From experimental cinema to fashion videography, ten artists breaking the boundaries Since its foundation, Stigmart10 has encouraged a conception of art based on a dynamic dialogue between artists and audience, reflecting the interactive nature of the creative act itself. A winning formula, according to the doubled number of submissions - more than 990 applicants have sumitted their video works and CV in 2013 - and the increasing popularity of our project. We are glad to present this year's edition of Videofocus, our special Stigmart10 review focused on experimental cinema, original fashion videography and corageous documentary. Stigmart10 Team
CAMP is a short film that crosses the two traditions of collage film and film essay. The title signals the projectâ€™s most basic unit of collage.
I am interested in the drawn line in relationship to the projected image, and I often utilize this dichotomy as a metaphor for the relationship between the body and technology.
Yuval Yairi & Zohar Kawaharada
LAND presents a filmed series of acts performed over several months and presented as non-linear fragments. Two opposing forces are in confron-tation: a human figure and the letters of a word.
This is how I remember the dream: We were transported onto a new planet like we had done many times before. This planet carried a shadow that was familiar.
O Leonardo considers how historyâ€™s most brilliant and imaginative human created not only transcendent art, but machines of war and extermination.
Soundscapes is a creation in an attempt to focus on balancing the rolls of sound and moving images - meaning neither of them as one back-ground for the other.
The video Champ de Mars is a ‘song’ to the ‘Champ de Mars’ in Paris, from where the world’s first hydrogen-filled balloon was launched in 1783, and which is alluded to by the floating circles.
Native American people live in relation to the ongoing power relations of settler colonialism. Colonialism acts as a primary condition for the development of gender politics and the performance of identity in the United States.
“Hanging By A Thread” is a stop-motion animated short film completed in July of 2013. I created this 9m55s film in my studio in Brooklyn over the course of a little more than two years.
There is an emerging form as interpretation of Life, a structural phase in understanding of perception, thoroughly examined by German Artist and Scholar Adolf Von Hildebrandt.
The video work of Greg Penn is less about creating and more about harnessing and direc-ting. What is harnessed and directed is light and sound.
"I am primarily interested in how identity is made visible and
represented through ideological systems that are both productive and repressive in constituting subjects."
In his essay, “Beyond the Pleasure Principle,” Freud describes death drive as a force that makes us behave in ways that counter Darwinian self preservation. Death Drive consists of two YouTube videos shown side-by-side.
Todd Jurgess Ecstatic Gardens into Dissemblamation” explores these three terms and tries to put into images the emerging relationship between them. As I made the project, I really wanted to work against a dominant paradigm of DV in both the film industry
A Still from CAMP (2011)
Peter Freund CAMP is a short film that crosses the two traditions of collage film and film essay. The title signals the project’s most basic unit of collage: the pairing of concentration camp and campy aesthetics. Out of the rift created by this union comes an essay of sorts that traces points of contact between these two apparently antithetical subjects. As such, CAMP investiga-tes the role of fantasy in traumatic historical memory and the ethical root of flamboyant enjoyment.
exposition citing notable statements on the polar notions of “camp,” from Adorno, Agamben and Xu Bing to Sontag, Wilde, and Genet. The voice-over advances in split fashion, divided between two narrators and languages, one Arabic and the other Mandarin, which alternate the task of unfolding the text.
The film’s collage draws visually from major period sources; among them, excerpts from the 1945 camp footage shot by George Stevens and company for use in the Nuremberg trials and from Busby Berkeley’s 1943 camp masterpiece, “The Gang’s All Here.” A voice-over delivers an
Peter Freund can be reached at pfmediaarts [at] gmail [dot] com.
CAMP can be viewed online at https://vimeo.com/47555060.
An interview with
Peter Freund Stigmart: Your art practice goes beyond simple detournement. Instead of recontextualization" of footage, in your work we would speak of deterritorialization, just to quote Deleuze's concept...could introduce our readers to your unique approach to videomaking? Peter Freund: Yes, you can say deterritorialization. Dérive perhaps, but you’re right, not détournement. My practice springs from the other side of montage. It follows less a differential logic of the image than an attempt to reach a cut already at work in the image itself. At stake for me is the symptomatic character of the image, how the image as such resists and defends against its own beyond. The brilliant prank of détournement quickly decays into sales talk. The recontextualization it achieves produces the very récupération that the rebel pins on his enemies. Archival projects are best where they fail to recontextualize.
Herein lies the real crux of so-called appropriation art. The elements out of which a work is made are never quite identical to themselves. Marcel Duchamp of course took this premise to a poignant extreme with his ‘Fountain’ and other ready-mades. As Duchamp showed us, the old Heraclitean cliché collapses under its own weight. You can’t step in the same river even once. The thing is already other than itself to the extent that it radically depends on something beyond it to establish and guarantee its identity. Call it ‘context’ or whatever, but we’re really talking about a constitutive gap in the original element itself. You take something out of context, then people squawk and rush in to fill the gaping hole left behind.
But this idea may be misleading. My projects are not perceptual riddles. They aim is to widen that space of blindness from which a radically different conceptual trajectory is already emerging. My piece CAMP, for example, at its most basic level pairs concentration camp with campy performance.
If we go back to the Renaissance triumph of perspective, the fullest verisimilitude quite literally reveals a void at the core of the image. All lines converge at a vanishing point, but what vanishes is not the element receding at the horizon so much as an eye precisely inscribed in the scene as missing. The lines converge in the depth of field but mark the point of a void on the surface in the very opposite direction. Every image produces this structural blind spot.
Stigmart: CAMP is a really courageous work, not only for the themes treated, like Auschwitz. Its nature is not "political", but micropolitical, we daresay. It is very difficult today to find artists making a similar operation, we think of C. Schlingensief, who was homaged at the Venice Biennale in 2011.
Implicitly it asks: Doesn’t the trauma narrative we urgently repeat (in story-telling, documentaries, and so forth) at some level inspire pleasure? This unacknowledged but inevitable level of enjoyment, I would claim, delimits the ethical discourse on the camps. What happens if we crack open this already operative aspect of enjoyment?
Can you tell us your biggest influences in
A Still from CAMP (2011)
political dramas traverse the most desperately trivial of everyday actions.
art and how they have affected your work? And among contemporary artists and filmmaker?
After Brecht, many other artists follow on: Duchamp, Borges, William Blake, Kentridge, Thelonious Monk, Herbert Brün, Beckett, even Warhol. I think Matta-Clark’s cut buildings are inspiring, as are Doris Salcedo’s cracks, fills, and broken furniture. Rauschenberg’s “Erased de Kooning” marked me, and while John Cage was never of any interest, his 4’33” shares an impulse. In film, the main inspirations include Godard, Marker, Straub-Huillet, Kiarostami, Yvonne Rainer, Harun Farocki, Trinh Minh-ha. The inventive way they organize and couple language and image cleared distinct but intersecting paths in filmmaking and video art. In one way or another, all these artists handle with elegance the blind spot in mediation. We hear we’re all mediated surfaces blah blah blah. So goes the postmodern call.
Peter Freund: Yes, my projects aim at a micropolitical gesture. But it’s not a micropolitics of desire. It’s more, in the Lacanian vein, a micropolitics of the drive. What is at stake in this libidinal economy is not a bursting forth of repressed energy but a visual circuit that does not return on your investment. Or rather, it returns quite precisely the very thing you apparently didn’t ask for from looking in the first place. Brecht was an overwhelming early influence. (I’m not alone!) Gradually I began to distinguish two facets of the A-effect. One, I can say, inspires my work to this day; the other I am categorically against. The second strives to demystify, establish a metalanguage, raise consciousness. This effort ultimately hits at a deadend. But the Duchampian aspect of the A-effect bursts the identity principle at work in representation. It reveals how deep things operate by hiding in plain view on the surface, how grand
But it’s the structural failure of mediation that’s really interesting. Frankly, when I’m trying to create something, though, I don’t think about other people’s work. I think about failures and impasses in my own process.
A Still from CAMP (2011)
film. The subtitle traditionally embodies a contradiction: it glosses the cipher of the foreign but visually intrudes in the image that the voice aims to illuminate. The educated native-English experience of watching a foreign film entails a subtly racist self-congratulation in which the foreign is reduced to a coy alternative form of the viewer’s native language.
Stigmart: What's the role of voice over in CAMP? We have found really interesting the use of Mandarin... Peter Freund: Without explanation, the space of the voice-over is split in CAMP between Mandarin and Arabic narrators. My naïve aim was to de-center the euro-centric narrative at an implicit level. But I had a problem with the standard formula of simply reversing center and margin. Introducing the two languages became a way to triangulate the narrative by suggesting a center/margin beyond the European center: namely, a Chinese and an Arab vantage point. In CAMP, the young Mandarin narrator shows an overt indifference to the subject at hand, while the Arabic narrator implicitly points up what the narrative obviously lacks for the Arab (e.g. Palestinian).
The fundamental conceit of CAMP is of course stipulated only through the English (it doesn’t work in Mandarin or Arabic), which turns the cipher/gloss hierarchy a bit upside down. As a nod to the Arabic and Mandarin speaker, there are moments in CAMP where the subtitle in fact doesn’t translate the voice. The twist here is a bit clumsy. Probably I’ve handled the question of translation more elegantly in other work, for example, Acorus Calamus (2009). Stigmart: It could be considered a specious question, however, we have to do it: what has been the reaction of the audience to
At another level the narrative space is split between voice and subtitle. This decision follows my interest in the effect of translation in
CAMP? We find this work can't be defined under the misleading label of "provocative art", since its aim is not to reveal a precise political meaning, but to subvert the mechanism of perception of power itself...
a dead-serious ethical position. I want to foreground the gap on which certain images stand, to position the power they claim on its own unstable ground and, yes, in that way, as you say, “to subvert the mechanism of perception of power itself.”
Peter Freund: Specious questions are often the best. Admittedly, CAMP springs from an absurd, almost obscene conceit. After all, how can the image of the concentration camp and a campy performance share the same screen? And yet aren’t these two images decisively linked in our contemporary situation? Both “camps” stand as key reference points marking the outer limits of our ethical and aesthetic universe today.
Stigmart: Where do your materials come from, and how do you go about putting them together? Peter Freund: My archival materials come from any and every source I can get ahold of that responds to the research. CAMP, for example, draws visually from major period sources; among them, excerpts from the 1945 camp footage shot by George Stevens and company for use in the Nuremberg trials and from Busby Berkeley’s 1943 camp masterpiece, The Gang’s All Here. I was of course very interested in the historical coincidence of these two materials. Other footage includes Lumiere’s Arrival of a Train and glimpses from Pasolini’s Salò, Butcher Rules Resnais’ Night & Fog, and Time-Life’s Auschwitz. Texts come from various sources ranging from Adorno, Agamben and Xu Bing to Sontag, Wilde, and Genet.
For whatever reason, certain venues have not wanted to touch CAMP. But the film has had a fair international viewing and has won some awards. Generally the piece has been met with sympathetic responses. Yet there was one screening at which an audience member irately blurted out in the discussion period: “How dare [I] use all that footage from the camps, of the corpses?!” Well, I have to say, the footage simply isn’t there! The viewer’s desperate wish to see corpses, where CAMP in fact shows none, echoes the film’s very point, if I can say there is a point: namely, that fantasy is at work in traumatic memory. This is not because fantasy simply falsifies factual memory. The traumatic often arises from within the texture of fantasy itself. As the discussion unfolded, it became clear that this viewer’s initial outrage targeted the film’s basic conceit and its structural departure from standard Holocaust narratives.
For the archival work, typically I shoot materials only when a conceptual bridge is unavoidable. That was true for CAMP. For me, shooting is another order of (re)production within editing. For a project ostensibly about the Wobblies, History Lesson, I projected footage into a factory space and captured that material as a way to examine the “appropriate surface” for historical projection.
CAMP was presented in a museum show in Bonn, Germany. I spoke with a few of the curators who took the piece after a controversial jurying process. In explaining the controversy to me, one curator made the stunning remark that Germans today still don’t want to acknowledge that the people were “turned on by Hitler."
My research, production, and edit phases overlap. The research process often begins with a vague but nagging sense of urgency about a subject. I move then to examine my urgency and how the subject is already captured. Along the way I land on an expression (word, image, or sound) that seems to completely overtake and dominate what it reveals, where no distance appears between form and meaning. I study the material and take notes.
To produce “provocative art” is a ridiculous goal. My aim, for example, has nothing to do with magnifying or diminishing the horror of the Holocaust. I’m more or less in line with those who say it absolutely defiles the collective memory to try to represent what happened in the camps. My interest is to put a set of basic oppositions in doubt. The fact is that the memory of the camps can be fraught with melodrama and aesthetic enjoyment. The campy performance, on the other hand, can be seen as
I tamper and tinker with the form and thus try to locate a little space for ambiguity, contradiction, incomprehension, desire. Before knowing it, I’m in the throes editing the piece. The recurrent goal is to arrive experimentally at a form that hints at, embodies, problematizes a defining blind spot inside the expressive means.
A Still from CAMP (2011)
An idea starts to emerge, which I then try to implement. I continue to research, shoot, and edit. Typically the idea fails. But I continue. In the failure something else starts to emerge. But I resist it and continue.
my recent installation, The End of an Error, which fictionalizes the end of McCarthyism in the USA as a history lesson from contemporary Iran.
Finally Iâ€™m forced to see its merits. Throughout and at last, the work must meet the criterion of musicality. Stigmart: Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts with us, Peter. What are your next projects on the horizon? Peter Freund: Iâ€™m working on a short video piece about the memory of Mohammed Mossadegh for an exhibit later this year in Tehran. The piece will accompany Acorus Calamus and
Stills from Burn, HD video with sound, 3:00, 2013
Elizabeth Leister Burn is inspired by the work of early abstract filmmakers such as female pioneer, Mary Ellen Bute, John Whitney, and Stan Brakhage. As a student studying painting, I was not exposed to these artists or this type of work. However, I was deeply influenced by line, shape and gesture in the work of Pollock, Gorky and Klee â€“ seemingly static versions of these moving abstract films. As I began to teach and work in video, I learned about these filmmakers and their moving abstractions became wholly inspiring.
my traditional concerns as a painter - layering line, shape, texture and color with gesture and mark-making. While Brakhage painted and scratched directly onto the surface of the film, today it is possible to generate a wide range of shapes and marks within a software program and animate them using myriad shifts in size, color and speed. Each frame becomes a painting, and it is exciting to craft each composition and the transition that follows. The program also allows for erasing back through a series of layered strokes â€“ an undoing of the digital painting, which interests me.
