To See is to Change: Ranjit Hoskote
Duration: 01:08:09; Aspect Ratio: 1.366:1; Hue: 229.175; Saturation: 0.176; Lightness: 0.071; Volume: 0.278; Cuts per Minute: 12.106; Words per Minute: 94.585
A Parallax View of 40 Years of German Video Art.
Over two days, ten artists, critics and enthusiasts present a "recuration" of the 40 Years of German Video Art (http://www.40jahrevideokunst.de
), a collection being circulated internationally by the Goethe Institut. These respondents brought to the archive their own urgencies and preoccupations, and suggested that this "package" is not a sealed entity, and can be re-read as a history of encounter and entanglement between disciplines, geographies, schools of thought, agents and artforms.
A package in this form this suggests a certain stability in the category "German video art". At the same time its circulation opens up the material, and its context of production and thought, its "Germany", to review by diverse and sometimes unsolicited sources. It is our good fortune to be able to promote such activity. Sehen heißt ändern, to see is to change. For more: http://camputer.org/event.php?id=45
The 2-day screening program was held on 14th-15th November, 2008, at Jnanapravaha and Gallery Chemould in Mumbai.
On day one, cultural theorist, poet and curator Ranjit Hoskote read against the grain of the account of video art in Germany proposed by this collection. He tried to produce a more amplified sense of the German imagination on both sides of the wall. He noted the telling absence of a vibrant East German underground, including Super8 films. He also explored the problems of reading, especially when seemingly universal resources such as language, image and symbolism carry sharply differing valencies depending on the political contexts in which they are deployed.
Hoskote showed the following films:
1986 | As if Memories Could Deceive Me | Marcel Odenbach |17:35
1989 | Körper im Körper | Jörg Herold | 11:40
1983 | Geld | Malaria | 4:00
Queen's Mansion, Chemould Prescott Rd, Mumbai
umm..together the words (jnana and pravaha) mean flow of knowledge. Primarily focussed on art education, we run two courses: a postgraduate diploma in Indian Aesthetics, which is now in its tenth year, and an Art Criticism and Theory course, which we have begun this year.
We also organise public programmes in the form of lectures, conversations and discussions with the participation of artists, critics and curators as well as art historians.
As part of a monthly lecture series, we have started a new edition called Iconic Images which takes place on the first Friday of every month and we invite scholars to speak on one and only one work of art. The next lecture of the series is on December 5th and it will be presented by poet and artist Gieve Patel who will speak on one painting titled "The Thicket" by Kerala-based artist Ratheesh T.
On the 6th of December, in collaboration with Asia Society, we will host an illustrated lecture on Tibet by actor Vijay Crishna who has travelled extensively in that area. And his presentation will be followed by a conversation with noted anthropologist Monisha Ahmed.
On the 12th of December, we will host the first India leg of Pecha Kucha which in Japanese means "little conversation". It's also called "chit chat", which will consist of a series of short, very short, presentations by architects, designers,video artists, photographers. This is being conducted by Kaiwan (Mehta) who is representing Pecha Kucha in Bombay.
And I am told you have to do four...it's mandatory to do four such Pecha Kucha nights. I don't know what this means..Pecha Kucha nights..Whatever little bit of everything night..And so we are going to have four in a city. We are doing the first one here and then it is for Kaiwan to decide where he'd like to host the others.
On the 22nd of December, we are very fortunate to have a professor of Literature from Yale called David Bromwich. And he will be speaking on Shakespeare's Macbeth and Julius Caeser. David Bromwich is here...will be here in India for a National Conference in Varanasi. And he will be flying down just for this one lecture in the evening.
And in the morning we are doing a very small, closed-door interaction. And if you are interested in Newton and Gandhi, it is going to be between Bromwich and Akeel Bilgrami. So if you are interested in that kind of conversation, please put your name down so that we can inform you because we are not going to be sending out a mass e-mail for the morning session. So it's only for those who are interested in attending an intensive one and a half to two hour discussion, conversation between Bilgrami and Bromwich on Gandhi and Newton.
