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
"My work examines the differences between the experience and the concept of physical interaction with the external world. Our minds are of this world, and yet our awareness of existence is constantly disconnected from our surrounding environments. "
Serving as an artifact of a project that never happened, Airplan Dance orients and reorients to fragments of a constantly shifting process. Airplane Dance is a contemplation on relationality, queer longing and desire, and the relationship between body and landscape.
Fernanda Torres and Joel Styzens
"Our process of collaboration was interesting. It started initially with Fernanda’s drawings. I had an idea of the personality and mood I wanted to capture. We would each create a section or propose and idea: it was an organic and natural way of collaborating"
"I noticed the patch of land when I was in a car driving: it fascinated me because it seemed completely useless, to have no point, and yet it was surrounded by a very functional network of roads which had been planned, funded and built for a specific purpose."
A trip to South Korea, searching for memories from my early childhood, memories that barely exist. And the harder I try, the less I can grasp, the more I forget.The past and being foreign seem alike, it isn't the distance that matters, but the crossing of a boundary.
"The human and mechanical characters in Seem propel the viewer into the “Uncanny Valley” where the line between real and phantasm is obscured. We disguise ourselves yet marvel at the self we recognize in machines. We fear others disguised as others. "
Cláudia Cárdenas & Rafael Schlichting
Cláudia and Rafael are the duo Strangloscope. They work with new media and video in order to explore ideas about time, space, motion, and perception. Time Gap was shot in Super 8 and then it became an experiment with digital interfaces such as ipod lens with water drop as a macro effect and the film rolls and was captured again.
My current video work investigates the social dynamics driving contemporary communication. The concept of using a .gif file as a form of language, in text messaging and online forums, has become a method of ambiguous expression. There is something curious about a fleeting bit of information that repeats itself infinitely.
Sarahjane Swan & Roger Simian
"Orphine actually began life in a different medium. We had multiple video projections, music and sound, sculptural forms (disembodied hands clutching umbrellas, an adapted wardrobe), an open door fixed high up on the wall, and words printed around the walls so that viewers had to circle the room to take it all in."
"The "Facial Perception" is an art of self-portrait that I recorded when I had an ischemic stroke, which resulted in a loss of my physical sensibility, particularly on my face. In some sense, it is a reactive enacment fictionalized out of my body in the state of unconsciousness."
"Take an image of a burning American flag, for example. On an instinctive level I have a clear notion of what that means: someone hates America—and feels so strongly, they have to prove it with an act of desecration."
" UPC Sex is a satire on the idea that if we allow ourselves to be manipulated much longer we may well become so much the product that the inanimate objects that were the bait, which led us morally astray for so many years, finally will replace us all together. "
"The presented piece is a wonderful relic of my studies in contemporary media. This piece came into being during a time of great introspection and learning; the learning to simply experience and feel fleeting moments, no matter what emotional value they hold, in the everyday mundane. "
David & Tara Gladden Word Pieces is a modular series ofshort audiovisual performancecompositions. Each shortcomposition takes a word, breaks itdown into its smallest parts. Ratherthan serving words, in Word Pieces,the voice is deconstructing andreconstructing them in new ways.Word Pieces dissects and magnifies the audiovisual and physicalqualities of both voice and language,expressing them sonically, visually,and experientially.
Toshiki Yashiro An artist's statement My work examines the differences between the experience and the concept of physical interaction with the external world. Our minds are of this world, and yet our awareness of existence is constantly disconnected from our
surrounding environments. â€˜Awarenessâ€™, in this case, suggests that it is coupled with the notion of the third person perspective. When we self express, do others have a choice in perceiving what is projected onto them? With video and photography as my central mode, I
hope to investigate the basic structural integrities that support our abilities to communicate and perceive each other. How would things appear when interactions are reduced to pure simplified movements? My works are mere observations of curated
scenarios: bodies interacting with objects in an interconnected space. It seeks to explore the degree to which space is in fact interconnected. Toshiki Yashiro
An interview with
Toshiki Yashiro In your video work "Untitled" you explore two different and contrasting versions of the same personality, operating a deconstruction process of the Self like in Robbe Grillet's films. Could you introduce our readers to this amazing diptych video? Untitled is a video series where two identities of the same individual become perceptively separated as separate physical entities. The two figures then eventually collide in a violent way when they become self aware of one another. The videos take place in the brief moment where this turning point occurs. This video series in many ways is a way for me to some how try to understand the idea of interconnected space. In many layers, I think that this concept of “freedom” can be so different on how the word is contextualized. This openness to interpretation is something that scares me and has scared me for as long as I can remember. There is two main problems I see in this idea of freedom and interpretations. One is that the words are just mere metaphors for something that stands behind the word itself. Therefore, depending on who is doing the translating, the meaning can change completely, dictated by the context in which it is presented. The second is that the concept of “freedom” itself is practically nonexistent as long as we are part of a society that demands our intervention one way or another in order to stay relevant. There are so many paradoxical logic in this matter that I felt the need to structurally digest everything before I could have confidence in even attempting to understand the words. Also upon being able to define the terms, ideas such as life as solitary and “freedeom” becomes very unstable to me when in fact what we do as individuals end up affecting everything and everyone around us whether we choose to recognize it or not. This idea of “freedom” itself becomes something that has to be redefined constantly as society and
culture is constantly shifting grounds and we as individuals remain to take part in it. But not to get too political, I am more interested in being able to dissect the process and its structures behind these ideas merely for the possibility to further understand its nature. These questions evolved into other questions and here I am now, metaphorically speaking about similar thoughts by comparing them to the “internal” and the “external” in terms of ideas of perception introduced to me by Maurice Merleau-Ponty. I think he started to ask the questions that really interests me, and every
time I encounter his writings, I end up scratching my head more confused then before. I think this is something that doesnâ€™t happen to me too often and I am very attracted to things that leave me with my head scratched. This idea of individuality within an interconnected space then took a more specific route as I began to outline these videos in its earlier stages. At first the idea was based more on the silent dialogue between the internally perceived self and the
externally expected identity that is often what others see of ourselves. I believe that all people have at least these two separate awareness of their own existence no matter how solitary they strive to be. However, as the ideas started to take physical form, my attention began to shift more toward the structural nature behind how these identities communicate with each other. Hypothetically, I would expect that communication between the same person would not necessarily need to utilize conventional language to communicate. Rather, a form of silent dialogue that more
more closely represented that â€œthingâ€? that stood behind the words we use. It was like the words themselves were just metaphors for something that it tried to convey in the first place and eventually language just seemed like an extra step. In a way, it is like stripping away the housing components to an electrical
mechanism in order to identify the bare wires themselves. Much like Haiku poetry, I start out with large amounts of things that I want to express then I start to chisel it down to its bare minimum. There is a significant amount of processes that I borrow from language itself in order to attempt this sort of visual silence.
I think this is where filmmakers such as Robbe Grillet and Alain Resnais comes into relevance in terms of my work. I am very fond of their logical take on seemingly illogical subject matters and how he is able to pull it off with grace. He approaches these difficult and ungraspable ideas with a sort of scientific
approach and executes them masterfully. I mean this in a very positive way and in many ways their combination of artistic output has been a large part of my training during graduate school. There are others as well from a similar time period and also from France, but Iâ€™m sure I donâ€™t need to get into them. There
seems to be a part of me that keeps gravitating toward the ideas expressed during those decades, and the questions proposed by the thinkers and artists of that time. Strange how things keep resurfacing in generational loops. We have found interesting your use of an extreme anamorphic shooting ratio for the first part of the video: why did you chose this format? The thing about the “extreme anamorphic” frame is that I noticed a type of eeriness that is expressed within the image. When the aspect ratio is this panoramic, I think it invites this sort of tension in the foreground and background that keeps drawing the viewer’s to the edge of the frame. In this particular part of the video, the space is somewhat tight and I thought it might help to expand the area a little bit by inviting perhaps a certain flow to the view throughout the cluttered
environment. After all, by stating that I am interested in the structural nature of things would mean that my work becomes purely about the visuals and being able to express concepts through “things”. The anamorphic in my opinion helps abstract perpendicular corners into something that is subtly disproportionate, and this ambiguity attracts me. The public bathroom is also an interesting space for me where it can be considered a private space, yet the “public” part of it invites a type of unpredictability. The public bathroom is definitely a place where I constantly feel a weird inexplicable tension between this privateness and non-privateness and the anamorphic coverage of this scene I think works to help express this uncomfortable-ness. I think to put it more simply though, the extremity of this anamorphic squeeze helps create tension through the visual landscape while the subjects
portray another layer of narrative, at least that is the intention.
“nonfiction” into something that resembles “fiction”, and then see how far I can stretch it.
What draws you to a particular subject? Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new project?
I think it would be awesome if I could pull off films where the narrative is embedded purely
I am looking for brief moments of where the unity of an individual’s different identities become separated for whatever reason. A moment where an object interacts with an individual and invites some sort of foreign element where the individual loses control of what they perceive and what they project. This moment of unintentional vulnerability is something I associate with the deconstruction of an individual’s identity(s). Although any moment has this potential of being significant depending on how one chooses to perceive it, in many ways this sort of openness to any subject matter makes it much harder to pinpoint something worth pursuing. I guess it comes down to how well I can interpret the
in the visual image and perhaps sound, but without the conventional utilization of language in terms of delivering meaningful dialogue. What if I can show a group of strangers a film where words are nonexistent and yet be able to provoke some sort of emotional commitment via visual and auditory stimulation? Not just emotion, but leave them questioning everything through complex ideas and thoughts? I think it would be very funny if I can pull together a crowd of people to have sit in a silent movie theatre looking at quiet images for a duration of time and then have them blabbering off afterwards about philosophical issues of basic human nature. The thought of it is just very comical to me. Who knows, maybe it’ll happen.
A fundamental aspect of you art research is your effort to treat cinema as a language. Here your parallel with language is really interesting: no doubt, cinema is a language whose grammatical structures are yet unexplored. Discovering these structures, artists could be able to enhance their visionary imagery exploring hidden subconscious territories. Could you
introduce our readers to this peculiar aspect of your art vision? I’m not sure if I could call cinema as an “unexplored” area in terms of language, there’s just so much I’ve yet to understand about this particular form of art. I think what I’m trying to do much less heroic, and much more ambiguous. I think that there is a certain point in a person’s understanding of oneself where
they have to learn to just accept certain truths. This is not giving up per se, but rather understanding that we cannot possibly understand everything nor control everything. I think control is one of the largest struggles we have in this contemporary society where a large portion of people have a hard time accepting that some things are just beyond our reach. However upon this acceptance I think that many other things will come to light and then
we will eventually be able to see things that were previously undetectable. That being said, for an artist like myself to seek out a set mathematical structure behind the art of cinema would be to contradict the principle behind my work entirely. I think what I really mean by trying to find a grammatical structure behind cinema is to look for a certain embodiment of visual expression where
complex ideas can be communicated without using complex grammar structures and or vocabulary. I think it would be very cool if a sequence of images could act in place of language itself, imagine all the money that would be saved from not needing to translate subtitles! How did you get started in filmmaking? It all started with my interest in sequences. I used to work mainly with still photography during my undergrad years. Back then it was less about concept and more about how I could technically perfect my technique in terms of producing clear images, resolution, etc. There was a competitive aspect of it where the images being produced were being commodified and quantified through numbers. These numbers however were constantly fluctuating, shackled to capabilities of modern technology. This became tiresome eventually and I soon realized that my original intentions were not to produce respectable numbers but to be an artist. This led me to question my stance as an artist and to really look into how I could change my angle. Eventually as I continued onto graduate school, I began to pay less attention to the image quality, the technicality, logistics, etc, and began to play around with low quality images. This in some ways opened new doors for me in terms of opening my head to different ideas. It was liberating in a sense. I soon began working with serial photography where I considered a sequence of photographs as a singular piece and the chronology of the prints became more of the significance rather than the visible images themselves. There was something between the prints on the walls in the gallery space that connected them and my work existed there. It was somewhat enlightening for me to realize then, that my work was more present in invisible form supported by my photographs. As I began doing more expansive research to which I could base my work, I started to realize that the films I was most stimulated by were films where the significant part of the narrative occurred outside the frame. In many ways I think that the most successful films in my opinion have this property where the projected images themselves are mere
support for what is happening beyond what is visible. This sort of ambiguity is definitely something that hooked me onto this medium of expression. Your research through cinema and language remind us of Jacques Lacan's essays. Jacques Lacan studies on the nature of Inconscious structured as a language have been a fundamental starting point for artists like Carmelo Bene: can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work? It is almost impossible for me to be able to declare the “biggest” influence as I am constantly influenced by everything I interact with basically all of the time. But you are on point with Jacques Lacan, I guess if I were to simplify my work to just a sentence, then “language is my limit” would work well in conjunction with what I do. However rather than referencing linguistic philosophy, much of my research is based on my understanding of ideas expressed by writers such as Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Husserl. I think that I am constantly perceiving things with the back base of phenomenology. I utilize and scrutinize the concept of language in a lot of my work but I think I am really trying to talk
about intelligent communication between individuals through experience and non conceptualized data. I think in many ways Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology is somewhat too specific for me to be completely convinced with, but his writings on the “Constancy Hypothesis” is definitely something that I strive to understand further. Its one of those things that I think I understand fully but the reality is that much of it is in fact completely over my head. Although there is an inherent inevitability to this attempt since the act of conceptualizing something that is, in principle, non-conceptual is just futile. I guess this impossibility is yet another property of my work that keeps me interested since it feels graspable although it probably isn’t. This paradoxical charge keeps the ball rolling. That being said, I consider myself to be a cinephile and being someone that went to art school for both undergrad and graduate school, I think anyone that could empathize this position will probably agree that it’s just too hard to name names for “favorites” since there are just too many! Although I could say this, though it may be somewhat cliché, I tend to gravitate toward things from the sixties and seventies. Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts, Toshiki. What's next for Toshiki
Yashiro? Are there any film projects on the horizon? There are always film projects on the horizon! At the moment, I am working a lot with video art type work and less with the narrative type filmmaking. I am trying to simplify my work down to something that resembles the bare bones of my ideas itself. By doing so I hope that I can regain some access to proper reasoning in order to approach more complex ideas in the future and eventually work my way back up to making narrative fiction work. Currently my main focus is directed toward an ongoing series of silent monochrome videos titled “IOAGM (Interaction of Objects at Any Given Moment)”. This is a series where I film a subject performing a natural bodily movement for 30 seconds in a given environment that I choose according to composition. I then slow the video down to around seven minutes and cut into areas where the subjects body appears to geometrically synchronize with the environment for a brief moment. The idea itself is very simple, and the soundlessness of it is yet another aspect that I am very excited about.
Amber Bemak Airplane Dance, a synopsis
Airplane Dance is a trace of a failed collaboration between two artists. Their relationship takes multiple forms over a period of years and
finally dissolves. The film pictures this collaboration, which took place along the India-Pakistan border, in the ocean by the Andaman Islands, on the kitchen floor of an apartment in Kathmandu, and on the endless salt pans of the Great Rann of Kutch.
It uses editing as an alchemical process; making new rhythms from scraps, and transforming failure into treasure. Serving as an artifact of a project that never happened, the film orients and reorients to fragments of a constantly shifting process.
