Monday, 14 September 2009

Karen Mirza / Brad Butler

The Space Between
16mm, colour, 12mins., sound by David Cunningham

The film image is constantly fluctuating between object-representation and surface abstraction. Repetition does not bring clarity nor is it meant to. No attempt is made to deny either the subjectivity of film or its representational mode; rather the viewer works through and against the film with the filmmakers; so to speak.

Melvin Moti

Melvin Moti, born 1977 in Rotterdam (the Netherlands) currently works and lives in Berlin. He studied at The Arts Academy Tilburg (BFA) and was a resident at “de ateliers” in Amsterdam. He is currently an artist in residence at Kunstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin. Moti's work consists of single channel films and videos as well as photographs and writings and has been exhibited frequently in international art shows.

35 mm film, 20 min, color, sound.

E.S.P. - extrasensory perception - refers to purported phenomena of psychic information transfer, such as telepathy, studied by scientists since the 1930's without conclusive results.The British aeronautical engineer J.W Dunne possesed the ability to dream of future events. He kept a detailed diary on the subject and in 1927 published the book An Experiment with Time in which he formulated the theory that experiences of the past, present and future are inseparable from one another. The book inspired Melvin Moti in his 35mm film E.S.P; spoken passages from Dunne's notes accompany slow motion images of a bursting soap bubble. Using recording technology developed for military purposes - a metaphor for Dunne's military-schooled analytical thinking - the 0.2 seconds required for the soap bubble to burst are stretched out over eighteen elegant, hypnotic minutes.

Moti supplements the film with two objects : E.S.P. (K.O. Mortel), a black and white photograph of a boxing match held in 1946, and a jar with an actual soap bubble made of material that makes it unbreakable. The boxing match in question was initially called off by boxing legend Sugar Ray Robinson because he had dreamt that he delivered his opponent Jimmy Doyle a lethal blow. But Robinson was pushed into the fight despite his premonitory dream and the photograph depicts the precise moment Doyle falls in the ghostly light of the flash. In that instant, Robinson is made to witness his dream become reality.

Moti's interest in the limits of what can be mentally represented and what eludes historical systemization is apparent in earlier films. E.S.P., which recalls a scientific experiment, treats time as finite while articulating a desire for the eternal. The film depicts the soap bubble's possible future in the manner of a preview, whereas the photo depicts the dream event in retrospect. Film, photograph and object together translate Dunne's synchronic view of time into the exhibition space.

source : Short Guide for the 5th Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art

Excerpts from interviews/articles :

While many of Moti’s works focus on a particular historical moment, an anecdote or a scientific fact involving intensive research, he claims not to be a storyteller: ‘I don’t want to bore the viewer with information or make them passive by fetishizing the research,’ he states in a telephone conversation from New York, where he has recently taken up an International Studio and Curatorial Program residency. His practice focuses rather on the act of reduction, on stripping away the facts to create an environment in which the immaterial element of the art work becomes the medium.

I wasn't very interested in storytelling in my recent projects. Although my recent films use the technique of a voice-over, the film is never about what is said. Neither is the film told in an image-narrative -- there are hardly cuts or edits, if any, so there is no mis-en-scene. I've been more interested in creating a sort of a ‘third space,' which is the result of two seemingly unconnected elements (sound and image) clashing -- I'm not looking to ‘puzzle' anybody. In each work there are tangible formal and conceptual relations between sound and image. But it's true -- I let the viewer take on his own journey rather than making them accept some second hand facts. Although in my mind, almost all ends are tied. On screen (and thus, for the audience) I leave a lot of loose ends -- things that one can search for oneself.

So the content of the film is not so much captured in the image, nor in the sound, nor in these two together, but rather in the moment after they have touched. The film therefore needs witnesses; it needs an audience to be the author. The content of the work is located in the mind of the witness, this is the ‘third space' I'm trying to inhabit, and is essentially individualistic instead of communal. Moreover, it comes into play as soon as the audience leaves the screening room; when they're moving again, in transition, on their way home (and hopefully a little longer after that).


In Winnipeg, it's way more fun for us to cross the city using only its back lanes. The city possesses a vast network of these unofficial streets, a fine grid-like work of narrow unspoken-of byways that hold a charm all of their own. They are not even allowed on city maps, but the populace knows all about them and uses them more than legitimate streets.


It's inside these black arteries where the real Winnipeg is found, where memories most plausibly come alive. The network of these lanes suggests the grid of a secret city laid right on top of the known one. Lanes with names remembered only by word of mouth lie on top of streets named after the politicians and land developers. The lanes are illicit things, best not discussed - shameful. They receive the breech ends of the houses, the side of the home not meant for polite company. They are the weedy landscapes of shameful abandonment, the conduits of refuse removal. Here we strew what we no longer want to acknowledge, and everything, most notably the Winnipeg special - a mattress bent over with fatal stains - is quickly covered up by the forgetfulness of our snow.”

(from the film “My Winnipeg” by Guy Maddin)

In “My Winnipeg”, Guy Maddin presents a historical and emotional account of Winnipeg, a town in the middle of Canada. He invites us on a journey through familial and civic events wrapped up in architectural information of the town. We visit sports arenas, department stores and even a three-floor swimming pool complex where the pools are segregated by gender and depth. In a sense Winnipeg mirrors and reflects the psycho geography of the maker along with his convictions concerning this town.

