ON DEATH, Director:  Anastassios Langis GR Poet: George V. Markis 6min 24s 2007

Here we are witness to (apparently the ghost of) a boy of about ten who recites a 1943 poem by George V. Markris. His delivery is strangely impassioned and dispassionate, something like the style adopted by Juan Perón and others in addressing the masses. The underlying hollow hum is an unsettling element in the proceedings. Standing alternately before a horse, Greek flags waved in a street demonstration, and other incongruous scenes for the pontificating youth’s presence, he tells us more of his “infinite deaths” (including one in Paris, of syphilis), but fails to truly connect. One can’t help feeling the child used is so wholly unaware of the meaning of what he is saying that he might as well be reciting the ingredients in a recipe. Still, the juxtaposition is an interesting idea, but might have been served better with a child more given to flights of fantasy, possibly a younger child with a more intense sense of drama often accompanying “play-acting”.

Kenton Turk

NIGHT SCHOOL, Erkka Nissinen Finland, 2007, 12min 50sec

What goes on during those long Finnish nights? One film, shown in the “Unnatural Resources” section of films, all from Finland, might provide an answer. Night School certainly earns the title “offbeat”, and then some. This excursion into disconnected imagery had the audience sitting forward in their seats again with their eyes wide open. It begins with cold interior shots reminiscent of Kubrick’s 2001, with a young man standing before a Star Trek-like octagonal portal. We are soon on the soft shoulder of a out-of-town stretch of road and see a scantily clad young woman who appears to be hitchhiking and then dragged lifeless from the scene by a man. The mood has gone from alienating to disturbing, but quickly switches to bewildering when an animated toy-like panda shows up in the same shot. An animated panda? Why? Before the now highly attuned audience can figure this out, a stumbling chef appears in the same night scene, emerging from behind a bush. What to make of it? Then we are back to the cold interior with its machine-like hum in the background, and the initial figure intones “Hello to me, hello to you,” and further words centring around talk of an “institution” strung together in a bizarre half-speech, half-melody accompanied by sign language. Then the chef, (animated) panda and the girl from the highway scene appear side by side in the space behind the aforementioned portal, moving in stiff unison. Where can you go from here? Well, of course to a completely white living room, where the young man from the first scene, devoid of emotion, tells the panda, sitting next to it on a couch, “I think you are really hot” and “I have these feelings for you” and more, to the squeaky-voiced protests of the panda, who nonetheless turns up with the young man in a bedroom, obviously contemplating whether to have intercourse or not. This scene has the feel of another Kubrick work, the uncomfortable bedroom scenes of Eyes Wide Shut. The panda says, “I’m leaving you” and soon the same young man (who is in fact the filmmaker) is shown as the girl (or transvestite) from earlier being urinated on by two chefs, talking all the while. Soon, she is under a table and performing fellatio on one of three chefs, all of whom have been speaking robotically in unison, the word “ping-pong” coming up most often. In the end, the “girl” is standing up and smoking a cigarette, trying to speak with semen dripping out of her mouth in copious amounts. Is there a message here anywhere? “Exercises for assimilation into a total institution,” according to the filmmaker. The question might be, does there need to be? What Erkka Nissinen achieves here is the disjointed logic of dreams, coupled with a highly unusual sense of humour which won’t likely be forgotten too quickly by any viewer. Only a cartoon oddity called Sealab Uh-Oh ever left me with such an odd aftertaste. The surprise submission certainly turned out to be “that film” of the evening, whatever the intention might have been. Worth a watch, certainly. You’ll never see pandas in the same light again.

Kenton Turk

Tonight´s VJ Special Fri 19th 11:30 pm

“Panic! It sounds like a toy box turned up side down.
How can she make such pretty & chaotic sounds!?
I love it!”
– Ryuichi Sakamoto

Kyoka

What on earth is a kyoka? Simply a solo artist whose cut-up-and-dance laptop electronica suggests more screws loose than fully tightened? Her style has seen her labelled as anything from a pop idol to a noise artist. And as it is usually the way, the truth lies somewhere in between. Starting her solo career at university as a side-project to her school band, Kyoka quickly found herself favouring ever-more unusual outlets for her scatterbrain sound. Finding J-pop utterly unpalatable, she began to look overseas, finding live shows in Europe and the US as well as presenting her own show on Britain’s Resonance FM, ‘Postcards From Kyoka’.

