with Guy Stern who was the first one translating the opera into English. A big fan of our film by the way. We are still in touch.
From the first time we watched we were impressed by the way you get a perfect convergence between two opposite poles of theatrical formation:
In your film figures appear and disappear in a gentle flow, sometimes moving the story forward, sometimes backward.
Can you tell us a particular episode that has helped the birth of
Subtitolos, Photo by Nauan Barros
“ ” “ ”
Photo by Paul Vernon
How did you collaborate with the dancer and choreographer Anina von Molnar? We were developing the piece together, both of us contributing our professional experience: Anina her knowledge about dance and choreography and i was taking care of the surrounding, the scenery, the transitions between the single parts - let´s name it the formal aspects and limits. Of course we were inspiring each other in our fields. In your later works, such as ReDirected, you push the limits of experimentation in order to achieve extremely abstract forms can you introduce our readers to the choice of inner subjects in your recent production? Personally I do not believe in reality. For me it does not exist. Reality is nothing else but a reflection of thoughts, the larg-
est common denominator qua definition of humans. Let´s name this “bread“. The deeper you look into the manifestation of “bread“ for example the less of the substance is left over until you reach the level of quantum physics where nothing stays the same. To me this is absolutely fascinating, without understanding what this is all about. While working on „Re-Directed“ in the beginning I thought I should get more figurative again. But somehow I became dissatisfied until i threw it all away in the trash can and came back to the abstract world. Suddenly it all seemed right, felt like it should. I would love to give you a theoretical explanation for this but I can´t. We have found the soundscape of composed by your long-time collaborator Markus Mehr really stimulating: watching your video we have almost the impression that images react synaesthetically to the film's
soundtrack. Can you comment this multidisciplinary aspect of your cinema? Within our fruitful long-term collaboration we have been inspiring each other a lot of course. We have worked hard on the principle of increasingly interlinking sound and visuals on the one hand and still leave enough room for each others disciplines on the other hand. We also discussed a lot on how to emphasize certain parts. You can set highlights through complete synchronicity but also by doing exactly the opposite. Your cinema features several references to the contemporary dance and animation scenario. Who among international artists influenced your work? That´s really hard to say as i am influenced by almost every exhibition i visit. Sometimes it is not the work itself what impresses me the most but the artistic approach, the method. I was stunned after
the exhibition of Matt Mullican and his concept of the world order, i take my hat off the work of Pipilotti Rist, i was totally impressed by the piece „Artifact“ by William Forsythe, of course the early experimental movies by Richter, not to forget Kandinsky, right after the visit of his exhibition i produced „virtuality“ the impressive installation „Ten Thousand Waves“ by Isaac Julien, Gillian Wearing… there are so many… Thanks for sharing your time, Stefanie, we wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for Stefanie Sixt/Sixtsense? Have you a particular film in mind? Thank you for dealing with my work! As we just celebrated the premiere of our piece „Re-Directed“ on the Mind the Gap Nights, International Film Festival in Rotterdam I am still brainstorming. I already do have something in mind, but it is too early to talk about. But i will be happy to let you know about it.