My approach to working with video includes a wide range of methods that merge the traditional with the digital. Drawing is an integral component in my work. I am interested in the drawn line in relationship to the projected image, and I often utilize this dichotomy as a metaphor for the relationship between the body and technology.
Burn started with high definition landscape footage shot in Southern California, near the school where I teach, after a raging wildfire decimated the area for miles in spring of 2013. Quick glimpses of burnt cacti and a horizon line emerge, but become consumed by painterly, scratchy abstract gestures of destruction. Iâ€™m drawn to this combi-
Burn is the first in a series of four videos that utilize painterly techniques, marking a return to
Stills from Burn, HD video with sound, 3:00, 2013
nation of identifiable spaces or forms, which then become covered over or obliterated by abstraction. This seems to me to be the way one might experience a wildfire â€“ trees and structures visible at one moment and then swiftly caught up in the dancing shapes of flame and smoke. I had been looking for an opportunity to work with these digital techniques in video for some time. When the wildfire subject matter presented itself, it felt completely in line with this painterly abstract approach to moving image. The audio track is equally as abstract with moments suggesting winds and crackling fire. The soundtrack creates an ambient space layered with tension and foreboding.
An interview with
Elizabeth Leister In your work "Burn" we have been struck by the way you use high densely layered pattern, realizing a digital video presenting analogue and material qualities: glimpses and scratches present an incredible guestuoral nature on the screen. Could you take us through your creative process of "Burn"? I’ve worked in video for over fifteen years but I continually return to working with my hands – touching and manipulating physical materials. My video has been described as tactile or painterly and I think that is a primary aspect of all of my work. For this project, I shot footage of the scorched landscape very soon after the wildfire. This imagery serves as the primary layer of the video providing movement, texture and the suggestion of a horizon line and a sense of perspective, although that becomes quite skewed and remains fairly abstract. Using a software program, many additional layers are added and blended together. This includes lines that animate, changing size and color in ranges of brightness and saturation among other transformations. This part of my process is very intuitive.
MFA in sculpture from Bard College. Soon after graduate school, I started working in digital media but the ideas and techniques that I learned as a student are deeply embedded in who I am as a digital artist. Working traditionally will always feel very natural to me. Often my work is a combination of hand-made, analogue approaches and the digital using diverse methods that are project dependent.
I think of “Burn” as a moving painting where the layering of transparent shapes of color and the gestural strokes of a paintbrush are mimicked through technology. Each frame is a composition, and it is exciting to craft each transition. Creating seamless shifts in color, value and texture that unfold into new shapes, lines and perspectives is what sets this process apart from creating a static image. The program allows for erasing back through a series of layered strokes – an undoing of the imagery, which interests me. It is digital mark-making without any physical connection to real materiality.
Burn is inspired by the work of early abstract filmmakers such as female pioneer, Mary Ellen Bute, John Whitney, and Stan Brakhage. As a student studying painting, I was not exposed to these artists or this type of work. However, I was deeply influenced by line, shape and gesture in the work of the Abstract Expressionists - seemingly static versions of these moving abstract films. Jackson Pollock was particularly important to me but probably for different reasons than I think about him now. I love those big energetic paintings but now I’m also interested in those works as gesture and performance.
It is evident the influence of abstract painters on your work, though this aspect is treated in an original and radical way. Can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work? My background is in the fine arts. I received a BFA in painting from Tyler School of Art and an
A still from La recherche
As I began to work in video, I learned about the filmmakers mentioned above and their moving abstractions became wholly inspiring. My approach to video includes a wide range of methods that merge the traditional with the digital. Drawing is an integral component in my work. I am interested in the drawn line in relationship to the projected image, and I often utilize this dichotomy as a metaphor for the relationship between the body and technology. Because I am so inspired by movement, gesture and the body, dance has been very influential. Simone Forti and Trisha Brown both use language, drawing and movement in original and dynamic ways. I appreciate the direct, straightforward method that these two artists employ. The immediacy of drawing and dance is something that I continually return to.
or re-birth. Though the landscape has been decimated by fire, nature will regenerate. My plan is that “Burn” will be one in a series of abstract videos. I’m working on “growth” and have just shot footage in Iceland that will provide background for a third video, “Ice”. Could you introduce our readers to your previous work "La Recherche"? We have found really inspiring the personal and artistic research present in this work, and the reflection upon the nature itself of the gesture of erasure. Thank you. La Recherche is a very personal piece. It’s quite different from “Burn” but shares this bridging of the traditional, in this case drawing, with the digital. La Recherche is about my search for an art professor I had as a student in Belgium decades ago. In the summer of 2012, I went back to the tiny village, Gosselies, where the school is located to try to find him – a small odyssey of sorts. Ultimately the piece became less about
"Burn” ends with a color shift to bright green. Could you explain this aspect of your video? “Burn” ends with a color shift to suggest growth
finding my professor and more about the unreliability of memory and the impact of time. I began to question my ability to recollect certain places, people and events surrounding this particular time in my life. This area of Belgium has endured great change brought on by the global economic downturn. Based on my memories, I expected these places to look and feel the same way that they had when I had lived there, which of course was not possible, but I was, nonetheless, impacted by the change. In the work, I use drawing and the subsequent erasing of the drawing with voice-over to tell this story. The camera is placed above me as I perform a series of drawings on the same sheet of paper. Each drawing is erased and the next drawing is made over the previous, all on the same sheet of paper. The blurry residue of each image remains on the page and acts as a metaphor for my fragmented attempts to recall people and places related to this story. In La Recherche and recent works, I want to express the physicality of drawing – the bodily energy required to create gesture on the page and then erase it. I think of and describe the work as performance - performing a drawing. Obviously, this relates back to my interest in Pollock and Trisha Brown, among others. How long does it usually take to finish a piece? Each project is different. I don’t pay close attention to the amount of time each piece takes to complete. Often I have ideas germinating in my head and in my sketchbooks years before they actually become something that I start to develop into a finished work. I spend a lot of time thinking about each project, usually on my long commute to work. This is an important part of my process but I can’t imagine how to clock those hours. I tend to work on multiple projects simultaneously. Certain projects are started and then require long breaks in order for the initial concepts to naturally expand. Sometimes I return to these ideas and they are transformed into a project and other ideas are just never developed. They remain tests or experiments or visual sketches but are equally critical to my process. They absolutely feed the works that do become completed projects. It would be difficult to factor in that time as well. Thanks for your time and for sharing your project with us, Elizabeth. What's next for you? Have you a particular project in mind? I’m developing new work for a performance and exhibition that will be presented at Counterpath in Denver, Colorado this May. I am working on a video that shares similar concerns addressed in La Recherche, using drawing and also Polaroid photographs to visually tell a “story” about our relationship to images and memory. Instead of erasing, the work will utilize the invisible Polaroid image magically revealing itself through the transformation of the emulsion. The work will include images from my recent trip to Iceland.
A still from La recherche
A still from LAND, 2013, 4:36 minutes, HD video
Zohar Kawaharada & Yuval Yairi LAND presents a filmed series of acts performed over several months and presented as non-linear fragments. Two opposing forces are in confrontation: a human figure and the letters of a word. The figure confronts the word and the power of its connotations by attempting to deconstruct it, to destroy it but also to come to terms with it.
Suggested here, is an examination of the idea of historical, religious or moral rights to a place, rights which are usually enforced by violence occupation, illegal settlement, colonialization, dedeportation, exile - matters of choice or force. The attitude of the human figure changes from a love of homeland and the desire for self-sacrifice, to a surrendering to fate, a feeling of claustrophobia and despair, and the desire to break away and leave for another place.
Holding a pole and the four letters of the word LAND, the figure undergoes transformations in its differing relationship to the actual place - the enclosed space, and to the word itself. There are "ceremonies" and "rituals" which allude to heroic monuments and local or universal icons.
Zohar Kawaharada & Yuval Yairi
An interview with
Zohar Kawaharada & Yuval Yairi LAND is not conceived using metaphoric approach, but adopting a performative research. When did you get the idea for this work? Could you tell us a particular episode that has helped the birth of this project, or simply an epiphany, a sudden illumination?
tion to settle permanently or claim ownership on the territory. The symbolic act, working as a group and the temporality were the essence of the idea. At first we worked with the group to build the infrastructure of the Kibbutz, afterwards we worked separately in this temporary space, each of us creating a work related to the place.
We first met during an event called "Kibbutz", a happening which was initiated by "Empty House", - a group of artists and activists operating in Jerusalem, with a habit of invading abandoned spaces, and inviting other artists to join them in order to create a temporary, autonomous "Hall of culture".
We decided to create a joint work and found an isolated warehouse which seemed suitable to work in, at the edge of the farm. Our initial thought was to create a series of still-photographs, in which a figure is present inside an empty, closed space, possessing only a metal pole and the wooden letters of the word LAND. We wished to convert or transform the ideas and feelings that came to us in connection with the subject into images and actions.
A kind of 'artistic squatting'. The "Kibbutz" was established on the premises of an abandoned agricultural farm on the outskirts of Jerusalem, an area that until 1967 was No man's land â€“ on the border between Jordan and Israel. Unlike 'conventional' settlements there was no inten-
Zohar (who performed the character) felt that it was not natural for her to freeze or stop her mo-
A still from LAND, 2013, 4:36 minutes, HD video
a primitive power. Could you better explain this aspect of LAND?
vement and pause for the camera and that she must respond to the letters, to their weight and to the specific space in an authentic way, so quite quickly we realized it would be more accurate to switch to videography.
Land has its various interpretations. Land can mean 'place', which can lead to thoughts about the spiritual connotations of the word. It has its geo-political significance, which is the more immediate meaning. It can also refer to 'earth', the more basic and simple (primitive) sense of the word, baring the most physical meaning, on one side of the spectrum: seeding, working the land, fertility. On the other side of this spectrum there is death and burial â€“ an end.
Epiphany or a sudden illumination was definitely not involved here, but the opposite â€“ a lengthy process of searching and exploring the vastness of our consciousness, historical and physical. A search raising questions about the place at which we are standing, and working. Since the first time we have watched your video, we have been impressed with the presence of a word, which could be considered a sort of dangerous, destabilizing element forcing the body to act, awakening his relationship with landscape. It is not only a matter of language and relationships between human beings in order to communicate with each other: in LAND, word has
Struggling with the weight of the letters, their size, their wooden texture, challenged coping with relations of body, object and space. Sometimes it helped us to divert from salient formalism towards a more abstract search. The primitive force of working the land transformed as an idea into a work of art, echoing throughout the creative process.
A still from LAND, 2013, 4:36 minutes, HD video
Narration in LAND is presented under nonlinear fragments: why have you decided this particular form?
although we encountered Rouch's film Les Maitres fous, while looking for rituals and ceremonies relating to Land during our research on a wide span of issues relevant to our subject.
We found ourselves facing a deconstructive move where we are interested in breaking all that was exposed throughout the creative process, to the smallest elements, the atoms that make up the work, in order to find a new, additional meaning to this quest of the idea of place, land, state, or country. It is analogous to how almost inevitably, the word comes apart and breaks, trying to be reassembled, in a desperate search for new contexts.
On the surface the film depicts a primitive ceremony held under the influence of Hallucinogenic drugs and includes blunt scenes, but in fact Rouch's intention was to present the absurdity and alienation of colonialism - another important aspect we found worthy of attention in LAND . In another context, Rouch believed that the presence of the camera has a psycho-analytical impact on his subjects, stimulating people's expression rather than restraining it, causing them to unveil hidden sides of their personalities which otherwise wouldn't be exposed, a deeper truth emerges through the fictional. In our work-process, the photographed actions were occasionally planned but at times the per-
Your video reminds us of the first work by Jean Rouch. Apart from him, could you indicate some thinker or artist who has deeply influenced you art? It's surprising that you found some similarities or links between our video and Rouch's work,
A still from LAND, 2013, 4:36 minutes, HD video
former was "caught" by the camera in a spontaneous action which revealed a truthful moment. In the end of the filming, during the editing, we looked for those scenes which succeeded in exposing the authentic, barest inner feelings and motivations.
fleeing refugees, of "ideological settlers", images of heroic monuments, and other images that served us as starting-points or triggers for action. It could be considered a specious question, however we have to do it... in these last years we have seen that the frontier between Video Art and Cinema is growing more and more vague: do you think that this "frontier" will exists longer?
As to an artist who may have influenced our work, we can mention Joseph Beuys in his wellknown performance "I Like America and America Likes Me", where he performed while staying in a small room with a wild coyote, engaged in repetitive symbolic gestures.
Experimental films such as those created in the twentiesâ€“ thirties of the 20th century, if had been created today, would they be considered as Video Art? Is it a matter of timing? Or perhaps these boundaries are only in the context of location â€“ A museum or art gallery vs. a projection hall / cinema?
There's also a reference to Edweard Muybridge's studies of motion, and a hint to Charlie Chaplin's work. We also gathered many images from the internet that were relevant to our issues conceptually or visually, ranging from early 20th century Soviet propaganda posters to Iconic war photos (Iwo Jima flag raising, Robert Capa's Falling Soldier etc.), photographs of
We see the same "liquidation" of boundaries in other areas as well, most prominent in contem-
An interview with
A still from LAND, 2013, 4:36 minutes, HD video
porary art, in the blurry border between art, decorative art and design, between documentary-photography and what is/was considered as "art photography"â€Ś Is there even a need for definition of such limits? We live in an era where even geographical boundaries are becoming increasingly blurred (well, maybe it's just wishful thinking), and in the era of Internet and social networking it seems that there are no frontiers at all, but on the other hand - somehow we can't manage to break away from the human need for cataloging, labeling and marking boundaries and territories, so there will probably always be those who will continue to insist on clear definitions in every field.
create one work. We found this collaboration fertile and challenging. Working together Contributes to creativity, maybe we'll get back together to cooperate in the future, but for now we returned to our individual creation, each in her/his own path. The horizon is still mistyâ€Ś
Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Zohar and Yuval. What are your next projects on the horizon? We are two individualists who collaborated to
A stills from moonless
Maria Judice This is how I remember the dream: We were transported onto a new planet like we had done many times before. This planet carried a shadow that was familiar. As travelers we explored the vast open space. Our hosts transported us new worlds, unknown stars, beings in harmony with one another. This landing was different - too familiar. My body began to stiffen. My heart beat rapidly. My breath shortened. The world was dark. My anxiety built to pleas then pure desperation as I realized I was being returned home. Home. On a moonless night.
reluctant traveler returns to Earth after a long journey. She questions her responsibility to a place she once called home. She desires to wander space like a vagabond soaking in the unknown. â€œmoonlessâ€? is about giving up your innermost desires because of duty. The traveler has to reckon her wants with her responsibilities. She has to weigh herself against humanity.