Directors Lounge • the program

TAKE-OFF, Katherine Liberovskaya, music: Al Margolis (IF, BWANA)
2006, 24 minutes, color, stereo

(Editor’s note: The filmmaker is Canadian, not American, as stated in the program. She is based in Montreal, but has been spending the greater part of her time in New York as of late. The soundtrack, however, is credited to an American. Her film was submitted to DL from New York, hence the confusion.)

Katherine Liberovskaya’s film Take-Off is the kind that may not find favour with all. It is however, in what I believe to be its aim, successful. The film begins with close-up shots of a mosquito, over which we hear the insistent drone of the soundtrack (courtesy of Al Margolis, a.k.a. IF, BWANA). The mosquito gives way to a housefly in similar close-up, its wings fluttering at high speed, waiting to “take off”. This goes on with little change for such an extended period of time that the viewer becomes lulled into lazy voyeurism; similarly, the soundtrack’s drone has a curiously agitating but largely soothing effect, much like that accompanying the hum of a washing machine. So hypnotized into a dreamy state is the viewer that it is with surprise that he notices about eight minutes into the film that the fly is suddenly no longer there: a shadowy image change has replaced it with a helicopter of similar size on the screen. It has already “taken off”, and we are witness to similarities in sound and intent between the two. Now that we are aware that we should be prepared for unexpected changes, we are a little more attuned to nuances of image, and we pick up more readily the interplay of layered pictures. About twelve minutes into the film, we start to see these hazy multiple images of helicopters come together so that it appears we are seeing two mating in mid-air. What we are looking at now is a electronic moving image painting, which eventually leads us back, for symmetry’s sake, to the housefly, which itself takes off. Those who approach a film like this waiting for “plot advancement” will surely be disappointed, but those who are prepared to take the time to be mesmerized will most likely enjoy the experience. The strength of Liberovskaya’s film is in the time she allows for the images and sound to take slow effect. In a world of instant pleasures, a film like this can be a refreshing change.

Kenton Turk

In dem am Montag von André Werner kuratierten Block Secret Codes, wurde die Videoarbeit Duets (2009) von Gast-Kuratorin Catherine Forster präsentiert.

In diesem sehr abstrakt gehaltenem Video wird die Gegensätzlichkeit von persönlichem Rückzug und aktionistischem Handeln, zwischen Passivität und Aktivität thematisiert. Zu sehen bekommt man in dem Video Nahaufnahmen einer Wasseroberfläche, die mit einer Großzahl an unterschiedlich großen oder kleinen Luftblasen versetzt ist. Durch Wellenbewegungen geraten die Luftblasen in ein dynamisches Durcheinander, von dem eine beruhigende Wirkung ausgeht. Die Distanz der Kamera zur Wasseroberfläche variiert von Zeit zu Zeit und lässt dem Betrachter dabei Gelegenheit sich mit dem zuvor gesehenem Bild eines Fischschwanzes, gefilmt durch die Außenwand eines Aquariums, zu beschäftigen. Die thematische Auseinandersetzung mit dem Motiv des Wassers entstammt aus der von Catherine Forster beschriebenen Allegorie des Wassers als Rückzugsmedium. Verständlich wird das, wenn man bedenkt, was passiert, wenn man mit dem Körper unter Wasser taucht. Die Geräusche der Umwelt verblassen, die Gesetze der Schwerkraft werden ausgeschaltet. Es scheinen für den Moment keine Bindungen, keine Verpflichtungen zu existieren. Gleichzeitig jedoch kann das Wasser auch als Gefängnis verstanden werden, als Bedrohung. Innerhalb dieses Zwiespalts versucht Forster ihrer Beklemmnis gegenüber dem Entscheiden Ausdruck zu verleihen. Rückzug oder Wagnis? Sicherheit oder Freiheit?