INDEPENDENT CINEMA WOMENSBIENNALE/15
elena walton “
Elena Walton's films are essential for those who conceive cinema as an anthropogical tool to explore the incommunicable: in her dark thriller Tripped she takes to heart Robert Bresson's lesson “Rendre visible ce qui, sans vous, pourrait peut-êre jamais éévu “(Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen). Elena, how did you get started in independent film? I would say I am still getting started, it's ongoing. But the interest started somewhere else. I was an avid reader from quite a young age reading everything fiction, non-fiction, it didn't matter; I enjoyed the written word. I started writing short stories, poetry, prose and so on in my early teenage years. Most of it was not good, as you can imagine, but it helped me to get feedback and develop this skill more. It also confirmed that I enjoyed and was somewhat capable in this field. I took up photography in college and did some work as a photography assistant to learn more. I thought I was going to pursue photography at that time as I was getting great results and really enjoyed it. By the time it came around to going to university mind was noisy with possibilities and I went in a totally different direction, pursuing a more academic subject majoring in Anthropology and minoring in Media. It was here I started to meet people who were writers and filmmakers and seeing their worked motivated me to do more. Being in this circle of likeminded people I was able to try my hand at screen writing and develop that skill. At this point, I had all these interests and passions I wanted to pursue and studying something like Anthropology it changed the way I think and I needed an outlet for all of this mental energy. Cinema is a very complex medium because it stems from so many art forms, and so it al-
lowed me to channel a lot of my interests, which has been amazing, cathartic even. Human experience is always the starting point of your filmmaking. What draws you to a particular subject? A lot of ideas come from nowhere in particular - you can be standing in line at the post office or buying coffee, having all these small interactions with strangers and it triggers something. Anything really, even the very mundane can become an inspiration. But it’s definitely people that keep me inspired. This is obvious I guess, since so much of our lives revolve around our interactions and relationships with others. Some people you meet leave you with certain feelings, or inspire certain conversations, emotions, whether it's positive of negative I try to turn that into a narrative. Eventually you collect these clues, these conversations, these ideas and it forms a screenplay. Tripped is the first film you had not only directed but also produced yourself: this has been made possible by the support of your team: today, talented filmmakers know that cooperation is the winning formula for independent projects. Could you describe this collaborative experience? In London, there's a wealth of resources online to find the right people, so bringing together actors happened relatively quickly. It took a while longer to find the right crew as the budget wasn’t a lot and I was trying to find this combination of people whose work I admired but who would also be willing to work with me (for free). When it came to shooting we were all practically strangers who had agreed to make this script come alive.
I think I am still developing my visual style, I’m not a very experienced filmmaker and the way I work is very sporadic. There’s parts where my vision is vivid and parts where it’s less precise and as I go along things happen and it starts to represent what is in my mind. It's collaborative as well; Pedro gave a lot of input, especially in scenes where my vision wasn’t the clearest. When I graded the film I wanted to keep the tones and colours as true to the reality as possible. All of these things, light, tones, colours, I try to think about these elements in relation to the story, how it relates to the characters, their state of mind or feelings. I think about colours and contrast a lot; I think from being in dark rooms and developing photographic film, you start to pay attention to those types of details. The script is already has this slight magic realism in it and I think to add anything unnatural visually, high contrasts or saturations would have
made it too over the top for what I intended. It could seem a specious question, however we have to do it, Elena: what's the future of independent cinema in your opinion? I think a lot of things have changed in cinema in the last 10 years. In fact, what is possible right now for independent filmmakers, certainly wasn't the case even 5 years ago. With platforms for distribution online and crowd sourcing made possible, there's a lot of opportunity to create. Being able to access a medium like cinema at relatively low costs has indefinitely changed the way we think and approach culture. It has changed the hierarchy because it is no longer renowned directors, in big studios, with corporate second of imagery that screams intenstruments gave me a really good sense of intuitive eyeballing for space and time, so I keep
There's always this fear, at this stage, that people working with you don't know if you're wasting their time or not. Having such a small budget means relying on a team to offer their time and commitment in the hopes of good return. I can only aspire to bring my film into festivals and to be seen by audiences but a lot of this low budget indie filmmaking is a matter of trust. Could you tell us a particular episode who has helped the birth of this dark thriller? I had an idea I was playing around with in my mind of loneliness, and how people can experience that even when they are surrounded by friends and acquaintances. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s an internal loneliness. I think that was the conceptual starting point and the fragile relationship between Regine and Noel became a platform for that. So I wrote Regine as being emotionally isolated, large in part due to this accumulation
of experiences, enhanced further by hallucinogenics. It was driving through San Francisco for the first time that impressed on me a lot of the sentiments in the film. It's a very small but encompassing city and driving through Golden Gate Park and that coastline, there's something really magical about that city but at the same time there's a sinister vibe to it as well, which I think inspired some of the darker aspects in the story. It was an experience that definitely left me wanting to turn it into a narrative form. Tripped has been filmed on a Canon C300, a highly flexible tool, especially for exterior shot. Pedro Ribeiro's refined composition and cinematography highlights the contrast between neutral colors in exteriors and warm tones in the interior scenes. How did you develop your visual style?
