12th Edition STIGMART 10.PRESS
From experimental cinema to fashion videography, fourteen 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 3000 applicants have submitted their video works and CV in 2014 - 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 courageous documentary. Stigmart10 Team
"In Her Dreams is a video work showing us the quasi-trance oneiric act of the ritual of a veiled Venus desiring to go away from the world which surrounds her, from the constant pressures which are imposed on her. A woman with the sensual voluptuous body, composing a dream, in order to not to see any more nor to hear the reality which reigns outside. "
The greatest, most challenging response anyone’s had to this work was someone who said she knew it was supposed to be boring. At first I thought she was wrong, that I’d been misinterpreted. I thought I’d something unattended in the work to have someone find it boring. I felt as if I’d failed.
Minna Rainio and Mark Roberts
"The Factory of the World presents a series of static, photographic-style video images from a small town and empty former electronics factory in northern Finland. The images are juxtaposed with audio narration about conditions experienced by workers in electronics manufacturing factories in China. "
”Eastern Europe is in turmoil, as demonstrated by recent events in Ukraine. Protests against government corruption that have continued already for a year in Bulgaria have little media attention. Although Bulgaria has been a member of the EU since 2007, living conditions have not changed as expected, at least not for ordinary citizens.
"When a whale shark washes ashore in Karachi, Pakistan, it appears for seconds on the news. When several news segments are combined in the work Dimensions of a Fish, the violent and perverse mechanisms of this spectacle emerge, and the organizational principles of the city’s economy and socio political structures are revealed. "
"The search for meaning through the idea of the National Stadium is converted into a fantasy with the fall of the great ideologies of the 20th century. In a globalized word predicated on neoliberal ideology, in which the corporations are those that forge through new territory, the old search has been pushed back staged and left without resonance or meaning, leaving a space where romance and nostalgia find their grip. "
"In moments of downtime, I find myself performing spiritless and stale activities. After some time, I notice the curious quality of my doings and record them. The vulnerability and anxiety I can experience in these moments is mitigated through an absurd repurposing of found and everyday objects such as balloons and aqua gems. "
"In 'Disturbdance' a young woman is blocking two armed soldiers from firing at protesters in a Palestinian village. The image, picked up from a TV news report found online, is digitally processed and slowed down, and the soundtrack is replaced with lyrical music. "
"From the start I used to be fascinated by art works with hidden messages. I always estimated art works that works like a puzzle or a crosswords without showing a clear picture or meaning at the end. What i mean is i wanted an art work or it´s author not to underestimate my abilities. So i felt in love with authors like Jorge Luis Borges, José Lezama Lima, Dylan Thomas and James Joyce, the great modernist writers. "
"José Simoes's talent as director shows itself in the balance the act of narration: the narrative never interruptsthe continuity of the gaze. In Mechanics speaks to me he explore notions of identity, portraiture and the social value of both art and the media through the refined portrait of Adriano, a man who has devoted his life to analogue photography. "
"My practice explores the act of looking back at history, the fragmentary nature of memory and the repetitious nature of forgetting. These themes are explored through a labour intensive, research driven process of categorising which culminates in work that interrogates the reliability of historical interpretation. "
Eduardo Flores Abad
"K-Manifest is a video version of the composition with the same title for video, electroacustic and live interaction. It was composed as part of the project "Klang und bewegte visuelle Kunst" in Hannover, Germany. The letter K stands for German words such as Kunst (art), Klang (sound), Kantate (cantata), etc. Software: Pure Data with GEM and Csound "
The trivialization of the human experience, the cult of superficiality disguised as ephemeral glory, the role of ordinary people as stars, the exhibition of privacy and its high degree of spectacle are part of the imaginary of TV reality or programs belonging to the genre called "Game Show" which are reproduced as commodities in the global community. "
Natalie Goldman The past and future are obliterated and obscured through speed and perpetual movement, allowing the traveler to stay focused on the very immediate present as the landscape tumbles and unfolds itself, one image into the next. Lucy Lippard, when writing about walking as a form of meditation, describes that, “motion allows a certain type of mental freedom that translates a place to a person kinesthetically."
Mozhgan Erfani Statement of In Her Dreams video art single channel, 11: 43 by Mozhgan Erfani
her. A woman with the sensual voluptuous body, composing a dream, in order to not to see any more nor to hear the reality which reigns outside. She leaves voluntarily the reality for consoling ideal likeness, as if she was taking a break.
In Her Dreams is a video work showing us the quasi-trance oneiric act of the ritual of a veiled Venus desiring to go away from the world which surrounds her, from the constant pressures which are imposed on
The spectator, this voyeuristic witness, enters the intimacy debarred and the eroticism of this young woman fantasizing the freedom.
In Her Dreams is another form of scripture and plastic art of the dream. Eroticism and plasticity of the dream are combined in this work which awake the curiosity by its screensâ€™s game. The close-up and the obscure atmosphere lead us away to a sensation of suffocation. Through folds and transparency of the veil which envelops the young woman, progressively, we can guess the prohibited body, the source of sins. The sound of
breath and the ambiguity of the movements take us in an imaginary eroticism. In Her Dreams presents us the paradox, the crossing between two worlds, the intimacy transition the truth in to the ideal likeness, an imagined voyage towards liberty.
An interview with
Mozhgan Erfani In her quest to explore her ongoing themes Mozhgan Erfani produces something hypnotic and memorable with her piece In Her Dreams: since the first scenes the viewer is not asked to meditate on the action in progress decrypting a series of hidden symbols, but to follow the logic of sensation. We are pleased to present Mozhgan Erfani for this year's Videofocus Edition. Mozhgan, how did you get into filmmaking? I have always been attracted to art. Indeed, becoming an artist was a childhood dream for me. I started my artistic career by drawing, painting, pottery , calligraphy , illumination and theater in my home country, Iran .Arriving in France, I experienced other forms of artistic expressions which fascinated me. I started with ephemeral installations then I continued with performance art and finally I found my way in video art. What attracted me a lot in the video art, is this wide possibility of integrating several mediums at the same time, gathering and structuring for better transmission of concepts and feelings to the spectators. So, I’ve become completely a passionate of this art which enables me to use images, movements, sound and special effects in a mastered space-time. We want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: how did you come up with the idea for In Her Dreams? Being curious and attracted for a very long time by the concept of Marcel Duchamp's ready made entitled Air de Paris, I had the idea of making a work, speaking about Air of Liberty, which belongs nowhere, neither the air of a city, nor the air of a country. The Air of Liberty which contains not only nostalgia, but also a universal vital need. In brief, it is essential to life.
In Her Dreams was conceived and selected for the collective exposure organized with the Doctoral Academy of Arts and Sciences of Arts at the Sorbonne University and JeanCollet gallery in Vitry sur Seine with the common theme of « Sleep Figures ». At first, I did research on this subject and especially on the dream, and then I began to think about my scenario. The dream, as a part of our sleep, is the representation of the objects that occupy our thoughts and our spirit. Human beings have always been interested in the links between dreams, reality and conscious activity. According to some psychologists, the content of dreams can vary depending on the subjects’ religion and beliefs. As per Freud, «
A still from In Her Dreams
dreams can be the realization of our unconscious desires. Âť Socrates defined dream as a place where shameful desires and longings repressed during the day are expressed and satisfied. The message of a dream can sometimes contain the base of a constructive internal dialogue. Some people find a method of self-blossoming via the observation of their own dreams. So my idea of Air de LibertĂŠ perfectly fit in my scenario and I ended realizing In Her Dreams. You compose the film through a series of free-association exercises that are as rigorous as they were radical: any image
that could be attribuited to a remembrance or a specific cultural source is rejected. Drama is stripped down to its essential elements to introduce space, gaps and temps mort, in which the viewer project his own emotions. Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new project? For a new project, I always take time for reflection and research on the subject, meanwhile keeping in mind my essential elements,one kind of signature. I look for a concept which associates my own issues to the topic requested. An amalgam of my multiple cultures and life experiences from the Middle-east and Europe at the same time.
Then I put every effort to realize the project as I had imagined. These images live constantly in my spirit. It sometimes happens that for lack of budget or equipment, I have to find another alternative, a frequent challenge that I like to face. In your cinema the fantastic and the absurd are rendered in clear, precise images, reminding us of Cronenberg's early films. How did you develop your visual style? I do not feel directly influenced by well known directors, or less known ones. The common point between In Her Dreams and Cronenbergâ€™s early films, can come from our common interest for some French philosophers and our vision on human body and its repressed impulses, the real and the virtual . When I want to complete a project , I do not think especially about my favorite directors nor a visual style that I like about an artist. What is important for me, is to convey successfully the desired feelings to the viewer, by the perspective and movement of the images and the sound. Of course I am indirectly influenced by images already absorbed since my childhood. But my visual style depends on each topic. I have at first images that are created in my imagination, and then I try to know how I can realize them. What was the most challenging thing about making this film? The location being close to a hospital, there were frequently helicopters which were flying just over us. So the sound was disrupted by every passage of helicopter and we had to start all over again. Finally we have had an impeccable sound only on the second day of shooting. But between two shootings, I had to wait and it seemed endless to me. I searched a lot to find the actress that suited for this project. But unfortunately she went on a journey between two shootings. As I film in a single-sequence shot , the third challenge was the synchronization between
A still from In Her Dreams
the auto -focus camera in motion, the fluidity of the movements of the camera , the sharpness of the sound and the perfect
performance of the actress. All these
By definition cinema is rhythm and
parameters had to be in perfect harmony.
movement, gesture and continuity. In your film you create a time-based work
A still from In Her Dreams
that allow the viewer to abandon himself to his associations. How do you conceive the rhythm of your works? Rhythm is essential in my work , a mastered space-time which allows me to create an atmosphere of stress, calm, anxiety, boredom , annoyance, paradox and many other feelings. The rhythm is one of the reasons which attracted me towards filmmaker's career. I may use the different rhythms,have a very fast rhythm or very
slow, progressive or regressive , monotonous or variable. The rhythm in my work changes according to the concept and the message of the theme. The rhythm and the effect which I looked for to communicate with the spectators in In Her Dreams is to take them in a state of trance. Your art is rich of references. We have previously mentioned David Cronenberg,
that the video art is a work of full creation which reflects the thought and the philosophy of the author-director . The video art is intended for a restricted public who are looking for a reflection and for a philosophy in the work, who tries to be questioning in his/her turn by his own consciousness affected by the work. I am very subtle and discreet in my works , I do not like to reveal everything . In In Her Dreams the spectator discovers progressively the mystery which becomes visible in a very slowly way. Then we have the surprise of the end and the other surprises and the symbols which remain to discover by looking more. This subtlety in my work comes from the Persian literature and the poetry with which I grew up, in particular Hâfez and Khayyâm. Some people find a resemblance between my committed creation works and the documentaries of the great cineast and documentary filmmaker Krzysztof Kiéslowski. Indeed, I accentuate the effects by editing, by the sound and the angle of the shooting to suggest the nonrepresented in society. As references of contemporary artists whom I appreciate a lot, I can quote Mounir Fatmi, Cindy Sherman, ORLAN, Louise Bourgeois, Bill Viola and Jafar Panahi. Thanks for sharing your time, Mozhgan , we wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for you? Have you a particular film in mind?
however your visual imagery seems to be closer to Robert Bresson's close-up cinematography . Can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work? It is a great honor for me to be considered close to Robert Bresson and David Cronenberg. It is true that as Bresson I use cinematic method to create and not at all to relax nor to have fun. What exactly distinguishes video art and popular cinema is
Thank you for having taken the time to interview me and for your nice wish. Yes, indeed, I have several projects going on, some in the course of research and others in the course of editing. You will know about my new creations via my website, mozhganerfani.com.
* - A performative rant for camera. Curl - A performance for camera on Chicago's North Shore, in front of Lake Michigan. An interpretation, reaction, and resistance to an assigned verb: to curl.
An interview with
Emerson Sigman Since the first time we have watched Curl, we have appreciated its performative nature, and at the same time the simplicity of its visual style. How did you come up with the idea for this work? The greatest, most challenging response anyone’s had to this work was someone who said she knew it was supposed to be boring. At first I thought she was wrong, that I’d been misinterpreted. I thought I’d left something unattended in the work to have someone find it boring. I felt as if I’d failed. What’s really the case is that my interests differ from my audience’s interests. I was excited by Curl from the start. But the thing about me is that I’m thrilled by anti-
theatre and alienation, whereas most others seem to resist these notions. I make art for myself, as a means of progressing my being. Curl serves as documentation that I have lived and changed in this moment in time. I don’t have to entertain, I simply have to be. This idea has also been done before. It’s not anything I’ve come up with. Other performances have involved chopping away at hair. Everyone has had a haircut. Each time I perform an action, it is something that has been done before. What makes it different is my body, in a particular space and time, and the way the work is documented.
In your video we can recognize a simple at the same time masterly work of editing:in particular we have noticed the way you use jump cut. How did you develop your style? I wouldn’t say I have a style. I have ideas, and then I make something from my ideas. Each element will be in service of that concept. It’s something you refer to as simplicity, but I look at as necessity. There’s no method of editing except for what an idea requires. In this particular work, I knew I’d be cutting my own words out from the start. Following this concept informs the way I perform for the camera.
After making this video, I’ve since seen footage of celebrities or politicians edited just to hear their breathing in a similar manner. I find this divisive. It’s a question of ethics, to manipulate what others are saying through the edit, either making a laugh of them or condemning them. I’m reminded of an early episode of The Simpsons, “Homer Badman.” Homer is interviewed by the local news station after being charged with sexual assault. They edit his defensive answers with jump cuts to form incriminating sentences. Though there will always be editorializing, there is a responsibility to the power of editing. I take the responsibility to edit myself and be aware that I am doing so.
Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new project? It’s different for every work I create. I see many things in my life that I want to keep. I want to carry them around and let them fester until the ideas become a part of me. To take you through my process, I’d have to let you spend a lifetime in my head. I watch detective movies. Gritty crime films, particularly from the 70s, are what I love lately. Any kind of puzzling narrative that requires some mental tinkering hits my gut. But there’s a meditative quality to these works too. The protagonist has to solve something dire, with life or death consequences. And it’s so great when an action sequence comes around, because the heroes use their bodies to work through it. When I look at the world, I’m reminded of these films. I’m figuring out the world around me to solve something and then fighting through with my flesh. The stakes are life or death. Do you think art’s purpose is simply to provide a platform for an artist’s expression? Do you think that art could change people's behavior? Art doesn’t have a purpose. The meaning of the word art is ‘to make with skill.’ So an artist is someone who makes anything. And here again you mention simplicity. Simple once again seems to undercut the necessity of making.
If something is simple, it’s because it is onefold. There’s nothing about art which is onefold. I’ve been depressed and static at times in my life, overburdened by a fighting family and the anxieties of major life changes. The revelation of making is enough to motivate me into active being. Makers aren’t limited to curated content. Anyone who makes anything is an artist. I make a living for myself. Do I make it with skill? I’m always trying harder to. So my life is art.
Art is not just an agent of change but transformation itself. Art does not have a purpose, art is purpose. Art doesn’t change people’s behavior, it is people’s behavior. How do you live? Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts with us, Emerson. What's next for Emerson Sigman? What are your next projects on the horizon? I’m on Instagram @autoselfies. I’m always making. My next
performances will be durational and endurance-based. I’m making work less for the camera and more for public, accidental audiences. I’m also documenting work for other makers of performance to help get their work seen.
Minna Rainio An artist's statement
The Factory of the World presents a series of static, photographic-style video images from a small town and empty former electronics factory in northern Finland. The factory was closed in 2003 when the production was moved to Shenzhen, China. The images are juxtaposed
with audio narration about conditions experienced by workers in electronics manufacturing factories in China. The work draws a connection between the workers in the small town in Finland and in the city of Shenzen, which is inhabited by 15 million people. While these places are geographically distant and culturally distinct, the lives and destinies of
these people are connected in the global networks of commerce and capitalism. The Factory of the World is part of a series of research-based artworks that address questions of climate change and global inequality. It looks at the connections between climate change, politics, and economy, and examines their consequences on human destinies and
ecosystems around the world. The series of works suggests that we are witnessing a significant moment of social and civilizational change, and shows how, through our daily habits and choices of consumption, we are positioned at the center of these changes, and complicit in their effects. Daniel CortĂŠs
An interview with
Minna Rainio and Mark Roberts Minna Rainio and Mark Roberts's experimental cinema moves beyond notions of theatricality and into the realm of real experience. For them the embrace of the imagination have specific political implications: Minna and Mark make their own deeply personal films that often use specific locations as inspiration for political and philosophical inquires. At first, these images progress moment by moment, pause by pause, apparently without any deliberate narrative thrust. Yet they convey a purely subjetive, yet modernist, sensibility where the form conveys its meaning directly. We are glad to present for for this year's Videofocus Edition their video work The Factory of the World. Minna and Mark, we want to take a closer look at the genesis of your experimental film: how did you come up with the idea for The Factory of the World? As with much of our work, the original idea came from a news report about working conditions in Chinese electronics factories, and specifically a series of worker suicides at Foxconn factories where parts are manufactured predominantly for large Western techno-corporations. We are interested in finding ways to show the connections that exist between seemingly unconnected places, spaces, and people. Around the same time that we heard about the Chinese factory conditions, the collapse of Nokia was underway in Finland, and there were other reports about factories closing in Finland because manufacturing had been relocated to Asia, resulting in the loss of jobs here. The economic reasons for closing manufacturing plants in the West are well known, but the social consequences were less talked about. There was a harsh irony to be found between the closing of factories in Finland and the resulting loss of jobs, and the exploitative and extremely poor working conditions experienced by the new workers in the factories in China and India â€“ all for the sake of cheap labour, increased profits, and
Minna Rainio and Mark Roberts
Western demand for annually improved technology. When we discovered that there had been a factory in Lapland, not far from where we live, that once manufactured power supplies for Nokia phones, we felt a profound connection between the small town in Lapland, and Shenzhen, a city of 20 million people in China, where many international hi-tech industries manufacture their products (Shenzhen is
sometimes referred to as â€œthe factory of the World"). We wanted to somehow show the effects that this transference of power has had on the people inhabiting a small town in Lapland (which now suffers very high unemployment), and at the same time show how our obsession with the latest gadgets and technology has a direct effect on peopleâ€™s lives in Asia.