Does abandoning earth threaten your humanity? What is your responsibility to earth? What is your responsibility to your fellow man? A
An interview with A stills from moonless
moonless is part of a larger series called "in this world". could you introduce our readers to this project as a whole?
I began this film series with the idea that I was making a film about the responsibility one has to Earth (moonless), oneâ€™s self (spaced) and each other (orbiters).
moonless, space_d, orbiters are short selfcontained films within a long form narrative called in this world. The narrative of moonless continues with our reluctant traveler. She withdraws from her companions wandering and witnessing stories (spaced and orbiters). She struggles with her knowledge of the past and the state of the present.
The theme of responsibility is more present in each self contained piece. Each short carries this responsibility of saving humankind from itself. You can have all the knowledge, information, and skill to add to progress but you must tread lightly because the human condition does not allow us to make too much progress too fast. You have an overwhelming call to help and yet you are so very helpless. You must wait and watch changing one little corner of the Earth, while the rest suffers. As this grew into a long form piece (50-60 minutes) it has become more and more about individual desire leading to pro-
She has acute sensitivity to humanity, the environment, and her own difficulties acclimating to Earth. She longs for her days of traveling through the dark abyss of space. With all that she has seen of the Universe, Earth is dystopic.
A stills from moonless
gress. We hide our desires and hold true to pre-established conditions. I would argue that falling in line with cultural norms is not selfpreservation if is not aligned with your own desires.
the floor in so many different phases. They all call me at different times. To start a project I write down in my notebook, tap on my phone, or ipad. Ideas flow at all times without warning. We canâ€™t be so hung up on the tools we use to capture ideas. I usually start a Tumblr if I want to pursue the idea.
Human nature as its prime directive is about self-preservation. The preservation of the individual adds to the collective preservation and thus the preservation of the world.
Give it some wings. The Tumblr allows me to collect images, words, and inspiration. I can get feedback early on and begin to build. A Tumblr is so much more than a storyboard for me, its my way of giving a life to the project. Then I go into intermittent hibernation creating a script. Maybe a year or two later we shoot.
Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new project? Projects take me forever to start. But then again I am always starting a project. I am always beginning. So when I finish a project I quickly pick up a new project. Many projects are left on
And then I slowly edit because of course I immediately hate everything. And then another
A stills from moonless
year I walk away, literally throw my hands up. Just then another project calls me much louder.
in as in as it may. But I don't let it rule me or my work. As an artist I find it very difficult to pick a side.
Your works show powerful "social effort" in an intimate mood. It could seem a specious question, however: in your opinion what role does the artist have in society?
You have spoken about a dream. Where do you get the ideas for your work? Lots of dreams. Lots of ideas from dreams. Mostly ideas just come without warning so you need to capture them quickly. And then plant them so they can grow. Many idea seedlings die as soon as they are born. I get ideas from everywhere. Nothing is promised.
Every role and no role. It is difficult because as a filmmaker I want to give voice and create images that I feel are underrepresented but I do not want to be tied to anything. I want to be whimsical and superficial today and heavy handed tomorrow. I want to be free to create. I struggle with noting any social relevance in my work although these things are apart of me and something I am concerned with. So although I am conscious of it I let all the social effort creep
In your statement, you say "The presence of a spaceship lingers in the background of each film reminding us to see beyond ourselves and our struggling existence."
Could you better focus on this concept? Films or narrative are a means of escape. The struggle of a person is mostly within themselves. We ask ourselves, "Why can't I push pass my own physical, emotional, and cultural limitations to fix things." Many people hold solace in the afterlife. They think of death as the escape from this life/world. The spaceship has the same promise but it does not come with death. You are not asleep and complacent. You are awake and evolving. The spaceship waits in the heavens promising not angels but intelligent beings, technology, and vast knowledge. Looking up is assuring. Above you is the promise of understanding and reasoning. The clouds whisk you away leaving your worries on Earth. Some find gods above them I find technology, complex organisms with progressive ideas. You have formal training. In your opinion how much training influences art? It influences everything. The formal training gives you what you pay for. You get the best access to references, peers, thinkers, mentors, discussions, tools, brains, environment and the ability to be free of the world. You get the ability to begin to development and come into your own. Formal training is in no way necessary. The deep understanding that even after the training you still have a long pathway to mastering your craft can not bestills discounted. A from moonless Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts with us. Whatâ€™s next for Maria? Are there any new projects on the horizon? My next film is a long form narrative about four friends searching for a bottomless hole along the Pacific Northwest. Ultimately it is a thirtysomething coming of age film that deals with the need to hold on to your unicorns. eventuallybym.tumblr.com I've also been toying around with a multi-player online game. It is a total artist venture but again focusing on humanity. What would it be like if you had some the ability to alter your environment and body on a biological level? Can biological diversity change our social and cultural hangups? Would widespread biological diversity change how we view gender, race, ethnicity, or disabilities?
A still from moonless
A still from O Leonardo
Bob Paris O Leonardo considers how historyâ€™s most brilliant and imaginative human created not only transcendent art, but machines of war and extermination. This dark video ode to Leonardo da Vinci uses 20th century images of flight, weapons, war, and science fiction to address our human impulse for grand creation and terrible destruction.
An interview with
Bob Paris How did you come up with the idea for O Leonardo? The initial notion for O Leonardo came on my birthday a few years back. I somehow had the idea to start writing a poem on Leonardo da Vinci as a war criminal. It was a joke. I’m pretty sure I was drinking. O Leonardo, what a tornado — relishing the bad poetry, you know — What verve, vision and bravado. You were the greatest primate that ever graced this glorious earth. It turns out that as I kept writing, ideas emerged that interested me, a thread arose that I followed, and even an occasional line of good poetry spilled out here and there.
Such an experience certainly would not have happened if I hadn’t been working on The Cluster Project by this time. I had started The Cluster Project after I was struck by how few contemporary artists consider our age of global conflict and war machines, even when the human experiment hangs in the balance. So I began conceiving ideas for an ongoing collaborative website featuring multimedia works about weapons, war, and civilian casualties (it launched in the summer of 2013 and can be found at theclusterproject.com).
And so Leonardo. Our greatest all-star of the enlightenment, the celebrated artist supreme, the genius who mastered architecture, botany, and dozens of other fields. He’s depicted as almost a divine creature in human form. So what does this give us? How does the artist who made the most delicate and transcendent beauty coexist with the man who needed to create inexpressible horror in the form of weapons and mass destruction? In this way, I have Leonardo serve as the poster boy for this historical dialectic — one which attracts surprisingly little contemporary discussion and interest.
One of my preoccupations has been the paradox between our pretension to reason and our dark, deep-seated irrational drives. How is it that the human gift for creation and innovation is frequently surpassed by our penchant to destroy? The enlightenment may have come, but the old brain still rules. Brilliant scientists, master engineers, virtuoso designers are the creators of our revolving technology of death, just as much as any general, businessman, or head of state. A good look at the intricacies of any munition reveals an incredible blend of form and function, an exquisite sense of technical insight and inspired imagination. Many of these creative geniuses are driven by an amoral ethic that seems to leave them utterly untroubled by the applications and implications of their achievements. They simply solve problems. They are “neutral.” They have jobs. They are good fathers. And so on. And so forth.
So I wrote this poem of sorts. This O Leonardo. And then it was put away somewhere. A year or two later, I came across it, read it aloud and thought, Maybe there’s a video here. I started digging through footage and cutting it together with my voice. When I finally stumbled upon using short looping samples from Prokofiev as background music, the work somehow came together. O Leonardo contains old film samples, like "Things to come", from the 30s, and more recent movies like Japan under siege (2005). How did you select the film fragments? Have you used a specific criteria? I just looked online for material that might resonate with the underlying ideas of the text. And I knew I wanted to collapse that line between fact
A still from O Leonardo
and fantasy, because in the spectrum of war technology, all objects and devastation were imagined before they were created. I may have been influenced here by Sven Lindqvist’s brilliant and artful book A History of Bombing. Among many other things, Lindqvist shows how man’s early dreams of flight, especially in the century or two before the Wright brothers, were accompanied by the fantasy of bombing, of genocide from above. So the aircraft’s dream of liberation, escape, transcendence, was always trumped by a deep impulse to control, dominate and destroy. In this way, the 20th century’s preoccupation with flight and technological progress becomes a kind of dark science fiction itself.
Found footage is the language of memory, and its cracks and blemishes and auras attest to the past. The technical quality of the image is far less important than its unmistakable imprint of reality. In O Leonardo, for instance, there is a montage showing dead bodies on the ground. These images are from the bombing of Hamburg in WW2 in which more than 40,000 civilians were killed in a firestorm. The low-res segment, half concrete, half blur, provides an absorbing aesthetic. The last image, for example, shows a woman splayed on the ground in a red dress. Dim your eyes a little, and it's just a long red smear on the frame. But you know it's a dead woman in a red dress. The subtle abstraction allows the viewer a deeper experience, because one must both see and imagine.
I eventually leaned on the 1938 film adaptation of HG Well’s Things to Come, because its dreamlike imagery has the capacity to open up consideration of these issues.
Your editing is very peculiar, showing a sensibility very far from detournement techniques of the 60s: aiming at a homoge-
A still from O Leonardo
neous style, continuity editing, it reveals a Maddinesque touch. could you introduce our readers to this aspect of your art?
with an odd jazzy swing that seemed to give it just the right kick. Ultimately though, the timbre of my voice is not pleasant for dogs, children, and other sentient creatures. So I eventually found the actor David Toney whose deep, rich vocals brought new power to the work (his reading at the end is incredible). In retrospect, however, I may not have sufficiently adjusted the work to balance his contribution, and wonder whether adding more odd, meditative breaks might not have improved the whole.
I’ve always been drawn to the language of montage, with its capacity for generating and encoding new ideas. Otherwise, technique is something I don’t think about much. I just respond to the material. I wanted a certain flow through the piece, where extracts from the disparate works might fuse together in a mythic, dreamlike whole, so I did some gentle tweaking with glow and tone. But it’s funny, you’re reminding me of editing and I still have some quarrels with this O Leonardo piece. I chose a kind of relentless rhythm that reflects the march of technological progress and destruction. But this decision meant the material teeters on being a bit numbing with little tonal respite. I originally read the words
What can I say? I occasionally make things that are flawed, now and forever. But I love the video, as it’s always a kind of success to render into form something that might otherwise reside only in my head. In these last years we have seen that the frontier between Video Art and Cinema is
A still from O Leonardo
growing more and more vague: do you think that this "frontier" will exists longer?
simultaneously. I can’t quite decide whether this is rewarding or the most scattered and disastrous creative shift in my life.
Strong work is strong work. The medium is not important. I view talk of frontiers with suspicion. I love cinema, but these categories/boundaries do not speak to me. Much of my inspiration comes through literature, cinema, music, and journalism. With luck, I hope to continually work with new mediums, new approaches.
The biggest change over the years involves what I choose to work on. When you’ve got a broad curiosity, as I think I do, it’s easy to dive into projects about anything. But now I try to make sure that each work carries strong personal meaning, that it involves questions that intrigue me and that I can learn from. I also like to feel that I occasionally make a small contribution to the wider world around me, as absurd and idealistic as that might sound.
How has your production processes changed over the years? My production process has long been marked by a certain glacial constancy, since I’ve never had the money or institutional support to realize my ideas quickly (please feel free to introduce me to your wealthiest, most foolish friends). That said, I have been collaborating much more, and this allows me to work on multiple projects
Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts with us, Bob. What's next for you? Have you a particular project in mind ? The Cluster Project continues, and this means collaborating with several other artists on va-
A still from O Leonardo
rious works related to drones, nukes, war profiteers and other lovely topics. Weâ€™re always looking for contributions and collaborators, so any artist interested in the site should feel free to contact me.
weapons, government secrecy, and the American Dream. Thanks for your questions and your fabulous publication!
One upcoming project Iâ€™m working on is a phone app called Freedom! that automatically alerts the user when thereâ€™s a deadly drone strike in Pakistan, Yemen, etc. This is not a new idea, but we give the concept a critical spin: every drone hit brings an ironic burst of patriotic animations (bald eagles, flags, fireworks, football players) noisily celebrating this great victory for democracy. I also hope to begin work on some two dozen 90-second videos that will be released online in serial form as The Conqueror. These will be strange, intersecting narratives about Howard Hughes, John Wayne, Genghis Khan, atomic
Soundscapes 2013 single channel video with stereo
Ingeun Kim Soundscapes Ingeun Kim 2013 single channel video with stereo
by capturing the unwanted dull images and noises constantly becomes captivating with the beauty of fugitive and fragile moments.Â€ Soundscapes comprises visuals of misty scenery of a road meandering through forests and hills in South Bohemia in Czech Republic and Austria, and for sound, mainly string sound rung by fan wind alongside self-generated noises picked up from a Gibson Les Paul guitar that was plugged into a found Marshall 45w guitar amp and a sound from contact microphones attached onto an electric fan motor are used.Â€
Soundscapes is a creation in an attempt to focus on balancing the roles of sound and moving images - meaning neither of them as one background for the other. The moment of achieving or trying to poise two different elements is fascinating. On the one hand, it may demand ability of restraint to stabilise or smooth out the unevenness, but I guess on the other hand, it is more about let symbiosis work on its own so that the instability
An interview with
Ingeun Kim Sound is very important in your work, just think of "Throat" and "Soundscapes" : it is not meant simply as a soundtrack, but has a peculiar role in your art process. Could you introduce our readers to this aspect of your videos? How did you come up with the idea for "Soundcapes”?
the town, but it was somewhere in between Cesky Krumlov and Linz. After a while I came back to London, I wanted to add something that would balance with the footage. The priority for me was to make something improvisational. I recorded sounds of an electric fan blowing on the six strings of a guitar, the fan motor noises and also used trumpet sound samples.
Sound is a more recent element of my work. I’ve always been a musical person - playing music in bands with my friends - but only recently has sound begun to play a very important role in my art making process.
We have found your work "Womb" really impressive under a visual point of view, as many work of yours, it reveals materic and painterly qualities pretty uncommon among videoartists: could you explainwhat technique have you used?