going with the project even though it feels like it will evaporate into nothingness. I know that these moments are nothing to be proud of much, but those are my simple pleasures and comfort blanket at cutting down my anxiety during production. We have previously quoted Robert Bresson, even though your filmmaking style is very far from what is generally considered 'academic'. Who among international artists and directors influenced your work? I feel like with film I am very new to it, I only really started actively watching films in university. But I mean really watching films, where you try to understand what's happening in a story in a more in-depth way. There's been over a century of cinema at this point and although I watch a fair amount of films and obsess periodically
over certain bodies of work, there's a lot for me to still explore. Of the bodies of work I've really enjoyed I would say Wong Kar Wai, Jacques Audiard, David Lynch, the Dardenne brothers and Stanley Kubrick are very stimulating, I get hopelessly engaged. I've recently discovered Xavier Dolan whose work is just mesmerizing, thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s this stark honesty to it. It's inspirational to see what someone from my generation is bringing to cinema and how there are still these poignant and untold stories waiting to be heard. Thanks for sharing your time, Elena. What's next for you? I am working on a series of short scripts that may form a web series. I am also working on feature length material. But things can be quite unpredictable so letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s see what the future holds!
The idea for Tripped was conceived out of the desire to explore a certain set of human interactions and reactions using relatable themes such as grief, love and friendship. Though the surreal twist in the narrative, came to me in a not-so-exciting moment where I had been stuck in traffic whilst entering into San Francisco on a short road trip. A combination of waiting in traffic in a beautiful city and an overactive imagination, lead me to write what finally became Tripped. This is the first film I had not only written and directed but now also produced myself. I managed to bring together a team from a number of online resources and sheer good luck as the budget was so low it really required commitment and dedication to the project. Everyone who worked on this film donated their time, skills and enthusiasm voluntarily and it would not have been possible without them. Largely funded from my own pocket, and with the kindness of Feral Equipment, who offered us a discount, we shot it on a Canon C300 in August 2013 and completed the edit in June 2014. The original score and track for the film were kindly and ardently composed by Lee Childs This project began and ended as a real labour of love and I couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have done it without the wonderful people who dedicated their time and energy to being a part of Tripped.
Stills from Tripped and OCD
anna garner “
Photo by courtesy of Lassina Badolo
Anna Garner (b. 1982) undermines our knowledge in order to reintroduce us to the adventure of knowing. Her works result from the processes of reflection that reveal the psychology of body. Her unique visionary imagery mixes traditional notions of surrealism with a deep interest in performance and complex psychological models. We are glad to present her work for this Videofocus Edition. Anna, could you introduce our readers to your video Surrogates? Surrogates is part of my series, Proof and Permutations. I exhibited this series as a triptych of three videos; Surrogates is the center of the triptych, on the left Lineage, and on the right Sequential Interactions. Each video depicts a physically challenging performance that similarly conveys Sisyphean effort and intimate interactions with inanimate objects. The inanimate objects serve as stand-ins and placeholders; my interaction and attempts at proximity with the objects affect a desire for contact and interruption of solitary pursuit.
The performances are both sympathetic and antagonistic. In Surrogates I interact with two cinderblocks hung from thick metal chains; with my cheeks pressed against their sides I attempt without success to push the two bricks apart. Using areas of my body associated with intimacy and tenderness, face, cheek, and chest, I draw attention to a desire for closeness. Yet this want is returned with scraping, hardness and rough surface to vie with. The space between the bricks becomes a point of intimacy, as I am held between the two, unable to push them apart. We have been really impressed by the balance you have been capable of achieving in this work between classical sensibility and pure experimentation in your video Chewing, blowing, biting: your approach to the medium is deeply ambivalent. On the one hand, you use a black blackground to suggest an intimate acting space, on the other you unravel narrative expectations. Can you comment this peculiar aspect of your work?