In the arsenal of artistic techniques that you use, the succession of static shots is no doubt a fundamental element of you cinematographic language. From the first time we watched The Factory of the World , your use of tableaux reminded us of Tsai Ming Liang's contemplative cinema. How did you develop your shooting and editing style?
The use of what we call “photographic-style video” stems mainly from our education in photography. After graduating from the UK, we became engaged in an ongoing critique of photographic style, in particular the manner of exhibiting photographs in a gallery; the tendency towards huge prints, the costs involved in this, the limitations of the medium in respect of narrative, the reliance on contextualization in the form of texts accompanying photographs. To overcome these issues, we began experimenting with extremely static video – essentially shooting as one might take a photograph: on a tripod, no movement, no panning, and long shots to allow time to contemplate and absorb the image – and combining this approach with some form of narrative which we hoped would both draw in the viewer and convey a message. In some ways it is a very dogmatic approach, and in this sense it lends itself very well to a more documentary-style subject matter, which is why we often subvert the assumed authority that the documentary approach carries with it. We found that by playing with the imaginary space between the image and the narrative, we were able to explore ideas and concepts in a more interesting way. By doing this, we hope to implicate the spectator in the production of meaning; to make them realize that they are a critical part of the work. In the last decade you worked on a series of multi-screen video installations often focusing on people at the margins of society, going beyond the political and ideological sphere in order to find “points of nonculture or underdevelopment, linguistic Third World zones by which a language can escape”, to say it with Deleuze and Guattari. The concept of extraterritoriality and periphery are fundamental in your work: can you introduce our readers to this aspect of your cinema? How did you get started in experimental cinema? The term “experimental cinema” is an interesting one, and one we are not entirely comfortable with. However, it's true that our works have always, to some extent, existed between forms, categorizations, and genres, and the installations in particular can be thought of as intermedial art forms, so in that sense it is fair to call them experimental. But at the same time the visual style we employ is
almost hyper-conventional, and the use of narrative is positively old-fashioned! However, we chose this method with deliberation: by presenting fragmented, ambiguous, ambivalent works with multiple viewpoints we're able to emphasise the complexity of the issues we are dealing with, show the way they are culturally constructed, and implicate the viewer as a participant in the way meaning is created. At the same time, it has always been of vital importance for us that the ideas we are exploring are understood by a broad audience; to create works which are complex, yet accessible. For this reason we tend to eschew more a more radically experimental form for one which can expediently convey meaning. It always seemed interesting to us to mirror power relations in the works and try to create a kind of spatial interplay in which ideas and
concepts bounce off one another and through the viewer. Perhaps, then, it is better to say that we are participating in a form of experimental spatialand social-interplay that happens to involve a cinematic modality. In many ways, we are trying to replicate spatial and social relations in a gallery (or other) context, because that is how power relations are carried out in the real world â€“ and that is where the experimental nature of our work lies. So, to answer the question more directly, we probably started working in this manner because it seemed the most effective way to communicate the multiplicity of ideas and issues we wanted to engage with. Sometimes you have to step outside the frame to see the whole picture.
Can you describe your collaboration? We began working together in university on sequenced photographic projects that explored the inadequacies of the medium, especially in regard to communicating emotion or memory. After moving together to Finland, it was a natural process to continue this collaboration. We share a certain amount of common ground in our artistic and political interests, and ideas for new projects tend to emerge organically in response to situations or events taking place in the world. Also because the projects we work on are typically quite expansive (at least to begin with), require a lot of research, and are fairly large-scale, long-term productions (often lasting one to two years), it is a lot easier to make them as an artistic couple, than individually.
Over the years our individual roles have consolidated somewhat: Minna is finishing her Doctorate and has taken on more of the research side, while Mark has spent more time dealing with the technological side. However, because we work so closely together, we prefer not to clearly define specific roles in productions. Who does what is (or should be) less relevant than the final artwork. Your approach to the documentary formula is deeply ambivalent: on the one hand, you explore social issues, alluding to the style of artists like Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet. On the other, you undermine the trusted value of documentation. Yet this apparent idiosyncrasy is indeed only apparent, just think of your installation trilogy If You
Could See Me Now : your art aims at reawaking in the spectator the awareness of his perception mechanisms and models, rather than offering prefabricated ideas.Do you agree with this interpretation of your work? Absolutely. Interestingly, one of the fundamental barriers we met when starting to produce “Borderlands” – the first work in the trilogy – was with the funding organizations, who found it difficult to fit our work into the clearly defined categories of “art” and “documentary”. The documentary side found us particularly problematic, as we didn't feature a central character, and indeed didn't even show people in the work that much. It has been noted that our works formed part of a “documentary fiction” movement in
small shock –a phrase or comment that hits harder. When combined with the effect of placing the viewer inside the work, this “small shock” is felt more powerfully, and personally, and we hope it leads to the interrogation of the self. We have previously mentioned Tsai Ming Liang, even though your filmmaking style is very far from what is generally considered 'academic'. Who among international artists and directors influenced your work? We have always been interested in artists that explore the idea of a “third space”, where meaning is brought into being in a space between image and text, or between spectator and artwork. Many of the artists we have found to be influential reflect our background in conceptual and theoretical photography. Chris Marker certainly had a significant impact, as did similar artists such as Allan Sekula, Chantal Ackerman, and Joan Fontcuberta. Patrick Keiller’s Robinson films, have had a huge impact both visually and from a subversive narrative aspect, and it’s easy to see that Eija-Liisa Ahtila has influenced our decision to use multi-screen environments as a part of the artwork, and also to include fictive elements. Martha Rosler’s The Bowery in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems was also an important precursor to the idea that neither image nor text are enough to accurately or emotively communicate an idea, and that more can be said using the space that lies between. contemporary art which several artists were exploring, and we feel this is an accurate term (if one is needed) to describe the approach. We have an ambivalent relationship to documentary’s association with “truth”, and part of our intent is to challenge such notions through the use of techniques such as unreliable narration, the mixing of past, present, and future, and contrasting narrative speculation with fact. The result of this is a “problematizing of truth” which we hope leads the spectator to further question the realities we are presenting, and encourage them to come to their own conclusions. And yet, of course, we still have a particular view ourselves. There is a balancing act between getting one’s point across, and allowing a spectator to come to his or her own conclusions. Often we employ a moment of
Can you introduce our readers to your recent videoinstallation How everything turns away? How Everything Turns Away is a part of a larger collection of works, under the umbrella title of Witness, that look more closely at the social, environmental, and political effects of climate change. The idea for Witness arose from a perception that we are collectively experiencing a particular moment of profound change, one so vast and complex that we are unable to fully grasp or comprehend all its multifaceted elements. Certainly climate change is one aspect of this, but the very concept of climate change encompasses so many broader elements, and has such enormous ramifications beyond its results that it is hard to even know where to start discussing it. The origins of climate change share much in common with the foundations of
Western civilisation: industrialization, colonialism, capitalism. However, our consumerist lifestyle – the food we eat, the phones we use, the cars we drive, the computers or devices we read this article on –is embroiled in a complex web of connections and relationships, causes and effects that stretch far beyond the boundaries of Western consumerism, affecting not only the lives of people on the other side of the globe, but ultimately threatening the planet we all share. It is so hard to comprehend, that it becomes easier to turn away, throw our hands in the air and just say, “Well, what can we do?”. The works that comprise Witness, then, are a response to this. It is an attempt to embrace this complexity by focusing on one element at a time and somehow showing the links between seemingly disconnected problems, and the role that we as individuals play. How Everything Turns Away, then, is one part of this broad canvas. It is a three-screen, moving-image installation that shows seascapes from the Arctic Ocean, the Bay of Finland, and the Mediterranean. Over the images, a series of texts appear, presenting scientific information culled mainly from the State of the Ocean report. As the sea hits the shore, wave after wave of scientific facts wash over the viewer, presenting fastidiously collected data, and highlighting the relationship between the choices we make as individuals, the concomitant effects on the ocean (such as ocean acidification, pollution, overfishing), and the knock-on effects this has on the climate. The images of the sea are calming. We are reminded of the sea as a location of relaxation, the scene of our holidays, a place of contemplation – and yet at the same time the location of potentially devastating environmental catastrophe. The soundtrack emphasizes this through the “haunted ballroom” music of The Caretaker, which suggests at the same time a sense of loss, nostalgia, and a certain ambivalence. The title, of course, refers to W.H. Auden’s description of a Breughel’s Icarus in the poem Musée des Beaux Arts: “How everything turns away quite leisurely from the disaster.” (http://english.emory.edu/classes/paintings&po ems/auden.html) In what manner your work as photographer influences your visionary imagery and sensiblity?
We studied photography together at the Surrey Institute of Art & Design in England. As with many photographic degrees in the UK at the time, the nature of course was grounded in theoretical explorations of Marxism, feminism, psychoanalysis, conceptualism, etc. The visual aesthetic was secondary to the concepts forming the basis of the work. The process of questioning everything – what we shoot and why we are shooting it –has been incredibly formative in our visual style, sometimes to the point that it becomes crippling, and we have to overcome the barriers this approach presents.
That said, there is a clear visual style to our work that could be described as being direct and to some extent objective. Of course, objectivity is impossible within the frame of the photograph, but we place a certain emphasis on the mundane and ordinary. The usually overlooked details that a part and parcel of everyday existence. What is interesting is that no matter how hard we might try to film in a kind of “flat”, objective manner, the characteristics of the still-but-stillmoving-image medium lend an inevitable cinematicity to whatever is filmed. Thanks for sharing your time, Mark and Minna, we wish you all the best with your
filmmaker career. What's next for you? Have you a particular film in mind? Thank you for to opportunity to present our work! It’s always enjoyable to discuss our approach and concepts. We are now focusing on expanding the collection of works for Witness. The next production will likely be a continuation of How Everything Turns Away, but looking instead at commerce or the exploitation of the land. We anticipate that this project will keep us busy for several years.
Simo Saarikoski An artist's statement
â€?Eastern Europe is in turmoil, as demonstrated by recent events in Ukraine. Protests against government corruption that have continued already for a year in Bulgaria have little media attention. Although Bulgaria has been a member of the EU since 2007, living conditions have not changed as expected, at least not for ordinary citizens. The average wage is among the lowest in the EU, and outward migration of working-age popu-
lation to more affluent parts of Europe continues unabated from year to year. Combined with frustration with the conduct of the political elite, this has led the people to take to the streets to demand real change. The video draws a parallel between the experiences of two generations. The Communist regime that stayed in power up to 1989 is symbolised by the massive Buzludzha monument and its dilapidated present condi-
tion. Meanwhile, the younger generation protests against current stagnation. Corruption is rife, and actual policies and practices do not seem to have changed much after the collapse of Communism.
Iva Todorova, who shed light on the past and present of their country from the perspective of their respective generations. They talk about how the Communist regime came to the end of the road and why young people
The video concentrates on two sites: the main stage of protests, the streets of the capital, Sofia, and the surroundings of the Buzludzha Monument in the Stara Planina mountains. The visual narrative is punctuated by interviews with Simeon Abanos and
are now demonstrating on the streets for a better future. The video explores these events with documentary and visual means. â€? Daniel CortĂŠs
An interview with
Simo Saarikoski From the first time we watched Simo Saarikoski's refined documentaryThe Ghost of The Present wewere impressed by the way the Finnish filmmaker explores the past and present of Bulgaria through a clear visual narrative style. Simo, we want to take a closer look at the genesis of your documentary: how did you come up with the idea forThe Ghost of The Present? Could you tell us a particular episode who has helped the birth of this project? The starting point of the project can be found much earlier in time when I fell in love to a Bulgarian woman. She is now my wife. Before that my knowledge of Bulgaria was quite limited. I knew the geographical location, about mass tourism in the Black sea coast and remembered their phenomenal national football team in the 90-s. When I first travelled to Sofia in 2009 I was instantly impressed by the city and felt like home there. It is difficult to describe that feeling. I found a visually very interesting country with warmhearted and hospitable people. Bulgarian culture is very different than Finnish culture and I found it inspiring. During the years when I spent time there we were based in Sofia, but we also hitchhiked around the country. I learned to know about the history of Bulgaria and I opened my eyes towards the country’s present situation. I saw how people work very hard, being forced to survive with their low income. And how many young people chose to look for better life standard outside Bulgaria. I also realized how desperate many people were with the empty promises of the politicians, living in a highly corrupted society. When politics crisis escalated there in the spring of 2013 I followed the situation carefully. During the following summer I decided to shoot the protest in Sofia and pay a visit to Buzludzha monument, which is just 30 kilometers from Gabrovo where my wife grew up. This place made a huge impact to me. It was somehow a perfect metaphor for socialist decadence and the current situation in Bulgaria.
During August 2013 I felt that what I was doing was somehow important. Media in Western Europe, at least in Finland showed no interest for the events in Bulgaria and I thought I can at least give some light to the people with my modest contribution. We have found really interesting your visual style marked by the use of static shots:The Ghost of The Presentpresent a stunning balance between absence and presence, which is not conceived as a classical balance, as the relationships between solids and voids in architecture for example, but a sort of coexistence between past and present in imagination and perception.How did you develop your visual style for this film? I trust greatly my intuition and the way the scene of shooting affects me. Buzludzha for example is a place that makes immediate impact for everyone who visits it. I will never forget when I saw it for the first time. I had hiked for three hours with a camera in my bag (the altitude is 1500m) and when the construction appeared on the horizon I couldn’t believe that was real. It was so huge and visually so powerful with the surrounding nature. When I got closer it gave me contrary feelings. I respect it as a construction, but at the same time it stands for ideology and history that are not very respectful at all. In general before I start shooting something I already have a strong image in my mind and I operate towards that image. I stop and breathe the air of the scene and let it run through my lungs and brain. I’m in a dialogue with the scene. Then when I start to shoot I’m focused, purposeful and I completely lose track of time. I shoot a lot of material, as much as possible depending on the situation. I try different solutions and I figure out which one of them works best. That makes editing process very challenging, but I like editing so I don’t mind. For The Ghost of The Present I spent a lot of time with editing. I tried different approaches and I came up with this one. I wanted to keep the scenes from Buzludzha very static and bring the setting around it visible. Contrary to that I wanted the scenes from the protests in Sofia to be edited with fast cuts and events rolling smoothly. Designing the sound was also important and took some time. I composed a lot of music on the computer, which didn´t fit in the final version of the video.
The comparison between the experiences of two Bulgarian generations you traceÂ€through the interviews with Simeon Abanos and Iva TodorovaÂ€is the starting point of your exploration.Â€When did you get in contact with them for the first time? I met both of them with the gracious help of my wife. Actually the whole video would have been impossible without her help. Or at least it would have been a lot more difficult to do. My wife knew Simeon Abanos already for a long time and recommended me to interview him. That turned out to be excellent decision. He is a very intelligent man and has grown up in Gabrovo near Buzludzha. So he clearly remembers the general attitude and atmosphere during the building of monument in the 70-s. He has also studied in the West-Germany during that period and already then he could look at the system in Bulgaria from an alternative perspective. Simeon experienced the collapse of Socialism and the time of transformation, so he could also put the latest protests in a historical context. I had get to know Iva during the years in Sofia. First she was a bit unwilling to give an interview, but I convinced her that is good for the cause and then she agreed. Iva had been very active in the protests and in social media during the spring 2013. She also knew Vassil Garnizov from whom I asked the permission to use some of the video material he had shot during the protests. Iva was a good choice: she is old enough to be aware of the recent history of Bulgaria and she is young enough to have idealism and optimism for the future. Iva sacrificed her social life for months going to the protests, making people around her aware of what was happening. I think that it is a wonderful thing to commit yourself to a cause, whose success is against all the odds. I also wanted Iva to speak English in the interview. It kind of puts the message in a wider context, so to be clear to anyone around the world, who is interested in developing something that we call democracy. How did you get started in filmmaking? I started little by little over the years. Naturally I have been interested in cinema since I was very young. I have education in visual arts, more specifically in sculpture. Thus I have
been active in different fields of art during the years, especially in performance art with our group - Messianic Research Centre for Visual Ethics. In the beginning we used moving images as a background material for our performances. Later on I developed an intimate relationship to video. I always approach an artistic project through its content. After that I choose which technique suits the best for the purpose. So content comes always before the technique, not vice versa.