Airplane Dance is a contemplation on relationality, queer longing and desire, and the relationship between body and landscape. Amber Bemak
An interview with
Amber Bemak The first time we watchedAirplane Dance, we were really impressed by Amber Bemak's refined sense of composition: her cinematographyalternate long takeswithhandheld framing reminding us ofthe autumnal atmosphere of Red Desert, Michelangelo Antonioni'sfirst color film.Airplane Danceis a visually highly layered filmpresenting a multilevel context, not by chanceAmber herself suggest the adjectivealchemicalfor her editing style.Amber, can you introduce our readers to your work? How did you come up with the idea forAirplane Dance? I never begin my work with an idea, the work begins or arises out of a sensation of readiness. I am constantly collecting fragments- of text, of footage, or of concepts that I am interested in. With Airplane Dance, I was ready to create something cohesive in a moment when I felt I had enough collected material. The material used in the film spans a four year period of my life- and I think in a way seeks to transmit the energetic quality of that time. During this four year period, I was travelling a lot, working on many different projects, and my life was incredibly frenetic. I felt very alive and connected, and also really lonely. I switched environments and even identities all the time, as I was living between India and Nepal. In Kathmandu, Nepal, I lived with my Buddhist teachers and worked at their monastery making videos and films for them. I had special access to all sorts of incredible moments, as I was sort of the official videographer for the monastery and for them in their personal lives as well. In India, I was mostly living between Dharamsala and Bombay, two very different places. In Bombay, I was hanging out with queers and artists. I was teaching film at a university there and making art with people. In Dharamsala, my friends and community were Tibetan refugees and activists, and I collaborated with local NGO’s on projects
Amber Bemak (photo by Nadia Granados)
concerning the situation in Tibet, very different from the artists in Bombay and the religious community in Kathmandu. So I moved, usually rather quickly, between these moments, and people saw me differently in all of these cities. I think this was very helpful for my work because it forced me to open up my ideas around my identity in the world, and to not get attached to any one particular identity or way of being seen. I was living many different lives at this time, and didn´t have a sense of how to bring them together, so Airplane Dance did that for me. In terms of an introduction to my work- I have been using video as my main medium for the past sixteen years. I began as a documentary filmmaker, and slowly worked that form into a more experimental one. I still use the documentary form as a reference for most of my work, which would now fall more under the category of experimental and/or conceptual art. I have also been working with community media and video activism, and have been doing these projects primarily internationally and in
A still from Airplane Dance
collaboration with NGO’s or non-profit organizations. These two aspects of my work, art and activism, have developed simultaneously. In this moment, I am interested in and have been exploring for the past two years collaboration with performance artists, dancers, and choreographers, which I´ve found really enjoyable. A fascinating concept ofAirplane Dance iswhat you definealchemical editing:images arearrangedlike the line of a modernist poem by T.S. Eliot. Could you comment this aspect of your film? I feel that editing is a way to transform material and I often speak about it as transforming trash into treasure. The “trash” I’m referring to here is the fragments that I collect- parts of recorded conversations I’ve had, seemingly unimportant moments with a video camera in my hand, or moments where my body affects the movement of the camera in a non-traditional way. These fragments excite me- and they feel filled with structural
possibilities. Once I begin to work with them, it is like spinning something into pure gold. I like to reinforce and re-contextualize forgotten or “ugly” moments into something so stunningly beautiful that they change form. To be fair- I would also say this mode of working is not only structural, but also relevant personally, in terms of the material I choose to work with. Loss or absence is a theme that shows up in my work quite a bit, and film is a way for me to reimagine stories in my life- to bring them into the realm of the symbolic, the subconscious, and to be able to work with them in a more base way- often transforming difficult moments in my life into stories that are fantastical, magical, and powerful. Particularly with Airplane Dance, the film came out of an incredibly painful situation with an artist who I collaborated extensively with on a project for dOCUMENTA13. She ended up doing a lot of things like stealing my work, using footage of mine without permission, and not paying or crediting me for my work. She also during this time had all of my belongings in her house (we lived together during our
A still from Airplane Dance
working period) and refused to give them back until I signed a contract saying I would never use the material that she was stealing from me. I did not sign the contract- and used the material to make Airplane Dance, and therefore transformed this situation for myself into an alternate reality that worked for me much better than the other version of the story. Your video production is very miscellanous: your filmography ranges from documentaries to narrative and experimental work.Many of your works shareunusual perspective, like yourdocumentaryWhen the iron bird flies,the first totake anexhaustive look at the influence of Tibetan Buddhism on Western culture.How did you get started in filmmaking? During college, I took a video production class basically by accident. I needed to fulfill a school requirement in the department of communications, so I picked video production
randomly. The minute I began, I feel deeply in love with video. I remember my first class assignment- to give the audience a sense of a place in 5 shots. I chose to film my roommate’s vagina, moving the camera to show different angles of this part of her body, and hoping to create for my classmates a real sense of this place. In the classroom in the dark as I watched my other classmate’s work, mostly shots of farmhouses, buildings, and other more traditional locations, I was filled with a sense of excitement and wonder- I really understood in this moment that with video you could interpret and dictate meaning in so many multiple ways, and that this was going to be a medium of freedom for me, and that is had been a medium of freedom for so many others before me. Travelling is a not only a source of inspiration for you, but a fundamental aspect of your art practise. Can you introduce our readers to this concept? Travelling is the mode of my life- it is my bodies’ natural rhythm, and it is where I feel
A still from Airplane Dance
the most strong and at home. It has become a source of inspiration for me because life is my inspiration for my work- and it is the material of my life. Video is movement. Since 2006, I have not lived in any place longer than four months, and have worked as an independent filmmaker and film educator in India, Nepal, Mexico, Tibet, Kenya, and the United States. There are many ways in which this lifestyle has affected my work. The most important way is that it has created a situation where I am constantly investigating through my own experience the realities of cultural exchange, privilege, globalization, and the implications of poverty and oppression in different places. As a queer, white, woman from the United States, I have so much privilege. In most of the places I go, the people I am with are not able to get a visa to visit my country, while I am freely roaming through theirs. Everywhere I go, I am bombarded by haunting pieces of my own country- I hear music from my country in every bar, street, and restaurant I go (just at the second I’m writing this, I’m in Oaxaca,
Mexico in a small beachtown, it’s nighttime and someone just started blasting a US reggae version of Pink Floyd’s “Wish you were here”). The tv and movies from my country are embedded in every culture where I’ve traveled, and often people know more about my country than I do. This is due to the aggressive export of US culture which manages to penetrate itself almost everywhere. As a person from the US, I am part of this penetration process, and I am passionate about exploring and exposing this in my work. I do this often by juxtaposing my body as a symbol against and with others to illustrate larger social dynamics and dynamics of power. I sensed early on the vulnerability of using someone else to illustrate these symbolic and stereotypical bodies in culture and society, and only feel I can use my own as a result. In this mode, I perform and embody different identities based on what I want to explore- as a foreigner, as a white person, as a person from the US, as a woman, as a queer person.
My relationship to power often shifts many times throughout one of my films. For example, in a film from 2008, DESIRE IN THREE PLACES, there is a scene where I and my lover-to-be (our affair began about four hours after filming this scene) film and talk to each other, a way of exerting power over one another, as the person filming then has the ability to manipulate the image in whatever way they feel like. I am not in power as his camera and eyes roll over my body explicitly and sexually without my knowing it, and he talks to me about how he wants to have sex with me in a language I don't understand (Tibetan). However, I am also exploring here ideas around colonialism, using myself as an example, as I begin to fantasize out loud to him in a language he does not understand (English) about wanting to be from his town, and wanting to live with him and his mother. Here, I am embodying a very old Orientalist notion of Tibetan people, which is both romanticized and violent. I am interested and disturbed by these moments where I slip into these highly engrained cultural habits, and I feel most comfortable using my self as a space for critique. Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new project? I feel like I am always working on a new project. I’m not sure when the starting period begins….but generally I could describe it like this: the first stage is one of collection. This stage could last for one month or many years. Most often it lasts for a number of years. During this time, I write a lot. Often I think of ideas and write them down when I am listening to music and traveling. The biggest source of inspiration however, is when I am in retreat. For most of my life, I have been going on meditation retreats- before when I was younger I would go with other people, but now I go alone. On average, they are usually about 2 weeks long. During this period, I spend time meditating in a room somewhere, and don’t talk to people, don’t use the internet, wake up early, and keep a very strict schedule of meditation. I love these retreats, they are my favorite part of my life. I’m not sure what happens for me during those times, but often a lot of creative inspiration comes spontaneously. All though I don’t spend a lot of time writing in these periods, I always have a pen and paper close by, to work with any ideas I might have.
A still from Airplane Dance
Anyway ok, so that is my beginning, is writing, thinking about images, etc. but mostly I think first in a text and audio- based way. Words are the places where my films rest. They are the skeleton and the framework for all of my work. After this period of collection, I begin a process of manifestation. This involves going through all of the material that I have collected and starting to pull out themes, energies, and
concepts which are running through this material. We have previously mentioned the Italian master Michelangelo Antonioni: not by chance, his first film was a documentary.Â€Can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work? My biggest influences in art would be number one my Buddhist practice and what I have
learned from my Buddhist teachers. My mother raised me as a Buddhist, and I began meditating at the age of 14. Since then, I have gone through many different stages with this practice, and it is incredibly important to methe most important thing in my life. Through my meditation practice, I have learned about non-dualism, true queerness, the incredible potentials of the mind, and the realities of emptiness and compassion. Compassion is huge in my work because I have a very
A still from Airplane Dance
A still from Airplane Dance
ethical approach to working with others, and to understsanding the social and political frameworks and references that surround my work. This emphasis comes straight from the heart, from my genuine intention to care for others in all ways- especially in the art I create. This does not mean that I am treating others like children, and trying to pacify and entertain. But it does mean that I hope my work helps people in some ways to experience something that facilitates contemplation, provokes thought, and offers access into alternative spaces and possibilities with me. As a person, I can say my biggest influence and celebrity crush is Trinh T. Minh-ha. I began reading her books and watching her films when I was 20, and for 16 years, her work has been a huge source of inspiration for me.
true. With this key, I unlock the project, and from there, it’s like staying up dancing for hours and hours until the morning. Sometimes the key is a phrase that someone says in my footage, sometimes it is a song, sometimes it’s an image that I manipulate digitally, but the key is always there, and when I find it the work becomes fluid and intense. Unfortunately because of my lifestyle, I have not been able to be present for the screening of most of my films. I think I have only been at about 5 screenings of my work in my life. But of course, these moments are precious for me. I love being in an audience and seeing my work projected. It takes the project out of my bedroom pajamas mind situation and brings it into a connected space where I feel like I can finally touch other people with my work- which is what I always want.
Now we wonder if you would like to answer to our cliché question: what aspect of your work do you enjoy the most? What gives you the biggest satisfaction?
Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts, Amber. What's next for Amber Bemak? Are there any film projects on the horizon?
I love my work. All of it. Especially I love the moments when I am immersed fully in a project. With every work, I find a key by accident, which might sound cliché but it’s
Right now, I am living and working in Guadalajara, Mexico, teaching film in the communications department at Tecnológico de Monterrey, a university here. In terms of my
A still from Airplane Dance
creative work, to be honest- in the past couple of years I have begun to feel frustrated with the medium of film. I want to push out to expand beyond the screen, I find myself more and more interested in the live moment, the combination of mediums, and collaboration with others across disciplines. The main project I’m working on right now is a collaboration with Vanessa Anspaugh who is a NY-based choreographer. We have been working on a project with the working title of Deviant Harmony….it is a multi-media performance event and we are in the process of setting up a tour for this work in 2015. I am incredibly excited about this project, as it feels like an explosion for me into another realm which excites me. I am also in the beginning stage of a new experiemental film loosely entitled EVERYWHERE which I think will be about external ghosts and ghosts that reside in our bodies. My hope is that EVERYWHERE will expand a personal exploration of loss in my work in a way that is more directly universal. I have been thinking a lot about loss lately, and wondering why I am so attracted to it creatively, as it always emerges as a theme when I start to create. Instead of working with
it on a more subconscious level, I want to try with this project to work with this concept literally and consciously, connecting my own experiences of loss to other large-scale political and cultural loss, going back in some ways to the form of documentary for inspiration. And speaking of documentary- I am also working on a documentary which I have been filming for many years- it is about my Buddhist teacher, Phakchok Rinpoche, who is an amazing, special, incredible person. I am dissapointed in the ways that films about Buddhism (including some of my own!) have aggressively romanticized Tibet, Buddhism, and also the concept of a Buddhist teacher or Guru. From living in various Buddhist communities for many years from the inside, I have been able to see many of the complexities of the whole Buddhist situation. It is at the same time very special and magical and also it is an institutionalized religion, just like any other. I want to show this to people in a more holistic way. So that they feel inspired by Buddhism and meditation, but that their inspiration encompasses all of the complexities of the whole situation, putting the religion back into it’s political and social context.
Fernanda Torres Joel Styzens
An interview with
Fernanda Torres and Joel Styzens
From the first time we watched Bicycle Notes, we were strucked by Yenny Fernanda Torres' visual imagery. The surreal atmospheres of her animation and the soundscores by Joel Styzens create a stimulating dialog between visual art and music. Yenny and Joel, could you describe your collaborative experience?
Fernanda was in London and I was in Chicago. We started communicating online after she heard my album Relax Your Ears on Last.fm, and eventually asked if I was interested in composing a soundtrack for her digital short. After I said yes, we worked together for about a year, via Skype and email. Our process of collaboration was interesting. It started initially with Fernanda’s drawings. She sent me hand-drawn pencil and paper scans of the bicycle and the planet head. As soon as I saw them, I had an idea of the personality and mood I wanted to capture. We would each create a section or propose and idea and looking back now, it's hard to
know exactly who inspired what. It was an organic and natural way of collaborating— certain musical choices I made inspired Fernanda’s animation, and certain things she animated spurred me to make new choices with the music. Because her drawings had a sepia tone, I decided I wanted to use warm sounds as well, so I decided to write and record only with actual acoustic instruments instead of electronics. I started with the hammered dulcimer; I knew I could create a light, percussive playfulness with it that seemed fitting. Once Fernanda began sending me animatics—videos of raw polygon designs, basic movements and shapes of the environments-- I knew I needed sounds that could offer a more ambient wash of tone and sustain, to capture the outer-space environment. The bowed harmonics and low drones of a cello offered just the thing.
From a visual point, we have been really impressed by the balance you have been capable of achieving in Bicycle Notes between classical sensibility and a futuristic vision. A peculiar aspect we have appreciated of your work is the way you have represented the rolling planet through a sort of spiral
movement involving the viewer. How did you come up with the idea for this animation?
Bicycle Notes originated from my personal experience of being a foreigner, a stranger in an unknown place. Iâ€™m from Bogota, Colombia, and I was living in London at the time the idea
came to me. I was curious and wanted to explore this huge, unknown space where I was a complete stranger. The animation is a visual metaphor of both my sense of foreignness and also my sense of openness and curiosity about the country around me. It represents what I saw and what I felt during my time in England.
I tried to take the level of discomfort I felt and combine it with the curiosity I felt. I wanted to transform it to help me meet the challenge of living abroad. All of us are encouraged to achieve new experiences; that is our human nature. The time that we spend looking for those answers is a constant spiral journey,
driven by our own idea of finding ourselves and seeing ourselves in different scenarios, and then continuing to build our own conception of our lives and what we want from our lives. My primary purpose with the animation was to make the bicycle look alive and have human characteristics that could transmit feelings to the audience. The first shot aims to introduce the bicycle as the main character. However, it is intentionally general. It shows the character, with some unique characteristics, in a vast space. I wanted to represent the personality of the bicycle through its speed and the variation of its movements. The way that it dances to its own music can help the audience get an idea of its personality and
how it may react to other encounters on its journey. The rhythmical element is extremely important in Bicycle Notes. By definition cinema is rhythm and movement, gesture and continuity, however rarely in mainstream or narrative cinema we assist to such a spectacular dance like in your animation. How do you conceive the rhythm of your works? I think rhythm is one of the most important tools to achieve movements. The character needs to look realistic; however, you need to study a lot of both human and animal body language and emotions to make the audience read what the actor (or in this case the bicycle
How did you get started in animation?
When I was in London after having an interview at Foster & Partners in 2009 for an architecture position, I learned two interesting things: The first one is that there are a lot of people, including international people, with the same skills looking for the same opportunity-- but you can only get it if you really have something unique in your work. The second: sometimes to “fit in” you put your “work experience” first and as the most relevant aspect to get more opportunities. But I was in a situation where for the first time I had to ask to myself what can I achieve and where can I go with my own work, ideas and creativity? I’m still working on the answer to that question as I keep investigating and moving forward with new ideas and designs. As a consequence of not getting the architect position, I had the opportunity to study 3D animation in London with a scholarship in 2010-- and used it as a way to complement my background in architecture. I discovered new skills and I started animating as a new passion with endless possibilities. It is fun, interesting, entertaining, and useful. Joel Styzens is a talented multiinstrumentalist and composer. "Relax Your Ears" is not only the title of his awardwinning album released in 2009, but a kind of "manifesto" of his musical thinking. Joel, can you introduce our readers to your art practice?
character) is communicating. That is the main challenge of the process of animating a character. In Bicycle Notes the exercise of anthropomorphism was even more difficult, but with a constant discovery through different experiments with animated movement and flexibility, I was able to explore what could be the emotions of the bicycle. In addition, the music is also part of the journey of the bicycle. It is like its soul-- the bicycle is what makes the music play, both are inseparable and both tell the story of Bicycle Notes independently and also together. I perceive it like a dialogue between different expressions of art.
My background is in drums and percussion. I developed my musical sensibilities over the twenty plus years I’ve played. Until my midtwenties, I performed in a myriad of jazz, classical, rock, and fusion bands, ensembles, and orchestras, playing multiple gigs during any given week. A sudden onset of severe tinnitus and hyperacusis pushed me into developing myself more as a composer and less as a performer. Eventually, I got into film scoring, commercial and animation work. The music I write for my personal projects and albums can best be classified as classicalcrossover. It blends the rhythmic sensibilities and nuance of a jazz drummer with the dynamic/texture range of classical music, all within the focus of a 3 to 4 minute rock song form. I try to create music that is accessible and intimate. I want listeners to be encouraged to pause and reflect. My music incorporates quiet and space as well as sound. It’s my small way of countering a noisy and chaotic world.