It was almost like opening up a new sensory perception. When I was making “Soundscapes”, It was Christmas time in 2012 I went to visit my friend in the Czech Republic. We were on his car driving the road crossing the border with Austria. I can’t exactly remember the name of
In order to achieve the effects, I use polyurathane liquid foam which is widely used for cushioning and such. The material does so much on its own and I can hardly control the process
Soundscapes 2013 single channel video with stereo
of making. Basically I poured the mixture of foam into the water and recorded the natural process of the material setting. The directness of foam is very unforgiving and I like the properties of the material; brutal growth and accidental occurrence. And then in post production I edited into the sequences you see now.
factors that caused changing forms of my work but I don’t remember exactly what they were. In terms of media, it is all the same to me. I just work with whatever seems appropriate at the time. Can you tell us your biggest influences in experimental cinema and how they have affected your work?
We have watched a huge selection of works presenting different techniques. How has your production processes changed over the years?
It would be easier for me if you ask “Do you like this, this and this?” then I could probably answer “yes or no”. To be honest, I don’t think I can name any at all. There are too many influences that I come across all the time. But I hardly ever think which is bigger than another. If I have to pick one, maybe my wife’s drawings these days. Because I see them everyday obviously.
I was trained as a sculptor in early days of my artistic career but after my BA I started to employ other forms of work. As mentioned above, sound has become the most recent thing I’ve tried. Like I said, basically it was just a continuous exploration. There must have been distinctive
Your film have been screened in internatio-
A still from Womb Work
nal galleries all over the world. What experiences have you had exhibiting in different countries? What is the difference between exhibiting, for example, in Czech Republic and exhibiting in Austria?
installation entitled “The Opening” and also writing a scenario for a new short film that I aim to begin shooting in two months. (Along with occasional freelance money jobs….)
Yes I’ve screened some of my works in few places, but not in the Czech Republic or Austria. They were just locations for shooting. Hopefully one day I will do exhibitions in those countries too. I have only experienced exhibiting in London and Seoul as the exhibitions and screenings in other places I only sent digital versions of my video work. Unfortunately I couldn’t afford to attend all the shows where I exhibited. What’s next for Ingeun Kim? Are there any new projects on the horizon? Recently I’ve been working on a sound
A still from Champ de Mars (Field of Mars)
Milena Michalski Champ de Mars (Field of Mars) is an experimental video, which is concerned with the play of light, colour and sound, and with the contrast between visible and invisible, sonorous and silent, rhythmical and jarring, as well as with what is revealed and what is obscured. It is an abstract piece, in which brief silence and blackness alternate with durational, hypnotic, passages of changing coloured circles and music. In both image and sound, however, there are discordant moments, which draw attention to the form of the film, and contrast with the rhythmical elements. On the surface, the video is a series of playful bursts of pointilliste colour and sound, which work as a kind of poetic interlude, a chance to meditate and be swept along by the sound and image, and what lies between these. The music is Barry Hall’s ‘Terra Zona’, played by the composer and the Burnt Earth Ensemble, on a ‘flowerpotophone’.
Barry Hall mounted these pots with the open ends upwards (forming a series of circles, like the images in the film), on a wooden stand, and played them by striking them, giving the flower pots a new, creative use beyond the traditional one. Like the flower pots, the images also function on multiple layers, as suggested by the title and subtitle. The video is a ‘song’ to the ‘Champ de Mars’ in Paris, from where the world’s first hydrogen-filled balloon was launched in 1783, and which is alluded to by the floating circles. However, Champ de Mars is also an allusion to the Roman God of War, Mars, and the fact that the area was used for military drills, therefore one could also interpret the circles as fighting, not dancing, and calling out in aggression, not singing. To take this idea further, the circles also suggest target points on an invisible map, and even flashes of exploding light, like bombs.
A still from Champ de Mars (Field of Mars)
It is significant that the word ‘champ’ is the French cinematic term for ‘shot’, as in ‘dans le champ’, ‘to be in shot’, and that the coloured circles move in and out of shot. The circles, which suddenly appear, bring to mind films from the beginnings of cinema, shot in 1900 in the Champ de Mars, which are now so old that there are patches where the emulsion has worn away, and on projection these appear on screen as white circles, against the black and white images. Ultimately, ‘Champ de Mars’ is a reflection upon film-making.
An interview with
Milena Michalski Your approach to video-making goes beyond a simple minimalistic style: light, simple geometrical form is approached as a material object, forms are not eidetic but suggest the idea of a body. Could you comment on this aspect of your works? It is perceptive of you to note the suggestion of a body, beyond the initial images. Champ de Mars (Field of Mars) appears, on first viewing, to be a series of playful bursts of pointilliste colour and sound. The video’s subtitle, ‘Chant de Mars’ (‘Song of Mars’), suggests that it can be taken as a musical piece, accompanied by images of non-specific spheres reminiscent of planets, including the ‘red’ Mars. The floating, round colours could also be seen as a celebration of the world’s first hydrogen-filled balloon, which was launched from Champ de Mars in Paris in 1783. It is worth recalling, however, that Mars is the Roman god of war, and the area in Paris was named in allusion to its former use as drilling and marching grounds for the army. So perhaps the circles are not dancing, but fighting, and not singing, but crying out in aggression. Much of my artwork touches upon themes relating to war and war crimes, but treated rather abstractly, and this piece also has echoes of war, not only in the title, but in the use of circles which both seem to mark target points on an invisible map, as if from an aerial view, but also flashes of light which explode out of darkness, like bombs. Although on a literal level, Champ de Mars refers to a specific place, it is neither direct documentary footage, nor a location for narrative fiction; however, it does obliquely reference the Tour Eiffel in the configuration of shapes. This is partly a response to my finding out that there are copyright restrictions in filming the tower when it is illuminated, which seems completely unreasonable to me. So I tried to suggest the body of the tower, in an indirect way. On another level, the film works as a kind of poetic interlude, a chance to meditate and be swept along by the sound and image, and what lies between these. For the film is also a series of silences and black frames, which are interrupt
ed by durational passages of dancing coloured circles of varying dimensions and shades. In this sense the word ‘champ’ applies to the cinematic term for ‘shot’, as in ‘dans le champ’, ‘to be in shot’; the coloured circles move in and out of shot, and the piece is, in many ways, a reflection upon film-making. The circles, which suddenly appear, bring to mind films from the beginnings of cinema, shot in 1900 in the Champ de Mars (with curious passers-by stopping to stare, smile or wave into the camera, as this was such a novelty), which are now so old that there are patches where the emulsion has worn away, and on projection these appear on screen as white circles, against the black and white images. "Grid References II" is an earlier video, showing a sort of analogic touch: could you introduce our readers to this work? Like ‘Champ de Mars’, ‘Grid References II’ is visually concerned with the materiality of the filmed image as a way of obscuring and transforming the specific content, but creating ques-
A still from Grid References II
tions and curiosity in the viewer. ‘Grid References II’ is originally built around images that relate to war crimes, wire fencing of camps and so on, but again in a symbolic and distorted way. The minimal audio consists of voices discussing the effect of images in relation to war crimes in Bosnia and their trials, and the idea that however much information, facts, statistics, ‘objective truth’ you present to people, they will always construct their own narratives to justify their actions and to present things from their own subjective perspective. The images in the film are rather abstract, and can equally be interpreted subjectively, depending on the context. The audio is deliberately jarring, and opens up more questions than it answers. The multiple layers and dimensions are enhanced by the analogic elements combined with the digital: the film contains painting on glass, by hand, Super 8 film, and digital video.
sort of tactile quality of materiality... As you rightly say, the dark grain, which is the result of Super 8 film, and is not digitally applied effects, is used to emphasize the materiality of the piece, just as the low-fi audio
Why have you used a dark grain in this video? We daresay it is not aimed to create a vintage effect, but it seems to convey a
A still from Grid References II
A still from Champ de Mars (Field of Mars)
I first heard it in 1999, but did not use it until 2013. It is composed by Barry Hall and played on a self-made instrument, which is precisely what it sounds like — clay flowerpots. Barry Hall mounted these pots with the open ends upwards (forming a series of circles, like the images in the film), on a wooden stand, and played them by striking them. The underlying idea is that burnt earth, clay, can create music, and people can find musical uses for the most mundane objects, simply through imagination. This echoes my concept of re-appropriating my existing video footage to create something new, vibrant and unrecognisable from the original. Barry found that the music fitted the video rhythmically, and I think it does also conceptually.
is, to create a more immediate and direct, almost haptic experience, to draw the viewer in to the medium. It is vintage in the sense that the camera used to film it is old, and this adds to the timeless nature of what is being spoken about; the hand-pained glass is an even more direct intervention in the film-making process, fragile, tactile, unexpected. Audio has a huge importance in your work. In ‘Champ de Mars’ you have used ‘Terra Zona’ by Barry Hall and the Burnt Earth Ensemble, played on the flowerpotophone. Did you conceive the video with the music in mind? I conceived the video first, then I remembered the music I had heard years earlier and listened to it again, sensing that it would fit. In ‘Champ de Mars’ I have re-appropriated my own video footage, shot over a decade earlier. Re-working old material is an exploration of cinematic editing possibilities, and also of re-assessing memories. The music is therefore also a re-visiting, as
Can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work? This is an enormous question, too much to answer here, but I will mention a few artists that relate to these films. I have always been greatly influenced by all kinds of experimental film, and
Still from Grid References II
In terms of ‘Champ de Mars’, I refer visually to the works of artists such as Oskar Fischinger, who created ‘visual music’ through abstract coloured circles amongst other images, and those such as Norman McLaren, Viktor Eggeling and Len Lye, who played with light, rhythm and colour, in their pioneering pre-digital masterpieces of animation.
art in general, particularly from the 1920s-30s, and then taken up again in the 1960s and beyond. At the moment I am thinking a lot about artists such as El Lissitsky, Rodchenko and Moholy Nagy, who did not separate film and photography and painting so much, but saw all media as different means to expression, which can be combined. I have always sought to use film and photography and material objects, as well as carriers of image, and am very interested in Jonas Mekas’s and Peter Kubelka’s idea that film can be a sculptural object.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Milena. What are your next projects on the horizon? I am about to start a residency at the wonderful Aldeburgh Beach Lookout, in Suffolk in the UK, where I plan to make videos and installations which physically incorporate elements from the landscape around, so ‘on the horizon’ is very apt. I see the lookout as a place for the artist literally to look outside, but also to look within, to contemplate. I will work quite spontaneously and create site-specific work, which is an exciting move in a new direction for me.
This can also be done with video, as many artists are currently installing tiny digital video projectors into their sculptures. I created a 35mm lightbox with a strip of negative photographic film atta-ched, and I see this as a sculptural piece rather than photography. I also created a mixed-media piece, ‘So far’, incorporating two versions of ‘Grid References II’, set in a grid-like frame with 18 still frame prints. This offers various ways of looking at moving and still images from the same source.
A stills from Because of Who I am
Marcella Ernest Native American people live in relation to the ongoing power relations of settler colonialism. Colonialism acts as a primary condition for the development of gender politics and the performance of identity in the United States. Because of Who I Am is an intimate portrait of one womanâ€™s experience with culture, gender, family and expression. Through her story, the film acts as a catalyst for discussion on the historical and ethnographic cases of Native American cultural politics and gender performance.
nation, gender, and sexuality her story offers opportunities for resistance through art. Because of Who I Am is a short film that is part of a series of experimental documentaries. The series is inspired by the photographs W. E. B. Du Bois compiled for the American Negro Exhibit at the 1900 Paris Exposition, the series is an ongoing film project that is working with concepts of â€œthe archiveâ€? through the production of short experimental films that work as intimate portraits of Native American women artists and scholars that reveal the multiple dimensions of identity formation and citizenships that speak to issues of gender, family, memory, and sexuality which deliberately challenge racist representations of Native American women. Because of Who I Am is an experimental documentary created in a stop motion anima-
The narrative is storied through memory, stimulated by family photos. It is the courageous journey of a Native artist, layered with sonic echoes of culture and collaged images of her in dance regalia designated for a man, not a woman. Demonstrating the interdependence of
A stills from Because of Who I am
tion style. It is made with over 1,800 hi-contrast black and white photographs. All of the sound for the film was recorded on the iPhone. The film is an artistic exploration in challenging definitions of sexuality, cultural, and panAmerican gender roles within Native American communities. It is a video piece that also works as an exploration of film genre in creating a nonlinear , still photography animated documentary within the genre of experimental film esthetics. In summary the film is a story illustrated by still photographs of Native American dance regalia and art that animate a young womanâ€™s challenge to become a menâ€™s traditional powwow dancer, opposing notions of what a woman is supposed to be.
perform, the story of a young tribal member who proudly identifies as a woman, but whom prefers to dress and dance in menâ€™s clothing acts as a powerful contradiction. Her story offers a complex analysis of the intricate gender appropriations, and productions around discourses of Native and nonNative gender roles, queer identities and issues of indigeneity and national belonging.
Because Native people have particular gender roles within culture that each is anticipated to
An interview with
Marcella Ernest Experimental documentary is a genre which is gaining popularity today: audience seems more open minded towards nonlinear narration, however the question seems to be more profound: it deals with the importance to not present a unique thinking, to not offer an "incontrovertible truth" to the viewer, and at the same time, exploring social themes with a personal sensibility. What's your view on that?
is in direct opposition to my formal training in documentary production that very clearly defines audience as a primary component to the overall film. In other words, in the pre-production stages, documentary as a genre asks, who is this for? Who are you speaking to? In many ways, this determines the order of narrative and what information needs thorough explanation, and also what the historical foundation of storyline should be. In contrast, the genre of experimental does not ask for anything linear, and often times does not expect a narrative at all. In the fusion of these two unique genres, there is a juxtaposition of aesthetic that has a potential to create important spaces that approach true-life narratives
The framing of this question creates a great definition of â€œexperimental documentaryâ€? as a genre. Thank you for articulating it so well. Audience is always something I consider when creating a new piece. But to merely consider it,
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deeper meaning of Native American culture, specifically Native American women and gender – sexuality – and history.
with affect. In my films I am inspired by that notion of “ incontrovertible truth”, particularly of master narratives that produce representations of Native North American Indigenous people with veracity. From this, the social themes that I explore with personal sensibilities are working heavily with layers of abstract sounds and images to create a space that tells stories. The audience, or viewer, is presented with a collage of emotions which are signified by sound and visual. While many might appreciate and relate to the mixed and non-linear narrative, many will not relate at all – but it is my hope that from those valuable moments of not understanding, one will ask questions and begin to feel the complexities of the stories that the films are created to represent. For me, the genre of experimental documentary allows for a felt analysis, which creates a context for a more complex “telling,” one that illuminates the
Your work Because of Who I Am is focused on Native American communities. How did you come up with the idea for this experimental documentary? Ultimately, the aesthetic and idea for Because of Who I Am is inspired by the multifaceted story of a brave and creative woman, who is also an artist that I really admire. My focus on Native American communities comes from my own mixed race ethnicity whereas I am a member of the Ojibwe Nation on my mother’s side. Because of Who I Am is part of a larger project that is inspired by the photographs W. E. B. Du Bois compiled for the American Negro Exhibit at the 1900 Paris Exposition.