We find that your filmmaking is rich of references, in particularthe use of temps mort in The Ghost of The Present reminds us of the filmsbyAngelopoulos. Can you tell us your biggest influences in cinema and how they have affected your work? I understand the reference to Angelopoulos and his style. I have seen his movie “Eternity and Day” and I liked it. Another movie that I recently saw and liked was “Sleep Awake” by Romanian director Andrei Stefanescu. I am fond of the Romanian new wave in general. Finnish fiction movie is unfortunately offering
very rarely anything interesting but “Concrete Night” by Pirjo Honkasalo was visually very impressing. “Eastern Plays” by Bulgarian director Kamen Kalev is also a movie to watch from the recent years. “Night and Fog” by Alain Resnais made a big impact to me when I saw it. But anyway I think my influences are still more subconscious than conscious. We see so much visual material nowadays and the most impressing parts of it stays in our subconscious memory. We can’t remember the source of all that material but it still influences our mind. But you won’t be surprised if I tell that I like
slow storytelling and static and long scenes. I like documentary style. Maybe it’s something like “realistic minimalism” that I feel attracted to. What technical aspects do you mainly focus on in your work? As an artist I am not very technically oriented and unfortunately it is sometimes very visible. I experiment a lot and also sometimes things
go terriblly wrong. From all those mistakes I’m trying to learn. The visual image is very clear in my mind when I start to shoot. Then I just try to approach that image with the tools I have in the best possible way. My budgets are basically non-existing and I do most of the stuff just by myself, so it can be challenging. There are always some new things to learn and I try to update my knowledge regularly. Only recently I have managed to get a better gear to work with. With The Ghost of The Present I
than the previous one and so far it has been also the case. Sure I have now more self-confidence and I have found my own style for which I want to stay faithful and develop it further. My working process is now way faster and dynamic compared to what it was some years ago. Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts, Simo. What's next for Simo Saarikoski? Are there any film projects on the horizon? Sure there are. I have two projects on the way. First one goes under the name “Natural Lovers”. With that I try to explore people’s relation to nature in a sexual context. In a way how nature is shown as object to one’s sexual desire. I find that interesting topic. In Finland people live in a close relationship to nature. Partly it’s just a cliché but it seems to be surprisingly correct. It is so from my point of view as well. Nature and sexuality, maybe it’s some kind of fetish or taboo, we’ll see what kind of reaction my work will raise up. Another one is called “Abandoned Finland”. In that one I want to shoot abandoned buildings both in urban environment and countryside. Through these buildings I want to find out what has happened and is happening right now in my home country in social and economic context.
was still working with older one. I hope to see a lot of technical improvement in my works in the future. How has your production processes changed over the years? Here I will make a reference to my previous answer. Basically I have progressed a lot in everything for the last five years. I always believe that the next work will be much better
Shehrezad Maher An artist's statement
When a whale shark washes ashore in Karachi, Pakistan, it appears for seconds on the news. When several news segments are combined in the work Dimensions of a Fish, the violent and perverse mechanisms of this spectacle emerge, and the organizational
principles of the cityâ€™s economy and socio political structures are revealed. Shehrezad Maher
Shehrezad Maher was born in Karachi, Pakistan in 1988 and currently lives and
works in New York City. Maher pursued studies in Visual Arts at Bennington College, VT (2011) and recently graduated with a Master of Fine Arts from the Yale School of Art (2014). Currently based in New York City, her practice spans sculpture, film, installation and performance. Recent showings of her work include a solo show in Karachi, Pakistan (Hover/Hum),
several public intervention projects in Karachi, and group shows at 'Storefront Ten Eyck' and 'The Temporary Agency' in New York City. Her videos have also been screened at Yale University and she was recently awarded the all-school Blair Dickinson Memorial Prize at the Yale School of Art.
An interview with
Shehrezad Maher The hallmark of Shehrezad Maher's talent resides in her acute sensitivity. Her sense of juxtaposition gives her films a playful, yet utterly subversive sensibility. From Paper for a Cloud to Dimensions of a Fish, her work explores socio political structures through a remarkable minimalist approach, reminding us of Godard's cinema. Shehrezad, how did you get started in experimental cinema? I became really interested in video art and experimental film as something I could see myself making when I took a video and film screening class by Michel Auder. I was a graduate student at Yale and this class was probably one of the best I have taken. It felt very un-academic in the sense that Michel almost never spoke or lectured and simply played, for three hours straight every Monday, videos he found interesting and had collected through his life. So you sat thereand soaked it all in without the intervention of a voice curating your experience of what you were watching. I think this facilitated the making of Dimensions of a Fish in a way that was stripped of being self-conscious, judgmental or daunted by my first attempt at video. It felt like an intuitive extension of my art.In a way, the compulsion to make my first videofelt as involuntary and necessary as a sneeze. I was also increasingly seeing videos by artists that really moved me (Guido van der Werve, Ragnar Kjartansson, Pierre Huyghe, Allora & Calzadilla) and working around peers who made videos that were really inspiring to me, most notably Livia Ungur. Being around artists who are really excited and invested in video made me drift towards it even faster. We have been deeply impressed with your video Paper for a Cloud, featuring a highly original reading of the weekend edition of The New York Times. We want to take a closer look at the genesis of
your film: how did you come up with the idea for this work? I’m not exactly sure how the idea emerged so I will use a more free-associative approach to talk about a few things that were on my mind before I made this video: Reading to someone can be a loving and caring gesture, an act of obligation, or both. You can read prescription details to someone who is about to swallow a pill, read them a story to help them sleep, read them their legal rights, subway instructions, the news, a love letter, or their will. I spent a really long and quiet summer before making this work. On some days I barely used my voice besides saying “thank you” at the grocery store counter or when someone held the door for me. Growing up, I remember similarly long periods of silence. As a child, I always had the company of a dog and would sometimes read or speak to it. I liked to entertain this idea that objects may be empathetic or that animals can feel loved when they are spoken to, or understand what you might be sayingthat you can possibly develop a psychophysical oneness with, or feeling of relatability with objects or materials. And to continue that fantasy further, that clouds or a landscape can be read or spoken to. Regarding the newspaper, I think what makes the job of a journalist such a serious responsibility is that an incident however tragic, traumatic, happy or everyday - does not exist in the minds of those who have not directly experienced it, except through word of mouth stories, the news, rumors, or all three. And this is something I watched my eldest sister, a journalist in Karachi, struggle with everyday when I was growing up. If it is not heard or read, it is not an incorporated reality, however distant, of the world you know and are living in. This perpetualand sometimes anxiouscondition defines a journalists duties and dilemmas. Which story do you attempt to archive, register and publish in the minds of others? I was also thinking about the incredible transience of the newspaper as a physical archive of events and stories and the ways in which I have reluctantly received the news. I remember one summer afternoon in New Haven vividly: I walked into a Deli near my studio, paid for some milk for the coffee I was
A still from Dog Island
about to make and as I walked out I heard the din of the radio – a man spoke about a forest in California being on fire. The feeling of guilt I got about casually and accidentally happening upon the news of a forest being on fire at the other end of the country while sleepily purchasing milk was similar to how I felt about eating blueberry pancakes once while I heard about a bomb blast in Karachi. Or how at home, the newspaper a whole team had worked so hard on was sometimes used to absorb the piss of the new puppy in the house, or to soak up the oil from the fish that was fried for dinner. I am fascinated by the simultaneous deadening and preserving that is involved in the act of archiving an event or memory and when the commitment to resuscitate life or integrity into something is all that remains. In this video, everything becomes stripped down to the act of dedication - the commitment to commemorate. The stories fall apart in the effort to read them and my emotional reaction to the words I’m reading wears out as I grow more tired. On the summit of a mountain, I perform a dedicated transmission to the unhearing elements of the mountains and clouds, trying to fulfill an unexplainable desire and urge to read unendingly to something. It was a radically self-defeating and mysteriously cathartic pursuit in exploring this notion of reading to non-human beings as a potentially fulfilling act. It attempted to give these stories a voice or integrity - however brief or unheard - and became an exercise in curiosity, fantastical notions, desperation and dedication to an act. To use Werner Herzog’s phrase, this was a grandiose exercise in the “conquest of the useless.” A peculiar visual aspect of Paper for a Cloud is the contrast between the background and foreground, the static figure and the passing clouds. Can you comment on this aspect of your work? Given the weather, tone of my voice, visibility, and the story I am reading, those formal descriptions become especially interchangeablebetween my body and the clouds. Even when the figure seems static, it's raining on the newspaper and on my body and my lungs are inhaling cloud moisture that is affecting my voice and ability to read. My
A still from Dimensions of a Fish
body is constantly attuning to the temperature and, slowly, my internal reaction to what I am reading changes. There is also a sort of collapsing of extremely different modes of time and temporalities within the frame: Geological time/mountain time, human time/my body’s time, cloud time and the time of the newspaper and the world at the base of the mountain that it tells news about. Pictorially, the landscape sometimes develops a perverse, indifferent, or illustrative relationship to the nature and subject of what I am reading. There is a perverse push and pull between the visuals, the stories unfolding and my voice.
What was the most challenging thing about making this video?
the reading until I had reached my threshold or could barely manage.
Probably following through with my instinct and desire to do it - something that feels like half the challenge of making art.
Static shots and found-footage inserts are fundamental element of your cinematographic language. How did you develop your visual style?
Physically, I don’t think it was any more trying than other pieces I’ve made - it was just in a more concentrated period of time. I wasn’t interested in making work about my physical endurance or deterioration. When I felt tired and was nearing emotional exhaustion I ended my reading. I think there is a difference between struggling to do something and barely managing. The video was a struggle to make but I didn’t continue
Avisual style is not something I seek or definitely arrive at, but is constantly morphing with each new project. In Dog Island, the uninhabited island I visited is the most still, quiet and inhospitable surface I have ever encountered in Pakistan. It is a forty-minute boat ride from Karachi, a city of over 22 million peoplethat is like a slow-
A still from Dimensions of a Fish
motion seizure unfolding through the day. Moving on this island and wading through the water felt like a violation to the silence of the place. Once in a while I came upon a dog or human skeleton or a muffled bark from an emaciated, barely-surviving dog in the distance. The shots are one of two extremes:some are still, slow burning and almost excruciatingly slow to unfold and others shake violently as I cross water and attempt to negotiate the islands terrain. Often these two approaches and speeds of unfolding were emblematic of the way in which the more neatly organized fiction and rumors of the place rudely interacted with the reality of the place.
was so emblematic of how such stories are covered in Pakistan - the angles, the graphics, the sound, the way in which people crowd around a camera and maybe jumped on the whale with slightly more force knowing they were in the cameramanâ€™sframe. The footage seemed so violent to me that it seemed like the only intervention needed was one of selecting, compiling, and through chronology, creating a kind of panorama of the spectacle.Usually the speed at which the visuals or spoken text unravel and interact with each other is motivated by my interest in intensifying the familiar until it becomes absurd and diluting the absurd until it becomes familiar.
In Dimensions of a Fish, I think the stillness comes from the editing - the very minimal and decisive cuts that compress the hectic footage into a chronology.The found footage
How has your history influenced the way you produce art? I grew up in a city where cars donâ€™t budge for
A still from Dimensions of a Fish
a wailing ambulance. In Pakistan, if an animal cannot be milked, eaten, or sacrificed in a religious rite, it can be leisurely targeted with stones as a kind of game. The birds are wary, descending to the streets only when there is a corpse or carcass to feed on. If one could ever make a portrait of the indifference of a city, the daily paper would provide equal evidence as the skies.
societies definitions of violence less aptly, but is equally fraught with chaos, disorder, and the dangers of neglect. I think Dimensions of a Fish is a good example of me attempting to get at this violence in a more oblique way - a seemingly non-violent event spirals into a bigger look at how a city or people organize themselves and normalize violence in the most overlooked places.
I have been influenced by my sister who is a journalist in Karachi, and my own work for a newspaper there. The researchers anxiety of the unidentifiable and the archivistâ€™s anxiety of the undocumentable are interests that sprung from this influence. I feel a relentless investment in stories which speak less of violence as a consequence (according to the logic of most headline news) and more about violence as a psychological condition that exists in quieter places. The latter fits
Could you introduce our readers to your found-footage work Dimensions of a Fish? Dimensions of a Fish was made when I was far from home. I was in the US and watched the footage and read the news about it. Slowly, I forgot about it. Sometimes with stories like these, it seemslike I have forgotten them and then one night Iâ€™ll wake up at 3 am to get a glass of water and it will
A still from Paper for a Cloud
suddenly occur to me how bizarre and powerful they are. I was most struck by the visual of some men repeatedly attempting to measure the fish with a tailors measuring tape. In Pakistan, itâ€™s common to buy your own fabric and have your clothes tailor-made -this is often cheaper than buying readymade clothes. The visual struck me in a really visceral way â€“ seeing that everyday
object that is used to measure our own bodies to clothe them, unraveling and now pressed against this animal to record a record. I was most struck by how a sort of world is built around thismammoth creaturein the span of a day. It passes through so many hands, stories, auctions and bidders, self-
voices instructing directions and spontaneous protocol. The whale becomes a constantly mutating event onto which power, class, desire, religion, authority, and even masculinityis exerted. From this one creature, a kind of chaos and pathoserupts and the chronology makes space for the machinery of the spectacle to become more visible. There is the sublime and then there is the butcher’s corner in the kitchen of the sublime - this video encapsulates the atmosphere of the latter. When we saw Paper for a Cloud immediately thought of Jean Luc Godard...Did any specific director appeal to you? In terms of film directors, the first person that comes to mind is Werner Herzog. I am intrigued by his way of finding potential in stories, building fictions around them, arriving at the most important truths about his subjects and his complete irreverence and irritation with cinema vérité. Stroszek and Enigma of Kaspar Hauser are two films of his that I was really moved and inspired by. Thanks for sharing your time, Shehrezad. We wish you all the best with your career. What's next for Shehrezad Maher? Have you a particular film in mind? Unlike some of my other work, I've rarely known months in advance that I'll be filming something for a video. Boredom or intense immersion in another project has proven to be a springboardfor my videos which become a really last minute obsession and compulsion. Right now I'm working on some drawings and reading books by Anne Carson, a writer whose workI really admire. Thank you for interviewing me. It’s been incredibly productive thinking about my work anew and in relation to your questions. appointed rescuers and killers. Rogue and spontaneous economies are built around it and access to see it progresses from a ticketed show to an exclusive tented affair where the middle and upper-middle class slowlyemerge once the creature is bureaucratically taped off and cooled with ice. Eventually, it is surrounded by serious, organizing men in suits, their hands and
Katherinne Fiedler MaĂąana, todavĂa
The search for meaning through the idea of the National Stadium is converted into a fantasy with the fall of the great ideologies of the 20th century. In a globalized word predicated on neoliberal ideology, in which the corporations are those that forge through new territory, the old search has been pushed back staged
and left without resonance or meaning, leaving a space where romance and nostalgia find their grip. The stadium, empty and presented in black and white, has been left devoid of color in order to strip it down to its immense skeleton, its vast body full of illusions. This evident nostalgia isnâ€™t anything more than a veil that simultaneously expresses and hides the
reflection of a much deeper search. We donâ€™t talk of a national, religious, community, or regional identity but rather of a necessity that has looked to affirm itself as a certainty and that in front of its own nudity finally discovers its inherently ephemeral condition. This project ultimately seeks to make this visible, to reflect on this series of ghosts, among the most powerful and enduring
components of human rituals. This feeling is something that exists and something that constantly flees from our hands. Yet even when confronted with this we simply keep looking, bewildered, or, in any case embracing our dead ruses. otional crash that can be felt and durable.