Diese Unentscheidbarkeit oder Mehrdeutigkeit spiegelt sich in der Wahl des ausgesuchten Materials wider. Jedoch wird dem Versuch, Ausgeglichenheit innerhalb dieser Ambivalenz zu suchen, Rechnung getragen, wenn man die Gelassenheit des Videos bedenkt.

Von Martin Tscholl

Thurs 18th 8:15 pm Undo | An evening with Jean-Gabriel Périot

still from: nijuman go borei 200.000 phantoms

When the World Heritage Commission met in 1996 to accord World Heritage Site status to the ruins of Czech architect Jan Letzel’s renamed building – the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima – America objected, concerned at the nomination’s ‘lack of historical perspective’.

Extraordinarily still standing, despite being just 150 metres from the epicentre of the bomb that ended World War II on 6 August 1945, and since a cornerstone of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, the former Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall is also the indomitable focal point of Jean-Gabriel Périot’s remarkable Nijuman No Borei (200,000 Phantoms).

The film layers archival photographs of the building from 1914 to the present day, chronologically superimposed on top of each other, pivoting around and anchored by multiple views of the preserved ruin as Current 93’s soundtrack teeters on the brink of a potentially didactic bathos. What pulls this work back from a pacifying nostalgia so convincingly is something that is key to Périot’s work as a whole, an indicator of his common themes and the counterpoint to an uncompromisingly expressed emotional sensibility: that the accumulation of images is a history in which we are complicit; that to accumulate images is profoundly to reconsider history not as a stable, received narrative but precisely to expose it as a collection of myriad perspectives.

This is at the core of 200,000 Phantoms’ beguiling simplicity: as images move from black and white into colour, the building’s skeleton becomes the locus of memorialisation as well as a memorial itself – in actuality and here in its sequential, two-dimensional imprint. It remains, amidst the optimism of modern architecture, the subject of repeated preservation attempts and, significantly, as an image repeated to the extent that it becomes simultaneously, defiantly incontrovertible and, along with time and space, radically almost tangible – in fact, the very materialisation of historical perspective.

Nowhere in Périot’s films is such tangibility better exploited than as in Undo (2005), where footage of contemporary disaster, suppressed protests, violence inflicted, human against human, is simply reversed. The naïve optimism of the film’s formal strategy is caustically undercut by the reality of its documentary material – these things actually happened, these people actually died – such that the work’s willful turning back of time becomes pointedly imaginary and poignantly hopeless.

Périot’s work extends from a politics of the self in his early videos that are ironic exegeses of sexuality. It is deeply affecting not just because of the harrowing and explicit images that it sometimes deploys but also because its absolute indictment of all violence, prejudice and destruction appeals to this imaginary while confronting us with the damning recording of events in our time.

21.04.02 (2002) is a torrid taxonomy of images, an immediate present and a direct response to the election success of the right-wing Jean-Marie Le Pen on that day.

In Even if she had been a criminal (2006), archival footage of World War II rushes past our eyes until we are confronted with deeply disturbing images, not of Nazi atrocities, but of the French cutting off the hair of every woman suspected of collaborating with the German occupiers. Again, ‘we’ are complicit.

If this work is didactic then it is also unashamed, arguing for the necessity of didacticism: an emotional politics that ultimately disorientates and strangely transcends the subjectivity of which it is defiantly constituted.

Ian White at animatedprojects

Ian White is Adjunct Film Curator at Whitechapel, London and an independent curator, writer and artist.

Above: still from AlexandLiane’s video for “Shoes” by the band Tiga

Monday February 15, Museek No 3 programme

It has been years since MTV more or less stopped playing music videos and cut to the chase to sell pure image, nevertheless it is entirely possible that these are the very same years in which the field may have opened up a bit to new talent which have gone on to produce some of the most creative new work since the dawn of the medium.

Regardless of budget or country, the majority of the music videos featured in MUSEEK No. 3 were essentially able to take a clever idea and run with it to great sucess.

The videos seem to successfully embrace the excitement of human life in this day and age, and in most cases one can’t help but taken aback by their inventiveness.