Subtitolos, Photo by Nauan Barros
I began my career as photographer primarily working with built studio environments and lighting; this continues to inform the way I work with video and choices I make for framing, backgrounds, lighting, etc. I am drawn towards a very clean aesthetic and using simple color, black, or white backdrops. I find that taking information away from the background and creating a clean space to film allows for the action and content to come forward, and takes the distractions away. Furthermore because the actions in my work are very experimental and at times chaotic or risky, the simplicity allows for an arena of control that I believe creates more balance in the work. Chewing, Blowing, Biting is a collaboration with artist Gail Dodge. In this video series we explore the boundaries of personal physical space between two people through a range of invasive and absurd actions. You suggested that the black background we use creates an intimate acting space; we kept the backgrounds minimal for that very purpose. Instead of creating narrative our intention was to focus on gesture and the subtle interplay between the two performers. We have selected for this Videofocus edition your works In Pratfall I and II. We want to take a closer look at the genesis of your films: how did you come up with the idea for this series? I was looking for a way to portray the body being both in and out of control; I began researching pratfall and physical comedy, watching and re-watching films by Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold and Lloyd. These pioneers of comedy perfectly executed the illusion of losing control, falling, or slipping in a way that they appeared to not know what was going to happen. We all know the stunts were rehearsed and calculated, that each actor had training in how to fall without hurting him or herself. However it was never possible to eliminate all risk; the lack of control, the fall, and the slip were at times an illusion and at times a reality. I wanted my work to convey the
contradiction of exerting control as a way to lose control, and the inability to discern whether or not someone is truly in control. In Pratfall I and Pratfall II I perform two falls, sawing a board in half while sitting on it, and falling off a bench that swivels when another person gets up. With these pieces it was my intention to stretch out the moment of tension in the fall, to draw attention to the effort engaged in causing the fall, and to stunt the comedic release of laughter.
Most of your video works reveal a huge sense of absurd: like in the slapstick comedies of Buster Keaton, in every moment we have the impression that in your videos tragedy is always behind the corner. Could you introduce our readers to this fundamental concept of your art practice? One of the things I enjoy in Buster Keaton’s movies is how the natural world and surroundings never behave as they should, walls fall down, floors cave in, stairs turn into slides, and the mundane becomes unstable and perilous. My works, Pratfall I and Pratfall II, portray actions that fluctuate between control and powerlessness and operate in a realm where the environment is precarious. As the performer I pursue risky acts, asserting my own determination toward the experience of losing myself, losing control, or letting go of my self-discipline. In the works I want these aspects to exist simultaneously, for the potential of both certainty and uncertainty to coexist. Your art is rich of references. We have previously mentioned the slapstick comedies of the silent era, however your visual imagery seems to be closer to Steve McQueen's early works. Can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your films and performance?
Thank you for mentioning Steve McQueen I absolutely looked at his work as I was researching my series. What interests me
Photo by Paul Vernon
about his early work, Deadpan, is the way he turns an infamous comedic stunt into a solemn and contemplative act. He transforms what Buster Keaton achieved into a video that forces the viewer to think about how we consider humor, risk, and chance. In my work I similarly aim to alter the way a fall is perceived. Instead of the pratfall being immediately perceived as comedic, it becomes a device for conveying the contradiction of controlling the body to create the illusion of losing control. For every project I work on there are different artists I look at and research. My influences are broad, but it has always been important to me to look at artists doing performance for video. I also find that artists who are young in their careers are making the most interesting work; I really feed off of relationships with my peers and with artists I meet through doing residencies and exhibitions. Doing studio visits, assisting other artists in
their studios, and talking through what Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m doing in my own studio is what gives me the most inspiration. You are a multi-media artist whose practice ranges from video to performance, sculpture and photography, how did you get started in experimental cinema? I started working with video when I was in graduate school. I entered my mastersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; degree in the photography department and was only making photographs. However I was unhappy with where my photographic work was going; I seemed to be making the same images over and over. I was looking for a challenge and something new to experiment with; video made sense because of my background in photography. For a long time I had done photographic self-portraits, so I saw my performative video works as an extension of my earlier photographic series.
Eventually video became my primary studio focus and I haven’t made a still photograph in over two years. Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new project? My creative process is always different, but I find that most often new work emerges from the frustrations and mishaps of current work. If I am working on a project and something doesn’t seem to be working quite right I examine that and work to understand how what I’m doing can change and evolve into something else. This usually leads me to working with different mediums, researching new subjects, or testing out new parameters. I always want to be doing something new in the studio, to find new ways to challenge myself, and new goals for where I want my work to be.
Thanks for sharing your time, Anna, we wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for Anna Garner? Have you a particular film project in mind? I have two projects I am working on right now. I am continuing my series of pratfalls and expanding it into an installation work including both sculpture and video. This summer I will be doing a residency at [nueBOX], a new artist residency in Phoenix, AZ, and will be installing and finishing the work there. I am also starting a new video series where I pit my petite stature, 150cm and roughly 45kg; against people twice my size or larger. In these pieces I engage in comedic acts of athletic skill including chasing, tickling, tackling, and climbing on top of my larger adversaries. The works deal with size, examine the position of the underdog, and reverse the relation between my competitor and myself.