An interview with
Katherinne Fiedler In an age in which globalisation impinges on every aspect of our lives, Katherinne Fiedler uses her art to explore the fall of the ideologies of the 20th century. Her vision, at the same time mulecular and cosmogonic, embraces the aestethics of visual clarity, confronting existential themes such as guilt and fear, and the problems of neoliberal ideology. We are glad to present Katherinne Fiedler for this year's Videofocus Edition. Katherinne, how did you get into experimental cinema? I started with painting and then explored other mediums, such as photography and video. My first video was a one minute single channel video. In some point of my career I felt that some ideas for artworks needed time, movement and sound. So when I felt that need and the concept and idea demanded it, I started making videoart. So it came in a really natural way. I still do pieces in painting and photography though. We want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: how did you come up with the idea for Mañana, Todavía? In one occasion I went to the stadium, (I had never been there before), so it was very impressive for me. The stadium was empty, enormous...we were only like ten people there. They were filming a tv commercial for the world cup, and in some point they pulled out the confetti (metallic papers) and it flew so beautifully because of the wind, and it went far away form the lights of the shooting and around the emptiness and darkness. I just stared at this beautiful, silent and poetic thing. I couldn´t take away from my head that image. Then all that year I kept thinking of it and the meaning, and the metaphors that image could bring. The embrace of the imagination has often specific political implications in your art. In your work we can recognize a deep introspection: do you think art’s purpose is simply to provide a platform for an
artist’s expression? Do you think that art could play an important role in facing social questions? I really think art must question different things, and definitely it can play an important
role in facing social questions. I believe art can change things or at least change minds or people or just make us stop and think. Feel different about some issues. We have been impressed with your visual style, in particular with your anamorphic
composition, reminding us of Maria Grazia Toderi's videoinstallation. How did you develop your visual style? It can be the fact that I am also a painter. So the composition and color (or the lack of it)
are very important in my work. All my artworks are like extensions of my paintings. In this particular case, the place itself demands me that specific composition, to comprise the circular effect, the roundness, making even more powerful the emptiness where all this metallic paper flew, making the concept even more powerful. For me this is the only way this installation can work. The three projections in a mid circular disposition in some way reminds us of the stadium shape. Confetti-like metallic lights begin to invade the screen in slow motion on the central projection, until they gradually invade all three projections, accumulating in the central one, filling it completely, and arriving to a climax. We would like to explore more in the depth the way you have conceived the figure of the stadium in Mañana, Todavía... The search for meaning through the idea of the National Stadium is converted into a fantasy with the fall of the great ideologies of the 20th century. In a globalized world predicated on neoliberal ideology, in which the corporations are those that forge through new territory, the old search has been pushed back and left without resonance or meaning, leaving a space where romance and nostalgia find their grip. The stadium, empty and presented in black and white, has been left without color in order to strip it down to its immense skeleton, its vast body full of illusions. This evident nostalgia isn’t anything more than a veil that simultaneously expresses and hides the reflection of a much deeper search. We don’t talk of a national, religious, community, or regional identity but rather of a necessity that has looked to affirm itself as a certainty and that in front of its own nudity finally discovers its inherently ephemeral condition. This project ultimately seeks to make this visible, to reflect on this series of ghosts, among the most powerful and enduring components of human rituals. This feeling is something that exists and something that constantly flees from our hands. Yet even when confronted with this we simply keep
looking, bewildered, or, in any case embracing our dead ruses. Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new project? Most of the time, specially with videoart, I see images that in some way fascinate me, it´s like a discovery, like seeing poetry itself in a moving image. These image can get so deep inside my thoughts that I really can´t take it away from me, so I think about it over and over, during a long period of time, like months, maybe years and I let it grow in my thoughts, and develop it with a conceptual statement. And that´s when I start making the video as it will be, in story boards (several of
them), writings... and thatÂ´s when I also came usually a little bit obsessive with it. We have previously mentioned Toderi, yet your filmmaking style is very far from what is generally considered 'academic'. Who among international artists and directors influenced your work? In videoart definitly Bill Viola. In cinema Tarkovsky, Kim Ki Duk, Terrence Malick, Kurosawa ...but I really think for me itÂ´s very intuitive Thanks for sharing your time, Katherinne, we wish you all the best with
your filmmaker career. What's next for you? Have you a particular film in mind? Thanks to you for the interest in my work. I have three in mind and one that I am editing right now. The next I am preparing to shoot is about the geopolitical view in nature by humankind. And the other two are so recent in my mind that I am hoping to shoot them by the end of the year, because they are still growing up in my head.
Joana Stillwell An artist's statement
In moments of downtime, I find myself performing spiritless and stale activities. After some time, I notice the curious quality of my doings and record them. The vulnerability and anxiety I can experience in these moments is
mitigated through an absurd repurposing of found and everyday objects such as balloons and aqua gems. I perform meditative examinations through exploring the physicality of these materials as they resist, surprise, and provoke me. A dialogue evolves between the material, its function, its connotations, and myself. I document these interactions using video and
installation, and while I approach my subject matter autobiographically, I aim to address a breadth of personhood highlighting elements of growth, healing, and fulfillment. In recent work, I explore ideas of having invented experiences. I play with slightly hydrated aqua gems, decorative liquid beads
that keep plants watered, atop a gold ball. In this moment of downtime, I fulfill a desire to explore outer space and question ideas of smallness, and vastness as I find my own sense of scale, and resolution with my improbable wish. Joana Stillwell
An interview with
Joana Stillwell Joana Stillwell 's vision is at the same time molecular and cosmogonic. Images are treated in her work following a metonymic approach: she uses everyday objects such as balloons and aqua gems, in order to explore the psychological nature of the cinematic image, highlighting the physicality of these materials. We are glad to present Joana Stillwell for this year's Videofocus Edition. Joana, how did you get into experimental cinema? I was attending the Photomedia program at Seattle's University of Washington School of Art, Art History, and Design when I realized that my ideas were more appropriate through video. Luckily my program, although photography based, was open to other mediums and I got to explore video art through that outlet and I've continued to make videos since leaving school. We want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: how did you come up with the idea for Cosmos? I was in the process of moving out of my apartment when I came across a bag of clear "beads". I rolled them around in my hands and realized that these were slightly hydrated aqua gems. I generally keep flowers in my studio during the warmer months and I had used them then. They had a curious texture because of their slightly hydrated state. I had been reading about astronomy and the lighting of the late afternoon made these little aqua gems seem like miniature celestial bodies. I had my Japanese gold lacer nesting set out waiting to be packed and I thought the combination of the two would look beautiful. I placed the sticky aqua gems on top and started to film the interaction. A lot of my work comes from these sparks of interest in materials that are behaving differently or that I try to make behave differently. My work comes as a product of play. I think there is a lot of
potential for materials to express something about our everyday lives. In the arsenal of artistic techniques that you use, close ups and details are no
doubt recurrent elements of your cinema language. Through the use of tight shots, you force the viewer to explore the physicality of the object in the frame, like in Fontana's work. Can
you introduce our reader to this peculiar idea behind Cosmos? I use close ups and tight shots to draw the viewer into the activity I'm performing.
Fontana's work is also very gestural, especially with his slashed canvases. I look at these exercises as meditative acts contemplating a bigger idea that I convey through the materials and its connotations as well as with how I interact with them. What was the most challenging thing about making this film? I wasn't sure how to end it. Would I make a gesture? Would it end ambiguously? Would it merely loop as a never-ending exercise? I decided to make a gesture at the end as a
way to give humor to these existential thoughts. We have previously quoted Lucio Fontana, even though your style is very far from what is generally considered 'academic'. Who among international artists and directors influenced your work? Artists I admire include Bas Jan Ader, Nam June Paik, and Tara Donovan. Bas Jan Aderâ€™s "Fall 1" (1970) is a 24 second video where the artist sits on a chair atop a house and lunges sideways rolling down and off the
their function to make a larger comment or gesture. Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new project? I really enjoy reading. I generally read biographies, self-help, and some poetry, and fiction. I'm really interested in how people live their lives and the choices we make to feel happy and fulfilled. I'm an avid note taker and I refer to these notes continuously, especially if I am stuck creatively. The ideas rarely present themselves completely such as in Cosmos. Once I have the material I want to work with and some time to sit down and film, I have to play with the lighting, my studio space, and see how it comes together. It usually takes a few hours over the course of a couple days to complete a project and often times I'll drop it for a while or it'll end up in my "Maybe Artwork Someday" file. Abstraction in general is defined by a desire to intensify subjectivity, which is at heart of every expressionist's desire to go beyond realism or the limits of imagination. Your work features an interesting balance between the concrete, physical qualities of the objects you explore and a pure, cosmogonic abstract vision. Can you introduce our readers to this fundamental aspect of your cinema?
roof. He was interested in gravity and how powerless one becomes in the face of forces beyond oneâ€™s control. This is perhaps my favorite piece of artwork. I really love the elegance and minimalism behind Nam June Paik's Zen TV. I've recently purchased a flip book of this video and I think it's hilarious. Tara Donovan is known for her large scale tediously assembled installations made with everyday, often mass produced, objects such as straws or tape. I appreciate her ideas of expanding upon materials and going beyond
I'm a very visual learner. In order to really understand something I typically have to write it down so I can see it in words or a picture. I try to bring ideas that I can't fully grasp into a visual space. In this case, I used aqua gems and a gold decorative sphere to imagine what being in space would be like, the experience I might have had if I had the chance to go, and as a way to bring that experience to myself in a practical way. For a while, I did a series of cloud videos where I "collected" different types of clouds through similar exercises involving everyday materials and filming exercises with them. These videos become a way to physical think with my hands about these intangible ideas. In that way, I find fulfillment in my work. It
becomes a fun, empowering, and cathartic experience. Thanks for sharing your time, Joana, we wish you all the best with your
filmmaker career. What's next for Joana Stillwell ? Have you a particular film in mind? I am currently working on more artwork,
some video, perhaps more sculpture and/or
growth, healing, and fulfillment through
installation. My portfolio has expanded in the
these various formats.
last few years to encompass other mediums and I hope to continue exploring themes of
Guli Silberstein An artist's statement
In 'Disturbdance' a young woman is blocking two armed soldiers from firing at protesters in a Palestinian village. The image, picked up from a TV news report found online, is digitally processed and slowed down, and the soundtrack is replaced with lyrical music. The scene turns into a peculiar romantic dance, highlighting the magical and rare human connection created in the woman's brave act, captured and transmitted by digital technology. 'Disturbdance' is the part of a thematic development,
connecting all my video works, in a process that started in 2000. The videos deal with political issues, violent conflicts, cognitive processes of perception and media critique. The work focuses mainly on individuals caught in in-between situations, physical and/or psychological, caused by intense political and violent events - in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - but referencing a broad sense of the human condition. Distributed by advanced electronic media, video images of war, terror and violence are broadcast, screened, projected and consumed by
works aim to provoke thought by creating audiovisual arrangements. They achieve that by processing appropriated video with digital computer programs such as Final Cut Pro and After Effects, re-sequencing the images, changing their speed, manipulating their texture, re-working the sounds and applying new music. This process transfers footage to new places. It brings out hidden meaning and creates new video forms, focusing often on ‘poor images’ and low resolution video. Low resolution and noisy video aesthetics function as subversive tools, and as means to de-construct the image to its basic core – pixels and particles of light. These means highlight the artificiality of the image, and at the same time make it more faulty and therefore human. Thus, these videos can be regarded as mass media critiques, with all the complexity that this position brings: how can video art be critical in post-modern age? How can video art function as social-political protest? How can art be involved socially and politically without being too direct and literal? How can video works have interesting forms while avoiding a 'fetishism of the gaze'? How can we deconstruct and produce new ideas at the same time? What are the cognitive processes involved in consuming media images? How can we incorporate modes of artistic practises from the past in today’s work? And what new artistic video forms can be created with new technologies, and inspired by new ideas?
A still from Disturbdance
viewers worldwide. But sensitivity to the fate of ‘the other’, to other people’s lives and tragedies, gets eroded by the constant exposure to rapid changes of events and mixture of different topics. Tragic events are being swallowed by the constant stream of reports, and become a form of entertainment. There is though, an increased global activity by alternative movements such as Occupy, peace movements and spontaneous protest gatherings, raising deeper awareness to social-political issues, with a growing number of people participating. The videos bring back to the viewer the realness of violence, and the horror of its consumption as mass entertainment. The video
These are some of the questions that are involved in my artistic process. The videos are the end product of an on-going artistic process, investigating these questions and other issues that intrigue and trouble me not only as an artist, but as a person in today's world. My work method is based on utilising various combinations of found online footage (starting in 2000, when online video was just beginning) and personal video recordings, processing it to create new patterns and meanings. My work has been informed by pioneer, pivotal video artists such as Nam Jun Paik, Dara Birnbaum, Bruce Conner, George Barber and Malcolm Le Grice. The body of video work has been also inspired by thinkers such as Roland Barthes, Paul Virilio, Susan Sontag, Jean Baudrillard, Gregory Bateson, Bruno Latour, Hal Foster and Slavoj Zizek.
An interview with
Guli Silberstein Apart from a remarkable satirical vein, in your works we can appreciate an incredible effort to reveal the inner nature of images surrounding us: videos are manipulated in such a way that common scenes of joy falls into horror throughout the use of simple processes: like Joyce's eplicleti, "something that was disruptive and alien, something that caused the freedom of artistic possibility". How did you develop your style? In 2000, when I was studying for the M.A in Media Studies program at the New School University in New York City, USA, Professor Paul Ryan introduced me to the work of Cybernerics theoritician Gregory Bateson, and the philosophical work of Gilles Deleuze. Together with other theory courses and the practical digital video training I received in the university's multimedia lab, both as student and assistant, it inspired me to develop my work towards video experimentation. In October 2000, horrifying images of war and violence from my home region, the MiddleEast, started appearing on the TV screen. It was the Palestinian uprising against the continuing Israeli occupation of the West-Bank and Gaza, known as 'The second Intifada', which involved Palestinian terror bombings, Israeli army attacks & air strikes and more horrendous acts of violence. The combination of my location in the U.S., experiencing the war in my country from afar, and my academic studies, led to a kind of a “big bang” of my video work. It resulted in my first video work 'Schizophrenic State'. It's a work that in retrospect holds many of the ideas, both of form and content, appearing also in my later work. In this eruption of creativity, ' Schizophrenic State' received a form of a montage, compositing together a string of video images and thoughts, criticising mass media, violence, injustice and oppression. It highlighted the mediating of the horror of the Real through electronic media, and utilised intense imagery and mash-up editing. As my work progressed, I was trying to arrive at an essence of this concept, sharpening my practice. I tried to be as accurate as possible,
and to use as minimal means as possible, in order to touch the nerve of the experience. One strand of my work involves isolating mass media images, and re-contextualising them by digital audio-visual processing. Extracting the video image from the rapid pace in mainstream news, and removing the video image to another more abstract level, creates new awareness of the actual horror on screen. The interesting aspect of this technique is arriving to the real from the other side, in a way, by giving it a more surreal, abstract form. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict assumes a crucial role in your videos. How has your personal history influenced the way you produce art? One of my first memories is being with my mother in a shelter at home near Tel-Aviv, in the 1973 war, hearing sirens warning of attacking air-planes. At my Bar-Mitsva, the Jewish 13 year old important birthday, the first Lebanon war started. At military service, I saw the eruption of the Palestinian uprising, known as the first Intifada, and witnessed the cruelty of the occupying army, controlling citizens. In the beginning and the middle of the 90s, I closely experienced Palestinian suicide bombing attacks at the heart of civil Israeli towns, and saw the Israeli army attacks in Palestinian territories. With that came the hope for peace, when Yitzchak Rabin and Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo Accord in 1993, and then the shattering of this dream by the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin, the Israeli PM, by an Israeli religious extremist. This was followed by the election of the right, nationalistic candidate Bibi Netanyahu, who became Israel's PM. My disappointment led me to leave Israel to New York City in the USA, to study and work there. It was supposed to make me forget the horrors of my home country, but the conflict continued to occupy me, so to speak, and I understood that it's actually very personal for me, part of my identity and my work. What technical aspects do you mainly focus on in your work? I see my work as a kind of audio-visual sculptures. The original media is the rough material - found-footage combined with personal recordings. Then I process it using digital applications, in order to take them out of their original context and give them new form. I am fascinated by noise, blur, glitch and other disruptions of the “clean” image. For me images are more interesting when we fight to
System Error (2013, UK)
Excerpt, 2008, Israel
see through them, when they become substance. In recent years, HD and 4K fascinate me too, because of their amazing sharp quality bringing video aesthetics to new levels. Your materials come from different worlds, like old Hollywood films and Internet video news. Twenty years have passed since Guy-Ernest Debord's death,
however practise like detournement and art-appropriation are still alive. How do you choose this material? Mass media is part of my environment just as my home, the train, the street. These images are part of my world, and more than that, they affect and shape my world. So just like a writer looking for words for his work, I use images as construction blocks and
Have you a particular approach in conceiving your art? It's a continuous process which is part of my daily life. Ideas come along and I write them down. I also collect images and sounds that interest me, and I film with my video camera whenever I get inspired. Interestingly, the actual conception of art work usually occurs in a flash, a unique idea, that I then try to execute as quickly as possible, not letting my ego interrupt, trying to have it come straight from the subconscious. There is then a process of fine-tuning, that can take a while, until it feels that the work is right, and further work would only damage it. - Letâ€™s speak about influences. Have any videomaker from the older generation inspired you? Video Artists (not necessarily all of them are old generation): Nam June Paik, Dara Birnbaum, Bruce Conner, George Barber, Pippilotti Rist, Bill Viola, Harun Farocki, and Jean Gabriel Peroit. Experimental film artists: Stan Brakhage, Maya Deren, the film 'Un Chien Andalu'. Filmmakers: David Lynch, Chris Marker, Erroll Morris. Painters: Gerhard Richter, Robert Rauschenberg, Francis Bacon. And there are probably more influences I fail to remember at the moment. Your works have been screened in many film festivals. What do you think about the difference of audience between art galleries and film festivals?
rough material for the finished work. It's a way of retaliating back to mainstream media, closing feedback circuits. Found footage images which I choose are very personal for me and are chosen because they get to me in some way, resonating something deep inside in me, from my own history, in my identity. In addition, it's an opportunity to critique popular culture, and there is a lot to critique.