Although I could easily write about nearly every video in the programme I chose a few to review:

“Evident Utensil” by Ray Tintori for the band Chairlift has utilized a technique I’ve not yet seen, namely: you know when an online video breaks up into a sort of Predator-like digi-garble while it is beginning to play? Of when a DVD is scratched? Tintori’s video is basically constantly morphing with that effect under control. I am so glad someone did this.

The Royksopp video “Happy Up Here” basically makes the oldschool arcade game Space Invaders attack a real city (Berlin?) on the special-effects level as good as any Hollywood Blockbuster –terribly entertaining, especially if you are familiar with the game itself.

Jeff Desom video for Hauschka’s song Morgenrot which just shows a burnig piano falling off a skyscraper, was positively captivating. Daniel Eskils on the other hand simply used an overhead projector and dry-ease markers for the band.

Pop culture may have left Lenny Kravitz and his coolness to chill back in the 90s where they more or less belong, but a simple remix by house superstars Justice plus a surprising video with a clever idea behind it somehow turns his radio pop into something fresh and relevant.

Not much point in describing Jonas Meier’s video “One Up Down Left Right” for the band Rusconi but it should be watched.

AlexandLiane’s video for “Shoes” by the band Tiga integrates retro fashion with what appears to be an early-70s-looking television talkshow-type programme to weave a goofily surreal piece.

The Presets “If I know You” is basically a group of young Billy Elliott-esque teenagers dancing across Los Angeles – so damn charming.

Ethan Lader’s video for Rob Roy’s “Fur in My Cap” is essentially a tongue-in-cheek Hip-hop song, but what sets it apart is the theme essentially being: The means and lifestyle are within the context of 14-15 year olds in a neighbourhood which contradict the bling-and-ho lyrics… which, with a bit of clever camera work and effects, makes it just damn entertaining.

The Justice video “Stress” in which a young gang out violently causing trouble everywhere they go in Paris really begged the question: is it just a bunch of punk kids or rather a disturbing social commentary on France’s racial turmoil…?

Metronomy’s  “A thing for me” was -wow- a sing along with the sing along bouncy-ball comes to life bouncing wildy bopping people on the head!

-Paul J. Thomas

Directors Lounge “MUSEEK No 2” Programme

IMAGE: Still from Lindsey J. Testolin’s “Love in October”

The second Directors Lounge music programme offered a full array of stunning visual charms with videos, such as the more mainstream “House of Cards–  made for Radiohead by James Frost using 3D plotting techniques instead of cameras- to the practically DIY-looking “Fireworks” by Jon Leone for indie favorites Animal Collective.

Also featured was the video for the song “Florian” by CocoRosie animated by Andrew Gibbs as well as a haunting piece for the Icelandic band MÚM’s song “Will the Summer make good for our sins?”

On the lighter side were videos from such lighter Japanese acts as Lullatone with their self-made video “Bedroom Bossa Band” and K+ME for the band Starskee’s song “My Way”.

– Paul J. Thomas

Berlin Directors Lounge: Opening night, February 11, 2010

The opening night of the 6th annual Berlin Directors Lounge provided a well rounded overview of what the 10-day long series has to offer in terms of theme and style. Ranging from the most abstract experimental films to the most light-hearted and even hilarious shorts this roundup of films undoubtedly kept the audience on the edge of their seats not only during the films but also in between as they awaited to see what was to come next.

Works of note which stood out were the “Found People Movement”, a film by Pablo Useros in which people are seen descending a staircase (of a train station?) in slow motion, first looking down at the last few steps the audience then gets a close look at their faces as the unwitting actors reach level ground and look up to get their bearings. What is remarkable about this is the film’s ability to capture completely normal people in an otherwise everyday situation and spin it into a captivating urban mini-opera of sorts –with the help of an accompanying soundtrack.

Neil Needleman’s autobiographic letter to his father about becoming a filmmaker is a sharply bittersweet reflection in which the director recalls his father’s harsh criticism of the director’s choice to buy his first camera through subtitle text on the screen, all the while the audience sees the father in spasms, unconscious on his deathbed. This video was later followed up by what seemed to be another heart-wrenchingly raw an honest (work of fiction?) by the filmmaker called “Meeskeit: Uglier than ugly”, in which a woman describes the strategic placement of her entire family’s likenesses (and their torrid personal histories) in the paintings of her ugly shut-in cousin, who recently committed suicide and willed all of her artwork to the narrator.