EXPERIMENTAL VIDEO/DANCE WOMENSBIENNALE/15
julie schmidt andreasen “ ”
Photo by courtesy of Lassina Badolo
Julie Schmidt Andreasen's work invites the viewer into a haunted, subjective flow of clean figurative images. In her quest to explore the synesthetic nature of the creative act, the Danish artist produces something hypnotic and memorable. Choreographer, dancer and performer, she focuses on developing methods of interaction between artists working different media. Julie, can you introduce our readers to the concept of ? Paintformance is a research and performance practice combining drawing, painting and dancing. Within Paintformance labs, fine artist and dancers are led into task-based improvisations, which focus on ways to approach movement, drawing, painting and interaction between these art forms. The methods aim to enable artists to communicate and perform regardless of the medium they are working in. The methodology is in continual development, as it is influenced by the participating artists. The aim of the practice is to build tools for improvisation scores in performance. In Paintformance, the art forms of dance and fine art are completely interdependent. We have selected for this year's edition your film . How did you come up with the idea for this project? I was taking drawing classes whilst studying at London Contemporary Dance School and became interested in combining movement, drawing and painting in performance. I started the research with fine artists and dancers during my last year of studies. This led to the idea of making a film as part of a live installation. The artists Anna Jung Seo and John Close, who took part in the research, very much influenced my passion to collaborate with fine artists. I was interested in Fluxus art, and inspired by exhibitions such as “The lunatics are on the loose: European Fluxus Festivals 1962-1977”, “A bigger splash” and “A house of leaves”. The Body Canvas marked the beginning of your collaboration with the talented filmmaker Paul Vernon. Can you describe your collaboration process? Paul and I share a passion to create and communicate a lot while working together. Till date, our filmmaking processes have
emerged from my choreography; either set material or improvisation scores. In the past, I have had locations in mind before asking Paul to come on board. Most recently, when Paul was in Denmark to shoot Branches and Bones, an outdoor community workshop, he reflected that the preparation involved in shooting our films is more about being mentally ready, rather than making any artistic decision beforehand. Paul has an ability to become invisible while filming. He is moving quietly, meaning the performers are less conscious of their on-camera performance. This is crucial, especially while shooting community projects with non-professionals. The choreography I create is sculptural, abstract and movement-based. Paul finds the characters and relationships within my work and his films draws stories from this. Capturing the process on screen presents many difficulties because of the intrinsic nature of dance improvisation, yet your work hightlights the cinetic potential of the cinematographic medium. As a result, The Body Canvas is definitively not a "filmed performance", yet a work of art that shines on its own. What do you think about the encounter between cinema and other forms of art? There is a certain honesty within cinematography – one can see the breath, shaking, hair, dirt, blinking eyes. In comparison, as a live art audience member one has the possibility to experience a kinetic energy from the performer. This is why cinema cannot substitute the experience of live performance. However, on film you can transport the audience elsewhere, for example, within my work I have chosen locations ranging from Vallø Castle Park, to a rooftop across Kings Cross to the inside of a Pyramid building in Boesdal Kalkbrud. That gives the dance a different soul. There is something about the detailed pre-planning and then the added unknown, to see what happens between the people on location and how it is captured, that excites me. As an artist, how important do you think it is to teach what you practice? At the moment teaching is an important aspect of knowing, vocalizing, researching and
Subtilus, Photo by Nauan Barros
Photo by Philip Engsig
questioning my practice. I learn as much teaching, as being taught. Teaching confronts you with both your own and your students' beliefs and interests. Sometimes new ideas arise from this. Teaching makes me appreciate teachers who I myself have been taught by, most recently Skye Humphries and Frida Segerdahl with whom I experienced a great sensation of flow and ability to progress and learn. They create an environment for practice: the goal is to experience the present rather than what will be achieveable in the future. Teaching gives my practice another purpose. It also offers me the chance to meet people for whom movement has different meanings, depending on their stage in life, from the youngest in kindergarden to the oldest in carehomes. Recently you took part at the the Ouagadougou Company's project, which created 10 site-specific performances in Denmark. Tell us a bit more about this project... The Ouagadougou dancers were not in fact a company, until they got together for the project in Denmark. I attended their workshops and alongside other Danish dancers, we created improvisation per-