Yes, there are many film festivals scattered globally, creating a community of people interested in this kind of work. It's really cool that we can connect and form a network of people interested in video art and experimental film. I am really grateful for the opportunities to screen the works. Film festivals are freer from commercial obligations, and can include more artists in their programme, and show varied, themes programming. Galleries allow the public to focus more on works, with the videos having bigger impact in the almost holy space of the gallery, where viewers devote more time and attention to the work shown. There is also the difference between presenting on the screen - which is a more cinematic experience - and in the gallery space, where it is a more sculptural or installation form. And there is something magical about the loop playback of video in galleries, this repetitiveness, but then it's also
Cut Out, 2014, UK
magical see the work on a big screen in a cinema hall... And, more in general, do you think that art could play a crucial role in facing social questions today? It should definitely try.
Whatâ€™s next for Guli? Are there any new projects on the horizon? I created lately a work incorporating poetic text and pixelated images, but at the moment I am specifically interested in the following idea, best put in Hito Steyrel words: "How about
acknowledging that this image is not some ideological misconception, but a thing simultaneously couched in affect and availability, a fetish made of crystals and electricity, animated by our wishes and fears— a perfect embodiment of its own conditions of existence? As such, the image is—to use yet
another phrase of Walter Benjamin’s—without expression. It doesn’t represent reality. It is a fragment of the real world. It is a thing just like any other—a thing like you and me." ('A Thing Like You and Me', e-flux, Journal#15, 04/2010)
Cheryl Simmons An artist's statement
My practice explores the act of looking back at history, the fragmentary nature of memory and the repetitious nature of forgetting. These themes are explored through a labour intensive, research driven process of categorising which culminates in work that interrogates the reliability of historical interpretation. By returning to actions of the past, those that are made in the present are questioned. This re-examination of history is explored through a wide range of different processes within my practice which include video, photography, drawing and collage. My most recent work reflects on my role as a tourist whilst aboard on holiday. The misleading and often contradictory stories told by tour guides, most of which could be seen as tourists themselves, has influenced a number of projects which scrutinise the reliability of historic interpretation. Projects include an investigation into the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, the German occupation of Paris during World War Two and a war fought in 1859 between the USA and Britain which was caused by the fatal shooting of a pig. Death in the Folds is the conclusion of a six month research project carried out during my second year studying for a Masters at the Slade School of Fine Art, London. The project was inspired by two visits to Paris in 2010 and 2013. It began as a result of participating in a French Revolution walking tour in Paris where I was introduced to the story of Jean Paul Marat who was assassinated in his bathtub in 1793. Another important influence upon the work was a visit to the Muse d'Orsay to see the exhibition Crime and Punishment where I encountered Jacques-Louis Davidâ€™s painting The Assassination of Jean Paul Marat (1793). Imbedded within the fragmented narrative of Death in the Folds are the testimonies of four different tour guides which tell the tales of a number of different historical figures connected to French but also English history including Jean Paul Marat, Charlotte Corday, Maximilien de Robespierre, Georges Danton, Marie Antoinette, Louis XVI, XIV and Anne Boleyn. The video also uses the French Revolution as a means to reflect upon the wider implications of colonialism as well as historic events such as the moon landing and WWII. Death in the Folds is a complex, multilayered video that reflects upon the violence of the edit in order to reflect on the way in which the past, when recollected, is condensed and fragmented. The camera is used to reframe history and to draw attention to the camera as a manipulative tool that can distort and problematise testimonies from the past. Humour is also used within the work as a device to disrupt the narrative and to create tangents which look at historic Revolutions outside of France and historic figures connected to them.
An interview with
Cheryl Simmons Cheryl Simmons undermines our knowledge in order to reintroduce us to the adventure of knowing. Her approach to the production of images could be described as a sceptical examination of the historical conventions of various countries, focusing on the tensions between perception, memory and subjectivity. We are glad to present Cheryl Simmmons for this year's Videofocus Edition: Cheryl, how did you get into experimental cinema? I was introduced to experimental cinema through watching the short films of filmmakers such as Paul Sharits, Kenneth Anger and Chris Marker during my second year studying for a Bachelors degree in Fine Art. I was also introduced to a film called ‘the Cut Ups’ by William S. Burroughs and Antony Balch made in 1966 which had a significant impact on how I edit and construct my films. The film is an aggressively confusing repetitive montage of video and sound which is inspired by the by painter and writer Brion Gysin’s ‘cut-up technique’. A particular aspect of your cinema we would like to focus on is the way you explore the boundaries between personal memory and collective memory. Cinema has been for more than half a century the reign of collective memory: nonetheless, only the most courageous filmmakers have tried to get under the skin of film like psychologists investigates the subconscious dimension. The structure of personal memory and human behavior is a fundamental point of you art research: could you introduce our readers to this concepts? My research into the structure of memory originates from the theories of Paul Ricoeur who wrote that ‘memory is an event,
forgetting is not an event’. My most recent work seeks to investigate forgetting as a non-event and the absence of these events in collective memory. These ideas are reinforced and problematised by Maurice Halbwachs writings on the social frameworks of memory as well as Friedrich Nietzsche’s writing on active forgetting. From my research into Ricoeur, Halbwachs and Nietzsche I became interested in the unreliable nature of memory and the effect forgetting has on how we remember the past. I am especially interested in the inconsistencies of my own memory which is something I explore within my work through creating drawings and collages from memory which focus more on what has been forgotten than what has been remembered. My work also explores human behaviour in the way it questions how an audience responds to depictions of violence. The behaviour of tourists when abroad on holiday is often interrogated within my work and especially in Death in the Folds. I am not only analysing how tourists around me are behaving within sites connected to violence and revolution but I am also I constantly analysing my own behaviour at the same time. Death in the Folds presents a multilevel context. We want to take a closer look at the genesis of your experimental film: how did you come up with the idea for this work? The idea for Death in the Folds originated from a tour guide’s claim that the historical figure of Jean Paul Marat hid in the Paris sewers to escape capture from the police and supposedly contracted a skin ailment whilst in hiding. The story sounded so absurd that it made me want to find out whether there was any truth to the tour guide’s claim. The film began as an investigation of Jean Paul Marat and then of Charlotte Corday who murdered him in his bathtub in 1793 and then evolved through the process of making the work to be an investigation into how historical facts can be confused and misinterpreted repeatedly until fact and fiction are blurred together.
What was the most challenging thing about making this film? The most challenging thing about making the film was trying to make sense of all the research I gathered for the project. At the very beginning all I had was a physical description of Jean Paul Marat and footage of a walking tour around Paris. When I began to research into Marat and the French Revolution I began to find links to other historical events such as World War II, the Algerian War, the Black Death, Henry VIII and his six wives. I had to somehow make sense of how each historical event is connected to the French Revolution and find
a way to portray this within the final film. I was also writing my MA thesis on French colonial history in connection to the early political films of Alain Resnais at the time of making Death in the Folds, which meant that I was reading a lot of critical theory which also created a lot of complex questions whilst making the film. It was also a very difficult film to edit because there was so much information to work my way through and it took almost five months to edit the film. I made at least fifteen different versions of the film which eventually became Death in the Folds. The work also had many different titles, including ‘He was Hideous of the Face’ and ‘The River’. But in
the end I decided to go with Death in the Folds which is taken from the quote ‘there is death in the folds of her skirt and blood about her feet. She is for no man’ by Joseph Conrad. Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new project? My film works usually originate from a piece of text or an image connected to an event, person or place from history. Most of my work begins when I visit a historical site of interest. Once I have returned to my studio I
then start to research into the origins of the event, person or place using the internet before broadening my search using other sources of information including film, art and literature that are connected to the original event or person I am researching. I then make collages and drawings based on my research and I document the act of making via a camera. The collages and drawings themselves I see as stand alone pieces which engage the viewer in a different way to my film works but I also see them as props for the final film thatI am working towards. Filming the process of making a collage is fascinating to me
because it shows my thought process, mistakes and hesitations. After I have created a large archive of multilayered approaches to making work in response to my research, I then begin to edit footage together, experimenting with different juxtapositions between sound and image to make a film or series of films.
In your artist's statement you are referring to the camera as a manipulative tool that can distort and problematise testimonies from the
especially with ‘Death inthe Folds’ the action of making a collage is used as a way to reveal how histories are constantly being reinterpreted and reconstructed. There are many different interpretations of historic events and more often than not they contradict one another. Rather than try and take one person’s side, I try to objectively consider as many different perspectives as possible. Did any specific directo or videoartist appeal to you? When we saw Death in the Foldd we immediately thought of Jonas Mekas's words " When I am filming everything is determined by my memory, my past, so that this "direct" filmming becomes also a mode of reflection". Can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work? I am greatly influenced by the early political films of Alain Resnais which include ‘Night and Fog’, ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ and ‘Muriel’. His collaborations with writers Jean Cayrol and Marguerite Duras created films which analyse the relationship between trauma and the witness and also questions the accuracy of filmic depictions of historic events. Whilst carrying out research for Death in the Folds I was reading a lot of french literature by writers such as Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. I found the writers reflections on French collective memory, colonialism and violence very influential to the making of Death and the Folds and their writing continues to have a significant impact on my artistic practice. past. Can you introduce our readers to this concept? The camera is a manipulative tool because of the way in which it can be used to edit or censor information from the viewer. When I am using a camera I am constantly aware that I am dictating what the viewer sees and what they will not see. The camera problematises and distorts testimonies from the past through the way it which it distorts facts and turns them into fictions. I am interested in using the camera as a tool to explore these problems and to reveal what is often hidden from the viewer. In my films,
Thanks for sharing your time, Cheryl, we wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for you? Have you a particular film in mind? My next film which I am currently carrying out research for will explore Roland Barthes theories on memory and the photograph. ‘He only recognised her except in fragments’ will explore the fragmented way in which we look back at the past and the hysterical nature of history.
Joa s N ebe
An interview with
Joas Nebe We love artists and cinematographers crossing the boundaries of cinematic genres. Joas Nebe is known for his unique visionary imagery: his art research and practice reveals a remarkable effort to get under the skin of cinema, conveying a purely subjective, yet modernist, sensibility where the form conveys its meaning directly. Indeed, it would be interesting to compare his films to the cinema of Jan Svankmajer. We are glad to present Joas Nebe for this year's Videofocus Edition. Joas, how did you get into experimental cinema? From the start i used to be fascinated by art works with hidden messages. I always estimated art works that works like a puzzle or a crosswords without showing a clear picture or meaning at the end. What i mean is i wanted an art work or it´s author not to underestimate my abilities. So i felt in love with authors like Jorge Luis Borges, José Lezama Lima, Dylan Thomas and James Joyce, the great modernist writers. In their works they reached for a meaning beyond the most common political boundaries which they seemed to feel more then to seen. After making acquaintance with this great writers i felt the inner need to continue my discovery journey into another artistic discipline, which was film. I explored the works of film makers like Georges Méliès, Fritz Lang and Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau - the really early cinematic magicians. I was intrigued by Expressionist films of the 1920s as much as the early French cinema. Even the Soviet cinema of Eisenstein had an impact on me, who´s work is deeply influenced by drawing formats of caricature and cartoons. The films of Eisenstein have a strong visual expression beside the communist ideology they try to sell. Sometimes the imagery of his work tells another story then the story line is doing. The unique visual aesthetic and it´s dynamic momentum was the reason of my growing interest in his work.
After the early film makers made their way into my world, i continued my research into the more contemporary ones. At that time these film makers had been already all the time around me. I learned to understand them after this more or less late lesson taught by literature and film history. Before i have learned the lesson i felt a strong attraction to the film makers Monty Phytons and e.g. Fellini. Suddenly i understood what made me watching this films. At once the Monty Phyton´s with their very special philosophical approach in their comedy were more then fun. And Fellini´s
films filled up with characters and stories influenced by circus, clowns and vaudeville conveyed more then a simple collection of entertaining characters and strange imagery. I learned that both film makers or film maker groups created stories based on intellectual discourse beside the entertaining quality they had. This was something i discovered for me to be the right way creating strong images loaded with impressive unseen unusual things and behind that a more or less strong philosophical idea.
Watching your video work, we have the impression that you are aiming less for the traditional and all-round success of a piece (like in Bill Viola's early works, for example) than at giving each shot a certain emotional and aesthetic quality. We want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film series: how did you come up with the idea for PARADISE GARDENS + SPA? PARADISE GARDENS + SPA has developed into a series of films consisting of 2 up to 6
channels each. The films are supposed to be projected on a really large screen or even on a facade of an huge building for example. Next to the multi channel version i manufactured one channel versions in order to give festivals the opportunity to screen this films. This might be enough for a short technical intro which is nevertheless important in order to understand the performative aspect of films like PARADISE GARDENS + SPA. The idea behind PARADISE GARDENS + SPA series is to research the meaning of a powerful metaphor. This metaphor exists on a very high level of abstraction and is deeply rooted in our culture. The second aspect i am interested in is the easy-to-sell contemporary item of service
industry which you can find in resort and hotel offers regarding spa treatment and which is in fact a profan interpretation of the idea of the garden of Eden. Another meaning popped-up during the making of this films when islamist terrorists started building up a caliphate in former Syria and Irak. Suddenly paradise garden was again more prominent through the idea that each deserving dead islamic worrier will arrive in paradise garden if he would be killed in action participating in holy war. So you can say i started with a pattern of more or less loose connected meanings which i
What was the most challenging thing about making this film? The most challenging aspect in making films like PARADISE GARDENS + SPA is always to find the adequate image to what i want to tell. It must be touching and moving and have entertaining qualities. I want people to have fun watching my films. I don´t want to depress them but confront them with what i think is worth telling them and which is not always only fun. By making pictures which are touching and moving i try to reach their hearts. By making the image somehow entertaining, i try to give them an easy access to the film message. In PARADISE GARDENS the most challenging part was to get rid of the idea that paradise gardens always has to be a garden. I had to learn that i don´t have to show a French park or English garden if i want to evoke the impression of garden of Eden. Very often it´s enough to show one element like typical animals, e.g. flamingo birds, butterflies etc. as kind of a substitute for the garden eden metaphor. Meanwhile the series consists of films showing any kind of animals more or less fixed on pages taken from encyclopedic books presenting for example insects categorized by their morphological appearance. The picture is always combined with a strange element, for example a sound of a gun shot or human whispering. The connection of the two elements starts the engine of the spectator´s brain- at least this is what i hope it will do!
thought to be worth being investigated. If you look to it this way, making a film is a kind of journey to a place which i don ´t know from the start. The only "instrument of navigation" on this journey i have are the emotional and aesthetic elements of the film i am creating. They help me to get closer to what i more feel than see before me because the truth is not as clear to me as to many other more political artists. The real adventure is to get as close as possible to what we call „truth“. In order to come back to PARADISE GARDENS + SPA: what i do here is, i try to understand what paradise means to us today and how the spa area of a hotel resort is connected to the death of an islamist warrior.
Suddenly the audience is asking themselves, „why does he show moving butterflies disappearing after a shot only heard not seen, fired by an invisible killer?“ Surrealism might be a deeply subjective practice, but by definition it is also a hyperrealist one. In your cinema the fantastic and the absurd are rendered in clear, precise images. How did you develop your visual imagery? I am not telling stories in my films. My films are non-fictional. There is not even the slightest trace of a story in my cinema. By leaving the story away i am loosing an important way of expression. Because a story makes it easier for the audience to understand the picture. A story allows empathy and identification with the characters. By feeling
what a character feels, you allow the film message to enter your heart and brain. In order to compensate the missing story, i have to concentrate on image and sound. This both cinematographic elements must draw the spectator´s attention to the picture. Sound and image must be entertaining in order to make the spectator watch. And the entertaining quality of both elements must come directly from what they are. They are no longer submitted to the story line may it be a fictional or documentary story. Here becomes the difference between other pictures and my films clear, i guess. Freed from the submission under the story, image and sound develop an yet unknown power. Another key element of my films is the apparent missing of human beings, of any kind of „human interest“. The human element is only represented by objects and „instruments“ of human life like cars, aircrafts and buildings. My cinema is a cinema of objects. But all objects, even the animals are reflecting on the humans to whom´s world they all belong. Nevertheless by leaving all humans away i am focusing on the human being in my cinema. On the first glance this seems to be contradictory. On a second glance it is not. I want to put it this way: all visual elements are formed by human hands and eyes, because they are part of images produced by photographers, artists or graphic designers. So there is always the human hand involved and traces of human interaction with nature and objects is contained by every single element of my pictures. In general you can say, there is a strong human impact on my pictures that takes even influence in what the pictures say because every part of the scene gains more influence on what is told by the absence of a story line. Nevertheless the human impact is found only on a higher level of abstraction compared to cinema in general. If you want, you could say that my cinema is in this way a „philosophical" one. What count´s more compared to other film maker´s pictures is the single element, the single scene. The meaning is here not only what you can see. The meaning is connected directly to every single element of which a scene is composed of. Because of this shift of meaning onto a second level not easy to access it might be more difficult to enter the picture at all. At least i imagine it like this. But in order to come back to your question this shift of meaning is probably the hyperrealist momentum of my films.