Tinnitus is an underestimated problem for musicians. We have been impressed with the way you have turned such a challenge into an opportunity, opening up a new set of compositive possibilities. Could you comment this aspect of your artistic path?
I had been playing practically non-stop in several different bands when I woke up one morning with tinnitus and hyperacusis so severe that I basically stopped playing anything for several months. And it wasn’t just that I had to stop making music. I couldn't be around any loud sounds at all. The situation was so extreme at first that my own voice bothered me. It resonated and vibrated in my head. I was scared and depressed. When it didn’t resolve after a few days, I sought medical advice and later treatment through an audiologist who helped me get connected to an emerging audio therapy, which helped a little, but after finding out that there was no cure, I just had to get on with my life. My entire career, my hobbies, my identity—it was all connected to making music, so of course I had to find a way to keep going and try to stay positive. I dabbled with acoustic guitar a little bit in high-school, and it became a solace to me when I began to play music again. Actually, it became my main source of therapy. I spent my teens and 20's playing drums on other people's music—but with the guitar, I started to write and play my own. I have also begun incorporating hammer dulcimer and
other low volume or lower volume percussion and string instruments into my repertoire. I am thankful and appreciative that my ear problems brought me to composing and to new people I've since met as a result of that music. Could you introduce our readers to your process? We would like to explore the different steps you took in composing the soundtrack for Bicycle Notes...
My process for composing varies quite a bit from project to project-- but regardless, I begin each project by trying to keep myself open to inspiration from my daily life and activities. First, I acquaint myself with the subject matter as much as possible. I try to absorb as much as I can to get a foundation, a start. Then I let it sit and brew in my subconscious. I leave it alone and go about the other things I need to do. I listen for interesting sounds as I walk down the street and I get ideas while I’m running errands or other routine things. Then when I get into the rhythm of the other things in my life, the ideas I need just start coming to me, and what I observe as I'm teaching or running errands adds to the ingredients in my head for whatever particular project I'm working on. The easiest way to explain it is that music is a language-- and so is everything else. Or at least everything can be translated into the language of music and sound. Everything in my life
makes me feel something-- then I just translate the language of that feeling into the language of music. And the beautiful thing is that it’s just in me-- its not some theoretical formulaic thing; it's completely natural. I have background in music theory but I know that my entire life I’ve spent developing my ears and my inner rhythm. I choose to compose music based on that intuition and self-trust. I don’t mean that I only go to myself for inspiration, though. The paradoxical thing is my intuitive approach opens me up to becoming influenced by anything and everything-everything is a possibility, everything can make sounds. Why just rely on conventional instruments? There is almost nothing I like better than discovering fresh and interesting sounds. For the soundscore of Bicycle Notes, I wanted a melody that was playful and rhythmic. My instinct told me to use my hammered dulcimer for the bouncy quality and brushes on a snare drum for the train-like, driving rhythm. I added my lightness to the melody with a glockenspiel. Low cello drones helped fill in the lower end of the sound spectrum and gave the soundscape room to stretch into the outer-space environment that the animation portrayed. I wanted more contrast for the next section of the animation. I exchanged the steady rhythmic
pulse to a slower, more graceful feel (0:42 second mark). A 3/4 kind of waltz feel was perfect for that-- and I used this section of the piece to embody more of the environment of outer-space and the way the bicycle started to move away from the “camera” out into its environment. I added ambient electric guitar swells and switched the steady rhythmic trainlike brush pulse to a slow stirring kind of sound-- “Stirrin' the Soup” as its sometimes referred to in the jazz drumming world. For the city-planet and bicycle scene I wanted more contrast. I took the main melodic theme, played it on bells, and reversed it to reflect the jolting back and forth movements of the bicycle. The dissonant, higher pitched cello drone created more intensity. When it came to the sound effects, my first priority was to map out all the sounds I needed to create: the blinking “eyelash,” a bike seat, the bike bell and the snoring sounds of the cityplanet. After several “performances,” an old pair of scissors on my desk had just the right squeak for eye-blinking. The bike seat was more difficult. After many failed attempts, I went to the storage room and recorded a bunch of samples, imported them into Pro Tools. The final sound effect? Just me shaking a real bike. The most difficult effect to create was the snoring of the city-planet. Eventually I took a similar approach to the bike seat: I watched the
animation, mimicked the city-planet’s mouth movement with my own, and snarled away. With a little added distortion and high cello drones, it worked great. The sounds of the city itself are represented by clanging glass bottles from my liquor cabinet. I tried to mimic the talking of people inside the houses with a cuíca, a Brazilian/African friction drum. My brilliant cellist friend, Sophie Webber, added another layer to the speech mimicry.
Bicycle Notes Sonic Walk-Through
0:10 – low cello drones 0:14 – hammered dulcimer 0:15 – glockenspiel melody 0:41 – recording of a record needle 0:42 – enter B-theme: 3/4-feel with piano, electric guitar swells using an e-bow, brush sweeps on a snare drum 1:15-1:45 – snoring and snarling mouth sounds, dissonant cello drones, reversed glockenspiel sounds 1:46 – rusty scissors (bicycle eye-lash blinks), frightened/sad cymbal squeaks 1:57 – triangle (bike bell), cymbal squeaks, shaken bicycle (bike seat), hi-hat hat cymbal with a mallet (street lamp)
2:11 – lightly clanging bottles played with brushes (city sounds), cello (people talking), and a cuíca, a Brazilian/African friction drum 2:24 – cello (distant talking) 2:39 – The return of A-theme: hammered dulcimer and bells with some added layers to pick up the energy 2:55 – bowed cello harmonics (city planet's yawn) 2:59 – whistling sound created on a cello 3:10 – cello (bicycle saying goodbye through a final, distant melodic phrase) 3:23 – credits: percussion on a metal oven rack, metal shower organizer, old cymbals, ambient electric guitar swells It could seem a specious question, however we have to do it, Yenny: what's the future of animation, in your opinion?
I think animation is a powerful and dangerous tool for the future. Powerful because as I said it has endless of possibilities, different skills and professions are being combined in order to develop better solutions for human needs in science, history, biology, marketing and some others-- and animation, 3d skills are in all of them.
like to be an observer and imagine different scenes in all those places, all the unique worlds and ways of looking at design that street artists create. Street artists like Os Gémeos, bring an ephemeral visual abstraction of people's reality, what they perceive, their view of beauty or injustice, the life on the streets, economic situation and issues in their society. I enjoy street art for the unique, elaborate, professional, quirky, and fantastic style that always makes me think. Another way I’ve been influenced is by been aware about my surroundings, looking at shapes and physical characteristics of people. I call it studying the architecture of people. I do this as I used to study the characteristics of buildings.
Understand the existing world and translating knowledge to emerging technologies through design is starting to be very helpful for different professional paths. However, it needs a lot of experimentation to keep the balance between the real and the virtual world and to have the full range of an educational experience. There are many things that need to still be tangible and learned through real experiences for example video games vs education. Yenny's visual style is rich of reference. Who among international artists and experimental filmmakers influenced your work? As I have a background in architecture, most of my prior connection to the world of animation was only related with buildings, space design, landscapes, or interiors. Bicycle Notes started as a fresh, new experimentation, with no direct influences of animators or film directors that I can pinpoint, necessarily. But the most of my design influences and inspiration come from traveling, exploring different neighborhoods, taking photographs and examining others’ photography or street art graffiti and murals-- all are fascinating. I
Finally, there are 4 particular animation shorts that also made me feel inspired. “The tale of How” made by Jannes Hendrikz, Ree Treweek and Markus Smit is magical and very elaborate, with a lot of details and layers in it; “RIBA” by Yves Dalbiez, Elise Garcette and Laurent Leleu is very touching; “The Rifle's Spiral” by Jamie Carili is a magical and interesting stop motion story, and the last and my favourite is “Kiwi,” by Doni Permedi. It is an amazing story with just one character. Thanks for sharing your time, Yenny and Joel, we wish you all the best with your artist career. What's next for you? Have you a particular collaborative project in mind? My new album will be out We plan on continuing as an animation and sound design duo and are currently starting our next animation short. This being said, we also have hopes of creating a team with other animators and designers as well as investors to continue developing other projects as well, including designing projects that combining architecture with interactive animation and sound environments. Stay tuned for updates and new art on our websites: www.bicyclenotes.com www.relax-your-ears.com Contact: email@example.com
Jack Wormell Scree Fucking Junk I noticed the patch of land when I was in a car driving along the elevated roads
that surround it, near a shopping centre in North West London. It fascinated me because it seemed completely useless, to have no point, and yet it was
amongst them only existed because of these functional civic structures. It seemed to represent chaos born out of reason, unintentional. When you cut out some paper to wrap something with, after you have done the wrapping you are sometimes left with a piece of paper too small or awkwardly shaped for any use, it’s an annoying by product of your logic and planning; I felt this wasteland was the result of a similar oversight. I wanted to make a portrait of the place because it attracted me on a visceral level. I filmed it over two mornings in cold February – an hour each morning because the internal battery of the small, old digital camera I was using only held one hours juice in it. I went early because the less people around the better.
A still from Scree Fucking Junk
surrounded by a very functional network of roads which had been planned, funded and built for a specific purpose. This small strip of wasteland that was tucked away
When I edited the footage I became more interested in the ‘hangover from logic’, this quiet anarchy which had leaked out of a rational construction project. Ben White did a brilliant job with the audio, summoning all sorts of turgid sounds from his room in Berlin. He understood that I needed the sound to drift and scrape along its own course, at times aligning with the video cuts, but more often failing to do so. The two streams (audio and video) never fully elucidate each other, they remain slightly unknown and unexpected to one another, just as the area itself remains an enigma to me. Jack Wormell
An interview with
Jack Wormell From the first time we watched Jack Wormell's work we were strucked by the rarefied atmospheres he is able to create. Scree Fucking Junk remind us of Michelangelo Antonioni's masterly use of temps mort in L'Eclisse: a series of missed opportunity is the starting point of Jack's research too. Jack, how did you come up with the idea for this film?
Coming up with ideas is not my strongpoint. Usually an image just appears in my head or a confluence of image and sound. A lot of the time I start making something to see ‘what the hell it will look like’, to paraphrase Robert Breer. In the case of Scree Fucking Junk the film was born out a couple of different things, the first being the space – driving past it a number of times it began to fascinate me; I would get quite excited as I saw it go by; at first all you see is roads. Roads road roads and the distant shopping centre, but then you start to notice the strips in between the roads, the wasteland, the medieval river that still exists partially above ground although it’s trapped between high concrete walls. The area I filmed is in the thick of all these cars passing at high speed, on their way to somewhere else. I had just bought The Pond, a photo book by John Gossage and wanted to make some sort of video equivalent. I don’t think Scree Fucking Junk is actually that equivalent, least of all because The Pond is vaguely based around the idea of going for a walk whereas Scree Fucking Junk doesn’t have any such movement. But I’ve heard that Gossage’s initial inspiration for The Pond came about because every day he drove past this bit of discarded land that seemed so unpicturesque even though it was dominated by trees, shrubs and a body of water. The Pond is a fantastically oblique photo essay, refusing to tell the viewer what to think about this supposedly dead space. I think it’s in Maryland somewhere. The style of the photos
A still from Scree Fucking Junk
and how the book operates seem to reflect the mundanity and refusal of the space itself. I was interested in making a fairly straightforward portrait of the space that was in a way ‘selfsufficient’, a video that didn’t echo out ideas about the ‘outside world’, and also a piece where the elements of the video reflect what I saw in the space. I’m not sure I entirely achieve this but I think Scree Fucking Junk goes some way to getting there. Lewis Baltz’s Candlestick Point was another visual reference, some of those mounds in the video remind me of the obscene piles of rubble and wood from that photo book, about a space in San Francisco. I cycle past similar piles of rubble on the site of
the former Heygate Estate in London at the moment. But they are bigger, being the remenants of tower blocks. For some time I had wanted to make a ‘looser’ film. My previous films had been shot in high definition and tended to be quite neat. For example sound and image cuts were as one, so the cuts in the films had a sort of militant bashing to them. I wanted to try something more uncertain, more raw; this small landscape littered with dead objects surrounded by uninterested vehicles seemed like the (im)perfect opportunity.
I wanted sound and image cuts not to always be concurrent, to imbue the make up of the film with a misalignment, a badly managed program of sound and vision. It felt appropriate to the space. By prising apart the union of sound and image I (hopefully) give room to the viewer/listener to enjoy the soundscape a bit more than usual. Again I’m not sure I entirely achieve this. My idea was to make a film that was 50% video and 50% audio but I think perhaps the habit of music underscoring visuals is too deeply entrenched in general, maybe I could have tried harder on this front. The music has a certain aesthetic connection to what we see, so in one
A still from Scree Fucking Junk
sense the video and audio go together fluidly, but the actual execution of how they sit together is where I wanted to pull at the threads a little. I asked Ben White, who records music under the name Chamfer, if he wanted to create the sound because his music has a raw, rusty aesthetic which I thought would fit well.
He understood what I wanted immediately and completely nailed the idea of disjunction. A lot of the moments in the film, moments which I think you are referencing when you mention temps morts, arise from Benâ€™s timing (or purposeful lack thereof!).
We daresay that Scree Fucking Junk could be considered a kind of manifesto of your filmmaking practice: in your hands, the camera become a powerful tool to explore the invisible. Could you introduce our readers to this peculiar vision of cinema?
A manifesto? Hmmm, that was never my intention when I was making it. I know that I was interested in a film that you listen to as much as watch, and a film with a sound climax with no accompanying video. I particularly like that idea, and I think it was pretty much the last element of the video I came up with in the
A still from Scree Fucking Junk
edit. But maybe I was just being lazy and putting the burden of creating an impressive climax on Ben because I wasn’t able to come up with anything videowise. I’m not sure I have a set ‘vision of cinema’. I like to watch all sorts of films, from what one might call ‘mainstream narrative’ to totally abstract films and I am inspired by both. I suppose my own films, in some way or another, deal with what I see or feel in the everyday a disparity and inconsistency in life where nothing is ever quite what you think it is or doesn’t play by the rules and labels you’ve assigned it. So far I have made films which mainly look at this in relation to areas of London. But I sense it in all of life. We’re always trying to clarify and rationalise and simplify and in my experience things are never that simple even though I am always trying to clarify and rationalise and simplify. I usually use humour to illustrate this, and I like to reflect this in the form of the film as well as the content the footage may rebel against the voiceover, undermine it, what we see and what we hear might contradict each other, perhaps in rather ridiculous and ludicrous ways. Scree Fucking Junk is not so overtly ridiculous or humorous it’s perhaps a more
straightforward atmospheric personal interpretation of a space, but there is still that contradiction between image and sound that I spoke of, that they don’t quite match up. And I think any video with ‘fucking’ in the title has got to be a little bit silly no? When you say ‘invisible’ I assume you mean the forgotten places of our towns and cities, that mainly lie on the outskirts. I hope that if I do explore the invisible in Scree Fucking Junk I do make some of it, at least, visible. The gnarly nature of the rocks lying about next to the concrete pillars, the rusted car jack on the soil, the polystyrene container in the grass that once probably carried some doner meat and chili sauce. I hope there is some sort of grit to these images, that combined with the degraded video they weigh down on the viewer like a suitcase on the chest. I am definitely attracted to discarded places, the things not generally considered aesthetically pleasing. But this is nothing new, it has been a subject of photography and film for years. My concern is to refrain from poeticising it too much. To let it exist in our world still, rather than get too dystopian. I hope Scree Fucking Junk still retains this
A still from Scree Fucking Junk
‘thingness’, and I hope the disjunction of sound and image undermines a ‘complete’ view of the space that perhaps the atmosphere might encourage. I hope the viewer is reminded as they watch it that it is a piece of fiction, a selfsufficient video object, filmed by just another human being. Some of the odd zoom outs might create this sensation, they are not perfect. Neither are lots of the compositions; the ‘framewithinaframe’ shot of the roadway with the bus driving across it it at times looks almost like a panoramic cinema screen, almost entirely surrounded by black, but at the edges of my frame there are broken bits of silhouette where you can see other roads or bits of sky. These distract the eye, pulling you away, outwards. I tried to make the frames centrifugal, if you will, rather than centripetal. The frame is limiting rather than all encompassing. It is hiding something from the viewer, rather than revealing. Perhaps. Your cinematography is marked by a huge use of details: how did you develop this style?