A still from Because of Who I am
on horseback into the golden sunset. Most viewers are familiar with the use of American Indians as referents to the natural landscape. These image appropriations are pervasive, inescapable and inseparably linked as common referents for mass society.
With this project I am working with concepts of “the archive” by producing a series of short experimental films which work as intimate portraits of Native American women artists and scholars to reveal the multiple dimensions of identity formation and citizenships that speak to issues of gender, family, memory, and sexuality which deliberately challenge racist representations of Native American women.
We have become familiar with the visual signifiers of Indianness – the profile of a warrior in a full-feathered bonnet and the sensuous curves of an Indian maiden. The meaning of these icons is so transparent that we fail to recognize the reality of how Native bodies and Native histories are consu-med as objects for the pleasure and entertain-ment of others as artifacts of imperialist nostal-gia.
The idea for the films is motivated by the need for a counter narrative to the inaccurate ideologies of Native American people. The concept of “Indian” is derived from dominant settler discourses and has been articulated with romantic images of a nostalgic past where “Indians” ride
My films work to challenge the formal discourse around these systems that have served to codify the terms and representations of “Indian” into definite and universalized concepts. My commitment to this project is to create a counter-hegemonic visual framework for interrogating dominant discourses of authenticity, processes’ of racialization, and Native American cultural representation.
A still from Crucible
Gender appropriations is a central theme of your work. Could you introduce our readers to this fundamental aspect of Because of Who I Am?
Conceptually, the film explores the place of gender roles within culture while asking people to re-think sexualities and identities as something beyond the constructed binaries of heterosexual and homosexual / traditional and nontraditional/ male and female, and so on.
This explanation is a very basic piece of a much larger and very complicated condition. We are talking about ancient cultures and over 500 years of political histories between Native American tribes and the United States.
Borro-wing from the genre of documentary, in my video art, there is a story that takes place: acknowledgment of actual experiences that illuminate a space for both men and women to speak personal narratives that explore the gendered, and sexual politics of their culture. In doing so, they transform the debilitating force of an old social control, shame, into a social change agent. To put this into a more explanatory context, the piece addresses the historical and social condi-tions that have framed the representations of Native American gender norms —both within
These interdependent relationships are continuing to perpetuate complicated identity struggles and dense socio political issues of belonging. My film, Because of Who I Am, is inspired by per-ceptions of gender and regulations of tradition. Native American people live in relation to the ongoing power relationships of settler colonialism whereas colonialism acts as a primary condition of the development of gender politics and the performance of our own identity.
Indigenous communities specifically, and in relation to the hegemonic culture of the U.S. nation-state more broadly. The story reframes the understanding of heteronormativity and tribal citizenship while also presenting the woman in the film as a creative artist and loving daughter: something much deeper and more complex than how Indigenous women have been portrayed in the mainstream. It is opposing notions of what a Native woman is supposed to be. Hopefully, it inspires the audience to consider thinking about Native American people in a different way and to ask questions; such as the questions you are asking me now. Your works show powerful "social effort". It could seem a specious question, however: in your opinion what role does the artist have in society? The artist provides society with new emotions. The artist creates controversy, provokes imagination and challenges the boundaries of society to achieve a more open world. This role is very important. A recurrent characteristic of many of your artworks is experience as starting point of artistic production: in your opinion, is experience an absolutely necessary part of creative process? In my opinion, I think that the artistic process is predicated on the acceptance that art is an immersive, provocative, and transformative experience. Thanks for sharing your time with us, Marcella. What's next for you? Have you a particular project in mind you would like to share with our readers? Well, I took a yearlong hiatus from film and video art to make a human. I have made an incredibly dangerous daughter with fierce strength, which has proven to be my most profound creation. Of course I will continue with the archive project, and I look forward to working more with the stories of Native American transsexuals who identify as women. Beyond that I also have a fantasy to do a stop motion experimental piece backstage at the
A still from bloodmemory
New York City ballet. So weâ€™ll see. It is an absolute honor to share my work and my thoughts with your readers. I genuinely appreciate the opportunity.
A still from Hanging By A Thread
Catya Plate “Hanging By A Thread” is a stop-motion animated short film completed in July of 2013. I created this 9m55s film in my studio in Brooklyn over the course of a little more than two years. I filmed it with a Panasonic HD camcorder, using AnimatorHD software on a PC to grab the individual frames and assemble them into sequences at 24 frames per second.
The objective of their mission is to collect the aimlessly floating body parts and reassemble them to create a new breed of human being. This new human, called 'Homey' or Homo fragmenti creatus (latin for ‘human made of parts’), may be better suited for the conditions of the future and less detrimental to the global environment.
This is the first in a trilogy of animated short films, introducing the peculiar two-headed anthropomorphic clothespins who may save our future. These characters, called “Clothespin Freaks”, live in a post-apocalyptic environment in which the human race has fallen to pieces.
The “Clothespin Freak”, a two-headed figure made of a clear clothespin and sewn pieces, is a character that I invented in 2003 in a series of drawings. Since then, the “Clothespin Freak” has evolved and made appearances in my sculptures, paintings and films.
In this fantastic and hilarious tale, three “Clothespin Freaks”, called Brain Grabber, Pelvis Catcher and Foot Licker, are guided by Alma and Hitch (two “vulkeets”, a cross between a vulture and a parakeet), and a clay model, Pinki, to complete a mission.
The idea behind the invention of the “Clothespin Freak” was to create, in a serio-comic way, a new mythology that would serve as a coping mechanism in our angst-ridden times where everything and everybody seems to be “hanging
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by a thread” more than ever before.
one’s imagination in a chaotic and mystifying world.
Living in a world that is obsessed with technology and immortality, I have always felt the urge to produce work that reclaims the use of once feminized materials and focuses on the small and the unassuming. “Hanging By A Thread” realizes this philosophy with clothespins, thread and fabric. Through the adventures of the four-eyed “Clothespin Freak”, I present an alternate universe that is constantly changing and growing. The universe of “Hanging By A Thread” is literally out of this world; its varied symbols and subtexts are metaphors for the increasingly multicultural, multilingual, shape-shifting, and surreal world of today.
Using the “four-eyed” Clothespin Freak as my surrogate and alter ego in “Hanging By A Thread”, I aim to enlighten and entertain the viewer while emphasizing the importance of
An interview with
Catya Plate Catya Plate, born in Barcelona, Spain, is a New York City-based artist working in painting, drawing, sculpture and film. Raised in Germany, she attended the Werkkunstschule, Köln, before coming to New York in 1987 through a Fulbright Scholarship for Fine Arts. She has been exhibiting regularly and internationally since the mid-1980's and her work can be found in many public and private collections worldwide, including the Brooklyn Museum and the Museum of Modern Art Library in New York City. In 1996 she received an Artist in the Marketplace award from the Bronx Museum of the Arts and in 2008 her work was selected for permanent inclusion in the Art Base of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum. In 2009, she created Clothespin Freak Productions to bring her “Clothespin Freaks” characters to life through award-winning stop-mo-
tion animation short films. In 2012, her animated short short film, "The Reading", was awarded Best Animated Film at the Seattle True Independent Film Festival and received an Outstanding Achievement Award for Experimental Film at the Williamsburg Interna-tional Film Festival. “Hanging By A Thread”, her most recent short film, had its World Premiere in September at the 13th Annual Nevada City Film Festival in California where it won the Jury Prize for BEST ANIMATED SHORT. “Hanging By A Thread” continues its rounds in the film festival circuit with an official selection at the Oscar-qualifying 22nd Annual St. Louis International Film Festival, MO,(November 1424, 2013), the StopTrik International Film Festival (October 25-27, 2013) in Niepolomice, Poland and the 19th Annual Cucalorus Film Festival in Wilmington, NC.
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analogue for the human body itself. Emphasizing the small and unassuming things in our normal lives, rather than the technological advances which have come to dominate our lives, I started to create the 78 "Clothespin Tarot" drawings, each of which centers on a specifically-made clothespin figure and an environment with manifestations of the original Tarot card implications.
We have found that the two-headed anthropomorphic clothespins of your trilogy have an unattended great ironic potential. You created these figures in a series of drawings more than ten years ago. Could you tell us something about the birth, and obviously the evolution of these characters? I have always felt the urge to produce work that reclaims the use of once-feminized materials, like thread, fabric, and clothespins. Before I invented the "Clothespin Freaks", I was working on projects in which clothespins transcend their original function by relating to the human body. Some of these projects were circular figurative drawings of bare male and female models with actual wooden clothespins attached to their bodies ("Clothespin Mandala") and circular acrylic paintings of a woman affixing clothespins to her body ("Clothespins Are a Girl's Best Friend"). These projects dealt with the phenomenon of human body modifications and raised questions of identity and sexuality.
Witnessing the "Clothespin Freaks" slowly coming to life through their first adventure in these Tarot drawings, I realized that these small, freakishly funny-looking "Clothespin Freaks", made of clear clothespins, sewn body parts and dolls' body parts, had many more adventures ahead of them. In fact, I felt that being at the center of a new mythology would give them the potential to comment on our angst-ridden times in a serio-comic way. I was eager to find out how the "Clothespin Freak" would evolve and transform in a different media. How would its appearance and evolution in a particular medium influence the previous and/or the next one? Based on the drawings, I produced a limited edition, 87-page
The pivotal moment causing me to create the actual "Clothespin Freak" character was when I started to look at the small clothespin as an
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"Clothespin Tarot Artist Book" in which written serio-comic advice is delivered to the reader by the two-headed Clothespin Freaks. Following the artist book, I created sculptures ("Clothespin Freak Cloning Sculptures") which are made of many individual Clothespin Freak figures connected by their open brains stitched onto fabric in specific patterns to remark on congenital anomalies and genetic manipulation like human cloning. Then, I made a series of narrative paintings with acrylic and my blood ("Button in the Garden of Earthly Delights") in which the "Clothespin Freaks" are depicted in a futuristic and verdant environment next to my dog, 'Button', where humans merely exist in fragments.
in the paintings, as well as in embroidered portraits ("Clothespin Freaks Portrait Gallery") made of fabric, thread and polyester fiber.
Eventually, the "Clothespin Tarot" drawings and artist's book paved the way to the first stopmotion animated film, "The Reading". My second film, "Hanging By A Thread", is influenced by the verdant surroundings depicted in the paintings of "Button in the Garden of Earthly Delights". Each of the "Clothespin Freaks" (Brain Grabber, Pelvis Catcher, Foot Licker) featured in this short film has already appeared
Stop-motion is a very hard technique: you have to work frame by frame, setting minimal lighting changes, and so on: how long does it usually take to finish a piece?
The "Clothespin Freaks" keep evolving and their universe keeps expanding as I create more stopmotion animated films, drawings, sculptures, and paintings, etc. The stories that I am able to tell through these surrogates are endless through a variety of media and materials. In upcoming films and projects the 'freaks' universe will expand not only with them but also with new characters. The Homeys, vulkeets and Pinki, the clay model, are just a few of these new additions hat have already made their appearance in this short film.
Yes, it is a very hard technique that requires, among many other things, a lot of patience. It also helps if you have an obsessive-compulsive personality and if you love very detailed-oriented
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king with stop motion, have a pure cinematographic vision: just think of Borowczyk's cinema and his attention to close-ups and details, which is typical of animators. What's your view on that?
work. Needless to say, I fit both characteristics. I never thought of myself as being particularly patient but now, having completed two awardwinning stop-motion animated films and working enthusiastically on the next, I realize that I must be extremely patient. I guess I am totally hooked! I embrace this medium because, although it is the hardest thing I have ever done, it also is the most gratifying and challenging, allowing me to realize my artistic vision. "The Reading" (2010), my first stop-motion short film, took me 15 months to complete and is 22 minutes long. It took me two years and three months to finish my most recent piece, "Hanging By A Thread" (2013), which is just under 10 minutes long.
Hybrids created from different genres are always most interesting to me, one example being animation and documentary films. Despite advancements with computer animation, I find that there is much potential in stop-motion animation particularly when you arrive at it from the visual arts. I have been a sculptor, painter, mixed media artist, etc., all my life. Although I have always felt most inspired by film and filmmakers, I did not branch out to stop-motion animation and film simply because I wanted to try out a new medium. I got to it because throughout the course of development of my diverse visual art creations, I became compelled to give the "Clothespin Freaks" a voice of their own. For me, there was undoubtedly no better medium with which to accomplish this, than with stopmotion animation and film.
We find the relationships between animators and filmmakers really interesting. While these two categories seemed to be separate in the past, nowadays the potential of animation and even graphic novel is not underrated, finally. We have ever appreciated the contamination between these creative worlds, and we believe that animators, in particular artists wor-
A still from Hanging By A Thread
ristic landscapes depicted in the paintings as well as the actual "Freaks" in them. So, without being consciously aware of it, these paintings had become story boards that led to "Hanging By A Thread", the first in a trilogy plus an upcoming feature.
I really admire Jan Svankmajer's work. He is a surrealist filmmaker from Prague who combines stop-motion animation with live action and who is also an accomplished artist. His films inspired my first film, "The Reading", where I combined live action and stop motion as a metaphor for "going down the rabbithole".
In your statement you say " I aim to enlighten and entertain the viewer while emphasizing the importance of oneâ€™s imagination in a chaotic and mystifying world." Could you comment on this sentence? Your production is very miscellaneous: how has your production processes changed over the years?
Could you tell us a particular episode who has helped the birth of this video, or simply an epiphany, a sudden illumination? Even while I was shooting my first stop-motion animated short "The Reading", I thought of what my next film with the "Clothespin Freaks" could be like. "The Reading" ends with one whimsical "Clothespin Freak" leaving its alternate reality to enter ours. This was significant because it indicated that there were more adventures with the "Clothespin Freaks" on the horizon.