The embrace of the imagination seems to have specific political implications for you, we dare say that the measure of your cinema is intelligence, fantasy and, of course, a subtle irony. Sometimes, however, we have the impression that in your video tragedy is always behind the corner. Do you agree with this interpretation of your work? In most of my films i am telling stories about how the world could be and what humans do to it by misusing their gifts of intelligence, feeling and reason. I deeply believe in the ideals spread by intellectuals of the epoch of enlightenment. Today the ideas of this era are object to discussions of different intellectual
groups. Poststructuralists like Derrida, Foucault or thinkers with a more postmodernist approach like Sloterdijk have a twisted attitude towards positions of intellectuals of the enlightenment era. And even if poststructuralist´s or postmodernist´s positions are authentic- which i never would dare to doubt- these positions are still have to allow us to measure them against the big ideas of great thinkers of the enlightenment. Nevertheless i think the achievements of enlightenment regarding all entitled arguments against them are still worth taken into account, even today. But what i see is that this isn´t done very often these days. Postmodernist and poststructuralists have won the battle at least in Western societies, at least
for the moment. Their thinking rules public discourse and thinking patterns of most intellectuals today. And that is maybe what you feel when you watch my films and described as „tragedy is always behind the corner“. But i never believe in the ruling modes of thinking. I doubt everything that is too much accepted by the majority. That´s where irony comes into game. It embodies my doubts against the ruling discourse of our time. I deeply believe in the necessity of the protection of minority opinions and minorities in general against the majority. All of my cinema is based on the idea that we all should
take the minority opinion into account, everytime. Another basic idea of my film work is an anti - ideological attitude so to say. This might be what you describe as „political implication“ of my work. After the cruel battles of left wing and right wing ideologies, fascism and communism in the 20th century it is time to get a fresh start and forget about the ideological influenced patterns of left- or right wing thinking. It is time to get back in focus the single human. It is time to see every human not as part of a group or religion, but as an individual with his or her own feelings, needs, wishes etc..
That´s where fantasy comes into game because fantasy is something very personal. Fantasy is what an individual only can have, what a group never will have. Fantasy has the power to overcome the limitations of ideologies because fantasy is limited to individuals. Ideologies are limited to groups. That´s the difference. By ideology individuals are measured to what the group is supposed to be. Individuals are taken as group members and nothing else. Their personality is reduced to what is good for the group they are supposed to belong to. Fantasy has the power to show that an individual is more then a group member. That´s why i think fantasy is so important and that´s why fantasy is part of my
impact on my art is painting. The tradition of painting is overwhelming because it has developed over centuries. There are in fact certain elements of painting in my film work because i started my artist career as a painter. Two of my paintings are sold to a musical production company base in Amsterdam and New York City. They are still presenting my work in one of their musical theatre located in the harbor of the city of Hamburg. The paintings decorate the lounge area of this theatre. In my paintings i developed an rough style representing not only the living ones but the dead and the spirits. This kind of style i transformed into my film work, which is not very soft and gentle, but entertaining after you forget about the so called „mistakes“, the rough editing, the cut out collages etc.. Another important impact is a light sculpture. I used to develop a light sculpture tent for a one-day-event in Hamburg in the late 1990s. I designed a tent which was enlighted from the inside showing figurines reaching out to one another around the tent´s walls. This tent was a kind of a 3D-sculpture. The light and shadow are still inherent to my film work, representing the world of the ideas and intellectual approaches to real world. The metaphorical meaning of light and shadow standing for life and death might be still inherent in my contemporary film work although this dichotomy hasn´t yet the meaning it used to have in my paintings of the 1990s.
cinema. Intelligence, too, is important because intelligence allows to analyze the discourse of the big thinkers and thinking systems of our time. Intelligence is the weapon you need to keep the ruling ideas on distance and to find out where their weak parts and limitations are. In fact this is a description how i use intelligence in my film work. Can you introduce our readers to the multidisciplinary nature of your art? I have answered already the question about the cinematographic element in my films. But cinematography is only one discipline that has emerged into my art. Another important
Another important artistic discipline is theatre. A few semester i used to study dramatic writing until i explored that my main interest is not story telling. Nevertheless theatre is still having an impact on my film work. Theatre and film have a lot in common. Both disciplines are dedicated to enact a story by creating strong images. What i took from theatre is the important role of scenes. I took from theatre the scenes and cut the story away. By giving the main role to the scenes and leaving the story and characters away, i changed the roles each element in theatre does have. Usual the scene is a minor aspect of text interpretation. Always the main role in theatre is reserved to the actors and the story. By putting scenes into focus, i turn them into an actor itself. This „actor“ is not longer bound to the story development but is transformed into something that is form and function at the
same time, message and message interpretation. In an interesting interview conducted by Rebecca Schoensee you say "I am denying the satisfaction of solving the riddle, hidden within the depth of my artwork". Can you better introduce our readers to this fundamental concept of your art practice? Here I have to reconnect to my answers to your questions about tragedy. As much as i am impressed by the ideas of the enlightenment, as much i am believing in the power of the brain combined with empathy, i do not believe that our individuality is completely explained by what the ability of thinking, feeling and empathy is making out of us. We are more than a crossword ready to be solved by a powerful mind. We are humans with different mistakes and defects. We are individuals. So we are more than what a group is ready to admit to our personality. We are individuals with feelings, reasoning, a special kind of intellect. This means if you are looking for individual access to my film work, it might be that every person does find it´s own entrance. At least this is the concept behind my work- or you can say a kind of utopian vision. Besides most elements of my films are representing what i want them to represent based on what the cultural background usual says, there might be a very personal access to them based on personal experiences or even just fantasy. Everyone is welcome to try to „solve the riddle“ by using his or her personal experience and fantasy even if this means to create a meaning i never thought of when i composed the picture. A second important aspect is for me to keep the message a little in the background in order to make the picture more interesting for the spectators which means in this regard „more accessible“. By keeping the message in the background i give room to what the spectator comes up with watching my films. That is why i never would give the key to anyone asking. Everyone will be on his own to be a strain on solving the riddle. Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new project?
Before i start a new project there is a lot of research work to do. One of morning duties is reading the newspapers, checking the web for news. Other research work is done by regularly visiting all museums and galleries at hand. In times when propaganda is back on the agenda all details must be reconfirmed before i rely on them and use them for my research work. I am not interested in propaganda of any kind. One of the most important issues is double checking the reliability of sources. It´s because daily business is as much important as research on art history regarding my themes. The second step is a research on what is already said- at least what kind of knowledge is represented by catalogues, exhibitions etc..
Is there already a special interpretation which is compared to my supposed one very similar? Did i miss any interesting position already published in the art world or beyond? After i researched the issue i do some intuitive research. I collect all images, articles, informations about the issue. After doing all this work, i can start working creative. After collecting all this infos i start referring to myself. I try to find out what is important to me regarding this issue? What does mean this issue especially to my? What kind of intellectual associations are coming into my brain when i start thinking about the issue? How could this be visualize? What could be the soundtrack of it? What fitÂ´s most?
After having together all important sources and a kind of brain storm list of my ideas about the theme, i start composing the film scenes. Most of my film scenes are animated collages. Some have real footage parts. Other themes can require to shoot real footage that has to be doctored during post production process. There is only few real footage i use in my films undoctored because unchanged footage has too much impact of reality for my purposes. I am not interested in showing this street or that car. I am interested in creating an aesthetic scene that in the best case conveys already the
meaning i want it to radiate. Usual unaltered real footage doesn´t do this. When i start looking for images that i can use in order to compose my film setting, i have to decide which kind of „aesthetic look“ i need. Each image conveys already a message by it´s -as i put it- „aesthetic look“, by the way the object shown is presented in the found image. This message already there in the image has to be taken in account. If it is a message that doesn´t fit to the message i want the scene to convey, i can´t use it. If i work with animated scenes, the next question to be answered is what kind of action i want to create. Usually action of some elements of the scene should have a certain plausability in order to help the viewer to find her or his way into my film. Because the setting is already very surreal and functions more as a barrier than an invitation to access, it is so important to keep in touch with reality by being aware of how moving objects are precepted by the spectator. If i would let the moving element conduct action too unrealistic, the film would be spoilt. Nobody would be interested in watching even a second. The last element to be regarded is the sound. The sound should underline the theme and be part of the message. On the other side the sound is an important part of the picture and has to conduct a certain role. Sometimes sound catches the spectator´s attention away from the visual aspect of the film. If this is the case the composition of the soundtrack has to be done as carefully as i compose the scene. In my latest film works sound plays an very independent role. Some sounds are set to be an „actor“ itself by representing an object or a character not visually present in the picture, e.g. the gun shots in the Paradise Gardens + Spa film „Morgue“ where butterflies after a gun shot heard in the background disappear from the screen. We have previously mentioned Jan Svankmajer, yet your filmmaking style is very far from what is generally considered 'academic'. Who among international artists and directors influenced your work? It´s funny that you mentioned Jan Svankmajer. He influenced Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton, who are two of my main sources of inspiration regarding Hollywood cinema. Other sources
are the films „Pan Tau“ of czech film maker Jindrich Polák and the czech „black theatre“. In Prague I visited once a „black theatre“ show that impressed me very much by reducing the stage elements on black background and some partially very independent and surreal acting elements in bright colors in the foreground nevertheless telling a full story. When i grew up i consumed a lot of czech films available on tv. I used to be impressed by the late czech culture, uninfluenced by the communist regime. Other influences are of course- as you may think- Fellini, Antonioni,
Wes Anderson and the Coen Brothers. They are all non mainstream film makers whoÂ´s works have a strong impact on me because of the surreal elements not only in the story but of the settings. Some, for example Fellini and Wes Anderson have their own visual worlds composed out of desperate elements taken from different cultural traditions put together in film settings, pulled together by a strange and bizarre story. Thanks for sharing your time, Joas, we wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for Joas
Nebe? Have you a particular film in mind? It was a pleasure for me to answer your questions on my film work. Thank you for your good wishes! Regarding your question on my plans: i am working on a new film series called The Food Chain. It will be about what we devour, what we admire, what is simply junk in our lives and what will be left, if the human race is vanished from the earth. Keep an eye on my website in order not to miss the latest developments of this new film series!
la comigo (Mechanics speaks to me)
An interview with
José Simões José Simoes's talent as director shows itself in the balance the act of narration: the narrative never interrupts the continuity of the gaze. He is an auteur in our sense of the word. the medium moves beyond notions of theatricality and into the realm of real experience. In Mechanics speaks to me he explore notions of identity, portraiture and the social value of both art and the media through the refined portrait of Adriano, a man who has devoted his life to analogue photography. We are pleased to present José Simoes for this year's Videofocus Edition. José, how did you get into filmmaking? Well, I think in some way, with no jokes about it, everything started with an invitation from some friends to make a documentary of a project they had, the 1st Sculpture Symposium in Plasterboard, but the first steps were given when I was still at the Porto Fine Art University, Portugal and in the Master of Urban Design: Art, City, Society at the Fine Art University of Barcelona, Spain. In Porto Fine Art school I started doing some approaches to video art in the Drawing, Cine Video and Sculpture classes. In Barcelona, with Enrique Carbù for the Landscape Photography subject, I gave my first steps in experimental documentary with 8mm film using image and narration. During the first year of the master degree I was invite to Hertogenbosch, Netherlands and Benevento, Italy to participate in some residency programs, and while there I also worked with video, approaching subjects like activism and politics. In the second year of the Master’s Degree, I returned to the Pyrenees mountain (I’ve been there before in the 1st year) to record new images, landscape sounds and my steps walking on it. Then I returned to Porto already with a little bug to work with video, wanting to work with documentary and experimental video. I started doing some experimental/research works with students of a dance and theater company when I was teaching photography and video there. After I did the 1st Sculpture Symposium in Plasterboard with Ana Pinto and JosÈ Peneda, I made a short documentary with Vera Almeida and JosÈ Peneda about an old merchant in the city and that’s when I started to look differently to the
José Simões subjects I was filming. With this character I started to film his hands, his face, his static position, like when somebody is taking a picture of us, I was taking pictures of him. I was very grateful do this work with "ZÈ da Bata" Chronogram of an Iconographic Portrait. In the close-ups that I made of him I was seeing the landscapes in my thoughts and still I'm using this landscape memory that I have from walking in the Pyrenees Mountain in my works. The work I did with this old character was important
for the work that I'm developing now with Roteiro Oficinal do Porto and specially with Adriano. Before I started working for ROP (Roteiro Oficinal do Porto) I was shooting a wig-maker and the first days with him were in total silence, we only listened to the radio. I don't like to force anything, I prefer the action to be natural, and maybe it was the silent days with this hand magician that made me realize that what I
wanted to concentrate on was him, the subject rather than his work. I was looking for something special and I am still looking for it in my works. The first videos that I did for ROP were very direct because we decided to film in that way, but video after video, I realized - we realized, Alice Bernardo and me - that the Person was starting to play an important role in these videos. I always wanted to film the person, but that was not important in the beginning of the project, but we changed our minds about it.
Mechanics speaks with me is a shift of direction in my work. And it was like that, with the fine art school background, a wrong Masters in Barcelona, field experience in the Pyrenees mountain and some residencies, an invitation to film a friend's project, some ideas in between, the love that I have for photography and finally with ROP and Alice Bernardo that I started to film and think more about portrait. We want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: When did you get in touch with Adriano for the first time? With Adriano, Alice Bernardo was the one that made the first contact. Alice already knew about Adriano’s workshop, and as she says, ROP was an excuse to enter his workshop without anything to fix. After a while in conversation, Alice asked Adriano if it was possible to go there a friend of hers to film him fix a camera or make a tool or something else for the ROP project, and Adriano said yes. A few days after that I went to visit Adriano. Normally, for the ROP project, I let some days pass after Alice makes the first contact before I visit them. I like this passage of time, because I think it’s like a kind of a surprise for them and it's like a new presentation of the ROP project and me. We are very different, me an Alice Bernardo, in our way to approach these people that we shoot and film for our project, but it works perfectly. I rang the bell and a dog came to the green metal gate barking towards me, it was morning, and then a few minutes later Adriano came, the door of the house opened, he went downstairs and came to open the gate for me. I presented myself, I said that I'm a friend of Alice and coauthor of the ROP (Roteiro Oficinal do Porto) project. After we talked a little in the front door, he told me:† the mornings are for sleep, and it was like that, a few days after I started to film this fantastic men in his workshop, listen to his stories, his dog, his cat, his clocks, his cameras, everything that I could but only in the afternoons. What was the most challenging thing about making this film? In the beginning I knew that this film for ROP, with Adriano, would be different, not only because I wanted but because I needed. I would not film him with a fixed camera from the beginning to the end, like I had done for the short films for ROP, we knew that, me and Alice. In every film that I do I think that the most challenging thing is the first contact that you
A still from A Mecânica fala comigo (Mechanics speaks
make with the person and then you start to find the candy in every corner, is it cold or warm? What’s this, what’s that? I need a good feeling from them, from the people that I film to do what I do with them. I like to joke a little because it will be more sincere, more natural and spontaneous and also I like to put a smile in others. It's like warming the ambience, but in a natural and sincere way. I'm not there to joke with them, is not in that way that I make jokes, is in the way that I want a hug from them when I leave. It's like discovering a treasure as in the Indiana Jones movies where you have to pass a serious of challenges before you get the prize. I knew and I know that Adriano knows a lot of cameras, in some way you can feel it in the film in some specific moments. I know some things about photography also (one of my subjects in
the University was Photography in the time where they taught analog photography, I like the analog photo, I like to reveal, I like the smell of the products, I like to put my hands in the work, I’m not afraid to get dirty, I do not like the digital way, like Adriano, I don't know… is not the same feeling. With film is different, but I don't have a great camera and good lens, I have analog lens). I was filming a Master and I was afraid to say something very stupid. You can joke with each other but you need to respect him and his work, it’s a life dedication to mechanic and to cameras. The most amazing things in Adriano’s’ character are his life stories, his casualness of life. In these stories we can see the time pass. When I was with Adriano in his workshop he told me that he knew where I was living and told me
that he has some pictures of the communal garden in front of my house. When these kind of coincidences occur it’s amazing, because then I understood that one photo of my garden was enough to make us closer to each other and that was great for the film. It’s not the first time that I’ve crossed paths with the people that I'm filming in the moment. When I was filming the Wig-Maker we saw each other one or two times in the same train. Ok, the city is not very big, but..., and this happened also with other people that I already filmed and it's great. In one moment with Adriano he told me "that the viewer sees only what the director wants him to see", and he told me that when he was younger he did some good videos. In a certain way I think that the most challenging thing about making this film was finding a way to
A still from A Mecânica fala comigo (Mechanics speaks to me)
combine a specific artistic way to show Adriano’s surroundings and himself, his stories and his knowledge as a Master. Human experience is often the starting point of your filmmaking. What draws you to a particular subject? This point of view started before Roteiro Oficinal do Porto with "ZÈ da Bata" from the work "Chronogram Of A Iconographic Portrait ", with the wig-maker and after with the work "How the Portuguese eat the White Bread Toast" (illustrations by InÍs Barroso). First there is the object/subject, like a candy for a kid; if it's good then I want to know the recipe. When you start to ear the recipe at the same time you are starting to know this person, and some moments after, you find the emotional thing about it. You
start to see the happiness, the smile, the eyes are different, the profundity of the voice is different, and you feel that something changed in this half an hour. Minute after minute you realize that you are like a child and in front of you is a kind of a story Teller, and you are frozen earing him because you are looking for something pure. It’s this feeling that draws me to a particular subject. It’s not only what they do that is special. When that happens, you know that him or her are also special, something tells you that they are. What happens sometimes is that I start looking for something behind their hands, beyond words. I made a short video with a brush-maker lady, and in that short film you can see her working continuously, silently, repetitive, you only ear
sincerity and sensitivity. How did you develop your filmmaking style? To be sincere, I'm an old school guy, I grew up with Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Alien's and other similar movies. I didn’t came from the normal academic film school, I came from a fine arts school, with subjects like photography, drawing, sculpture and video in an experimental way. A friend of mine, Ana, sometimes tells me that I am a sculpture artist, very simple and truthful in everything I do. Maybe I'm still looking for my style, I like portrait photography, landscape photography. I came from a design professional course and from a Urban Design: Art, City, Society Master. I mix influences, in a certain way I try to be a sculptor in my films, I'm looking for a great photography that reminds me of the mountains, I like portraits and at the same time I like and try to do some experimental plans, I feel like a scientist doing an experience when I’m filming and when I'm editing. I do not use a storyboard, I don't like it, it's harder after but I prefer the natural development, I do not impose walls, I like the Netherlands landscapes in my work. I think it's my life experience in many aspects that defines my work. What I am as a person reflects in the works that I create. I came from a simple, honest and hard working environment and that can say a lot about my work. I do not know how to explain exactly how I’ve developed my filmmaking style; maybe it’s that sincerity and sensitivity of being natural in everything I do.