Some of the most entertaining pieces of the evening were set to pop music. Antoine Hilaire’s hyper-self conscious video “Cross the Fader” (to the song “Crossfader” by the band phony pony) is nothing but text which describes the song not only musically (with notes) but also dissects the music at each beat and transition in terms of rock-pop history and what might be going through the head of the musician, crowd, or music critic as the power-pop song drives on.

A surprising and terribly fun pop follow up came in the form of Make the Girl Dance’s “Baby Baby Baby”, a music video in which four women take turns walking naked through the streets of paris, their private parts blacked-out with the text of the song superimposed onto the rectangles as passers-by whip around to ogle the gorgeous women as they saunter by in their birthday suits.

Pablo Wendel’s Terracotta Warrior was a particularly humorous film capture’s one performance artist’s 15 minutes of fame as he sneaks in to stand amongst China’s thousands of clay soldiers. The authorities – never having faced such a situation before – simply do not know what to do with the man, and although they attempt to maintain professionalism one can also tell that they are working hard to repress their own laughter at the ridiculousness of the situation. The artist, who all along maintains his stiff clay soldier pose, is until finally hauled away horizontally by a team of the uniformed Chinese guardsmen.

Of the animated pieces that caught my eye, “HAIRS” by Milos Tomic, a film which makes hairs of all sizes spin and dance like one has never seen before.

On of the audience’s favorites, however, was also an animated film – the very simple but effective comedy of errors, Bob Log III’s “Electric Fence Story” by Sebastian Wolf & Tinka Stock . I will not bother to describe this 3-minute masterpiece, which was also included in Friday’s “Cornucopia” programme, but I’d highly recommend that you catch it online.

– Paul J. Thomas

Gestern Abend wurde der erste Block Tomorrow, Night and Day des von Klaus W. Eisenlohrs kuratierten Urban Research Program innerhalb der Directors Lounge präsentiert. Die Auswahl zeigte Arbeiten von internationalen Künstlern, die sich in diesem Block in Form von experimentellen, animierten als auch fiktiven Formaten der Auseinandersetzung mit dem urbanen, öffentlichen Raum widmen.

Das Video von Anders Weberg Elsewhereness:Yokohama (2008) aus der gleichnamigen Reihe, befasste sich mit urbaner Entfremdung, was sich ganz offensichtlich in der Form des präsentierten Videos widerspiegelt. So sieht man in der 7 Minuten langen Arbeit übereinandergelegte, abstrahierte Aufnahmen der Stadt Yokohama. Die mit starkem Kontrast verfremdeten Bilder werden von einer elektronischen, sphärischen Musikkomposition begleitet, was der Arbeit eine hypnotische Qualität verleiht. Das Thema der Entfremdung wird konzeptuell von der Abwesenheit des Künstlers verstärkt, wenn man bedenkt, dass das Rohmaterial der verfremdeten Bilder aus dem Internet recherchiert worden ist und sich der Künstler nie in Yokohama aufgehalten hat. Die manipulierten Aufnahmen werden dadurch zu einer surrealen Reise durch eine entfremdete Landschaft, die auf der Grundlage der kulturellen Vorannahmen und Stereotypen des Künstlers über den Ort basiert. Der Ort bleibt hierbei belanglos, da das Fremde überall zu finden ist. Die einzigen Anzeichen, dass man sich in einer asiatischen Großstadt wiederfindet, sind japanische Schriftzeichen. Die gezeigte Arbeit von Weberg geht von einer anonymen, mechanisierten Zivilisation aus, die mit Hilfe digitaler Medien aus der Distanz erkundet wird. Entfremdung und Abwesenheit werden dabei als Mittel verwendet um die Wahrnehmung des Fremden, dass hier nicht verstanden werden kann und will, erfahrbar zu machen.

Von Martin Tscholl