The details are just the things that catch my eye. I think a lot of the framing in Scree Fucking Junk is influenced by photography, I
think the compositions, perhaps, aren’t normally how you would frame movement. When I compose things I seem to reflect my love of photo books and flatness. I’m quite into flatness. Not sure why but I like the compression of space, I like Russian religious iconography and the paintings of Giotto and the collages of Kurt Schwitters. I love the hyperpseed flatness of Robert Breer’s collage film Recreation. Not sure why I’m into flatness so much there are perhaps some obvious reasons: the flattening of a three dimensional world is exactly what the camera is doing so perhaps by making the video image look flat I’m breaking the illusion. And I like the idea of a series of images which kind of exist on their own, that perhaps the sequence which is the film never quite transcends the starkness of its pictures. By making the images very flat the poetic flow which usually fuses images together is stunted. I’m not convinced any of these are the reason though. I’m a massive fan of the films of John Smith and Patrick Kieller and I percieve a certain flatness in their cinematography, so I guess I might be just ripping them off.
What draws you to a particular subject?
A subject for a film may come from anywhere. One of my previous films, Criminal Man, only exists because I accidentally caught something on camera while I was filming in the street for something else. I think the link between all my films is the everyday, that is where they come from and that is what they reflect. It may seem like they are bizarre or unusual in their approach to the mundane, but I think all this is contained within the everyday. In my day job as an editor I usually cut out mistakes camera wobble, crew discussion etc to create a smooth viewing experience where cuts from one shot to another are fluid; I think in my own films I tend to take the opposite approach, the film is a bit more self aware, tends to buckle and squirm at the edges of the edit. I also think that if you spend time wandering about in the city you come across the strange and unusual pretty easily. If I’m out and about and hear some good sounds I’ll try and record them, even with my phone if that’s all I have with me. Just the other week I was in Richmond Park with some friends; we were walking around this heavily wooded area and we could hear this amazingly powerful operatic singing voice. As we got closer to the source we decided it was a recording people having a picnic and playing music on their stereo. Eventually we came across this glade and indeed people were having a picnic, but one of them was playing with his son in a tree while from his lips this incredible opera was booming forth. You could say it was surreal but also it was very normal. I don’t plan very much, and my films really find their form in the edit. A lot of the time in the edit I’ll reach a point where I need to shoot more footage which will give the film an ending these shoots tend to be more planned out and specific. But I almost always shoot something I hadn’t expected to and a lot of the time it ends up being a key shot in the final piece. Lots of my initial ideas are very simple, very basic, and only really start to take off when I start putting different shots together. Even when they’re done I think my videos are pretty simple. I watched an interview with the musician Julia Holter the other day and she said ‘I can’t make anything by being totally clearheaded about stuff’, which is exactly how I work. Every time I try to preplan or conceptualise something too much, the idea dies. A film I started in the summer was simply born out of being stunned by the blue of the sky like
flat paper and the jubilant green trees lining the streets where I would walk on my lunch breaks all this colour set against the solemn paving stones and brick walls. I was frustrated that I didn’t have much time to make my own films and I promised that the next chance I got I would go out and just film some trees, some walls, some sky. I had no clear intention. But since grouping the footage in the edit, the film has grown into something slightly more complex and (I hope) harder to put my finger on. We find that your filmmaking is rich of references. Besides the Italian master Antonioni we have quoted in our interview, can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work?
Like I mentioned earlier, recently a lot of photography has inspired me Lewis Baltz, John Gossage, Ron Jude, Robert Adams, New Topographics types. Other than that John Smith his film The Black Tower is one of those films I just wish I could claim ownership of, it’s so simple yet so smart. Patrick Kieller’s films of London and England are beautiful and even when they are at their most polemical there is a magic in the images and voice over that makes me incredibly elated. Robert Breer, who I mentioned at the beginning; his use of sound in his animations and the way his films leap out of everyday experience his film T.Z. is sort of a riff on the bridge he saw everyday out his kitchen window while washing dishes accordingly, the soundtrack is largely made up of the sound of him washing dishes! Some of my films previous to Scree Fucking Junk I think bear quite a strong visual reference to Monty Python’s Flying Circus figures visually at odds with their landscape: businessmen on a mountainside, Tudor maidens walking the streets of modern day London. The films of David Lynch were the first I think to open me up to how strange you could make seemingly commonplace objects and rooms, locations. The best of his films retain that thingness I mentioned earlier no matter how strange they get, they are rooted in a physicality of texture, sensation and mood. Although his films are very different, Apichatpong Weerasethakul is also someone who makes films which have a beautiful interplay between the utterly fantastical and the commonplace. His films always leave me with a massive smile on my face. Music has always been a big influence Aphex Twin’s attitude towards his output, a large dose
A still from Scree Fucking Junk
of humour, shrieking noise one minute and childlike beauty the next that kind of ‘anything goes’ unprecious approach to his creativity is brilliant. We probably need more artists who share that unpretentiousness. The last Oneohtrix Point Never album R+7 I’ve listened to endlessly, he’s always trying to pull apart his tracks, stop them from getting out the front door before they’ve even started, so to speak. It’s very exciting, I’d like to try something like that with a video. We have the impression that your use of color is not merely aimed at achieving extremely refined composition: your cinematography seems to be deeply influenced by the emotional potential of color: could you better explain this aspect of your shooting style?
Emotion is something I never try to conjure in a particularly explicit or direct way in my work not broad emotion at least, although I do have a predeliction for humour, and I hope my films have a certain freedom to them, that’s my intention anyway. I get a thrill from putting sounds and video together and playing with different combinations and ridiculous ideas. I hope some of my enthusiasm translates to the viewer. In terms of colour, yes colour is important to me. Colour in the everyday: the
blue sky, yellow signs, green trees, in Winter the deep browns, blacks and dark greens of the city environment. I love the colour of some of the JeanLuc Godard films in the second half of the 1960s Weekend and 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her. The blues and reds in particular punch forth so strongly bring out everyday objects: the colour of cars, products, clothes; and American colour photography from the 1970s William Eggleston, Stephen Shore, as well as the Italian Luigi Ghirri. So yeah, the bright colours in some of my films come, again, from the everyday, and I suppose something joyous in that; if you were to describe an English film as ‘everyday’, set in the suburbs for example, we would probably imagine a grey depiction of ‘ugly’ architecture and morose brick walls. I grew up in North London suburbs and I see something different, I see colours, lots of colours, and lots of movement, and lots of things going on at the same time which could be interpreted in a million different ways. To refer back to accentuating the 2D nature of the video that I mentioned earlier, flattening the image also accentuates the colours. You feel sometimes like you’re looking at a flat plane of colour rather than a representation of a three dimensional world. My video Flat Projection uses this quite a lot (the clue’s in the title!); filmed objects being reduced to a kind of
A still from Scree Fucking Junk
colour field or colour matte (it’s something I stole from John Smith’s The Black Tower). I think its interesting to look at all the mundane things we see everyday buses, cars, the sky, trees, pavements, trains, brick walls, lamp posts, signs and kind of break them off from the rest of their surroundings, literally put a frame round them. It’s basically what all art is in some way no? Someones personal filter or frame on the world they see. Turning them into a flat colour field is one way of doing this. I’m particularly interested in the physical world, its concrete nature, how it’s all jumbled together in my eyes as I walk about, how it’s all a mixture of lots of planning and construction but has this kind of wash of disorder over it, which is my perception of the everyday the people walking in different
directions, the wet leaves on the paving stones, the ugly car, the sleek car, the old spilled paint dried into the tarmac, the spilt kebab from last night, the neat terraced houses with different things in the windows and the squat block of flats that sits at the end of them. I like to try and take some of these details and isolate them temporarily, whether it’s through framing, or changing the sound that runs with it, or undercutting the image with some voiceover insisting that it’s something else, but I also like to show an awareness that this isolation is temporary; the videos can never maintain any neat framing off or cutting out. To go back to what I mentioned earlier it is life, or the stuff of life, the everyday, that never conforms to simplistic labels.
In a recent video I made, A Comprehensive Survey of Historical Plaques in Shoreditch, East London, there is a series of shots that run very fast leading up to the climax. They are all wide shots of walls and pavements in quiet back alleys, and they are framed from either the left or right angle, rather than straight on, so they aren’t completely flat. I think I did this because in some ways it seems like a stage in the theatrical sense the alley wall going up all the way past the top of frame like a backdrop there’s something about it that gives space for ‘characters’ to walk on, but it’s not too stylised. I feel visually it still maintains that link to something mundane about the location, it retains a three dimensionality of the space, but the closedin nature of the frame has the hint of a stage set about it. Quite different from most of the framing in Scree Fucking Junk, which are disparate and almost unfinished; in Scree Fucking Junk different elements in the shot distract you or there is a vacancy in the centre of the shot; shots with no apparent subject. There is a line, possibly by Maurice Blanchot, possibly not, it goes something like this: ‘The everyday escapes us. Why does it escape us? Because it has no subject’. Thanks for sharing your time, Jack. What's next for you? Have you a particular project in mind ?
By bringing out the strong colours in the everyday I think it heightens the mundane; I don’t play with the colours too much in post production though, I like to use a polarising filter on my camera which, among other things, increases contrast and saturation when you have decent daylight. Instead of seeing mundane everyday signs or brick walls, you’re seeing strong, bright signs and geometric red brick walls, which is what they are anyway. I want the videos to sit agitatedly between mundane and exulting, reality and constructed reality, surface and depth. Basically I want them to be slippery customers that you can never quite put you’re finger on, find them hard to describe, just like the films themselves have trouble describing the world they are attempting to portray.
It was a pleasure, thanks for asking me. Yeah I’ve got a few projects on at the moment, mainly in the edit stages. I tend to work on multiple projects at a time; I work full time in my day job so I don’t have long periods of concentrated work on my own stuff, therefore new ideas generally interrupt the current ones. I’m making some more stuff using the degraded video quality of Scree Fucking Junk and trying to work on a short film script of an idea I’ve had for a while but haven’t got around to devoting some proper time to.
Maya Connors The owls have grown as big as the half moon - Director's statement A trip to South Korea, searching for memories from my early childhood,
memories that barely exist. And the harder I try, the less I can grasp, the more I forget. The past and being foreign seem alike, it isn't the distance that matters, but the crossing of a boundary. (Chris Marker, Le dĂŠpays)
of memories of stories and of things, made up of what my parents brought back with them. I do remember the return to Germany in 1989 very clearly: the arrival at Frankfurt Airport and especially that sense of feeling like a stranger. Today in Korea again for the first time, traveling, I am a stranger and in a way back to being a child, learning to speak, to read and trying to imitate things. Collecting images to recreate my own memory, as the things I see in the present overlay the past. In the film my personal story is more hinted at than told, instead trying to convey a certain mood through the images and sound and giving the viewer space to find their own conclusions. The film moves along the idea of what it means to form memories (memories that might become stories) and how these change again over time, wandering between what is imagined or real. I try to work with this idea on a formal level as well by using staged and documentary images and different kinds of footage (Super8, MiniDV and digitalized VHS), each referring to a specific time, but not necessarily being from that time. In this respect the sound level also plays a very important role, adding an additional layer of strangeness to images stripped of their original sound or to silent images. What I find interesting here are sounds that could be close to realistic sounds, but at the same time seem a bit off. Other images still use the original flat sound of the MiniDV camera's microphone, along with the buzzing noise that confirms the presence of a camera, making the viewer perhaps aware of the filming situation.
A still from The owls have grown as big as the half moon
From 1986-89 I lived in South Korea. My American father and German mother had moved there from Germany when I was a year old. The memories I do have of this time are few and blurry, mostly they consist
An interview with
Maya Connors Mixing different shooting formats like Super 8, MiniDV and VHS, Maya Connors' cinema reveals and original vision of time and memory. From the first time we watched her film The owls have grown as big as the half moon, a stunning work, oscillating between the autobiographical and essay film style, we were impressed by the way she explores the blurry boundaries between personal memory and perception. Maya, could you introduce our readers to this film? In the film I travel through South Korea, searching for memories from my early childhood spent there between the age of 1-3, a time that is generally hard to remember. It is my first time back in the country since 1989, and the images I see and film start to overlay the few images I might have had before. Even though it is an authobiographic film, the personal narrative of me being in South Korea in 2010 stays very abstract and only the most important information is given in a voice-over narration. Less than recounting a story, I wanted to make a film that works through a certain mood, over the link between images, sounds and text and creates space for the viewer to add their own thoughts. I also wanted to play with the various levels of time and memory, using different kinds of footage that each refer to a specific time without necessarily being from that time. In your personal statement, you refer to The owls have grown as big as the half moon as a film about the parallels to learning language. We would like to better explore your parallel between cinema and language: could you comment this aspect of your film? I think the parallels I saw here were especially between learning a language and remembering. In the film I say “I try to imagine, I try to invent, I try to imitate”, something that I was trying to do both with
learning the Korean language and with recreating my memories. There is a quote by Trinh T. Minh-ha that I think is very fitting in this context: “For memory and language are places of sameness and otherness, dwelling and traveling.” This also refers to what for me is one parallel between cinema and language, the importance of the spaces in between. Another aspect that I find really interesting and that I grappled with while making this film is language in cinema, in my case language as a voice-over narration, from the off. I went from trying to explain everything to more and more abstract language fragments that maybe mirror the images. The film deals with being foreign on several levels, and it also works with translations on different levels. The text in the film was essentially created through a backand-forth translation between English and German, the two languages I grew up with, and I really like the idea that the final text had to go back and forth between languages until it was finished. How did you get started in filmmaking?
A still from The owls have grown as big as the half moon
After school I did several internships at film production companies who mainly made documentaries for TV and I wanted to do that as well. With this vague idea I applied to several film schools and the only one I got accepted to was the University of Fine Arts in Hamburg. In retrospect, I was really lucky that it worked out there because it is the freest of all the schools I applied to and really encouraged me to find my own style in filmmaking and to experiment by giving me space and means to work with, without any time pressure. And it was there that I first got to know a lot of experimental cinema and video art, thanks to professors such as Gerd Roscher and Corinna Schnitt, but also in selforganized groups of students where we discussed and watched films. This getting together, talking about film with others and working together was maybe the most
important aspect of my time there. I'm actually still a student but haven't been present much since the birth of my daughter last year. Right now I'm mostly working on my final film project from home and I do plan on graduating this spring. Your visual style reminds us of Bruce Conner's works. Can you describe your encounter with old analog media that inspired your cinematography? There is a specific reason linked to the ephemeral qualitities of rare formats like VHS today? I just recently finally got around to seeing some of Bruce Conner's films. But definitely a big influence were several other American experimental filmmakers, especially Maya Deren and Jonas Mekas. Their films were some of the first experimental films I saw and very inspiring for my own work.
A still from The owls have grown as big as the half moon
What drew me to work with analog media myself was, apart from the aesthetic, also in a way having to restrict myself, to have to choose what images I want to film as there is just a certain amount of material. I bought a Krasnogorsk spring-wound 16 mm camera on Ebay and experimented with using this heavy
camera in a playful way. What made this possible was also a developing machine for 16 and 35 mm that we had at the art school. Generally, I like to mix different kinds of footage in my films, some analog, some digital, and I don't really stick to one certain format; it
Human experience is often the starting point of your filmmaking. What draws you to a particular subject? I often work with themes of language and memory and here also the relationship between personal memory and official history, moving along a kind of search. Sometimes the starting point for this is very personal as in The owls, other times I work with “found” memories of others as with René Char's lyrical war diary Hypnos in my film In our darkness (2010). In the film, co-director Filippa Bauer and I try to translate the poet's language into film images, projecting his memories onto the landscape were they were written, creating a different view of it. It generally takes me a long time to work on these films, as the starting point is often very open and I do a lot of research along the way. To balance that out, I also like to do shorter works in between that are more spontaneous and playful. Who among international artists and directors influenced your work? I already mentioned Jonas Mekas before. After seeing Mekas' films I was drawn to the lightness and movement of his camera and the poetry he finds in certain everyday moments, a certain playfulness in the images that nonetheless can have serious connotations. A completely different style of camera and also a big influence for me is the work of Chantal Akerman, especially the long takes of News from Home and D'est. I like the strictness of these films and the way that her personal “story” is very limited, even going as far as not being spoken of directly at all as in D'est.
always depends on the subject. What connects the different formats I use is an interest in the texture of the image and also in mistakes and in noise. It is the same with audio; I prefer a sound that isn't too clean.
Often it is certain images or movements from films or videos that stay over a long period of time and that I have in mind when working on my own films and that I am inadvertently quoting, for example, a boat ride from Marguerite Duras, a zoom from Apichatpong Weerasethakul or an image from a video by Haegue Yang, an old woman with a purse walks down the street, you only see her from the back. It is actually similar with images from literature, which I also find are a big inspiration for the work on a film, like the absurd short stories of Daniil Charms for one of my first films Blue Bread No.11 or Walter Benjamin's Einbahnstrasse for The Owls.