the sound of machines working. What I love the most in that video is what she said in the final: - I've always liked sewing. (words of F·tima, the brush-maker lady) Is not a loose phrase. She is doing brushes, because her father helped her to find a job a long time ago, but what she really loves is sewing. That was spontaneous, it was sincere and natural. It’s a peculiar way that I have when I'm talking with them that leads me to the subject. This last phrase was my goal. From the first time we watched your work we were impressed by your lack of artifice reminding us of the documentary films by Jean-Marie Straub and DaniËle Huillet: the hallmark of your talent resides in your
We have previously quoted Straub and Huillet, even though your filmmaking style is very far from what is generally considered 'academic'. Who among international artists and directors influenced your work? I can say that at this moment my principal influence comes from the work of Vincent Moon, not the short video clips, but the longest ones, the experimental ones. I love his work, his approach to the subject and the capture of surroundings. The textures that he gives to his films are very, very nice and also when he is looking for something unique in the subject, you can see on the close-ups. Vincent Moon is a big reference to my work. Michael Snow is another of my references. Then I have others like Sally Potter, Poppy de Villeneuve, sometimes it’s only one video or a way to film like Pedro Costa. Jean-Luc Godard, Win Wenders, Wong Kar-Wai, Jean-Pierre Jeunet with his amazing imaginary, Veit Helmer (with
Tuvalu) and David Linch, just to name a few. Each one in a particular way, sometimes it’s the photography, sometimes a moment. I love a moment, in a film of Emir Kusturica, Life is a Miracle, where there is pigeon, a cat and a dog, it’s marvelous all the action, it’s a parallel life related with the principal scene of the movie. There is always a moment that influenced me in the work that I do. Jacques Tati, in Playtime, is another film that is a reference to me, when he used the glasses to show the surroundings. I am a person who is aware of everything that goes on around me, and probably that influences me now and will influence me every day in my works. From a visual point of view, your cinema is marked by a naturalistic and at the same time intimate atmosphere. Can you describe your approach to cinematography and composition?† When you write a scene, do you keep in mind the place of the actors on the screen? In the beginning I go there and film everything that in my perspective would be interesting for the video that I am making. Sometimes I am looking for a new point of view, always searching for something new. I film clocks, posters, calendars with saints, photos, papers, garbage, a tool, all that has a connection to the work and to the person and when it’s interesting I also capture something that doesn’t belong there, because sometimes this kind of "no place objects" can tell me more than a scissor to a tailor. Maybe because it’s a personal object. When I see this kind of objects it’s like my imagination goes to another place, I try to create in my mind a marvelous place for that object, or see with another perspective these objects or something else. All objects that I have can tell a little about me, maybe I could try to make a portrait without sound, without voice and this film can be a slow landscape portrait narrative…well I leave this idea here, it’s difficult because we are all different but certainly I will know someone to try this kind of approach with. It's natural, it happens naturally when I start to film, nothing is tough in advance, it’s an action/reaction kind of shooting. The same happened when I talked to Adriano, it’s like an old friends conversation, more like a Master and his disciple. The way I compose, I think is a mix of influences, every time that I go film I do it with a new approach, it depends so much on what I get when I am shooting, it depends on what the place has to give me, it’s an affinity between me
A still from A Mecânica fala comigo (Mechanics speaks
and the place, the person and the subject. I try to mix the experimental with archive, seeing now from the way that I compose my videos, maybe I can tell that it’s similar to an archive, a personal film archive, a small one, not in the sense of the archive in the real word. Sometimes you have an introduction on the intimacy with some objects, personal and others, with Adriano I start differently, I start with his presentation even if I have some closeups in the beginning of the film. I do not know why I compose in that way, I can't explain exactly why, I am trying to understand and define my works looking for a path, a style. I don't use a script or a storyboard, maybe because I didn’t came from the academic film
school, maybe because I am an artist and filming is for me a work in process. I know that if I use a script, probably it will help me a lot and it will be easier to edit, but if I use one I will lose this natural way that I have with others, the natural development of what I do in my videos would be lost. I go to the field knowing nothing about what I will get. At the start I already know what will probably be good because Alice already made the first contact. It all happens in the moment, every time it’s a new challenge, it’s a new "adventure" in a field that I do not know very well, I'm not an expert, I like to know, to see, to experience new imaginary, like a discoverer. When I am filming I like to explore, like
Sherlock Holmes looking for a clue using a magnifier, that’s what my camera is, a Magnifier, looking, searching, exploring, the expression of a face, a smile, a hands’ movement, a calendar, a clock, a small piece of paper, a story, a sound, a cat, a feeling. Examining everything that has something interesting for the film. I write while I am filming. In Mechanics speaks to me, the approach was different than other films for ROP. Similar to Mechanics speaks to me was the video that I made with the brush-maker lady (F·tima). I liked to do a long shot of this lady and show her repetitive work, the same movement. It
A still from A Mecânica fala comigo (Mechanics speaks to me)
remembered me of my summer work, in a Bar taking coffees, after a time it’s already mechanic, the movement that you make, and you do not need to think more of what comes next. I wanted Adriano on the screen, I wanted to show this man, his smile, his satisfaction in everything that he does. It wasn’t the first time, in the short film with the brush-maker lady I started to film the surroundings, then her hands working and making brushes but there was a moment†when I was filming her that I wanted in the screen – it’s a longest shot of her working repetitively, in that moment I was able to see me when I was working in a Bar taking coffees one after another. With Adriano was different, I
wanted him in the screen, because it’s a beautiful feeling when you see his smile, his satisfaction in anything that he does, the happiness in his eyes. For me it was important to keep him on the screen, not only because many people know him and probably he will like it, but because I need to see his smile. From the beginning to the end, my relation with Adriano was changing, it’s normal if you pass many moments with a person, but in this case it’s not like that, he is not in my path, it was a short period that I passed with him, I do not know but it is quite possible that I will not see him again. A few days ago I finished shooting a Knitter’s Couple, and they are on the screen, sometimes only the hands, sometimes other shots but in this case, like Adriano there are moments when
ups. To be more exact, it’s like what I learned in figurative sculpture, starting from the inside out. All the time I am looking for something personal or strange, it depends on what the space has to offer you, everything depends on the place, everyone is different from each other. I remember one exercise in drawing classes with the teachers Paulo Almeida and Pedro Maia, it’s more or less like drawing what the eye sees and I think that’s what I do when I am filming, I am drawing the place surrounding the person. After, I give it some space/time before I start to edit. I see the clips, I try to create a kind of narrative in my mind, I search for something interesting in the clips that I’ve shot, I compose some hard short films, I like long shots, sound without images to create some imaginary in the mind of the viewer, some nonsense stories that are important to know the character and also to give a more sincere and natural side. Thanks for sharing your time, JosÈ, we wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for you? Have you a particular film in mind? At this moment I’m finishing shooting a couple, a knitter lady very professional and his husband, a man who fixes the knitter machines. Both of them have a nice story. Now I need to understand how I will edit these two stories. This will be a good challenge because I have their knowledge and their portrait at the same time. The man is the last active professional who fixes the Knitter machines. their expressions show you how happy they are. Maybe some people can see only his stories on this film, others can see more, but you need to be sensitive to feel in his words that he is a very happy person dedicated to what he loves to do. Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new project? In the field when I am shooting I am watchful of everything that it’s on my depth of view. For example, if I am filming a person talking to me, a normal conversion of his life, the camera is focused in his face, then I see that he is speaking also with is hands and the camera goes down looking for his hands, particular things that are in place. Close-ups, Macro Close-
I have some ideas in the drawer that I want to explore. I will stay with my work in Roteiro Oficinal do Porto and I want to start again a work with my mom and dad where I'm trying to find myself with a portrait of them and I would like to start a new work about finding my old primary school friends and making with them a portrait of what they liked to have been and what they are today. The important thing to leave here is that I have plans to continue filming and explore new approaches around the Portrait, related more with landscape as well as the collect of meanings.
Eduardo Flores A still from K-Manifest
K-Manifest is a video version of the composition with the same title for video, electroacustic and live interaction. It was composed as part of the project "Klang und bewegte visuelle Kunst" in Hannover, Germany. The letter K stands for German words such as Kunst (art), Klang (sound), Kantate (cantata), etc. Software: Pure Data with GEM and Csound
An interview with
Eduardo Flores Abad Eduardo Flores is known for his unique visionary imagery. His audiovisual compositions convey a purely subjective, yet modernist, sensibility where the form conveys its meaning directly, taking at heart Michael Snow's lessons "I wish to abandon imitation and illusion and enter directly into the higher drama of celluloid". We are glad to present Eduardo Flores for this year's Videofocus Edition. Eduardo , how did you get into experimental video? I like experimenting on different artistic categories and trying diverse types of materials. The video allows me to be employed with movement, colour, sound, a many dimensions at the same time. My first video was â€œLo doble y Ăşnicoâ€? (the double and the only thing) based on the history of a woman with two heads - a short story of the Ecuadorian writer Pablo Palacio( 1906-1947). To find a character with these characteristics had been difficult for me. So I chose to present this peculiarity not of synchronous form, but diachronic and not real but metaphorical. That is to say the video, as well as the woman of the history, splits into two parts that belong to only one form. In this case the first part of the video is monochrome, abstract and the other one coloured and figurative. We want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: how did you come up with the idea for K-Manifest? K-Manifest was composed as manifesto for my project Sound and Visual Art in 2009. The letter K stands for German words such as Kunst (art), Klang (sound), Konstruktion (construction), Chaos (chaos), etc. The project was started in Germany in 2007 with the objective to condense into a piece of art the relation between picture and music, using digital technology. In my work I do not try to limit elements as the image, the colour, the form and the sound to
Eduardo Flores Abad
mere definitions or meanings, but I try to add all kinds of experiences and skills of the film, video art, painting or music and to use them in a pragmatic and efficient form in the search of new courses for the artistic creation in general.
This search is reflected in K-Manifest for example in the first sequence; one sees only the legs and the shoes of completely dressed people while moving in one direction or in the end of the video when the bare feet of an unknown person walk away.
Transformation is also part of this process of search. For that reason the original picture transforms itself in new and different forms like a self-portrait animation of the artist or like the animation of a photography of the philosopher and pacifist Theodor Lessing
A still from K-Manifest
(1872-1933) which will appear as a graphic quotation. Likewise it is present in the face of a smiling woman who appears in the middle of a kaleidoscopic figure. Audio has a huge importance in your works. the use of soundtrack has not a diegethical aims, but tend to sabotage the common perception mechanims like Karlheinze Stockhausen's compositions. Could you introduce our readers to the multidisciplinary nature of your art? For the work of my project it was necessary the use of a meta-concept that sustains the construction of a basic structure, that coordinates the organisation of the diverse materials and allows the use of multiple forms of representation or diverse configurations as film, video installation, or interactive performance, etc. In case of K-Manifest the relation of the image and the sound is not given by use of a synchronous simple form, but by complex connections inside the work. For example four musical segments in short-tolong form (120", 132", 150", 157.5") are distributed to six video-structures with different number of actions (A1 = 9, A2 = 5, B = 5, C = 11, D = 11, E = 9). K-Manifest is marked by a massive use of primary colors. From a visual point of view, our cinematography seems to be deeply influenced by the emotional potential of color: could you better explain this aspect of your shooting style? The primary colours in this case are an aesthetic resource to give to the different video sequences a certain homogeneity grade, creating a kind of general curve that covers the work from beginning to end. There are also types of created relations in the work that were constructed to generate moments of tension, for example the interpolation between the image in a moment of time and the dynamics produced by the elements in movement of the same form. The relaxation is given by the use of the blue colour. In K-Manifest you have used Pure Data with GEM and Csound, an interesting
A still from K-Manifest
workflow. Can you describe your process? The first step was to program a patch in Pure Data and GEM that was allowing to realize compositing switching operations of videosequences. Here only the visual part of the sequences of the video without its original soundtrack are used. In parallel with this I recorded especially new sounds of voices and the noise of persons' steps to create 7 audio samples that will replace the original sound of the sequences of the video.
The second step was to create a structure for the organization of the visual and audiomaterials. This way the proportion is defined 4:6 with relation of sound-parts:visual-parts. The duration of the parts of the sound has the form n*2; n*2.3; n* 2.5; n*2.625 it would correspond to 120", 132", 150", 157.5" The six video-structures contain 17 video sequences with the following form: 9-5-5-11-11-9. In the relation of the proportions the sides are symmetrical and the insides asymmetric.
From the first time we watched your video, we were impressed with the way you are able to treat sound like a physical matter, like a sculpture. Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new project? A fundamental step inside my creative work is to deny the function and general definition of the concepts and objects in the beginning. There are great factors of cultural, physiological and physical nature that can make change a certain context or differ on our spontaneous conception on what can be real,
A still from K-Manifest
A still from K-Manifest
true or metaphorical. For example to build a melody we would think that it is just possible by means of the horizontal arranging of three or more sounds, leaving aside other perspectives, without thinking for example that playing only one sound repeatedly, but changing constantly the vertical organization of its spectral harmonic, it would give to us a melody of timbre. The same procedure is used also with videoimages and sounds, when I change its original function to use them like material to form. Can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work? Luís Buñuel, Dsiga Wertow, Hans Richter,
Oscar Fischinger, Ludwig van Beethoven, Anton Webern, Karl Heinz Stockhausen, Gérard Grisey, Henri Carter Brensson, Francis Bacon between others. Thanks for sharing your time, Eduardo, we wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for you? Have you a particular film in mind? I have a lot of plans, but I would like to work very much with people, cities and silence as material for new video.
A still from K-Manifest
Karina Acosta An artist's statement
The trivialization of the human experience, the cult of superficiality disguised as ephemeral glory, the role of ordinary people as stars, the exhibition of privacy and its high degree of spectacle are part of the imaginary of TV reality or programs belonging to the genre called "Game Show" which are reproduced as commodities in the global community. The need to show on television everyday exploits of common subjects provides entertainment that is easy and escapist and feeds our need for voyeurism and exhibitionism while
compensating for our lack of a sense of community. The pursuit of fame and success leads to the involvement of these TV shows as an expression of contemporary narcissism and as a means of rapid access to financial compensation. The concept of the show as spectacle puts the anonymous participant and their corresponding viewer on the same plane. Television creates behavior models that legitimate certain conduct. We get to see how others solve the problems in their lives: If their lives seem better than ours, we identify
A still from Winners
and fantasize; if they seem worse, we feel grateful of our own situation. Through the process of montage it is possible to de-naturalize what is seen and from there itâ€™s possible to create another, simultaneous effect; on the one hand, the content is identified but on the other it becomes resignified through its form. The discomfort generated in the viewer owed to the fact that the action does not progress foregrounds other, hidden, readings of the image. Inside the fierce pace of televised transmission these readings can be heard,Â€sotto voce. The montage de-contextualizes what happens and
re-signifies hidden intentions of these "Game Show" programs that are far from any philanthropic intent. WINNERS is a series of single-channel videos, which through its various "chapters" attempts to represent analog-television aesthetics, exhibitionism vs. voyeurism and / or winner vs loser; both dichotomies as two poles of the need for external recognition, high above personal self-respect. Karina Acosta
An interview with
Karina Acosta Karina Acosta's vision is at the same time molecular and cosmogonic. From the first time we that we watched Winners we were struck by the courageous way she subverts Game Show tv programs in her work. Yet Karina's approach to filmmaking is not only that of parody: the material and painterly qualities of her films, combined with a unique use of found footage reveal her remarkable effort to get under the skin of the cinema, exploring the blurry boundaries between personal memory and collective memory. We are pleased to present Karina Acosta for this year's VideoFOCUS Edition. Karina, how did you get into experimental cinema? My approach has always been asymptotic. It is born as a necessity: first the idea, then it mutates and it becomes clear what the field to research, develop and deepen is. Addressing experimental film is a personal necessity. I always have it inside dormant, waiting for itâ€™s moment but when it appears there is a very meticulous and obsessive research process. We want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: how did you come up with the notion for Winners? Winners was born from an interest in programs that belong to the genre called "Game Show", which are a huge hit around the globe. They are part of a globalization of our display of intimacy, our seeking of fame, our narcissism, and a rapid economic compensation and lack of respect for oneself. I want to show how through the process of editing I can distort the content though what I display and to put in the foreground the more covert readings inside the fierce pace of televised transmission that is usually sottovoce. The montage decontextualizes what happens and re-signifies the dark intentions of these programs, which are far from a philanthropic intention.