We live in the Age of Information. Therefore, we are constantly bombarded with new facts and stimuli. It is wonderful to be able to receive knowledge all the time but it is also very overwhelming and confusing. How can we possibly make sense of it all and not get lost in the chaos? In order to make some sort of sense of one's existence in all of this, I believe that we need to trust our inner voices more than ever before. We have to find that little spark in us.
In "The Reading" I had used as a backdrop some of my paintings from the series, "Button In The Garden of Earthly Delights". At some point during the filming I realized that it would be very intriguing to bring to life these lush, futu-
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What are your next projects on the horizon?
For me that spark is imagination. It allows me to create a personal 'language' with which I can express my inner thoughts and feelings on difficult topics in a humorous and playful way. Through my work I hope to instill confidence in other people to rely more on their imagination as well.
Thank you very much! I thoroughly appreciated the thoughtful questions you posed. There is a lot on the horizon for me. I am currently working on the second animated short in the trilogy, called "Meeting McGuffin". After that I will work on the last of the trilogy (title still to be determined) and then onward to the creation of the stop-motion animated feature film,
My production processes are idea-driven. I like to challenge myself and push the envelope. When I start a particular project I always think of what media and materials convey its meaning best. Trusting my instincts in this process, I have over the years created small and large paintings, installations, interactive works, objects, sculptures, sewn pieces, artist books and animated films. But there is a common thread that runs through all of my works. As I develop new ideas and projects I will keep going back and forth between these media and materials but each time with hopefully new insight and new expressions. It is an adventure and I try to stay open in the process.
"Hanging By A Thread -- The Beginning". That should keep me busy for a while.
Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts with us, Catya.
A still from Blind Hands
Aleksandra Acic Presentation of the very layer of existence inevitably links us to a corporeality of Being. Encounters of such notions in Visual Arts make a challenging array of attitudes and interdisciplinary viewpoints. Contemporary Video Art carries instances of social and identity politics, of responsibilities and diverse range of commonly affirmative topics in the senses, fascinations and troubles of everyday instability. There are, however, examples that make a core of the inner relation to everlasting questions. They come from a domain that are trustworthy of their generic structure, of media characteristics, as well as the meaningful detection of its particles. Built from a personal painterly experience and senses of pictorial composition, Aleksandra AciÄ‡ video 'Blind Hands' belong to such example of a thorough and clear perceptual examining. It embarks on a visual journey carrying its formal
elements in a meta-narrative dynamism. Throughout the duration of 4 minutes 14 seconds, the imagery displays an elusive nature of physical bodily presence, identities, of otherness and the senses of touch. Screen surface is a darkened platform to the viewerâ€™s gaze, where an oblique strategy in procedures of physicality, of chance changes and pulsating depictions vary in its dimension and spatial sense. Vitalism on the brink of otherness might well be a key notion of Aleksandra AciÄ‡ video lenses and treated modulation of the presence of body and bodies in their engaging nudity.
There is an emerging form as interpretation of Life, a structural phase in understanding of perception, thoroughly examined by German Artist and Scholar Adolf Von Hildebrandt. Such vantage points of experienced form made verification to many Modernist experiments in Arts
holding all sorts of visual perception and understanding of an observed unity and foreseen particles, as well as theepidermal layer of a nude Body. These movements suggested not just a mere artistic training in observation and natural shadings of painting and drawings experience of organized movement. Suggestive and even ritual motion of palms of the hand on the body and fingerprints touch dynamism as a reminder on the civilized nature of an ancient habit.
ductory example of a biomimetic approach of tactile perception focused on the fine texture of female skin and elegantly lit backside. Haptic devices are a shadowy presence that enriches a composite of 'Blind Hands' as a psychological and signifying microgenesis of perceptual awareness. Possibly, this selection of pictorial bodily nude joins the ancient tradition and a direct readable stance as a biomimesis of significant layers. As to the nature of moving images of video, it assembled a resemblance and resonance of time lapse of skin as a light of human bodies. Optics have never had a longer, deeper reach: “We transform the manner in which interval, context and repetition interact in our articulation of pictures. We change the proportions, the emphasis and the expectations.” The realm of the double pervades. It transfers the gaze and the touch as a notably sensual and subliminal perspective.
Possibly, this layering inside video run makes an improvement of neglected haptic information, a neglected language and a psychodynamic relevance of the sense of remembering. This was on the brink of theoretical affirmation of Hildebrandt's treatise inside mythical and neoclassic scope of artistic ideals of his times. Moreover, such depiction of human body announced a spatial and contextual belonging where the video holds a realm of sensual flow. The layers of touch might recall an arabesque, or references into historical postures in Art. This setting, both in the syntax of poetry and stories is the result of developments and a breach into a hidden world. Historical reference that can evoke a Symbolist period might lead to a conclusion of integral experience of presented format, in genres and disciplines.
Video haunts a new portal of meaning that follows an experience to the depth of an unconscious level. This direction proves Dr Freud's observation of an entire perception of physicality and corporeality of exterior world: model of a subconscious makes a process of seeing always as obtaining a ‘double.’ Production of ruptures, of feelings, of sighs and maybe tears and gaps in the video works in the tension. They expand a visual syntax as a slippage between Woman as representation, as the object and the encounter of transformation in time. That is leading to a definition of this essence of bodily existence. Its exposure became the archetypal or “mother temporality” common to all photography of subjects of living presence, but moreover in the timings and speed of certain images in art film and video.
Haptic perception makes a discoverable platform proposed by Mikhail Epstein as genuine, artistic and soulful 'humanistic metadiscipline'. The senses developed throughout the run of a video depict nude figures turned backwards to a viewer. Their corporeal textures are revealing only in a seminal and mythopoetic position, a coil- likestate of restrained consciousness in dreamscape of disposition in a careful silence. Muteness evolves in a silent concentration where picture dominance exemplifies a depiction of secrecy throughout the screen. In these edited pace of gradual processing morphing and painterly shadows, three is a gentle and powerful twist: an intro
Crossings of erotic borders of duality of existence and fascination of 'Other', is what Aleksandra Acic video does. It holds a revelation where artwork invigorates our perceptive notions and our conscious knowledge.
Nikola Suica University of Arts Belgrade Faculty of Fine Arts Nikola Suica, PhD
A still from Blind Hands
An interview with
Aleksandra Acic 'Blind Hands' is not conceived using metaphoric approach, but adopting a sort of performative research. When did you get the idea for this work? Idea to use a body as a screen is linked to the previous art project Inscription of Shadow. In this project the Body was treated as inscriptive surface. I made drawings on translucent paper and captured their shadows dropped on the skin. Among them there is one drawing that I believe led me toward creating Blind Hands. It was a hand of my family member that had recently passed away and it was titled Touch of Vanished. This may refer to imaginary touch that recalls personal memory. While video Blind Hands expresses the sense of touch as basic and fundamental human need for contact in current digitized era. Surrounded by primarily visual contents of screen media, we are immersed in digital lifestyle and technologically driven communication. Influence of digital culture upon human experience, perception and subjectivity can`t be underestimated. We are engaged, but nevertheless passive. We are connected, but an uneasiness of isolation is present. Therefore, in this video, I made a twist and placed human bodies to be passive objects, while exploring subjects are `digital` hands. They caress, seduce within repetitive and mechanical behavior.
artist and director Romeo Castellucci, who in a recent interview has spoken of the "blinded and circular nature of the spectator's gaze". Could you introduce our readers to this concept so important in your art? Since this is a matter of perception, I would like to present Merleau-Ponty`s phenomenon of double sensation in terms of vision. Double sensation refers to the sense of touch. When one hand is touching the other, we experience both "touching" and "being touched". We do not experience this quite simultaneously, but rather in the constant oscillation between two modes. We either feel one hand touching the other as an object, or we feel subjectively one hand being touched by the other. This is a structure of reversibility, where subject and object are mutually intertwining.
Your daily experience is very important for your artist practise and thinking, Aleksandra: could you explain this aspect? Daily experience is not the main key. I would rather say that particular intense and unique experiences which deeply mark our very existence and are imprinted onto the subjectivity, carry the potential as the main core of creativity. These experiences are the foundations where the creative process begins, but it is further formed and upgraded by the knowledge we receive trough perception, observation and analysis of the actuality. About your art, Nikola Suica say "Screen surface is a darkened platform to the viewerâ€™s gaze". We are really interested in this concept, which remind us of the Italian
The notion of reversibility transferred to the eyesight would imply that to see, is also, to be seen. For Merleau-Ponty, the notion of reversibility is the archetype for all subject/object relations. From this point of view, reversible structures define nature of the relation between perceiver and perceived, in the case of video art, between spectator and moving ima-ges. Circularity of the gaze can be understood within this theory.
Since I was particularly interested in the tactile
A still from Blind Hands
cuts. I believed that it would be more engaging to create a single and uninterrupted flow that carries the spectator`s gaze from the close-up frame of a nude figure at the beginning to the empty darkened space at the end.
qualities of visual images, union between vision and touch was especially significant for me. There are two modes of vision: haptic-close vision and optical-distant vision. Term haptic is often used interchangeably with tactile. These opposite poles of vision can be understood trough statement: we drive a car with optical vision and perceive the lovers skin with tactile eye. I wanted this video to be a sort of tactile tryst, where spectators dwell themselves between the experience of touching the bodies on the screen, and the position of being touched by the body of an image. Gaze, understood in the terms of tactile eye, is a carrier of the sense of touch.
Who among international artists influenced your work? Some of the artists I have admired the most are Anish Kapoor, Bill Viola, Iv Klein, Georgia O`Kefee. Apparent, even deceptive simplicity emanating from their work is the main quality I am drawn to. Their art is silent but the energy it emits is loud. As I used to sing in a choir, it was than I have learned that performing the lightest pianissimo requires the most disciplined and controlled inner strength. Video pieces of Bill Viola always lead me to this state where the volume is turned to the minimum but every sound and tone of visual language is received as intense and powerful.
What kind of technology have you used in producing Blind Hands? First, I photographed hands and used morphing technique to create slightly artificial movement. I used photo morphing software Abrosoft FantaMorph to produce animations of the hands in motion. Then, I projected these animations on the human bodies. I shot them separately, one body at the time on the green screen. I used Adobe After Effects to integrate the footage. I composited footage as 3D layers, since the use of 3D camera in After Effect provides every kind of movement: pan, tilt, dolly or truck movement. This ability was very grateful for producing a video as a long take, since I wanted to avoid
I must say that I prefer to discuss about the particular art pieces, rather than the artist in general, since the intimate pieces of art are of the greater importance for me. For instance, if I think of Anish Kapoor it is My body your body I find the most relevant. If I think of Georgia O`Keefe paintings it would be the Pelvis cycle I consider the most sensual but fragile in its feminine beauty. The Dreamers is the piece of
A still from Blind Hands
mature Bill Viola that gather the essence of all of his earlier works which can be defined as a fluid inter space between birth and death. Since I am an educated painter, but now I work in the field of video art I would like to present one more art pieces that I find the most relevant for this particular theme. This is Gina Czarnecki`s video Nascent. Nascent is defined as something that is just beginning, it is coming into existence. This piece is made of bodies in motion. These are the bodies of nude ballet dancers.
Images of bodies are digitally processed to the level of deformed traces and echoes of motion but they are still recognizable. In the range of vanishing and becoming, the presence of the body emerges from the passages of their appearing and disappearing. This is a video of haptic imaginary in full sense. These particular kind of affection-images invite the viewer to bring their own resources of memory and imagination to complete them. They do not pull the viewer into narrative or invite identification with figures, rather they encourage a bodily response and emotional contemplation.
A still from Blind Hands
Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new project? There is no specific schema I could present. But, since I have already given the insight on the genesis of this video, the first answer could be helpful for this question, I believe. In general, body and space has always been subject matter in my art. I develop ideas continually.
In methodological terms, I`ve always preferred non-narrative visual language and reduced forms. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Aleksandra. what are your next projects?
I go back and forth and play. But when some particular event, whether it is personal experience, line from a book or anything that remarkably impresses me, becomes a sort of trigger, then I can see the whole picture crystal clear.
Thank you for presenting video Blind Hands. Currently, there are two projects I am working on. One of them is Carillon. I used to paint sound of bells. Now, I use 3D software techno-
logy to link sound and the image. I want to transmit the sound waves into visual and spatial means. The other is Flowing River project. And it is a sort of emotional flow and intimate testimony, built upon presence and absence of the body.
Neon made from a photograph of the moon_GregPenn2013
Greg Penn ‘Lumps of Destiny’ Go into the question of what love is End belief, hope and fear Attend with heart and mind Die to everything you know Go beyond the word and seeing Question everything Die to everything of yesterday Reject inward authority More than an occasional spark of joy Not impose on anyone or anything Don’t go where it’s familiar You are a receptacle for happiness Present in all things Calm over chaos A flash in an empty mind Subtle feelings Tranquility Stop without stopping
Not above nature or this world The end of thought Beauty stillness and quiet No need for theory The composite and dissoluble nature of things Everything becoming something else The world need not be thus, the world need not be at all Not to banish delight Sudden awareness No facts can explain Just below the surface No need to go anywhere No mental content Blur all distinctions and boundaries Feel with the whole body not just the mind No separation in light and self A dreamless sleep Composed of rhythm Withdraw from things and never leave
Still III_Die before you die_GregPenn2014 The empty space Inner silence Away from physical form Life beyond form Sound and silence Nothing without space The depth of stillness No eye, no I Harness and direct A subtle space What we don’t see Eradicate viewpoint In a constant A collapse of object and subject Done with facts Not a perception of thought Beyond all experience An onlooker and outsider Outside the movement of time and thought Dissolving of the screen Dissolving of memory Dissolving of knowledge Dissolving of experience Uninterested in mere visuality Difference and sameness The whole complete problem of living Alertness Don���t miss the beauty Let go of needing to understand An awakening that is deeper than thought Watch the inner world Don’t react Not to obscure the aliveness in life The eternal present Beyond the limited confines of the mind End the dilution of time
Past and future fogs what is present Use mind wisely Find self by coming into the present A transformative agent Deal with past on level of presence Attention to present behavior End the psychological mind Die to yesterday and tomorrow I’m only partially listening Not in the moment All attention in the now An entirely new state of consciousness Beyond appearance of reality and construction of meaning in images Beyond the known Beyond entertainment and spectacle Beyond trauma and tragedy The silent witness to all our experiences Regulate body and mind through breath Cultivate habit Consciousness alone assumes shapes and objects Harmony and rhythm Clarify ones thoughts for observation Control intellect and free flow of psychological forces Fixation of total attention Free of material conditions and self orientated sensations Beyond mind and speech Unity Core of all life Enter the sphere of the unseen Quality of rhythm The beauty of the work of art is not inherent in form, material or technique.