A still from The owls have grown as big as the half moon
You are the founder of vetofilm.com, a German platform promoting experimental films. It could seem a specious question, however we have to do it, Maya: what's the future of independent cinema in your opinion? Well, uncertain as always? I don't know if I can answer this directly. An Alexander Kluge title
always sounds good when answering questions like this. For example: â€œIn face of danger and adversity, the path in the middle leads to death.â€? Maybe I can answer a part of the question by talking about the idea behind VETO. We founded VETO to basically promote artistic and experimental films from Hamburg, which has a rich history in this area. While trying to distribute our own films, we thought
build an archive with older works. Apart from the information on our website, an important aspect also is to organize film screenings and exhibitions. What is most important for me here is to have a space for dialog about experimental films and with this to contribute to ensuring that there is a place for these. 8) Thanks for sharing your time, Maya, we wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for you? Have you a particular film in mind? Thanks for inviting me! Right now I'm working on a film that is a bit connected to my last one, but this time it is a film about a place I have never been to, the city my father grew up in, Paterson, New Jersey. It's going to be a film about an imagined place, that's mostly shot in Hamburg on 16mm with the sound level dealing with Paterson/family history. I'm not quite sure yet which aspects it will deal with exactly, but I'm especially interested in this distance between a place and myself which is maybe also about the distance I have to the United States where my father is from, but where I have never lived.
that it would be nice to have an institution here that supports films that might not be so easily approachable, that distributes them and with this creates a dialog. The films we are interested in move between the art space and cinema, exploring boundaries, and have a distinct auteur's position. We're planning to put out biannual editions (following an open call) with contemporary films as well as to
Coalfather Industries Seem, a synopsis The human and mechanical characters in Seem
obscured. We disguise ourselves yet marvel at
propel the viewer into the â€œUncanny Valleyâ€?
the self we recognize in machines. We fear
where the line between real and phantasm is
others disguised as others. Often, these things
are like corpses to us. Yet animatrons are made and costumes are worn to entice us, to convince us.
We heed the suggestions of the unreal in a fog of repulsion and obligation.
An interview with
Kara Jansson and Craig Newsom a.k.a. Coalfather
Exploring the blurred line between human and mechanical characters, organic and inorganic, mass-culture and the individual, "Seem" by Kara Jansson and Craig Newsom - a.k.a. Coalfather Industries - is a stunning work which can be read on different levels. Kara and Craig, could you tell us a particular episode who has helped the birth of this project, or simply an epiphany? The inspiration for Seem came from footage shot at a sporting goods â€œsuper storeâ€?in Springfield, Illinois. The enormous store houses a full-size ferris wheel, a 61,000 liter aquarium and a mountain of mounted animal bodies. Assault weapons are sold alongside ice cream and fresh fudge. But the most striking thing about the store is an assortment of lifesize presidential statues. Two of these statues, Lincoln and Jefferson, are animatrons. They spout cycles of generic statements regarding freedom endlessly throughout the day. In essence, their bodies have been crudely reanimated to convey the specific ideas and agenda of a corporation, while children ride the ferris wheel and their parents buy guns below. Our fascination with these figures is the driving force behind Seem. They pull us in with the uncomfortable feeling of something uncanny. They seem like us, yet their hands are stiffened with rigor mortis, when they talk their mouths part a little too much to reveal slits in the corners of the lips, they do not acknowledge our presence as they move haltingly with groans and clicks. We are held fast in a cloud of revulsion while the corporatized message spills out of their plastic mouths.
Along with the automatons, we use footage of costumed characters shot in Times Square in New York. Tourists visiting Times Square usually assume these characters represent the corporations that created them. In fact they are just ordinary people who have donned costumes in order to make money posing for photos. The character, even when not directly sponsored by the corporation, has an autonomous identity that continues to advertise for the corporation ad infinitum. The attraction/repulsion of the uncanny is again at work as we struggle with the identity of the lovable and recognized character and the shadow knowledge that it is actually a person in a suit.
The figure of the white dressed man is no doubt a topos of your filmic imagery: could you introduce our readers to this peculiar character, reminding us of postapocalyptic scenarios? The clown and phantom are symbols we had each explored in our earlier work. We are drawn to the idea of the cloaked figure-hidden from view and also hidden from the scrutiny of the everyday world and therefore able to critique it openly. The white suit serves a dual purpose-it is at once a costume, but also a symbol of our need to protect ourselves from the impending meltdown of our world. In our recent works,
we wore Hazmat suits-literally chemical protection suits-in a variety of absurd situations. In the pristine forest, watching television, etc. It occurred to us that In the ongoing struggle of our daily tedium we forget about the impending meltdown of our world. Recently the news has been inundated with images of people in these suits, as disease and environmental catastrophes become the norm rather than the absurd exception. The white suit also symbolizes a kind of physical end state. In one piece, Edward & Elizabeth, we stuffed the suits with pillows until they appeared disfigured. The characters are completely disembodied, both from their former human physical self and from the
rational world. They spiral into an emotional struggle-attempting to grasp the nonsensical narration before them. But the rational world is gone - replaced by a frenzied insect ballet set
to meaningless incantations droning away on a television screen. In your statement, you say "We heed the suggestions of the unreal in a fog of
repulsion and obligation". We daresay that this sentence is the manifesto of you artistic research. Could you comment it?
We have evolved into beings whose primary objective is to be entertained. There is little self analysis of the activities in which we involve ourselves on a daily basis. Instead of being driven by overarching goals or even a
sense of survival, we are buffeted about amongst a series of suggestions that come to us from so many sources that it becomes difficult to even be aware of them. Debordâ€™s writings on the idea of the spectacle are the closest reference point we have for this idea: â€œThe spectacle is a permanent opium war which aims to make people identify goods with commodities and satisfaction with survival that increases according to its own laws.â€? Where do these suggestions come from? They surround us and we carry them with us. Here is a typical scene in everyday America; a father holds the door of a restaurant open so his young son who is playing a game on a
handheld device can enter without interrupting his game, they both proceed to a table in the restaurant and sit down, the father pulls a phone from his pocket and busies himself with rubbing its surface. Neither son nor father see each other. They are in a fog. There are screens everywhere. On trains, in grocery stores, in our cars, on our walls and in our pockets. If we perceive our lives to be an endless state of ennui, then these screens are the antidote, with their bright colors, danceable music and visions of freshly showered people living lives of fulfillment that can only be obtained through the purchase of certain products. Since these screens and their messages offer us a way out of ourselves, we
either side of you. If you are not looking at your phone, you will see people parked in their cars looking at their phones. Look around you on a train. What are people doing when they walk down the street? They are not looking at the street. Stand outside of any college classroom and wait for the class to end. What is the first thing each student does when they exit the room? We are in love with a rectangle. The character in the video is in a desperate search to fulfil the ephemeral pleasure he got from the now defunct device and tries in vain to fulfil those needs with available household objects. The motions center on the insipid nature of our interactions with these technological toys and our quest for instant gratification. Many times a day we interact with these devices using gestures with our hands that are almost loving–like a caress. Taken out of their context and applied to mundane objects or food items like a bar of chocolate, these gestures become preposterous and even desperate. "Chocolate Phone" reveal a remarkable sarcastic vein: watching your video art production we had the impression that irony is a fundamental aspect of you art practise, reminding us of Beckett and Brecht techniques.
become duty-bound to them. How many people really enjoy being on social media? How many of those who are unhappy with it can bring themselves to leave? Could you introduce our readers to you recent video Chocolate Phone? While we were making Ludic Loop, we had a lot of conversations about a world Post-Device. What would we do with our hands? What would we stare at? How would we deal with not having that rectangle with shiny pieces of animated candy, videos of our rich friend’s children and access to questionnaires that determine our personality? Drive to any shopping mall, park your car and look on
We are both greatly influenced by certain works of theater and literature. In particular we share a common interest in Beckett’s plays and the novels and short stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne. As an aside, the name Coalfather comes from a very early online chat we had in which we made up variations on Hawthorne’s nomenclature for Satan. While Hawthorne provides us with a steady stream of supernatural New England fodder, we also identify very closely with the absurdist environment in which Beckett’s pathetic characters work out their pointless, unseen agonies. In Beckett’s Endgame, the legless and dustbinoccupying Nagg begs for his pap. Of course, the pap is not forthcoming. There is a parallel between the Phantom Clown character in Chocolate Phone and Nagg in Endgame.
Both want their pap. With the hazmat-suited Chocolate Phone protagonist, that pap is itâ€™s smartphone which no longer exists. So it makes do with what it has on hand. i.e., a chocolate bar.
our other work with empathy. Sarcasm implies some kind of harsh critique from the outside of
While there is a kind of sarcasm at work here, we are also trying to infuse the scene as well as
place ourselves inside of those suits.
some system. We recognize that we are within the system we are critiquing. When we wear the hazmat suits we become characters but also
"Everything is artifice and mere
footage manipulation in order to explore
appearance". Quoting the Spanish master Cervantes, you focus The manipulation of
deep psychological issues, whether the footage has a "private" source (old super8
mainstream moving-images had a
home movies) or not (fragments from
remarkable political aim for the French
mainstream films). In your works, you
philosopher of the 60s, while nowadays artists seem to be attracted by found
succeed in mixing these two aspects, creating a sort of "micropolitics of
desire.â€?How do you achieve this balance between "political" and "private"? We tend to work in two different modes; the absurd and the political. We often debate whether these modes should be separate or combined or allowed to just flow however they will for each project. Our earliest video pieces stemmed from absurd presentations we made from images of dolls, toys and 3D models. These early works helped form our current approach.
Cataloguing and recording our environment is another aspect of how we work. Much of the later works have to do with combining this raw footage of costumed characters, animatrons, roller grill food items from convenience stores, cemeteries, and people in some stage of consumption. When we work with footage like this, we tend to be more political, more message driven. The balance, then, is not just between political and private but between personal and public narratives, between each of our personal mythologies that we brought to the
clips and other materials. We both record a good deal of what happens around us and that shared material is the basis of our work. From the start we were both very attracted to mobile technology. Since we are usually not in the same location, we had to find a way to collaborate remotely. Most of our ideas are flushed out via online chats or in shared documents. Collaborative drawing apps have allowed us to develop a shared aesthetic and the covert nature of the mobile phone allows us to capture ordinary scenes inconspicuously. Our work often develops in multiple stages, starting from shared 3d renderings and then progressing through collage, audio recording, animation and ultimately edited video. All but the final stages of editing are usually done on smartphones and tablets. We tinker a lot with new apps and imagery and ideas. Much of what we do is born from a strong desire to push everything to itâ€™s limits. Whether that is a camera, a phone, editing software or the location in which we find ourselves. Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts, Craig and Kara. What's next for you? Have you a particular collaboration in mind ?
collaboration and also between humour and gravity. There is a great quote from Twain that addresses humour and gravity: â€œEverything human is pathetic. The secret source of Humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.â€? The first time we have watched your works we have been really impressed by the number of filmic techniques you use: how did you develop your filmmaking style? As a necessity for working over distance, we maintain a cloud-based drive of raw video
Along with video and performance, we have been experimenting with web-based and interactive projects. We created an online social network peopled entirely with fictitious characters and corporations called Neighbr and are hoping to expand it into something that could be shown as an immersive experience in a gallery. We have done some basic projects with Arduino and programmable puppets and vignettes and hope to venture more in the direction of physical computing and creating our own animatronics and generative art.
Strangloscope An artist's statement
Clรกudia and Rafael are the duo Strangloscope. They work with new media and video in order to explore ideas about time, space, motion, and perception. Time Gap was shot in Super 8 and then it became an experiment with digital
interfaces such as ipod lens with water drop as a macro effect and the film rolls and was captured again. Delay, gap, space. What does space contain concerning to the image instant in its duration? How to portrait time without its documental heritage that images Always produces? An image in a Contemporary
A still from Through the oceans of space and time I: Hey Bro 2014 A still from A boat in between the eye
Cinema, non referential, its not the imitation of nature anymore, but just a gap. To produce gaps in time is the contemporary nature of the image. It shows the cinema language nature while it “speaks” about time through images. Time Gap is a short movie about the birth of the image through using the film skin in an 8mm
material as a body skin to expose its possibilities through the digital technology. The film was shot in Detroit, the icon of american captalism that is an emperor of decay today. Cláudia Cárdenas & Rafael Schlichting
An interview with
Cláudia Cárdenas & Rafael Schlichting We are glad to present for this special VideoBiennale Edition the filmmakers duo Cláudia Cárdenas and Rafael Schlichting, also known as Strangloscope. Their short filmTime Gapreveals a highly original and consistent vision of time and space, and at the same time an incredible effort to get under the skin of the cinema. Cláudia and Rafael, how did you get started in experimental filmmaking? We started making narrative films but our films were in the begining fruits of a research about achieving an autoral work. Our films have been always focused entirely on movement, rhythm, and composition, and they have finally abandoned the focus on narrative.it is fraught with conscious ambiguities, encourages multiple interpretations, and marshals paradoxical and contradictory techniques and subject-matter to create a work that requires the active participation of the viewer. We have been working on a minimun budget most often provided by us or through small grants, and we can say that our films were made out of personal passion. We started giving cinema classes teaching how to film with small budgets, more than 30 short movies resulting from those classes. Experimental films are films that push the boundaries of conventional film making. The experimental aspect could be new and different ways of working with the camera, using lighting, playing with audio effects, scripting or even acting. We started developing our own experimental films because of our interest in working with digital forms, trying to give them some texture by increasing the use of pixels, enlarging the images in its own digital materiality and then mixing digital with films in order to create a mutant skin. That sort of image expansion atracted us so much that we could never leave experimental researches in film/movie making. We have found really stimulating the way you subvert the language of cinema itself
Cláudia Cárdenas & Rafael Schlichting in order to explore the non referential potential of moving images. Can you introduce our readers to this fundamental aspect of your cinema? Wedon’t think in terms of narratives in the sense of telling stories. To us, our films are plastic, they are objects, pure blocks of duration and movement. We try several
techniques to explore the non referential potential of moving images. At Time Gap we decided using editing to create uncertainty about causal relations between events as well as the continuity of time and space.We have shot with a S8 camera and we shot 3 films. We decided to not edit the material just including some digitalized images to subvert the normal use of 8mm.
The use of digital images from the film material through a moviola digital divice we have created increased the idea of time gaps subverting even more the narrative and making time and movement the specif subject of Time Gap. The narrative desconstruction makes the idea of rebirth of an early cinema and its core of experimentation in the use of time and space.
A still from Angelus novus
A still from Airplane Dance
How did you come up with the idea for Time Gap? Could you tell us a particular episode who has helped the birth of this film? We had won a prize in Brasil to make a short movie and that was an old script that we didnâ€™t want to shoot anymore, we had to rebuilt all the concept keeping the soul of the old one. When we saw some pictures of Detroit we decided to make it there at that particular space of industrial decadence related to all that involves making cinema in the US, the use of the cinema plataform as an industry commodity, how it alterates the nature of cinema as it had been born, what could be an appeal to rethink time and space through cinema images nowadays, etcetera.