The secret back lanes, these black arteries offer us a glimpse into our own selves, assisting us in understanding how secrets work and what they might mean to us.

Secrets reside in the domain of simulated forgetfulness. They are the things we willfully forget; an artificial oblivion of some sort. They are also things we choose to distance from clear view.

These events or sentiments, which persist to exist in the domain of privacy, are to be considered precious. In our times of instantaneous social technologies (such as the Internet), we are encouraged, if not held hostage, to a constant unveiling of personal and private information. The dividing line between public and private is an elusive one, therefore one is asked to position this line according to personal preferences or convictions. Secrets lend themselves in creating communities, shared mental or physical spaces where things that are to be held in privacy are highlighted and thus invite socialization, perhaps resulting in personal development and a sense of solidarity.

In interpersonal relationships, secrets occupy even a murkier space, where they are considered dangerous, threatening or even playful. They demand and employ seduction. The invitation to a secret is always a thrill; it is an invitation to unexamined territories. The path to such territories consists of obstacles through unmapped lanes. It requires endurance. When one comes face to face with a secret, then a process of disintegration and disillusionment is underway; well, sort of. A revealed secret provides us with information, which enriches prior knowledge on a certain topic and offers us with some form of awareness. Nonetheless, it can also fragment some issues, creating a sub domain where what was known so far becomes subverted and acquires new meanings. In essence, the power of secrecy lies in the fact these things we keep from others and ourselves are never just what they are; from fetishes to silly private activities it is never what we do that makes it so interesting. A secret belongs to a symbolic order as its meaning stretches further from our singular identity. It aligns us with a symbolic, collective order; something which corresponds to the properties of secrets to create communities.

In love, secrets suggest an absence or lack of clarity. They are outside of what we present to each other but nevertheless make up for a part of who we actually are. And like everything else, secrets are neither good nor bad. Depending on the proprietor, the affected, content and context they presume their own flavor. We are usually inclined to view secrets as dark and harmful, probably because we are creatures who seek and appreciate clarity.

In Derek Jarman’s “Wittgenstein”, a film portrait of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, the last scene shows us the philosopher dying whilst we listen to a story. The story here comes across as a counterpoint to the first excerpt from ‘My Winnipeg’, as it shares the appropriation of the landscape as something that corresponds to our inner workings

“It was once a young man who dreamed of reducing the world to pure logic. Because he was a very clever young man, he actually managed to do it. When he finished with his work, he stood back and admired it. It was beautiful. A world purged of imperfection and indeterminacy. Countless acres of gleaming ice stretching to the horizon. So, the clever young man looked the world around him he created and decided to explore it. He took one step forward and fell flat on his back. You see, he forgot about friction. The ice was smooth and level and stainless, but you couldn’t walk there. So the clever young man sat down and wept bitter tears. But as he grew into a wise old man he came to understand that roughness and ambiguity aren’t imperfections. They are what make the world turn. He wanted to run and dance. And the words and things scattered upon the ground, were all battered and tarnished and ambiguous. But the wise man saw that that was the way things worked. But something in him was still homesick for the ice, where everything was radiant and absolute and relentless. Though he’d come to like the idea of the rough ground, he couldn’t bring him self to live there. So now he was marooned between earth and ice; at home and neither. And this was the cause of all his grief.”

In the understanding that insofar we consider clarity as noble and desirable, it is the opposite of that with its seductive properties that always makes things turn. In the terms of social commentator Jean Baudrillard, the power of seduction and secrecy is that it can always reverse the process of production (of putting something in clear view), therefore rendering the symbolic more powerful than the real.

In other words, secrets describe a process of preservation, an enveloping of things to be covered in forgetful snow. Things to be cherished; at the same time they are a form of seduction, leading to a somewhat enlightened awareness.

Actual / Represented / Space / Place

Selection of works reflecting on the aesthetic, personal and social properties of space.

Blight (John Smith)
(1994-96) 14 mins, 16mm & video, colour, sound.

Blight was made in collaboration with the composer Jocelyn Pook. It revolves around the building of the M11 Link Road in East London, which provoked a long and bitter campaign by local residents to protect their homes from demolition. The images in the film record some of the changes which occurred in the area over a two-year period, from the demolition of houses through to the start of motorway building work. The soundtrack incorporates natural sounds associated with these events together with speech fragments taken from recorded conversations with local people.

source : John Smith

Non-Places (Karen Mirza / Brad Butler)
16mm b/w, sound dur: 15 mins

This film is concerned with those 'non places' that have become unalterably connected to an individual’s personal memory, a personal memory that when shared, will change the collective perception of that 'non place'. Put another way, this film is concerned with those 'non places' that trigger a memory causing the past, present and future to collide into a collapsed sense of time and space.

non places from mirza - butler on Vimeo.

Block (Emily Richardson)
16mm, 12 minutes, 2005

Day through night BLOCK is a portrait of a 1960’s London tower block, it’s interior and exterior spaces explored and revealed, patterns of activity building a rhythm and viewing experience not dissimilar from the daily observations of the security guard sat watching the flickering screens with their fixed viewpoints and missing pieces of action.Block was made over a period of 10 month period in a tower block in south east London from 2004 –05. The film is a portrait of the place that came out of much time spent there.