An interview with
Greg Penn Your video works realized in 2013, from "It's all too beautiful" to "Field recordings" present a common approach to video making. What's the main idea of this series? The main idea of this series is the engagement of sound. I always start with a walk and explore environments through sound and then invariably end up with something abstract. The sights and sounds I engage are not constructed through thought and concept, they are instead a lot to do with being present. Over many years I have developed a way of working that cancels out the noise of thought, this ensures I get as close to a full experience in my walking and in my final work. The video work "It's all too beautiful" was developed and proposed for an exhibition in Melbourne. This particular work deals with the experience of sound resonating off concrete. It connects with my experiences of living in different cities and the nature of shape and surface. I have connected some of the sounds here in Melbourne to specific sounds at nighttime in London. I used to walk in the City of London at night enjoying the absolute quiet of the streets. It is a very unusual place, one square mile by one square mile with its own dedicated police force. After I have explored sound through a walk I then take the sounds and break them down. What memory may have existed gets completely combined within the moment. By the time the work is finished nothing about memory exists. I am interested in those quiet moments that take you from the known and familiar to the unknown and unfamiliar. I spent a lot of time in 2013 researching repetition and rhythm. In a book by Henri Lefebvre called Rhythmanalysis there is a quote I always like to refer to. Maybe the only thing that hints at a sense of time is rhythm; not the recurrent beats of the rhythm but the gap between two such beats, the grey gap between two black beats: the Tender Interval. The regular throb itself merely brings back the miserable idea of 70
measurement, but in between, something like true Time lurks. (Nabokov, Ada, or Ador, p.572.Ermarth, Sequel to History, p.45 cites all but the last sentence.) So, to sum up, in the series of works made in 2013 I have attempted to go beyond mere visuality and often ended up with a series of abstract works that aim toward a sense of presence. Letâ€™s speak about influences. We can recognize a bit of Mondrian in your composition and balance. Have other artists influenced your work? Many artists, from many areas in the arts and from various different countries influence my work. The Canadian/American late abstract artist Agnes Martinâ€™s work has been a fascinating discovery. I have been drawn to her complete understanding of the meaning of happi-ness. She was influenced by Zen Buddhism saying; "One thing I like about Zen," she wrote. "It doesn't believe in achievement. I don't think the way to succeed is by doing something aggressive. Aggression is weak-minded."
Still II_Quick art_GregPenn2013
have also been drawn to the work of English artist Simon Payne. When I think of single works I think of the work of Steina & Woody Vasulka, ‘Noise fields’, 1974 and the work on Malcolm Le Grice’s ‘Berlin Horse’, 1970.
She was truly in the pursuit of happiness and by all accounts, I think she found it. I often reflect on Martin’s work when I hit challenging points in my own practice. She reminds me of another influence outside of contemporary art, the Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti and his very abrupt but honest manner when speaking about the mind and consciousness.
After my undergraduate I began to like the works of both Patrick Heron and Howard Hodgkin. I found both artists work very exciting. Experiences like this (outside of photography and video making) definitely helped to push my imagery confidently into abstraction. It helped to loosen my own thoughts on the appearance of reality and construction of meaning in images.
Martin’s interest in consciousness is something I have been particularly drawn toward. Both the clear mind of Martin and Krishnamurti strike a chord with me. Krishnamurti’s personal realization spoke of a truth that cannot be reached by any path, religion or sect. It’s similar to Martin’s pursuit it is all about a self-discovery, casting aside past conditioning and not letting thought clutter perception. This is going beyond a mind that communicates to itself. This is where all movement of thought is made utterly still. Another influence aside from Martin, is the work of American artist William Basinski. I like the way in which he wants to turn off everything. I like the way that sound can turn off everything. There is a timeless nature to his work, which definitely speaks toward my appreciation of no beginnings and no ends. I
I feel that my methodology draws parallels to that of the work of Martin Creed. Specifically works like no. 850 I like the way the work alters the nature of space and viewers experience. The work is based on an experience that Creed had while visiting some catacombs with friends. The story goes that they only had five minutes before closing. It wasn’t possible for them to come back so they decided run around to see as much as they could in the five minutes before closing. The experience inspired work no.850, which has a series of people who run a sort of relay through a space often a museum.
Photograph_Title_Yellow Red Stripes_Series_When I fall into silence_GregPenn2014
of this rare festival event. It was a strange experience to begin with to have a video run for 1.34 minutes in a cinema. It was a huge cinema screen, which can be extremely intimidating. Suddenly, you are confronted with this real time atmosphere; you can’t help but want to sink into your chair a little bit. After this experience I went home and tuned into ikono online to see my work live in a completely different format it was quite a transition from cinema to online broadcast.
It’s a bizarre piece altering the nature of the space and the viewer’s experience really well. What do you think it would have happened if op-artists of the 60's had the possibility to use digital media available today? This is a very interesting question but prior, to this question being asked I have never associated my work to Op Art as my influences don’t come from there. This is probably due to my background being photographic and photography contributing very little to Op Art.
When you combine works by artists who have been producing video for many years like Bill Viola or using video in their practices like Anthony McCall, Hans Schabus or Ori Gersht and younger artists like Ma Qiusha and then put unknown names like myself along side, it becomes immensely rewarding. The broadcast was a 24/7 live streaming through ikonoTVlivestream (online) and this network covers ikono TV worldwide (IPTV, SmartTV), ikonoTV Livestream and ikono MENASA (Satelite, IPTV) covering the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia.
Your work "Quick art" has been screened at the ikono On Air Festival in Berlin. However, "screened" is not exact term for this event: Ikono is one of the rare festivals in the world, which broadcast diffusion in several countries around the world. How do you consider this recent experience? I have to thank the people at CHANNELS Video Art Festival in Melbourne for putting my work forward. I was able to have this unique opportunity to see my work “Quick art” projected on the big screen at ACMI (The Australian Centre for the Moving Image). I was then invited from this experience to have the work broadcast on ikonoTVlivestream (online) as part
What is so rewarding now though after the event is that the video work Quick art has become an ongoing partner with ikono. So at anytime this video may be aired as part of the
Still I_Lumps of Destiny_GregPenn2013
galleries I came across, Ricco Maresca specialized in Outsider and Crossover Art. I was struck by the rawness and complete energy in a lot art they showed. I was completely unaware that what I was looking at was Vernacular Art. I found that this particular outsider art challenged me and left a distinctive mark much the same way you would expect from any good art that is created by an artist with formal training.
ongoing schedule of video works and artworks being broadcast 24/7 (online). You have formal training, and you have studied in Melbourne and Film and Photography at the University of Wales: how much training influences art? I would have to say 50/50; education gave me a unique opportunity to learn from practicing artists and absorb their experiences. It is such a unique opportunity to be able to practice art in the confines of an institution. Facilities like studios and digital labs etc. are expensive facilities outside of the institution. Having access to such facilities allowed me to build up a portfolio and exhibit my work soon after graduation. Between my undergraduate in Film and Photography and my Postgraduate studies and following Masters, I had time to develop and get some real world experience. I really believe this was very important for me to grow and develop my own practice and mind. I was able to look at art in the US, London and India first hand before coming to settle in Melbourne and embarking on my Masters. While exploring art galleries in Chelsea, New York, you wander from one gallery to the next and enjoy just getting lost in art. One of the
The Hayward Gallery in London had a complete exhibition dedicated to Outsider Art last year and ofcourse the Venice biennale showed both Outsider and Contemporary Art together. People will have different views on formal training but, for me, mixing life experience with study is very important. Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new project?
My creative process involves harnessing and directing light and sound. When I begin a work I begin a walk. At the moment I am enjoying the world through sound. I have always been very aware of light through my interest in photo-graphy so this goes back many years. Combing these two is a relatively new process for me.
I really have to concentrate on unseen space and be open to the unknown with sound. I am always keen to go beyond mere visuality so sound has been an important aspect in my recent work that is continually strengthening my perception. I would say my creative process is a bit of a patchwork that gets filtered over time. I explore sound; I break it down until I am happy. During this time I have ideas for visuals that will go with the work. As well as current material from my walks, I have built up quite an archive of sounds and visuals from projects over the last few years that have been shelved. I enjoy recycling and re-exploring work from these past projects. Walking can be a really hard process, as I tend to walk and walk until I get to a point of feeling absolute bliss pour over me. I want to get into a fluent state of mind whereby everyday happiness and feeling alive becomes a commonplace experience and then I want this to be experienced in my video work. One thing I often use in my creative process is a saying that you are only as good as your last image. I use this saying when I hit a hurdle. I simply remember to look at my last work and go from there. What are your upcoming projects, Greg? My work Quick art is being screened at a rooftop cinema in the City of Melbourne as part of a big show that is happening in Melbourne at the moment titled Melbourne Now. I have not planned too far ahead this year. I have an idea for a piece of work that am currently figuring out that involves the spatial and architectural aspects of sound from four vantage points in the city of Melbourne. By not planning my projects too far ahead I am able to be open, I like to just open the door and just see where my mind and body goes.
Butcher Rules Stills from The body of Others
Joseph Medaglia I am primarily interested in how identity is made visible and represented through ideological systems that are both productive and repressive in constituting subjects. The representation of LGBTQ people and communities is particularly interesting since sexuality is fluid and a publicly invisible quality, which brings into question how a shifting and non-visible attribute manifests as a stable and coherent visible identity, presented though the body. Visibility and representation holds many personal and political benefits for LGBTQ people but there are problems in establishing this as a collective goal.
tions between normal and Other. In addition, the visibility of coherent identities may prompt practices of surveillance and paradoxically limit the range of identities a subject might draw from. My artistic practice engages with the dynamic space between such forces and interrogates the tensions between visibility, representation, embodiment, gender, sexuality, and identity. My work operates at the juncture of artistic practice and academic theory. I am interested in actively engaging theory and research with creative endeavors that challenge ways of doing, seeing, and knowingâ€”ultimately blurring the boundaries between traditional scholarly approaches and conventional artistic practice. When creating video, I explore experimental methods and engage with chance and the unknown. I use the camera and screen as part of the imagemaking process rather than as a lens or frame onto a scene. I make visible the editing process in a modernist tradition, drawing attention to the
Representation cannot accurately represent the real and often hides as much as it portrays. The representation of others often involves stereotypical portrayals that are meant to be representative of an entire group. As LGBTQ people are represented in the public sphere and mainstream media, there is risk of reproducing dominant ideologies, such as gender binaries and distinc-
artifice of image-making. I do not predetermine a final outcome but rather establish the parameters, assert the camera into the space, and then assemble parts of the recorded footage into random sequences. I then evaluate the sequences in considering aesthetic and conceptual frameworks. The result is often a surprise and shifts the trajectory of my work into new, unexpected directions.
project titled Embracing the Monster: Engaging the Limits of Sexuality, Representation and Embodied Subjectivity that includes elements of costume, interactive media, and performance. The monster is a symbol throughout history that embodies the anxieties, fears and desires of a culture or society. LGBTQ identity, through its difference from heteronormative identities, has frequently been constructed as monstrous and represented as Other. In this project, I used the symbol of the monster to embrace the freedom of remaining independent from the tyranny of the normal. I created an interactive monster costume from wool, fur and electronics that becomes active in response to video, either live or pre-composed.
The body of Others (2013, 5:40) The body of Others, is an experimental video that engages the tensions between sexuality, identity, visibility, representation and the body, as it relates to queer subjectivity. The video asserts a dynamic relationship between queer subjectivity and the representation of queer identities presented through ideological systems of representation, as performed by the queer body. The video questions the boundaries and distinctions between the visible/invisible, personal/political, private/public, body/technology, human/animal, interior/exterior and normal/other. The body of Others presents a body that is unstable and drifts over itself into space. The body fuses with the unknown and becomes an amalgam of skin, flesh, fur, textiles and light. New, indeterminate forms move in and out of darkness, in response to reverberating and stark sounds, to establish a fluid embodied space. We are left to question the coherence of bodies, identities and sexualities.
As a person wears the costume, they are monitored by a video feed. The costume is then activated by the image of itself, illuminating the body and in turn activates the costume further. A separate camera records the performance and the footage is used towards a final video, the body of Others. This project is supported by a Ryerson University Creative Fund Grant. The overall project, Embracing the Monster, has been presented at the Sexuality Studies Association meeting at the Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences in Victoria, Canada. The body of Others has been shown at MIX26 NYC, the New York Queer Experimental Film Festival and at the Twisted group exhibition at the Project Gallery in Toronto, Canada.
The body of Others, is an outcome of a larger
An interview with
Joseph Medaglia The contrast between "Personal" and "political", seen through a contemporary sensibility, is a fundamental aspect of you art. Could you introduce our readers to your vision of such concepts? My consideration of the personal and political extends from Judith Butler’s ideas in her essay Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory. Butler discusses that the distinction between the personal and political, or the private and public, are fictions that support the status quo and hegemonic forces. Butler considers how the personal is shaped by dominant ideologies and social conventions. In considering the body, Butler suggests that political forces bind the body by markers of sex and that the body becomes its gender through a series of acts which are “renewed, revised, and consolidated through time.” I am interested in the body is a site where ideologies and systems of oppression are imposed and experienced in a very personal way. My work attempts to occupy the dynamic, oppressive and productive relationship between the personal and political, in particular the pervasive constructed binaries associated with gender and sexuality. The artwork produced is a result of engaging with the space between boundaries.
Joseph Medaglia is a Canadian artist, filmmaker and scholar. His creative work and research explore the relationship between representation, identity, and the body; in particular as it relates to LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer) subjects. His artistic practices vary and include experimental video, costume, handicrafts and robotics. He is an Assistant Professor at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada and teaches courses in film, visual communication design, interactive media, and studio practice. He has a Bachelor of Fine Art in Visual Art and a Master of Art in Communication and Culture.
Besides your research focused on the relationship between representation, identity, and the body, we are impressed by the painterly quality of "The body of Others": the surface of skin present a materic approach, like in Francis Bacon's painting, toward a "logic of sensation", to quote Gilles Deleuze...
able to experience an embodied engagement with the film, by identifying with the images of the body and through the physical sensations offered by the use of light and sound.