We have found stimulating the painterly qualities of your footage. They remind us of Bruce Conner's work, as well as your analog-television aesthetic. How did you alter visual materials in Winners? The technique that I worked with is very simple, especially because I was interested in having the image along with the flicker that is generated by the cathode rays of analog television, since this is the format where, until not long ago, middle class consumed / consume these standardized products. At the moment, in the collective imagination "TV" is still a 4:3 analog image. What I did is to record, in a digital format, the live TV program at the time of its transmission during Argentine prime time and then reworked the image in a photo editing program, altering its duration and playing with the incessant repetition of gesture and event. Your work merges different disciplines like photography, installation and video art. Can you introduce our readers to the multidisciplinary nature of your art? For example, SIX (6) is a work that encompasses the three disciplines. Born of from the proposition of "sexual abuse in girls," which is hidden through the years and remains in a cloud of guilt. For that I made interventions: dresses and childhood toys for little girls mixed with sexual toys for adults. The pictures share the same mode of representation: the adult toys deliberately expose the explicit, while the objectual works as "adult" is hidden. In contrast with "Playground," a video of around 3 minutes, there is the repetitive use of sound where danger becomes overwhelming. So I choose my different formats based on the needs of the concept and not the other way round. How has your history influenced the way you produce art? For twelve years I studied in college departments that might seems quite different but today with the passage of time I see how they have all influenced my audiovisual production. When I was 17 years old I began my studies in mathematics and later I became interested in statistics and
Karina Acosta (photo by Jimena Salvatierra)
A still from Winners
demography. I dropped out in the last year to study filmmaking and later studied social communication. I was always interested in manipulation through the mass media and state intervention. The public and private sectors sharing mechanisms and quantifying them to generate new needs, new ideologies or simply rephrasing the old ones. That is when I started to understand that my years of research work would serve me as a great resource for realizing my ideas and obsessions. From 2013 I started to work together with another director, Gisela Toledo. Some jobs are collaborations, others just mine and vice versa. She adds the theoretical frame and nourishes the production. This of course gives rise to long discussions, but in the end the works are always proportionately enriched. Winners has gone through many hours of such discussions. Your art is rich of references. Winners Seems to take at heart Michael Snow's lessons "I wish to abandon imitation and illusion and enter directly into the higher drama of celluloid" We have previously mentioned Bruce Conner, however it your visual imagery that seems to be closer to Jonas Mekas's work. Can you tell us your biggest Influences in art and how they have affected your work? I share this vision of a film that rethinks itself, where the approach to the material is not naivetĂŠ but starting with something you want to test, analyze or simply question. My influences start from the vanguards especially Vertov, Leger, RenĂŠ Clair although the purpose of their work is different, I'm interested in their work with montage and the degree of poetic abstraction that those materials create. The same applies to Bruce Conner, for example his work Report (1967), which takes one of the world's most researched and discussed events in history like the Kennedy assassination. In his work with visual and sound editing, it seems to me, he finds a way to open up a discussion about how the press generates discourse; he does so in a repetitive and oppressive manner, that is at times unbearable, and here I identify with the way he works. Jonas Mekas works have
A still from Winners
influenced me, especially because he is also an artist that his work is based on the montage and the significance of the material from this process. Other artists I can mention are Maya Deren, Stan Brakhage, Mario Peixoto, Sadie Benning, a number of artists who share a search for rupture in systems of representation. Could you take us-through your creative process when starting a new project? It's a bit what I said earlier about how I approach the experimental film, everything comes from a topic or question you want to
investigate and from there the investigation begins. It is a rather reflective and analytical process but they donâ€™t all come about in the same way or develop at the same pace. There are ideas that come and remain on standby until they mature. However, the topics that motivate my work are always the same: the mass media, the discursive manipulation, sexuality vs. self-censorship and repression in the representation of the image. These topics are always available for the start of a new project, what essentially varies is my approach. Thanks for sharing your time, Karina, we wish you all the best filmmaker with
your career. What's next for Karina Acosta? Have you a special film in mind? I have several projects ahead; some shortterm and some more distant in time, some led by myself and others in conjunction with Gisela Toledo. At the moment I will continue a work called XMAS, where I work on the excessive and superfluous consumption that generates the days leading up to Christmas, which has the format of a photographic installation. In this regard, I would like to make a video where I would work with the montage and semantic construction of sound. On the other hand, Gisela and I are working on two works: a video installation
A still from Winners
called Delta where we start from different untimely supports and whose central idea is to work on the theme of the trace and the
ephemeral reconstruction of memories. The second work, untitled, are experiments with expired 35mm film and using the outdated
aspect ratio of 2.85:1, which was a hallmark of Panoramic cinema. The idea is to contrast the traditional sense that was given to this
ratio, associated with the great show, and emptiness of meaning.
Maïté Jeannolin &
A still from Paysage
An interview with
Maïté Jeannolin & Charlotte Marchal Maïté Jeannolin and Charlotte Marchal achieve a sublime lyrical quality in their video work Paysage. Yet they eschew the improvisatory style that is so common in the lyrical genre and works instead carefully carving out incisive images. Paysage is a complex and astonishing video focusing on the tensions between perception, space and subjectivity. Their multidisciplinary approach includes not only video and dance: many of the classic sculptural concerns, such as mass and gravity, colour and form, are important to Maïté and Charlotte in their exploration of the concepts of space and time. We are glad to present their work for this Videofocus Edition. Maïté and Charlotte, how did you come up with the idea for Paysage? Firstly, we should mention that "Paysage" is our first work together. We knew each other from private spheres but never got to work together beforehand. We simply started talking about our personal interests, practices and later on about a hypothetical collaboration which would merge our skills in a form we could develop side by side. And here we are! Not really having time, or more exactly "making time" for ourselves in Bruxelles, we took the opportunity of a common trip we were supposed to do in Morocco. Inside that trip we booked for ourselves a full week to work on whatever we were about to do there. So to be honest with the process of "Paysage", we have to admit that there was no clear "concept" nor "idea" when we left Belgium! But as a first common production, what was truly important to us was not so much the actual outcome we would come to, but rather, thinking of it as an experiment to find entrances in both our working methods, interests in dance on camera and sensibilities. Paysage is actually called "Paysage, Tableau premier" because it is the first landscape we
Maïté Jeannolin & Charlotte Marchal
imagined together, out of many other landscapes we would like to discover. Your video reveals both the architectonic and gestural nature of the artistic act. We have been really impressed by the balance you have been capable of achieving in this work between classical sensibility and pure experimentation. Paysage is not conceived using metaphoric approach, but
adopting a performative research. How did you get started in contemporary dance and experimental filmmaking? Well as a common response, it is easy to see that the work has strong links with performance since the direction is a collaboration in between a dancer/choreographer and a film maker. Each of us brought to the work its own research.
MaĂŻtĂŠ : When we started developing the project with Charlotte, I had to think about a previous "dance video" I made when I was younger with another filmmaker. Although we collaborated on the scenario, the video still bear some quite defined roles in terms of who makes the dance, who decides what is shot and who knows best how to edit. What I was definitely more interested in with Charlotte was to dig into experimental filming, of course using movement because that was what I was
bringing along, but not specifically dance. It ended up being a dance but it also could have been much differentâ€Ś Talking about both our approaches to movement was quite feeding. I was also very interested in learning how to do something I didn't know well to do; try to change my perspective on how to make a dance for a camera and therefore a virtual audience, how to think movement not only in relationship to the body but the camera and things around. The dance of objects, the dance of a look, the dance of a plastic bag ! Working with video is a great tool to rethink my own practice of movement and share with Charlotte a simple platform of interests, theory and practice together. Charlotte : Compared to big cinema teams, which are mainly composed by multiple people, we were only two. It was quite new for me to have such an open area to try out things with only few elements : a person, space and a small SD camera. This constellation gave us more mobility in the creation and the research. With these particular conditions, it was interesting to question the language of the image, to use the codes from cinema and develop our own in order to translate a sensation, a movement. In a very direct way, the question was : What does physically provoke a movement made by a camera? Which sensation is created by filming movement -with a fix or moving camera ?Furthermore, I was inquisitive to try filming the body not like a character telling a story but approach it from the perspective of a "raw body". Trying to connect with the elements around, focusing mostly on the shape, the texture, the lines of the body's volume laying either on the ground or in the sky! Could you describe your collaboration? As it was our first experiment, we had to go throughâ€Śmultiple tries. Basically, "Paysage, tableau premier" is as much of the first video from a "serial work to come" as the product of 10 different "tableaux" we produced in a week ! As we mentioned before, there were a lot of discussions involved before we got to shoot something, and then we would just come up with an idea, a tool to explore, or even just an exercise ("is it possible to do this ?"), shoot, watch, and discuss some more. It was very free in a sense that we didn't expect much of what was going to happen, we were just excited to
A still from Paysage
be able to try different kind of approaches, feeding by practice some of our imagined scenarios. It implied also a lot of struggle to have this much freedom. If "what can we do together?" remains the main question for too long, how can you make any choices at all ? Somehow the decision for the form (a 5minutes short video) made things smoother in a sense that we knew we didn't have to synthesize all our desires in one shot. The real work came, when back to Belgium, we had to start the editing process. There, we had to face what it really did look like with some distance, what we were going to keep and throw, you know, the usual stuff. But
somehow, the "choreography" of the work started just there, while we had to create a new "dramaturgy" for the piece.The final making of the video was also a strong collaboration with the composer, Gaël de Ville. We first tried to work with some existing music on our images but it wasn’t working at all. It was ‘plaqué’, creating a distance between the image and the sound.So we asked Gaël to compose music on our images with different references we gave him. His own aesthetics and sensibility brought a lot to "Paysage" since it is after all the most narrative part of the video and became really central as it links everything together. It also brought to all
three the desire to keep on working together, which is what we are looking for now! Overall, the advantage we could say we have, is that we have found a way to work without completely separating functions (direction, editing, music, camera, performance..etc) but nevertheless, we are able to recognize each other's skills or expertise when in need and trust it. Your concept of time and space has a huge importance in your performative research as well as in your cinema, Maïté and Charlotte. Could you introduce our
A still from Paysage
readers to this peculiar aspect of your work? Time and space are only components, translations of other important keys of our working process. We liked to think about it from the aspect of sensation. Particularly, how can we produce kinesthesia on camera. So to say, how can the movement travel like a fluid through a porous 4th wall? What we tried to achieve was a desubjectification of the body, to suggest that although there is a body, although there is
action, it shall not compromise the making of a more complex picture. Exploring the means of experimental film was a way in from the abstractness into the potentiality of a narrative to emerge, show himself, not impose it. A lone body in space creates many signs, meanings, characters or symbolics, that is why we chose an uncluttered space. The ground, the horizon defined by a line of trees and the sky, these simple elements have permitted us to include the body just like a part of this landscape, taking and making sense with the whole structure. And the reason we used slow-motion in real time was a trick like another, so that it would
consumerism of experience were of course in the list. When you make products lasting 5 minutes, playable from internet and shared by a click, you have to think about what bothers you in every single other videos you've seen. Why does dance still try to tell a story ? And why video makers have to "over edit" the videos to keep people interested, to create rhythm ? Dance as such and video making are both fields in which a strong thinking has been developed and shared but it seems that video dance, as an emergent form still didn't profit from this. Your art is rich of references, indeed. Can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work? Haha, we don't know if what we are doing is truly full of references. Of course we have both encountered artists, and artistic practices that have affected what we do at this moment in our work, but it will be difficult to point at particular ones that we wanted to quote in this work. If we had to choose for an artist whom brings together our enthusiasm, it should be Sergueï Paradjanov. His symbolical images, simple and very "crafted" create strong imaginary landscapes. It is the "freedom" compelled by those images that are mesmerizing. We like that power of suggestion.
state from the start that it is not about virtuosity but allowing the pace of things and the pace of the gaze to have a rhythm of their own. We liked the form of a "capsule", a small object with the allowance to take things in the air and relieve them just like they were, you know, like a peeping tom. Only allowing ourselves for a quick look into someone's mind. As to mention, it is also interesting to think about video dance as a new medium that has been coming up quite recently. It was important for us to put at stake things that matter in both our fields. Entertainment and
Maïté : In the dance field, there are many names that come up when I think about artists that have impacted me. One of them is Meg Stuart. What I like about her approach is, once again, the importance of kinesthesia and experience as a viewer. But in the making of "Paysage", I have to say that Marten Spangberg was also quite influential. He had been teaching in my school a workshop where we discussed a lot what he used to call "extended choreography", what choreography can be, looking for new ways to make a dance and particularly slow dances. Another influence concerning "Paysage" is this quote by Susan Sontag, “There remains the inescapable truth about perception: the positivity of all experience at every moment of it. As John Cage insisted ‘there is no such thing as silence. Something is always happening that makes a sound.’ (Cage has described how, even in a soundless chamber, he still heard at least two things: his heartbeat and the coursing of blood in his head). Similarly, there is no such thing as an empty space. As long as a human eye is
A still from Paysage
looking there is always something to see. To look at something that is ‘empty’ is still to be looking, still to be seeing something- if only the ghosts of one’s expectations. In order to perceive fullness, one must retain an acute sense of the emptiness that marks it off; conversely, in order to perceive emptiness, one must apprehend other zones of the world as full”. (Sontag, 1969, ‘The Aesthetics of Silence’) Charlotte : Before shooting, I didn't have that many references but rather images in mind from movies of Jane Campion, Philippe Grandieux or Carlos Reygadas. And by making a dance video, I of course thought about the films of Thierry De Mey. It’s troughhis videos that I discovered contemporary dance. I was always surprised by the importance given to space in his movies. It's almost like you can feel movements because you can feel the space around them. Furthermore, the sensation of the movements are not destroyed by an over editing or too many shoots. It's a quite refined work, which I enjoy. Another reference would be Claire Deny for the way she chooses to film bodies. They are central to the staging of her movies; the movements from the bodies speak more than
the characters themselves. The importance given to every gesture defines each protagonist. The smallest movements make us enter more deeply, in a more intimate way with the image created. You are masters at creating entire scenarious out of small, psycologically charged moments: could you comment this ephemeral quality of Paysage? We were doing a lot of yoga at the time. What aspect of your work do you enjoy the most? What gives you the biggest satisfaction? Charlotte : I would say that the moment I prefer is when we are shooting. When we are searching, getting crazy with Maïté and then feeling that there is something good, beautiful arising, or we could say "when it feels right". Or maybe just because it was enjoyable to spend a sunny winter in Morocco ! It was nice to see people receive our video in different and personal ways, which proves that everybody can rely onto their ownfeelings and imaginary to experience the work.
A still from Paysage
Maïté: Well, what can be more enjoyable than a work that you get pleasure from thinking and doing ? I mean, it's kind of a big playground. And that said, it was only our first work, so it might be less light sparkles and everything the next times, but I don't think so. There is no expectation, there is just a lot of curiosity, playing hide and seek with our minds, going somewhere and shooting. When it will start to bother us both, we won't do it anymore since we just do it because we like to do things together. And what I like particularly about "Paysage" is that it came out of nowhere really and because it is so imperfect, it has to remind us, there is so much more to do..! Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts, Maïté and Charlotte. What's next for you? Have you a particular collaboration in mind? The next thing for us is as you imagine… the second tableau. We have already shot most of the material and are in the process of editing. But what now comes as a surprise, is that the second tableau will consist of a series of few videos which are variations on the same thing.
We shot different couples executing the same tasks face to face. Now through their faces, what we see is another landscape/choreography with layers of emotional and physical tensions. The principle remains the same but the outcome is obviously very different. We shot people who are close to us and who all know each other with some different kinds of relationships… boyfriend/girlfriend, brothers, friends. Each video will consist of a couple, and maybe we'll manage to make a release of this new series, just like an album; with your favorite song and your favorite couple to look at before sleep! The music will play a different role than in the previous work, it will be more independent from the images. Therefore we are thinking of developing some of the sound material with Gaël de Ville. That is for a very very near future. And for the rest, we'll keep on moving and we'll see...