The evening's lecture of course, will be intimated to all (?) public lecture. That's one of the programmes for the coming month. There is lots happening in January and February and we will let you know when we have got it.
I just want to wish CAMP a happy birthday. It was launched last year and we were fortunate to be a part of it. Thank you for considering us and we have been wanting to do this very important parallax view of German video art. And now we invite Jayshree and Sunila if you would... I think we have welcomed you a couple of times.. And then the evening starts.
J:Good evening.. I would like to welcome you all to the Max Mueller Bhavan, Mumbai. It's a branch of the Goethe Institut.. Now this package, 40 years of German video art was initiated by a German cultural foundation. It has been circulated by the Goethe Institut network. But it is not always presented as this in different places. Of course, there are artists,art critics, art curators in each place who respond to this package, the content of this package. And each time there is a different discourse be in Jakarta, France or even in Germany. In Germany there were five major cultural institutes involved from leading...major cities.. Bremen, Dusserldof, Leipzig was there and one more... Munchen. And then this package came to India, especially Mumbai. We were fortunate enough to get involved with CAMP. We contacted them and asked them to help us out because just presenting the videos attendance package doesn't say anything to the vibrating new media scene...new media practices in India... and we are very grateful to the core team- Shaina , Ashok, Ranjit and Nancy that they looked at the package and they are going to present..along with them ten respondants are going to present a recuration of this complete package. Now this pack is... package had 59 quintessential works and I think you made a selection from them. Along with this some Indian works will be... I can say...the German and the Indian works have been juxtaposed. Am I right? No, I am not. Ok. I stand corrected.
Then let's say, the responses from the Indian side will be brought into the presentations of German videos.
J:If you look at the tradition of videos as...art historical perspective of videos in Germany, it goes back only to forty years because the first video artist really was presented in Wuppertal, a town called Wuppertal, mountain heights...electronic television...what was the name...Exhibition of Music.
So I would like to end this sort of introductory piece with his so-called free style poetics which is (?) in of papers where he initialises the emergent video art where he says,
" A is different from B,
but not that A is better than B.
Sometimes I need red apple,
Sometimes I need red lips."
J:On this note I would like to extend my invitation to Nancy Adajania to come to the dias. She really doesn't need an introduction in that sense. Nancy is a cultural theorist and art critic and curator, former editor of Art India. She studied Politics and Film and for over a decade she has been working on critical perspectives on new media practises in India.
NA:I welcome all of you. Well, CAMP- Ashok, Shaina and Sanjay, a very happy birthday. And thank you for conceiving thought provoking and intellectually stimulating programmes for the past year. We look forward to an evening of exciting streams and interventions from our ten member curatorium. And all the names are, of course, mentioned in the programme schedule and all of us are introducing films that we have chosen from this package.
But before we start the screenings I would like to lay down a framework for today's programme. We have deliberately chosen the title "To see is to change" for the recuration, the parallax view that we have taken of the IFA package, " Forty Years of German Video Art".
NA:It is our conviction that all acts of viewing must be acts of critical engagement, full-bodied reading and active interpretation. They lose their potential for transformation if we reduce our viewing to unquestioning reception and consumption. The normal practice within India is to consume culture passively. This is essentially true in case of the periodic travelling cultural packages that are brought to us by cultural exchange agencies of the former First World-exhibitions of visual art, music or feature film festivals and, in the present case, the package of video art works. Many of us tend to observe these as enriching and ennobling information without inquiring into the politics of national representation that inform the composition of these packages. We assume that these packages are truthful measures of the art forms they document, that they are inclusive and encyclopaedic accounts except possibly in the case of American culture where the tradition of leftist suspicion of US economic and foreign policy has sharpened our criticality sometimes to the point of wilful paranoia.