Can you introduce our readers to the your concept of gaps in time? The concept of gaps in time is just to use the images as blocks of duration. It happens when we made the decision to keep the film rolls in its integrity without editing and just adding at the beginning and at the end of the film some images of the negatives shown in a kind of moviola we made to alterate speed of projection/editing creating a kind of gap in time. It had increased the potential of this concept/idea as it was already there by the way we had shot the 3 rolls, shooting several times the same scene, including in the shots some non acted scenes, trying to mantain the hole body of
some parts of the same films in a different speed and with interruptions we have chosen to interrupt the dramatic form and to keep out and far away from a normative representational system. By interrupting a systematic and organized way of production we have decided, as Carmelo Bene, to deny and subvert the idea of a dramatic structure of an industrial and comercial way of representational movies. What we did with Time Gap has a certain analogy to the work of Bene as we also used a break in the representational structure for the benefit of instant and real action, that is , performance , however without abandoning procedures or the nature of cinema - its body , its plasticity . Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new project? When we start a project we have a vague idea of what we shoot and a desire goal we want to live during this process. That is, we spent the whole time looking for inspiring images , building a path of locations and choosing people with whom we want to get involved in the process of filming … but the work of shooting begins without any idea of what it will be as the final object , but with the steady purpose to achieve as much in favor of an initial idea and its development regarding the importance that every moment in your time materiality can bring in creative and powerful deviations . You are currently working on your first two feature films: could you introduce our readers to this amazing experience?
filmaking, subverting acting as in acting for a script, making film a living process. The choice of analog film is not casual in your work: your aim is to treat 8mm material as a body skin, a concept reminding us of Carmelo Bene's cinematic universe. Could you explain the reason linked to the ephemeral qualitities of this rare shooting format? As you have just remarked the analog film and its ephemeral qualities provides a particular way of making a film, shooting with 8mm material is indeed to writte down in a body skin, it does not have a way back and it pulses as it is alive. When we decided for non editing and adding just in the beginning and in the end
Our first feature film project started in 2007, we have made a non budget work shot during 3 or 4 years in different parts of Brazil. ‘A boat in between the eyes’ was digitally shot and it is our first experimental film, as it is made as a work in progress, without a script, and just guided by a mis en scene created in the locations with the actors. As it is a non budget project we are still trying to finish it and the sound is missing now to finish this film. The second one is in progress. It is being digitally shot and we are still shooting it in Brazil and abroad in countries like Cuba, USA, Italy, etc. It does not have a script as well and the subject is a false auto-biography of a young filmmaker. It is called Zulu Anárquico. But there is a new Project we have already shot, ‘Angelus Novus’ will be our third feature film and it will be a movie about how to envolve a hole city in a film making production but we
A still from Zulú Anárquico
don’t have how to tell you more about it because we are just begining an editing planing and we really don’t know what it will result. We just can only say that we have worked more experimenting performance instead of acting and digital images enlarged and experimentally shot and edited. We have previously mentioned the Italian avant-garde filmmaker and actor Carmelo Bene, even though your filmmaking style is very far from what is generally considered 'baroque'. Who among
international artists and directors influenced your work? Among the directors and international artists , the ones who have most influenced us are Godard, Jonas Mekas, Artaud , Maya Deren , Cassavettes , Bill Viola, Douglas Gordon. We have already participated and produced many screenings of contemporary experimental cinema where we have contacted many filmmakers’ works which ended up giving us inspiration in our own films. Thanks for sharing your time, Cláudia and Rafael , we wish you all the best with your
filmmaker career. What's next for Strangloscope? We are getting involved with new projects such as curating and producing Screenings all around the world and shooting new films. â€˜Time Gapâ€™ won a new prize at the Alternative Film/Video Festival in Belgrade and we were invited to shoot a new short film there in May at a residence program. We are going to enjoy this new experience in Europe and our goal is also to travel to different european countries screening the films we have being curating of experimental films in Brazil at our Strangloscope -
International Exhibition of Audio , Video and Experimental Performance . In addition we will shoot antother 3 new short movies with different proposals and all of them include more than a hybrid treatment between documentary and fiction , we want to create an image language of experimentation and performance in uncontrolled environments documentary proposals , with different themes, such as the commercial use of religious faith , the fantasies of a fictional female definition, and which would mean today a new avant garde cinema.
Mitchell Noah An artist's statement My current video work investigates the social dynamics driving contemporary communication. The concept of using a .gif file as a form of language, in text messaging and online forums, has become a method of ambiguous expression. There is
something curious about a fleeting bit of information that repeats itself infinitely. The video, Through the oceans of space and time I: Hey Bro, incorporates actual dialogue from text messaging conversations with my cousin. Though our dialogue is typically incoherent and inconsistent, we are still able to connect with each other. The
A still from Through the oceans of space and time I: Hey Bro 2014
video focuses on that lack of coherence, which is paralleled with audio tracks of radio waves passing through the earthâ€™s atmosphere. My work begins to question how far communication has come; from investing originality and physical effort into correspondence, to thoughtlessly sending signals into space which can be delivered almost instantly.
Contemporary communication has become absorbed in an empty efficiency, and is creating new languages that are based in ambiguity. Not only is our language changing to cater to virtual communication, but our time distribution is shrinking to meet the demands our expanding social consciousness.
An interview with
Mitchell Noah From the first time we watched Mitchell Noah's experimental video Through the oceans of space and time I: Hey Bro we were impressed with the way he is able to explore the blurry boundaries between virtual and physical space. We are glad to present Mitchell 's work for this special Videofocus Edition. Mitchell, could you tell us a particular episode that has helped the birth of this project?
It wasn’t until my undergraduate studies that I started incorporating video into my work, but as a documentary technique. In graduate school I began to focus on composing video based on images I had made—very “low-tech” animation. I am self-taught when it comes to digital technologies and software, so my practice probably does not involve the most efficient strategies, but they work for how I need to see things. Everything then was based in montage, and for the most part still is. For my work, Through the oceans of space and time I: Hey Bro, I was intrigued by these daily text messaging conversations I was holding. My cousin and I are more like brothers, and we live in different states. We have established this cryptic form of communication where we don’t have to give each other full sets of information, only small parcels. It makes correspondence more interesting when you have to decipher the message. I would not call it slang, which I think is more informal speech that is region specific. Our speech is based on our own history as blood relatives, with much of what we say being within that context. But from an outside perspective, it just seems like nonsense. Putting any contemporary form of communication between two people under the microscope will begin to look somewhat foreign. Another work marked by a strong effort to explore the concept of time and space is Our only guide is our homesickness VI:
Dust. Could you introduce our readers to this video?
This video pre-dates Hey Bro by several months, and is part of a series of digital images that I have been working on. The title of the series, Our only guide is our homesickness, is taken from the book Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse. That story takes a very deep approach
to the idea of loneliness, which I felt related to what I was trying to do with the series. The images are comprised of photographs I took of the sky and the landscape—these very vast, empty, and monumental spaces—which were restructured and reorganized to establish new forms out of those spaces. They appear to be low quality, where you can see the individual pixels in the prints. But the idea is that the
low quality helps to measure the time between clarity and distortion, which has been a major drive behind my work. I feel that so much of today’s practitioners are aiming for the highest quality when it comes to images, video, and prints. I want to run backwards, in the other direction. So, in a way it is very formal. Our only guide is our homesickness VI: Dust is
A still from Through the oceans of space and time I: Hey Bro, 2014
the first video in that series, and my approach was to introduce a different element of language to the work. With the images, I was dealing with pixels as information to read and decode, so for this video I began to utilize a very contemporary method of language that requires decoding, the animated .GIF file. The video uses a series of animated .GIF files from
films such as The Shining and Taxi Driver; films that approach loneliness the a similar way that Hesse did with Steppenwolf. Often, in text messaging or any virtual discussion, I will use an animated .GIF for the recipient to decode. The file animates a gesture, or phrase, and repeats infinitely. People do this all of the time in virtual space. Dust uses the .GIF to illustrate
the text that it is paired with, which speaks to loneliness a bit. Human experience is always the starting point of your filmmaking. What draws you to a particular subject?
Particulars come and go. A lot of what draws me in is my own observations of things, and the
visual associations I make for them. Experience, coincidence, and instinct are factors that I consider at every starting point. For me, when those variables are met with an idea that has been hovering and which I feel is ready to be confronted, I think about how to represent that visually. Those visuals are based on the things I have observed and the images or
objects I have chosen to commit to memory. A lot of it is about choosing which symbols to use in the order that feels the most natural— figuring out what the most appropriate language to use is, which in some cases means developing a new one. There is a lot of intuition and improvisation that happens, and I am very happy to have reached that point. Through the oceans of space and time I: Hey Bro deals with new media technology: do you think that new media art will definitely fill the dichotomy between art and technology?
I hope not! I think art and technology should always function in parallel, but never be dependent upon each other. I understand how they influence one another, but there should always a large gap between them—like a canyon of sorts. People can build bridges between the two, and they should, but hopefully there never comes a time when that gap is filled. My work of late aims to question the focus of these technologies and how they are used. Art and technology both grow at exponential rates. Technology moves quite a bite faster, so the quicker you can keep up with it, the more information you will have. However, that doesn’t mean you will understand it. It would be great for some people if art moved at the same speed, but there is still a majority who are waiting for their paint to dry or their stone to reach a polish, which we need. I think to answer the question, before the gap is filled between art and technology, they both need to be moving at the same speed. I was on the cusp of being in the generation that was raised almost exclusively on the Internet, and I think it shows up in my work—that interest in the “low-tech” approach, still doing things in the most cumbersome way. So, if my work does anything, I hope it keeps art moving slower than technology, so as to keeping a human quality in the process of making. Your art presents a remarkable social effort. 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?
I think art could and should change people’s behavior, but more often than not I feel it doesn’t. That could be some strange pessimism in me, but I think too much of
A still from Through the oceans of space and time I: Hey
today’s work is still focused on making money instead of making change. I think art should not only be a platform for the artist’s expression, but should also be a platform for artists to engage others in being expressive, or at least critical! I am working on a project like that now, where I am giving control to those who don’t think about art the same way as those of us who almost eat, breathe, and dream about it do. We need to regain a few things about that. Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new project?
Process starts with daily observations and reflections. I try and generate a conceptual
approach to something, and then research those ideas, while simultaneously gathering and collecting things to convert or expand into the work. I have a folder on my desktop that is titled â€œjunk,â€? and it is full of images from all walks of the Internet. I enjoy having large digital copies of thingsâ€”it is kind of obsessive compulsive. That folder is my visual aid, and when it gets too full I will edit it down to a select few images, which I feel share a certain aesthetic. Then I will try and weave those aesthetics with my ideas to create the works. It sounds easier than it actually is, especially because I am working on multiple things at a time.
There is a lot of waiting, as well as haste, in the creative process. Thanks for sharing your time Mitchell, we wish you all the best with your artist career. What's next for you? Have you a particular project in mind?
I am currently working on an ongoing collaborative effort called Satellites. The project is something I recently revisited, now with more of an investigative agenda. The goal is to utilize glass as a tool for measuring time. It centers on individuals with a natural gravity that are given a solid glass sphere, which acts as a personal satellite. They are instructed to take it with them everywhere they go.
A still from Our only guide is our homesickness VI: Dust, 2014
In doing so, their daily lives are recorded on the surface of the glass. Scratches, smudges, chips, and sometime fractures accumulate, making each one unique. More details can be found on
my website, and the project has an Instagram account (@satellites_project) where documentation is uploaded on a regular basis. It has received a lot of attention, which I have
been happy with. In parallel with that I am working on more video work. Each new one is taking longer every time, even though they are usually short. Iâ€™m trying to slip things in them
that I hope viewers pick up. I have been humbled by this inquiry into my work, so I greatly appreciate this opportunity to discuss it further.
A still from ORPHINE, 2014
Sarahjane Swan & Roger Simian THE BIRD AND THE MONKEY , a synopsis Based in the rural Scottish Borderlands - 30 miles south of their nearest city, Edinburgh - Sarahjane Swan and Roger Simian are natural-born polymaths: enthusiastically jumping from medium to medium, ever in pursuit of an art which feels fresh, original, vital. Since 2010 the pair have been collaborating, under the name The Bird And The Monkey, on songs, music, short films, art, writing, music videos, sculpture and installationwork. Raised in East Lothian, Sarahjane Swan graduated with a BA (Hons) in Fine Art Sculpture from Grayâ€™s School of Art in Aberdeen. Degree work included a 10 foot wave of fish skins, customised gentlemen's suits, abstract forms created from snake slough, notebooks bound in fish skins that stank so much their recipients had to store them in freezers, and a document of
contrasting religious beliefs. One work, inspired by the Heavenâ€™s Gate Cult, 39 death masks housed in a travel suitcase, appeared as part of the graduates' group show at the Royal Scottish Academy. After Gray's Sarahjane moved to London to design sculptural artefacts for a flamboyant nightclub, then on to New Zealand for three years to babysit for her sister and grow pumpkins. On returning to Scotland Sarahjane picked up a guitar and began recording strange lo-fi acoustica songs on a mono cassette recorder and painting herself blue for performance-art videos filmed down by the loch. Brought up in Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders, Roger Simian played and co-wrote songs in various alternative-rock bands, released LPs on one major and several indies, performed at festivals (from Glastonbury to SxSW in Austin Texas) and recorded BBC radio sessions for John Peel and others. All the while he dabbled in
experimental writing and creating his own cut ‘n’ paste fanzines and DIY music videos. Roger’s fiction and poetry have been published in Scottish literary magazines, Chapman and The Eildon Tree, and his arts reviews have appeared in the The Big Issue (a magazine sold by homeless vendors on British streets). He recently graduated with a BA (Hons) Open and a Diploma in Literature and Creative Writing from the Open University. The aim of The Bird And The Monkey is to draw on these diverse creative backgrounds in order to produce eclectic, experimental works in which the arbitrary barriers between media, genre, the lowbrow and the high, become fluid. This love of the fluxus between distinct art forms is reflected in the content of much of The Bird And The Monkey's film-work, where protagonists easily slip between alternative realities, between wakefulness and the dream, temporal life and the Eternal. The pair's first short film, In The Dark I Sat (2012), which premiered at the Portobello Film Festival in London, was a surrealistic sciencefictional romance collaged together into a visual narrative from various self-produced videos: In the days beyond The Fluxing, the times of The Soft Borders, The Great Anomalies, Hypocritical Phenomena, when worlds collapsed and the fabric between realities became fluid, an artist and the man she lost search for each other in reflections, shadows and dreams. The film uses cut up texts and superimposed images as the raw materials for its purposefully disjointed, stitched-together narrative. The protagonists - star-crossed lovers reaching out to each other across dimensions - are trying to piece together identities for themselves, trying remember who they were together now that they are apart. The woman and her absent man, played by Swan and Simian, are captured in the film as though reflected in the splintered shards of a mirror. In The Bird And The Monkey's second short film, Orphine (2014), a woman, played by Swan, descends into the Underworld to confront her sister, Death, and to bring back her unborn child. The film is a concentrated Epic, at just over ten minutes, and its storyline draws on both the autobiographical and the mythological, particularly the cuneiform tales of Sumerian deity, Inanna, and Jean Cocteau's modernist reimagining of the Orpheus myth in cinematic form. When Death calls, Orphine slips between borders, between the realms of the living and the dead, consciousness and the dream. Personal history is filtered through the lens of mythology: one woman becomes Everywoman.
The piece was originally commissioned as a videoart installation for the Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival in Hawick, Scotland. That incarnation was composed of multiple video projections, sculptural elements (dreamlike hands and umbrellas), music / ultrasound monitor heartbeat sounds and writing, presented as a serpentine prose-poem pasted around the walls of the room: Death is the twin I never had. I have heard her voice. Since my first breath, my very first breath, I have heard her voice. A river flows through my Sister's domain and, on its banks, she sits, she waits, she washes her hair. She has waited for me since my first breath, since my very first breath. I told her once: “Just call on me, Sister. I will gladly come, but, you'll never take the one I most love.” An earlier installation, Sung To The Crows (2012) – also commissioned by the Alchemy Festival – involved a similar mix of elements. Inspired by the anonymous 14th century Borders Murder Ballad, Twa Corbies, this installation was imagined as an absurdist crime-scene, constructed in a spooky abandoned office, along a twisting corridor, on the third floor of a listed building. Sung To The Crows featured: striking music (melancholy modern classical strings fading into a dark industrial track) and an audio soundtrack made up of whispering voices, cawing crows and trickling streams of water); multiple video projections and loops (a VHS tape spool spilling to the floor from a dismembered male mannequin torso; the distraught bride wading through a river, her white dress adorned with red sequin blood-spatters and cold blue hand prints, a redheaded woman silently screaming her rage at us, crows conspiring and taking flight). These projections A still from Airplane Dance seemed to be watched by a brooding male figure in league with the crows, hundreds of black feathers scattered around the tail of his admiral coat, and the ghostly bride, whose wedding dress stood elegantly, its trail reaching back towards the crow-man, 10,000 sequins hand-sewn into the fabric. Other artistic and sculptural elements included: homemade photocopied crow wallpaper, a flashing blue police light, sticks and branches painted white like bones, the words of a morbid villanelle stencilled in gory red across the walls: Patient crows, you plucked the dreams from my eyes, as I lay down too early one cruel night. Bereaved, I leave my horses to the flies.