In addition to the symbolic, when working with film and video I aim to use light and sound to instigate embodied sensations. In the body of Others, the skin acts as a mediator between the body and space, from the interior to the exterior, or the personal to the political. The skin combines with textiles, light, and space to confront the viewer with an artwork that is open and incomplete. It is my goal that the viewer is
Who among international artists influenced your work and vision of art? While studying visual art in university, I was
A still from The body of Others
graduate studies. The MA in Communication and Culture put academic theory and research at the forefront and provided greater social, cultural, economic and political perspectives to art and making. My current creative work is an amalgam of personal experience, artistic practice and academic theory.
drawn to artists that focused on the body and its mutations or manifestations. Artists such as Francis Bacon, Matthew Barney and Attila Richard Lukacs formed the foundation of my current creative practice. Kenneth Angerâ€™s work and approaches to film have influenced my video work and ideas of film and cinema. Anger considers the projection of his films as ceremonies capable of invoking spiritual forces and having the ability to extend into the subjective experiences of individuals. In addition to visual artists, I am influenced my writers such as Gertrude Stein, Monique Wittig and Jean Genet.
Whatâ€™s next for Joseph Medaglia? Are there any new projects on the horizon? Yes, I am working on several projects that extend on some of the ideas and approaches from the body of Others. The projects engage concepts of sexuality and the body and use experimental methods in the development of moving images and editing.
You have formal training, a Bachelor of Fine Art in Visual Art and a Master of Art in Communication and Culture: how much training influences art?
In particular, I am working with robotics and computer software that interprets cultural items (such as popular love songs, sound from horror film, and coming-of-age novels) to produce new experimental video and physical artifacts.
My education has greatly influenced my art. My studies in Visual Art exposed me to ideas and artistic practices that I may not have encountered otherwise. I was introduced to artists that produced work that resonated with my life and experiences. The BFA also provided a foundation for developing artistic practice influenced by theory, an approach I was able to continue with in my
A still from Death Drive
Liz Rodda In his essay, â€œBeyond the Pleasure Principle,â€? Freud describes death drive as a force that makes us behave in ways that counter Darwinian self preservation. Death Drive consists of two YouTube videos shown side-byside. On the left is a car driving smoothly through the Grand Canyon. On the right, a driverless car is stuck in reverse and circles continuously. The accompanying audio, sampled from a warped LP, suggests both decay and ceaseless repetition.
An interview with
Liz Rodda Freud's essay Beyond the Pleasure Principle has been revalued by artists and critics in the last decades, just think of the french philosopher Gilles Deleuze and the Italian director Carmelo Bene. When did you get in touch with this text for the first time? I think I was first introduced to the essay through watching Slavoj Zizek’s YouTube series, “Zizek on Death Drive,” a few years ago. It’s fascinating to me that the ideas presented in this text continue to be the subject of so much debate and interpretation.
Apart from Freud's influence, how did you come up with the idea for this work?
that seeks pleasure from the repetition of disturbing experiences. The audio echoes these ideas as well.
Actually, the piece started with the video footage- the idea to connect it to Freud’s essay came later. I started thinking about the car as a symbol of independence and escape as depicted in classic American books and movies. The video of the car stuck in reverse seems to subvert this sense of freedom- man is at the whim of the technology he created. The car is literally driving itself in circles and creating a spectacle that the community participates in.
The sequence from youtube, once looped, get a cinematographic touch: it reminds us the final scene of Toby Dammit, the underrated masterpiece by Federico Fellini. How did you select the video fragments? What criteria have you used? More in general, even though your art couldn't be defined as found-footage, where do your materials come from, and how do you go about putting them together?
I think Freud’s concept of repetition compulsion, the phenomenon in which a person repeats a traumatic event, is interesting to think about in this context.
I hadn’t seen Toby Dammit until you mentioned it, but I love it as a reference!
The minimalistic and conceptual nature of your video is evident, however, watching your video art production we had the impression that there's a subtle irony: in your opinion is this just an impression?
In terms of my process, I spend an embarrassing amount of time watching YouTube videos. I tend to start with one video and then consider how I can alter the meaning by placing it in the context of another video. In general, I’m interested in the possibilities presented when placing two images side by side. There is an invitation to compare and the opportunity for one image to comment on another image.
That’s a good question. My original goal wasn’t to be ironic, but simply to illustrate seemingly opposing states of mind. The two videos seem to represent the two kinds of pleasure Freud describes in the essay: one that seeks harmonious balance and the other
Stills from Death Drive
What’s next for Liz Rodda? Are there any new projects on the horizon? I’m sure there will be more video diptychs, but I’ve been thinking about going back to using my own footage to get more control over the formal aesthetics. Other than that, I am trying out some new sculptural projects that involve mashing together divergent cultural ephemera and lifestyle tropes to reference a new kind of spiritualism.
A still from Ecstatic Gardens into Dissemblamation
Todd Jurgess Since its birth, the cinema has been preternaturally obsessed with two terms: nature and industry. We can see it everywhere: from Ozu to Murnau to Brakhage through to Jacqueline Goss, Daïchi Saïto, and Greta Snider. In many ways, this state of affairs makes perfect sense. The cinema’s specificity is partly based on its application of natural materials made into animated photograms through an industrial apparatus. Historically, photography and cine-ma emerged in the midst of the romanticist revival and the industrial revolution, twin, divi-sive influences uneasily contained in cinema’s wavering between technophobic pessimism and illuminative positivist tendency.
industrial era, the digital apparatus is based in an abstract, seemingly space-less area of quantifiable information. This non-space seems to reject any representative capacity, as the layers of (nonsensible) code could go on ad-infinitum. Secondly and more importantly, though, the relation between the digital and the “real,” phenomenal world has yet to be figured out. In the 20s, people like Walter Benjamin and Siegfriend Kracauer saw in the mechanical illusion of cinema a correlate for industrial processes and the chaos of urban space. What would this visual equivalent for the digital be? Is there any relation between the very irreal space of algorithmic information and that of “the wind in the trees?”
Yet, 100-some-odd years later, we find ourselves looking at a new apparatus with its own term, a third term for the cinema: digital information. As some scholars have noted, digital info poses new problems to representation. First and foremost, how can you depict it? Unlike the classic apparatus, which could find its equal in the production lines, motors, gears and pulleys of the
Ecstatic Gardens into Dissemblamation” explores these three terms and tries to put into images the emerging relationship between them. As I made the project, I really wanted to work against a dominant paradigm of DV in both the film industry and much independent work, which treat DV, whether high-def or whatever, as a kind of transparent intermediary for the world. That is to
A still from Ecstatic Gardens into Dissemblamation
rather than just treating DV like I would film or whatever other imaging medium, I wanted to come up with a formal pattern that would allow the specific properties of DV to emerge. I ended up, then, with a beginning that mixes the natural and industrial in a variety of ways, some of them particular to video (chroma and luma keying, in particular) and some of them part and parcel of filmmaking since its beginnings (split screens, screen masks, etc.). With that in mind, I only allowed the image to remain untouched twice, near the end of the video. In both, however, a lack of light or compositional manipulation occludes most of the frame, leading into the digital stars that end the piece. About those stars: for this project, I introduced some glitched digital materials to shot material that was then intermixed via chromakeying and some simple, frame-by-frame animation. This strategy seems to me to get past some of the issues with glitch-work but perhaps doesn’t go far enough. You see, the problem with glitch-work is that the glitch so often gets used as a symbol of a machine’s failure, a failure that then shows its essence. So, in general, the glitch ends up being, “This machine usually works this way that’s associated with ergonomics and making cash, but I’m gonna divert it and make it work this other way or, perhaps, make it not work at all.” The problem with that gesture is that the second you start manhandling the material, you’ve already instrumentalized it as a machine and have thus
negated the glitch’s value as a chance, entropic event (in that sense, a malfunctioning DVD is better than an overproduced video). In any case, I wanted to mobilize glitched material in order to introduce it to the world rather than to glitch up the world that’s imaged. I wanted to use glitched DV in order to show how it and the world sit side-by-side and, later, in each other. In the end, this living-in of digital replaces the other terms in the equation, a situation that I think we can feel hopeful and ecstatic about, rather than apprehensive or fearful. With all of this in mind, I hope the video ends up being like a garden, a physical space for contemplative transformation. Because, after all, the digital often seems threatening. Most of what’s written about the devices we use in our everyday lives is either naively utopian (the digital will save our lives, we’ll all live in the cloud, etc. etc.) or naïvely technophobic (the iPod is ruining the public space on the bus, Youtube’s ruining attention spans, that kind of thing). Instead, I wanted to tend a garden of sorts to show how these different rows of image-sense sit next to and within each other. In doing so, I hope the blurred lines of the digital interfaces follow the viewer in her travels, bringing the speed and agility of the foreign, algorithmic space to cultivate new world pictures that are foreign to but nevertheless involved with the real space of nature, architecture, and physical machinery.
An interview with
Todd Jurgess "Ecstatic Gardens into Dissemblamation" is not only an astonishing work under a visual point of view, but it represents an effort to renew the concept itself of "shooting format", Todd's original use of glitched DV is at the same a political and esthetic matter. Todd, could introduce our readers to your vision of DV? Simply put, DV's one of our most common tools for representation now, along with digital still imaging and typographic/literate forms. So far as its politics are concerned, it seems to me the biggest problem facing DV is that many of its users could care less about its properties as a shooting medium. That is to say, they treat it like they'd treat film: as a transparent intermediary between the world and the image. Part of the reason why, I suspect, is that DV remains so unaccessible in its materiality. You can't exactly open up the hood of a Red Scarlet, and manipulating video at the level of its source code (a common method of glitching) is a rather inexact process. The glitch then becomes a way to bring out the insides of DV, to expose its process as a translation from code to light.
ting than photography, and I think that once you start using digital color correction (esp. in some of the more streamlined programs), it can feel that way. But I think that the more productive gestures in terms of glitched imagery come when they interact with a profilmic milieu, with the movement of the camera and the surface of the world itself. I've begun exploring that in some newer works that use HDV's increased depth of field to do some three-dimensional impressionist works.
With that said, we need to remain skeptical about how these things get mobilized because any form is readily accessible to easy mobilization. Can we really talk about the glitch being worthwhile when the guy who made Slumdog Millionaire's using it in a Hollywood thriller? We need to be especially wary, I'd say, with claims that the glitch shows us the contingency within the digital image. It's true, we'll all agree, that if we're watching a digital file of a film that starts glitching that we're seeing a kind of emergent digital presence, but once you start coaxing it, it ceases to be an accident.
But even outside of experimental production, we occasionally see some interesting ways that DV takes on a shifty, painterly effect on photographic images. There's a weird supernatural presence in the middle of this really great American movie called Toad Road that they represent with DV, but it's not supposed to be digital.
Glitched DV in your work present rare painterly and gestural qualities. In your opinion, what are the potential of this kind of research? Well, there have been plenty of thoughts on digital cinema that say it's more in line with pain-
Diegetically, it's supposed to be some-thing in the world revealing itself to these kids on LSD, so the glitch there becomes about making the landscape trail off like shapes do when one trips, but there's a nice coincidence between those movements being made with the same material stuff as the photographic images (sharing, as they do, a base in code)
A still from Ecstatic Gardens into Dissemblamation
showing that these glitches possess unique tactile qualities. Sure, you can't physically touch the thing, but that fuzziness has a material as well (as do the tracking lines of videotape).
What do you think about out-of-practise analog shooting format like Super 8? Many artists of the last decades have used analog format since the preferred to work on the materic surface of film..
How did you come up with the idea for this work?
Definitely, Tess Takahashi has a really great article where she talks about filmmakers like Greta Snider who are doing genius things with the materiality of film stock, exposing it without a camera and with the elements. And this kind of practice, of course, has a long-standing tradition within the avant-garde stretching all the way back to Man Ray and people like that. I get the value of materiality. Gainesville, the city I live and work in, has a really vibrant avant-garde scene and the best experimental festival in the SE USA, and once you're seeing works by Jodie Mack and Da誰chi Sa誰to and Tomonari Nishikawa on a regular basis, you appreciate that no HD transfer can get that materiality across in quite the same way. But at the same time, I don't think it'd be wise to claim that DV has no materiality, that its base in code somehow occludes it from maintaining a material presence. I think that what people like Evan Meaney and Takeshi Murata are doing is
Oddly enough, this project was largely the process of thinking about Antonioni's work, in particular his transition from the deep-focus cinematography of L'Avventura, La Notte, and L'Eclisse to the painterly abstractions in Red Desert. There's a sense that in the previous three, he's trying to make a case for the natural
A still from Ecstatic Gardens into Dissemblamation
over the architectural (esp. in L'Eclisse, where Monica Vitti spends half of the movie looking longingly at boughs blowing softly in the wind). By the time he gets to industrial Ravenna in Red Desert, though, he feels like he has to get crazy to properly communicate how this landscape works, what effects it has on the human mind. So that got me thinking about this dichotomy between the industrial and natural that's in film-cinema's DNA and has been a concern of all the great auteurs (from Murnau to Ozu to Antonioni to Tarkovsky to Dumont), and made me wonder how and where DV sits in that relation, what place it has against, say, leaves of grass and diecast metal. I couldn't really figure out many good ways to translate that to an affordable narrative film (those who have dealt with it, like Jia Zhangke or Gaspar NoĂŠ in Enter the Void or Carlos Reygadas in Post Tenebras Lux, have a bit more cash to realize these things), so I decided to perform it in a looser non-narrative form. It might be worth mentioning as well that the project was conceived and produced in a video production course taught by Roger Beebe, whose comments, along with my friends in the seminar, helped form the project and its concerns. How has your production processes changed over the years? Oh gee, I'm such an amateur that I'm not sure I have a 'production process.' I did pick up some really good tips for manipulating DV during a workshop held by Evan Meaney that have helped diversify what I do with glitched material. I did work with chromakeying more aggressively in this project than I had before as well.
A still from Naturesong #1
Whatâ€™s next for Todd Jurgess? Are there any new projects on the horizon? I have three new videos that relate to "Ecstatic Gardens" that I'm calling "Naturesongs." They're all single-take, HDV pieces that use various means (off-syncing the camera shutter, glitching, etc.) to bring the process of digital capture and encoding/decoding to bear on what's being shot. I'm working on getting those into some festivals here in the US at present. I'm also hard at work on my dissertation at the University of Florida, which attempts to put these ideas into a phenomenological framework to show how cinema's responding to a digital cultural milieu.