formances with Contemporary and African Dance, led by the choreographer Pipaluk. We went on a bike tour in Copenhagen, performing at the canal, in squares, playgrounds and parks. The musicians played their instruments whilst we were driving through the streets. The final was a live installation in Boblehallerne involving African and contemporary dancing, BMX bikers, chinese pole dancing and live music. I learned alot from each artist from Ouagadougou, especially from Lacina Coulibali and Jean Robert Koudogbo Kiki. They posses an inner rhythm, physical and mental power and fulfilment in what they do, that inspires me deeply. In what manner does your work with other companies influences your personal research as a choreographer? I think my performance and choreographic practices are merged to some extend, depending on which projects I am involved in. Certain creative processes that I have experienced have become tools for my own personal research. There is no movement copyrights and oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s translation of another's idea will always be a
Photo by Paul Vernon
modification. As David Bowie said “The only art I'll ever study is stuff I can steal from”. Choreographers such as Ari Rosenzweig, Itamar Serrussi and Chisato Ohno have made me curious. The gaga technique, the movement language created by Ohad Naharin, with whom these artists have worked, continues to inspire my approach to movement. It has influenced the way I appreciate movement in itself. On the other hand coming back to my choreographic research, I often use sources such as photographs, poetry, sounds to work from. You have contribuited modelling and offering visual ideas for a promotional in trailer for collaboration with Nauan Barros. Can you describe this experience? Nauan and I met while working on the same project at The Royal College of Art. We stayed in touch and when we met again, Nauan was just about to return to Brasil, so we had one week to make something happen. I suggested creating a film for Subtilus. We gathered dancers, a costume designer, a make-up artist and an assistant. The film was shot at Rowing Projects in London. It is now, currently, in
process of being edited. The music that will be used for the film is played by Miloud Sabri, Luther Thomas and Per Løkkegaard. Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts, Julie. What's next for you? Thank you. Fine artist Julie Damkjaer and I are creating a dance short film, with lighting designer Mathias Hersland and music composed by Rasmus Gram and my brother Jakob Schmidt Andreasen. It is a duet between us, one moving in a harness hanging above the other, who is dancing below. It has been a new experience for me, working with a partner being above my head! I look forward to exploring this more. Choreographically, I am currently working with Karl Fagerlund developing another duet. I will also continue investigating Paintformance with fine artists and dancers, which, at the moment take place in Morley College, London. As a dancer I am working with Mara Vivas, performing Triptych at the Robin Howard Theatre as part of Resolution. In the spring I will collaborate with choreographer Birgitte Lundtoft on a land art performance.
Photo by Johnchul Kwon
vasilisa forbes “
Vasilisa's videos reveal a stunning ability to cross the boundaries between fashion photography and refined narrative cinema. Since the first time we have watched her short films, we have been impressed by the contamination of elements from fashion, Italian painters from the Renassaince and radical filmmakers like Sergej Parad탑anov. Though an excess of quotations and refined references can lead artists to manierism, Vasilisa's shooting style is highly recognizable in every shot. We are very glad to open this Biennial edition with her works. Vasilisa, how did you develop your shooting style? I spent a lot of time working with photography and was shooting images from a young age which led me into working with fashion photography and reportage, and through that to discovering a visual style of my own. I grew up watching a lot of intense sixties cinema as my mother was very much a cineophile and loved to explore avant-garde movies and creative film. It was from here that I started to develop dream-like sequences of my own, and experimented with creating a visual style that could be transferrable across the genres, and across mediums such as photography, film, painting and sound. I remember watching Colour Of Pomegranates at around 9 years old and having such admiration and fear of the visuals I was seeing. Coming from Russia, I was in touch with a deeply passionate art history, and was lucky enough to be aware of the exceptional films that had been made in Russia in the early 60s and 70s, vibrant, bizarre and dream-like stories especially from Tsarkovksy. His film Andre Rublev left deep impressions, and found a presence in this film, Arc. My mother opened up the world of cinema for me, educating me in the art of historical cinema, and encouraged me to create small movies of my own, which I did with excitement. My brain worked in a cinematic way, and I was eager to create cinematic photography images as well as