An interview with
Sarahjane Swan & Roger Simian From the first time we watched your experimental short film Orphine we had the impression that your use of colour and original framing is not merely aimed at achieving extremely refined composition: your cinematography seems to be deeply influenced by the emotional potential of myth: could you introduce our readers to this fundamental aspect of your art vision? We're really pleased you picked up on that. For us, the greatest stories in film, art and literature tell personal stories that have a universal appeal. We've probably always aimed for that in our own work, whether consciously or not. Our second short film, Orphine, draws on autobiographical material â€“ Sarahjane's experiences with a difficult pregnancy (she was told at one point by doctors that she or her child might die) â€“ but we've filtered this through the lens of mythology. Myths tell the universal stories. Obviously, when we encounter the smaller, more personal stories in the arts, these can draw strong emotions from us, because we're all human and we have some level of empathy towards other living beings. We see ourselves, our emotions, reflected in the characters or in any of the recognisable forms in figurative art, no matter how distorted. If Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon shocks us as an audience it's because we see our own humanity twisted up and debased in those figures. When you add the universal element to this as all the great folk tales, legends, myths and religious stories have done - you can bring a greater depth, a greater resonance to your storytelling. So, Orphine is intended as one woman's story but also as an Everywoman story. Could you tell us a particular episode which has helped the birth of Orphine? Orphine actually began life in a different
Sarahjane Swan & Roger Simian
medium. We were commissioned to create a video-art installation for the Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival in the Scottish Borders. We chose to produce the piece in an abandoned office up on the third floor of a listed building in Hawick. We had multiple video projections, music and sound, sculptural forms (disembodied hands clutching umbrellas, an adapted wardrobe), an open door fixed high up on the wall, and words printed around the walls so that viewers had to circle the room to take it all in.
You define Orphine as a "a concentrated Epic": which many directors use to explore the dimension of mythopoeia through static shots and long takes, in your short film you have courageously decided to adopt a highly saturated and layered visual style. We find that this aspect of your work is not merely an aesthetic choice, would you explain this aspect of this work? The fantastic thing about experiencing an
installation is that you'll take in many different layers of the story all at once. It's interactive in the sense that you can choose whichever directions you want to view it from. With the Orphine installation you could have chosen to read the words from beginning to end but there would still have been a strong element of the non-linear as your peripheral vision took in the various elements around the room. When we began translating Orphine into the medium of film it seemed natural to replicate that
A still from SUNG TO THE CROWS installation, 2012
multi-layered aspect by superimposing different images onto each other and by having our protagonist presented as though she has fractured into multiple personalities. She is one woman. She is also many women. We don't see that as a paradox because we think that identity is less solid than we are led to believe, comprising many aspects: some of them complimentary, some of them contradictory. It also ties in with the way that the Gods and Goddesses in ancient myths have many â€œfacesâ€? because they have been carved by many different authors from different cultures over vast stretches of time. The nudity in the film obviously relates to female sexuality and motherhood, but it also ties in with this Creation Myth idea: hinting at Orphine as First Woman. Orphine is veiled and the veil adds a great deal to the look of the film: flowing, enveloping, seeming to disintegrate and then reappear. Orphine's veil can also be
seen as a reference to the Sumerian goddess, Inanna, who descended into the Underworld, passing seven gates and discarding an item of clothing at each gate â€“ the original Dance of the Seven Veils - so that, by the time she confronted her sister, Ereshkigal, ruler of the Underworld, she was naked and vulnerable, stripped of her godliness, as human as any other woman of the Earth. Orphine has just been screened at Portobello Film Festival in London, no doubt one of the most interesting festivals focused on independent cinema in the UK. Could you describe this stunning experience? We were so gutted that we couldn't make it down to the screening. Portobello looks like a fantastic festival, jam-packed with innovative and original work from around the World.
A still from Airplane Dance A still from SUNG TO THE CROWS installation, 2012
Because we live up in Scotland, and have a son with autism, it's sometimes very difficult getting down to London. We've also just missed a screening of one of our shorts by the Exploding Cinema, another excellent collective who have a long history of showcasing low budget, DIY, underground and experimental films in London. How did you get started in filmmaking? When we first started collaborating in 2010 it
was music we were initially doing: left-field songs. We'd both previously worked quite a bit in video on our own art or music projects, so it was natural for us to start making our own music videos. Within a year or so we had about an album's worth of music videos which we put up on YouTube, so they could be freely seen. In 2012 we decided that we wanted to make a short film, and In The Dark I Sat was the result. It was made in a LoFi way but we definitely had high ambitions for it. We think we got as close as we could to our ideal for that film. It's a kind
NG TO THE CROWS installation, 2012
of alternative realities, experimental love story about an artist and the man she has lost all trace of. In The Dark I Sat also premiered at the Portobello Film Festival. Because of the way we've collaborated from
the start we've ended up with a working relationship where we do absolutely everything ourselves: producing, writing, directing, videography, performing, editing, sound and music. Can a duo be an auteur? That might be what we are, and we're polymaths too: not
content to concentrate on one medium. As a couple we seem to be driven to create film, art, music, writing and performance, allowing the boundaries between these to dissolve, like
Your art is rich of references, from James Joyce to Ingmar Bergman: can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work?
a kind of Fluxus for the 21st Century. We've had so many influences and they've all
affected our work. In film we love Jean Cocteau, David Lynch, Luis Bunuel for their imagery and imagination. The Cinema of Transgression isn't something that particularly interests us in any big way but we are very much aware of it, because we tend to seek out the more left-field artforms and there are links with some of the New York bands we like, so we can sometimes draw influence from, say, the look of Richard Kern's 1980s films. In art we love the Expressionists, the Dadaists (including Hannah Hoch's innovations in photomontage), the Surrealists and individuals like Louise Bourgeois, whose work spanned decades and included everything from tiny feminine knitted dolls to multi-layered installations and the 30ft Maman spiders. In literature we love the urgency and experimentalism of Baudelaire and the French Symbolist poets, Kafka, the Beat writers, Kathy Acker, and contemporary Scottish fiction. In music it's: Captain Beefheart, Patti Smith, Tom Waits, The Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth, Brian Eno, Can, PJ Harvey, The Fall, Kevin Ayers, TV On The Radio. We've recently discovered the avant garde Japanese dance form, Butoh, which may well start having an influence on our performances. Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts, Sarahjane & Roger. What's next for you? Are there any film projects on the horizon? We're getting ready to work on a film and installation proposal for the next Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival. We also want to get back into creating music and music videos, as 2014 has been all about Film and Art for The Bird And The Monkey and we like moving between media. It helps keep the creativity flowing. Thank you for your questions and for inviting us to be part of such a cool magazine.
A still from ORPHINE, 2014
A still from Airplane Dance
A still from Facial perception
The "Facial Perception" is an art of self-portrait that I recorded when I had an ischemic stroke, which resulted in a loss of my physical sensibility, particularly on my face. In some sense, it is a reactive enacment fictionalized out of my body in the state of unconsciousness. This deep psychological mood includes a vicious cycle that, at the same time, is a search for regaining one's physical identity in a chaotic situation. This case is expressed by uncertainty in perception and rhythmic motions.
An interview with
Tahir Un "Facial Perception" is a peculiar selfportrait. A recurrent characteristic of many of your artworks is experience as starting point of artistic production: in your opinion, is experience an absolutely necessary part of creative process?
For me, including experience in production is, from another point of view, to bring the creative production process a part of the experience. This means that eye and memory would be continuously supplied by visual relationships. This kind of a process is very tempting for me. I work on documentary style simultaneously. I produce experimental and conceptual video work, while producing documentary photography. This means: while I experience different layers and processes of life with documentary photography, I express such experiences with a more personal and unique point of view with my video art. Considering that photography is a slice of time and video is a follower of time, this situation, which could seem very independent at first sight, could even turn out to be an advantage that melts every imagery in one pot. However, Facial Perception is a bit different compared to rest of my portfolio. It is a work of self-discovery that is inspired by a health problem I experienced at that time. It is indeed an impromptu self-portrait that reflects a mental state. This disease that I went through is called Ischemic Stroke. We have been really impressed with what you define thevicious cyclereferring to the search for regaining one's physical identity. Could you introduce our readers to this fundamental aspect ofFacial Perception?
This definition is related to the mental condition that I previously mentioned. In Facial Perception, it is about "I", the identity, who places himself as the subject of perception. Because here, the state of action that I experienced is reciprocal, is directly related to the endeavor of perception of self-physical existence and heads for a performance. In the background, one could observe a young girl's movements continuously transforming into a vicious circle. This transcendental-like position is my soul and
an expression of hopeless lingering in my inner world. In other words, I can hereby state that objective and subjective perception continuum coexist in my video. Frames are domined by a strong presence of white. Why? In this work, one could talk about many psychological reflections. Loss of sight that ignites hopelessness, clostrofobia, exteroceptive losses and similar traumas are elements strengthening this reflection. This video is in a sense a reflectory performance unconsciously fictionized over my body. This mental state contains a psychological vicious cycle that I defined previously and is a search for regaining my physical identity in a chaotical situation. The whiteness or in other words, the brightness represents the hope for this quest. Nevertheless, one must pay attention to the black frame that surrounds this whiteness and represents an uncertainity of darkness that could fall upon anytime.
A still from Facial perception
Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new project?
To simply express this, the perception of the visual world by me also means that I participate in a forming process. This is a creative state of action that requires a special effort on my side and gives birth to concepts. The actual process of creation for me is a question of how well this action corresponds to my own imagery. At this point, given that a common conscience and awarenes forms, the perception-dependent process would be functioning correctly. This would also facilitate the production of my video. This process with optic rules also involve emotional, sensory and spiritual layers. My sociopsychologic state is yet another contributor of this process and causes a tension
and energy that triggers productivity. Consecutively, I would hold on to my imagery. All this together with my perception being objectified enable my video art to be formed. 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 facingsocial questions? Could art steer or even change people's behavior?
From the perspective of self-observation, it is obvious that this work of mine is a mirror or is a way to express myself, searching for an exit and my endeavour to release my tension.
A still from Facial perception
According the general point of view, an artwork transforms into a form of expression, so to say the unique language of its father with his perception and imagery. On the other hand, art evolves into different perceptions and imagery with versatile understanding of its receivers. Hence, art is without doubt a dialectical platform. With the assumption that the artist is a social form of existence, it is a fact that art contains an expression unique to its father and this expression would be an answer to social questions. However, I tend more towards art offering proposals to social problems rather than playing an important role in answering them. It would therefore be an efficient guide or change in one's behaviours. There is a well-known saying: Art cannot change the world alone but aids the change. In my opinion, it achieves this by judging the self-perception of the individual and thus forcing the social perception. The proposals that I just mentioned would reach their target this way. Regardless of what is being told, art is a superstructural social phenomenon and pushes the boundaries either by abiding to its own imagery or transforming into the action itself. Do you think that nowadays still exists a dichotomy between art and technology?
I would like to answer this question with an experience from my past. In 1998, I became a member of a global online organization called R2001. According to me, the manifest of this group would be summarized by the following: "This organization is an ideal democratic shelter against the world of art today, and its hierarchic power and system based on prejudice. The activities that I participated via this group could be taken as a performance interrogating the use of technology against the commodification of art to democratize in the age of digital reproduction. Those have been 16 years old matchless experiences for me. Â€ Â€ Leaving the traditionally produced painting, sculpture or printmaking aside, the born of new media arts today provide a scene of expression for contemporary sayings on the verge of technology, science and art. Â€ The works by the artist who confirms and internalizes the technology has stronger meaning and metaphors, independent of the type and process of production. Concepts of space such as museums, galleries and collections try keeping art at a selective pace and force the consumption concept. Communicative technologies make others question such concepts of space and slowly loosen up the subconscious values of the artists,
thereby pulling the rug under the concept of high art and its defenders. On the other hand, the use of technology took art into a new dimension in which the art is allowed to interact with their receivers closer than before. Then, addressing your first question, this would be an entry point consolidating and broadening horizons to experience. Your work remind us of Teshigahara's cinema, in particular for your vision of self-perception. Can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work? It is good to be brought to mind with one of the film makers in Japan that I respect and admire. I guess this remembrance of you is inspired by Teshigara's 1996 movie "The Face of Another (tanin no kao)". This is a movie that I count as one of the important surrealist works of him and searches an answer to the question "Does the personality determine appearance or the other way around?" with a search for identity. The language of video art and cinema is without doubt very different. This difference emerges due to their different semiotics. Nevertheless, who knows what is scraped to our brains through the flow of life? Besides, Bruce Nauamn, Robert Cahen and Bill Viola are artists with videos I have been following with interest. As for your question about my biggest influences in art and how they have affected my work: if art is a language to express myself, then inspiration ought to be the very life in which I am. And societal issues troubling me every so often, and sometimes my own dilemmas… Lies in the foundation of all a moral and humanitarian urge to question, shaped by one’s own ideologies. Indubitably to me, starting off with strong concepts devoid of mass-market meretriciousness, putting them in a story line and choosing the right material to ensure a firm expression make up the indispensable principles. Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts, Tahir. What's next for Tahir Un? Are there any film projects on the horizon?
Two sequels to Facial Perception are on the horizon. “Facial Deformation” that will be complete next year and its follower “Facial Reflection”. It will therefore become a trilogy. A still from Facial perception
I also thank you for providing me an opportunity to share my thoughts.
Neil Needleman An artist's statement
Question: What’s more difficult and time consuming than using visual images as creative tools? Answer: Contemplating the nature and multiple meanings of imagery—or even of a single image. Fact is, it’s far easier to use images on an instinctively creative level (to trust your gut, so to
speak) than it is to play the role of philosopher and stand back and question every image and every act involved in using that image. Take an image of a burning American flag, for example. On an instinctive level I have a clear notion of what that means: someone hates America—and feels so strongly, they have to prove it with an act of desecration.
A still from AmericaAntiAmerica
Ah, but there’s so much more to it than that. Initial impressions are often false. And let’s take a closer look at the burning America flag. Is it really what it appears to be? And if it is, how can you be sure about the intent of meaning of the act behind the burning? If you don’t enjoy confronting questions like that, perhaps you should avoid this short, light, quasiphilosophical video. In it, I ask a bunch of
questions—questions that, frankly, I try not to answer. Asking questions is more fun than answering them. And it takes far less time to ask questions. I’m 57 years old and there are many, many, many questions that I have yet to answer. Perhaps I never will.
An interview with
Neil Needleman Neil Needleman's approach to the production of images could be described as a skeptical examination of the conventions of media. In his film AmericaAntiAmerica, he disassembles the forms of contemporary mass media to rebuild a separate hazy world where reality is hesitant. His sense of juxtaposition gives his films a playful yet utterly subversive sensibility. Neil, could you introduce our readers to your film? As a visual artist, I’m always fascinated by the power of imagery. When it comes to flags— obvious symbols of patriotism and nationality—I’m reminded how visual compositions/arrangements of abstract forms (such as color fields and geometric shapes) unite in a flag’s design to create images with the power to invoke feelings of joy, patriotism, belonging, fear, hate, dread, etc. I’m not sure I think of AmericaAntiAmerica as a “skeptical examination” so much as a “playful” one. I wanted to counterbalance the potential heaviness of the subject matter (patriotism, nationality, hatred, protest, desecration, etc.) with a sense of fun and, ultimately, self-deprecation. That seems to be my personality these days. Looking at the video again, the most playful aspect of the work—to my mind—is the way the viewer’s eye has to distinguish between the “live” flames and the photographed flames. That awareness adds a fun sense of complexity to the visual presentation. If I’m skeptical about anything in this video, it’s our ability/desire to remember the true meaning of our holidays. America’s Independence Day has become more popularly known as “The Fourth of July,” a day to grill hot dogs, drink beer, ignite fireworks, and celebrate the arrival of summer—not a day to commemorate an important historical event. Christ is no longer a part of Christmas, Hanukkah has become a Jewish substitute for Christmas, George Washington’s Birthday is now combined with Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday to form President’s Day, a Monday holiday that gives us a three-day weekend, etc.
If this video is subversive, it’s because both patriotic Americans and fanatical antiAmericans can, at various points in the video, find something to like and dislike. Since those two groups are at opposite ends of the spectrum, they will either cheer or jeer at very different points in the video. For example, ultra-right-wing Americans (like members of the Tea Party) will probably enjoy seeing my images of anti-American protesters being burned. And those anti-American demonstrators will most likely smile when they see my burning images of American patriots. What a glorious world we live in! We want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: how did you come up with the idea for AmericaAntiAmerica? Could you tell us a particular episode that has helped the birth of this project? Two incidents, both occurring close to the U.S. Independence Day holiday (the Fourth of July), inspired the idea behind this video. First, I visited my village’s local art museum. I live in the village of Katonah, New York, approximately 40 miles north of New York City. Katonah is a quaint and charming New England
A still from AmericaAntiAmerica
village (which can be seen in my video A Quaint & Charming Tale of Brutal Revenge) that happens to have a world-class (but small) art museum. The museum shares a driveway with the local branch of the American Legion. Outside the American Legion’s building sits a red, white, and blue “Flag Drop” box. This is where patriotic Americans are asked to deposit their old, worn, and/or faded American flags for a proper and dignified retirement. After my museum visit—with flags on my mind—I set out on a shopping trip to the local grocery store. My shopping list included items for our Independence Day party, which included the prerequisite hot dogs and beer. Once you watch my video, it’s clear how those events came together to form AmericaAntiAmerica. In AmericaAntiAmerica we can note a meticulous use of montage techniques. Could you describe your creation process? First, a word about my personality. As you may have guessed from AmericaAntiAmerica, I’m a playful person. I don’t shy away from serious philosophical/aesthetical issues, but I detest the “heaviness” and ponderousness
that they can generate. That said, I’m also deeply respectful of other people’s feelings. In fact, I can’t see myself ever burning a flag in protest, American or otherwise. My feelings are obviously not shared by many people around the world, which is why I was able to find such a rich source of burning-flag imagery on the Internet. Some of the photos I selected for my video are documentary shots; others are beautifully shot, artistically composed images from the portfolios of professional photographers. The very nature of the imagery I used (still photographs) determined the shape/form of my montage video. There was also the practical reality of finding a safe place to burn the images without potentially setting fire to my house. Since I was using my grill to cook hot dogs for our Fourth of July party, it seemed like the perfect solution. Plus, it gave me the ability to literally zoom out of the montage to reveal my actual location in my backyard. This also allowed me to insert a final touch of playful, self-conscious humor.
A still from AmericaAntiAmerica
How did you get started in filmmaking? For as long as I can remember, Iâ€™ve had some kind of camera in my hand. I started with 8mmfilm cameras. At a young age, I realized that I could memorize the shots, editing, and music cues in the movies and TV shows I watched. My
interest in cinema and moving images grew from there. Listening to an enormous amount of Beethoven as a teenager inspired me to explore deeper emotional and artistic levels. And with music as my main influence, it was easier to step away from the conventional narrative
movies and TV shows that I watched on a daily basis. You have worked in advertising. It could be considered a specious question, indeed; nonetheless we have to ask you: does your art change people's behavior? Do you aim
to create a sort of "micropolitical" artistic act reawaking in the spectator the awareness of his perception mechanisms and models? My relationship to the world of advertising is interesting and fertile ground for discussion.
A still from AmericaAntiAmerica
And I will be able to address that issue in greater depth when I retire! I will say this: When I’m at work at the advertising agency, I’m a “creative for hire.” I create work to fit the needs of a specific client, product, target audience, type of shopper, and/or marketing program. Every sentence I write, every idea I help develop is subject to multiple rounds of reviews and approvals, both internally at the agency and
from the client. My personal projects are the antidote to all that! With my personal projects, I have just one client: ME. I create to satisfy my own needs, to bring a vision and/or voice to my own thoughts, ideas, and perceptions. Does my art change people’s behavior? I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to assume it does. I hope my videos and other artistic projects touch people in some way. I’ve heard audiences laugh at the funny parts of my
say that when it comes to narratives, I am drawn to stories that touch us all on a very human level— work that mixes humor and pathos, wit and sentimentality. (I’ve become a sentimental grandfather!) In my more experimental work, I enjoy creating visual experiences with intense rhythms and slow transformations, some of which occur in the same video. Cellular Activity: Postcard from New Zealand is a perfect example of this. I also try to avoid pedantic intellectualism, preferring instead to tell jokes and anecdotes. Now we wonder if you would like to answer our cliché question: what aspect of your work do you enjoy the most? What gives you the biggest satisfaction? Satisfaction comes first and foremost by realizing that I’ve managed to create something that fulfills my vision, either by resembling my original intention or by superseding it with something better. This is pure masturbation, but it’s fun. The next level of satisfaction comes when I share my work with an audience and they seem to appreciate, understand, or be moved by what I’ve created. This is the stage where masturbation is elevated to the level of lovemaking. Thanks for sharing your time, Neil. We wish you all the best with your artistic career. What's next for Neil Needleman? Have you a particular film in mind?
videos. On some occasions, I’ve been told by audience members that I’ve moved them emotionally. But I’m far too humble to believe that my work will have any long-lasting impact on anyone’s life (beside my own). What draws you to a particular subject? My videos cover such a wide range of subjects and styles, there’s no easy way to answer that question. If I had to make a generalization, I’d
I work on several projects at the same time, a refreshing mix of videos and light-weight sculptures. I am continuously working on my diary video, Little Movements. My next “big” video project is a holocaust story entitled Before His Eyes. The footage is in the can. Now I have to muster the emotional fortitude to begin editing. I know I’ll be crying as I assemble the shots together.
A still from Through the oceans of space and time I: Hey Bro 2014
An interview with
Sinasi Gunes Your artworks often deals with power relationship. We have been really impressed by the genuine critics in "12th Istanbul Biennal", where you use the empty areas outside the exhibition spaces. Even a simple act like this, can become a political act. Could you introduce our readers to that experience? This video was created when spaces that were left from exhibition areas of 12th İstanbul Biennial, of which architectural design was made by Architecture Ryue Nishizawa, was used within the scope of a new location. Today, biennials act as a conveyor of globalized imperialism. In this video, functioning method of today’s art is questioned and therefore a reverse reading is provided. Here biennial audience is inside while audience, who has a new understanding in terms of location, is outside. In fact, I opened the door of a universal discussion by focusing on the invisible. This reverse world perception is of course political, it criticizes existing system. This new space perception is in fact a path. A path with no places to go. It could be considered a specious question, however we have to ask you: does your art change people's behavior? In your work we can recognize a deep introspection: do you think that art could play an important role in facing social questions? Could art steer or even change people's behavior? There are numerous mechanisms that change human behaviors. We can describe this mechanism in terms of sociology, psychology and politics. Why don’t we describe these mechanisms in terms of art as well? A work of art may be instructive in terms of interpretation of experiences and sending audience to their inner world. I believe this wholeheartedly. This process departs from the produced work of art and artist’s questioning of his/her own, and gets through to the audience. At this point artist is not in the
circle anymore. Journey of the audience starts when audience directly or indirectly comes across with the work of art. I attach great importance to this journey because it burdens artist with an enormous responsibility. Art changes people first, and then it changes the society where people live. It shows them a path or makes them realize their alternatives. Earthly life gains functionality according to the past and future. Surrealists and Dadaists started their journey in order to turn art into a lifestyle. Artists that were dealing with “Happening” in 1960s, put the art into service of “the moment”. Another example of this was “Hippies”. “Hippies” who argued that freedom was inside the individuals turned their thoughts into a real life. Acts of “Hippies” leave their mark on an era and then lost its power. As art foresees a lifestyle for “the moment”, it may bring a new design to our world based on past and future vision. The things that I produce may change human behaviors in such a platform. What we do is to contribute creation of individuals who know to see, touch and hear. What we do is to enable people to create new
utopias through art because science starts from utopias. We may have a future based on an artistic life. However this seems as an utopia now…” How has your history influenced the way you produce art? I live in a geography that is between the east and the west. This is highly effective in my artistic productions. For example in my video called “Anatolia”, I examined the trails of the east through a woman figure. This is a situation that I encountered and affected me considerably. Traditional features of the east can turn into esthetic works of art along with modern features of the west in the life experience of the artist. In your work of "The Middle of Bridge" you face a difficult theme -suicides using a real bridge as a metaphoric place where two cultures meet. Where did you get the idea for this work? This study originated from suicide news on TV and newspapers. It involves a figure that jumps from the middle of Bosphorus Bridge that brings European and Anatolian side together. Middle of the bridge is an important place where people commit suicide, use it for demonstration purposes or create their ideological actions… It is a striking place with its location in terms of visuality and intellectuality. European side depicts entertainment, culture and dynamism whereas Anatolian side symbolizes a safer, simpler and more stable life… Bosphorus Bridge is a connection that connects two different culture, east and west. Questioning of Turkish cultural life is in the same parallelism with questioning any individual that lives in this country. Middle of this bridge is suitable for the nature of Turkish people, who are stuck between these two cultures. At the same time, it is also a door of the beginning and the end, a door to return to yourself. Death and rehearsal of the death… The person ends her/his own life as if she/he created a work of art… A recurrent characteristic of many of your artwoorks is experience as starting point of artistic production: inyour opinion, is experience an absolutely necessary part of creative process?
Experience is a part of a creative process. I produce my works of art while I am on a journey or experience a new place. Experimental richness determines the quality of my works. Experimental richness in an artist shows itself after a while. Experience is a must for creativity because it involves knowledge and practice for contemporary artists who produce works that objects of art turn into objects of thoughts. Thanks for your time and for sharing your project with us, Sinasi. What's next for you? Have you a particular project in mind ? My projects continue as I am an artist who deals with different discipline of the art. In the short and long term, I want to establish a mail art and children museum. I have preparations concerning video art. I am considering preparing personal video art and painting exhibitions. I am going to make a video art study about Mevlana.
A still from Airplane Dance
Benjamin Glas An artist's statement
The presented piece is a wonderful relic of my studies in contemporary media. This piece came into being during a time of great introspection and learning; the learning to simply experience and feel fleeting moments,
no matter what emotional value they hold, in the everyday mundane. The idea that our generation and various cultures are all moving towards a seemingly "rational" take on the everyday, while moving away from an overall perception of empirical phenomenon, is a growing theme for my artistic practice and lifestyle.
A still from Making The Time (to)
Just as happy instances occur in daily living, these also seem to take place when the artistic process and documentation of it all is running its course. The subject of the film is truly unimportant (His name is Charlie and I've received more knowledge from him than I can truly recall) The importance lies within the process of making this short piece. What started off as a strongly choreographed interview, controlled and crippled by myself, ended up becoming, in my mind, scratch footage for later experimentations. These later experiments came to be a strong focal point when I began
reading and interpreting the works of Marshal McLuhan and Jean Baudrillard in regards to new media and their effects on art and subsequently the masses who view, or don't view them. Using a strictly structuralist mindset I began metaphorically creating screens that differed, perhaps only in time and compositional placement, from the original clip; which was to be seen as the initial simulacrum. At some point, I truly can't recall when, this process became intuitive, rhythmical and even deconstructed. Benjamin Glas
An interview with
Benjamin Glas Benjamin Glas-Hochstettler manipulates the boundary of perception and release it from its most primitive parameters in its search for physiological sensations. Inspired by the essays of Marshall McLuhan and Jean Baudrillard, his film Making The Time (to) uses a structuralist approach. Ben, we want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: how did you come up with the idea for "Making The Time (to)"? The creation of this piece was purely experimental and a happy synchronicity! This piece of work is essentially a relic of the results of some experimentations I was undertaking in a video class. The idea itself came from an interview I was shooting for a completely different purpose. When I was reviewing the substance of the interview I was feeling very serene, very at peace due to some external circumstances. Through watching the initial clips with all of its humor and nuances, I began to see a pattern that I had never observed before- the Mundane in all of its nature and neutrality, a contrast to superstimulation. This idea of superstimulation I think is a key inspiration as of now. With contemporary media, be it news or Hollywood cinema, it is easy to fall into a rhythm of only having a basic awareness for "highlight" moments and to simply disregard or even fail to see a given mundane event, which is the contrast. To me the ability to accept the mundane in the midst of all of these technological and cultural advances our society makes is a real gift, and is not to be squandered. On that note I began to technically dissect, with the help of editing tools and processes, small pockets of time that held moments of laughter, confusion and a seemingly banal tone. I found it romantic to make a piece of art about something I had otherwise overlooked in my fastbrainRIGHTNOW youth. The act of slowing down, taking in the moment and having no true expectation of what the outcome was going to look like, or
even how the work was to be presented struck me very hard. I felt I had to dig deeper and let go even more ground. A structuralist mindset definitely helped with this goal. The editing process was baby-bottom smooth and all details and loops and occurrences simply found their place in the overall composition. Your work reveals a remarkable effort to get under the skin of film like psychologists investigates the subconscious dimension: how did you get started in experimental cinema? Thank you kindly. I began my learning journey in experimental video, sound and cinema about 3 years ago. I was coming from a place of unawareness, a place of apathy. Through a leap of faith and courage I found myself removed from external obstacles and with more free time than I could shake a stick at. So I began reading art books to fill the time and found myself in love with moving images, no matter how simple or complex. When I was first introduced to editing software I saw the possibilities of new media and the message a moving image could convey at the tip of a hat. The collective works of Bill Viola, Nam June Paik and John Baldessari's video works introduced the concept of simplicity. From there on out I was fueled with ideas and inspiration to go on further. I have yet to truly regret it. I have also found that making art in general is very therapeutic and forces me to reckon with myself and my subconscious. My gears started turning and have never stopped since.
A still from Making The Time (to)
In your refined film we can recognize a a masterly work of editing: what kind of technology have you used in producing it? Thank you again. I used a Rebel T-9 camera to shoot the interview and Final Cut Pro for the rest of the work. The editing process in this case carried the heaviest load. I typically don't put too much emphasis on the technology used. Most work that I end up creating is a direct result of not being prepared, or when I get out of my own way. I know I can't plan any results as an artist, yet I can surely put in the effort...That typically happens within the editing process. Can you introduce our readers to the concepts of Marshall McLuhan and Jean Baudrillard that have so deeply influenced your art research? In regards to McLuhan's writing; the extension of mankind's self and an awareness of media are key here. McLuhan thoughtfully dissected different forms of media used in our everyday communication with gusto. What struck me as important was the concept of medias residing and functioning within other medias. In his book "Understanding Media" he takes time itself and the construction of
human made parameters to be a media that humans function within and depend on dearly. With that in mind, and after I had experimented with the initial results of time based collages in "Making The Time (to)", I began using this idea of "time as media" to bring a simple awareness to the passing of time itself. In the video a man, named Charlie, is laughing at something banal we were talking about in the studio during filming. To me that laughter is itself a media, without a true reason, within the human parameters of McLuhan's take on time and how we as humans perceive it. Retrospectively and introspectively- the naming convention of this piece is a tribute to the act of slowing down and reframing this mundane moment between two humans. (Maybe there was something I missed?...There always is!) Baudrillard prompted a response of a different nature for me; a more loose and symbolic take at best. One of the ideas I always take from his writing is the honesty and violence that an image may hold, the story it tells and the emotion it sells. Through reading and inhaling Baudrillard's work it has become quite clear to me that "art acts as the punctuation of reality's sentences". Also there's always something to be said
A still from Making The Time (to)
about simulacra and simulation when talking about digitally created and rendered artwork. And there's definitely a relationship between simulacra and "MTT(t)". The act of duplicating and processing these different clips in time, for me, points to a well rehearsed global conversation regarding awareness of the moment and the act of being present with it while it inevitably passes into the next. With this particular piece I hoped to visually and sonically narrow moments to a point of awareness by restricting the range of visual information.
You want to make the perceptual process the subject of his films by emphasizing the medium's material form: the Gestalt theories by Rudolph Arnheim are fundamental for your vision. You eschew traditional storytelling and opt instead for an associative methodology. Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new project? I typically start from a literal statement. Perhaps it's something I read, or an advert I experience, or some other mundane event that happens in public. When it comes to actually
sitting down and undertaking an experiment, the process always looks a bit different. Sure, I have some preset modes to beginning the editing process, some older artists who I aim to shoulderstand on and a result that I truly want to plan and fulfill. Typically it all starts when I give up trying to plan the result of a piece and just put in the effort to explore different forms of representation of ideas. When thinking about abstract narratives and the use of Arnheim's theories, I am trying to find a link to the present moment and a sort of gift to the viewer and myself. Now, the tricky part is that I surely don't know what it's
supposed to look like, this gift. Simple visual illusions, slowly fading over time and careful sound curation and composition are all a part of this process. Above all of the aforementioned techniques comes the idea of meditation through repetition. In terms of Gestalt theory, I find the process of repeating an image or a sound over and over again gives the audience, and of course myself, more and more opportunities to examine and observe, to sit with and analyze an event that may be overlooked in other circumstances. I am careful to not claim an objective outcome in the majority of my videos because I feel that would
be limiting to all persons involved in the act of perceiving. From a visual and technical point of view, Making The Time (to) is a complex work . How long does it usually take to finish a piece? I don't think I can claim to ever have truly finished a piece. If a true finished piece could be presented, the creative process could be defined by a beginning and an end. Maybe I'm being romantic.This piece though was created in about 3 months, give or take. Visually it may be complex, but my leaning on a structuralist setup made the editing process quite simple. For other projects it depends on what idea and how expansive it is in the present moment, or technology I'm working with at the time. Also- life happens at life's own rate. That's something I am learning more and more. Thanks for sharing your time, Ben, we wish you all the best with your artistic career. What's next for Ben Glas? Thank you very much for the opportunity to present my work. As of now I am working on a sonic release for a local record label (http://blnkstrs.com/, soundcloud.com/soundportfolio), and still attending school at PNCA in the Pacific Northwest for Video and Sound. Not sure what comes after that. I can be certain that I am here to learn and will continue to do so.
A still from Making The Time (to)
A still from Making The Time (to)