moving image, although photography at that time was more accessible. How did you come up with the idea for Arc? Could you tell us a particular episode who has helped the birth of this project? Arc came from a concept which was to create a trilogy of short films as part of a larger project titled 'Great Ode'. The Ode was a concept that looked at re-engaging historical content and 'meaning-driven' narratives into modern films, and how that could be achieved. That itself came from wanting to find an alternative vision to the current 'cult of the new'. I found that I was not feeling in tune with the modern trends which aimed to a sense of 'dumbing down' and parody, but wanted to create something that was outside of that and could openly reference historical works for the value they bestowed in time and the values they held. Arc contains explicit references to The Color of Pomegranates, Sergej Parad탑anov's masterpiece. This is not simply an aesthetic choice: you have Russian and Middle-East origins. Could you comment this "personal" aspect of your film? I grew up with a deep association with this film considering my heritage. It related to me deeply and the Armenian influence in the costume, the historic 'moralities' of it (which still have a strong hold over most parts of traditionalist Russia and Caucas) struck through to me. Growing up I dressed myself in the costumes found in Colour of Pomegranates. The poetic beauty of this film haunted me and also was mesmerising so I wanted to create a piece that could be a homage to not only the visual element but the entire concept of time, religion, passion and depth. Besides Sergej Parad탑anov, your use of symmetric framing and close ups remind us of Pier Paolo Pasolini's films: just think of Teorema, or Medea, both shot in the Sixties. It seems that films from the 1960's have really marked your imagery...
The sixties to early seventies were indeed a time of greater variety when it came to film in my opinion, and the ways in which directors chose to approach film felt more innovative, passionate and weighted, as well as there being so much abstract experimentation with craft, technique and narrative. Antonioni and Zodowski were both creators I was very much inspired by when growing up, and it was particularly their taste for the bizarre, powerful and avant-garde that captured me. Especially when it came to the filming processes, the incorporation of large-scale mise-en-scene sets, paired with tantalising close-ups and disjointed camera angles. In that era film was at it's greatest, I feel people really tried to push boundaries then in a way which is forever interesting, where their creativity was stranger and they used more surrealist metaphors with greater strength. I am obsessed also with Fellini, and his Satyricon 1969 which is a sensational film.
The concepts generated and the content that was created in that era is continuously inspiring. I wanted and continue to aspire to create homages to that era. The DOP I worked with on this film, Paul James Bird, also played a huge role and his taste for sixties cinema also brought us to this visual and stylistic conclusion. The attention to suspended gestures remind us of classical painters, like Antonello da Messina. Could you introduce our readers to this aspect of your art? Absolutely! The work of Da Messina is fascinatingly exquisite with a weight of depth and feeling and it was that message of depth in visual art which we wanted to re-create and explore. In Arc you can see the sense of 'New-Masters' to it, which is a modern exploration of the Old Masters work and Renaissance inspiration. The reason for doing this was to engage an idea of valuing history, valuing archival information and traditional concepts and finding a way to relate them
against the modern world in a subtle style. This is portrayed and explored in the three films of the series. Arc is the main film from the Great Ode series, and as the name Great Ode suggests, they are all an 'ode' to historical cinema, readings, paintings and literature. Your video and photo production is very miscellanous: how has your production processes changed over the years? I find inspiration and excitement in so many forms of creative art and periods, and because of this I find that my own work also travels through various styles and genres as it develops. I find enjoyment in exploring varied points of history and forms of art, film and processes of creating. In this way the work flows through genres of pop art, conceptual and historically- inspired, but there is always an underlying core. My work is not clearly related to my nationality, nor is it always similar in it's style but I hope that a depth is retained, as I hope to engage the viewer in something more than just a visual.
Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s next for Vasilisa Forbes? Are there any new projects on the horizon? I am currently working on creating the Great Ode concept into the book and exhibition that will house the films and works by other awesome creatives who I am so glad have contributed to the idea. I am also creating more short films and working on creating a series of dark drama based films with intense narratives focusing on strange human behaviours that have come from true stories. There is also a comedy show I am working on for Vasilisa.TV my video website.