NA:We especially do not ask tough questions when it comes to countries like France, Italy, Germany and Japan- nation-states with which we have had little or no colonial entanglement. Unfortunately, many of us do not fully grasp the global implications of their internal histories apart from generic, largely unnuanced denunciation of totalitarianism or militarism. In actual practise as viewers or readers, many of us still suffer from the cultural equivalent of the economic syndrome of apercipiency in which Third World countries were gripped between the fifities and the nineties.
NA:We feel...we immediately fall into a pedagogy of apprenticeship. This is the mentality that we aim to dismantle through an initiative like "To see is to change". We are weary of taking cultural imports at face value. We were expasperated at having to deal with colonised reflexes that hold us back from launching interventions into an international vis-a-vis, which we are, local. And therefore we have treated this package not as an absolute and unquestionable account of a subject matter but rather as a set of proposals and imputations but also a collection of phantoms, erasures and lacunae.
NA:In this package, for instance, you may detect the quiet but unmistakeable coding of a triumphalism. The unified Germany of this package is one in which the free market West has triumphed over the communist East.There is only work from the former GDR in the entire archive and the history of the Super 8 underground in the former East Germany is missing from the survey.
NA:As Ashok Sukumaran and Shaina Anand observe of our approach to the present IFA package, this forty-year old visual art record of Germany is not just a sealed package and it can be re-read. They are, of course, the (?) for our team doing much of the dirty work for us. In the same spirit, Ranjit Hoskote argues as artists, curators and theorists we are collaborators and co-producers of the global contemporary. We must remember we are all the products of the entanglements of various histories. And these various histories are those which we have enacted through our practices as artists or critics or curators. And all our practises are trans-cultural in nature. There is no single official narrative or universal programme that can explain all artworks.The meaning of every art work is unstable open to re-experience and re-interpretation.
NA:When art works migrate, they carry with them some of their original habitat but they also occupy new contexts. In my own practice, for instance, I have created a region-specific context for new media art in India.
A set of practices...sorry...I have created a region-specific context for new media art in India, a set of practises that are not readable by textbook Western canons, that emerged from collisions between models, overlaps between perspectives and in the gaps between practice and nomenclature. Such an act of renaming and recontextualising the hybrid is not as bizarre as it appears.The history of modernism begins with hybrid gestures, chance encounters, unsolicited interventions, affinities declared by individuals rather than legislated by traditions, ancestories that are claimed rather than inherited.
NA:Gauguin discovers Indonesian textiles. Van Gogh discovers Japanese prints. Picasso discovers Western African sculptures, oceanic masks. Leger discovers Kalighat paintings. Each artist is transformed by these
encounters. But what they produce is still the art of the imperial centre. With imperialism dissolved and fragmented and the center-periphery model broken down such encounters are now widespread, multi-lateral and unpredictable.
They connect cultural producers in (?) and fairs, in San Francisco and Bangalore, in Bolzano and GuangZhou, in Beunos Aires and Berlin. If no person is an island, all persons are linked by trade winds of fascination, comparison and mutual exchange for many of us. And therefore, even the works of German artists, writers and philosophers have been very crucial in our own thinking and practices. This is the position from which we claim the right to intervene in this package.
In concluding my introduction, I would like to say that the ten member curatorial committee that worked on "To See is to Change" does not represent a single point or view-point or orthodoxy. There are many shades of historicist, formalist and conceptualist concerns represented here. We have come to this platform from a variety of inter-disciplinary interests ranging from political theory to film theory to aesthetics to music and cinema.
NA:Among the core concerns of this platform are the following enquiries. What is the contested ground of national identity from such a package? What is the contested ground of national identity from which such a package springs?
Since the collapse of the Third Reich, nationalism has been deeply suspect in Germany and the idea of a national culture summons up the spectres of the Hitler era. And yet, a certain kind of German culture is being exported and presented. We ask ourselves what is German about these works of video art.
NA:And beyond this, we also ask questions phrased from formalist and conceptualist positions. Is there truly something like video art? Or are these simply works made in the video medium by artists? Are we looking at a canon or at a spectrum of improvisations? What happens when a tactical response to institutional oppression becomes in turn ossified into a canon? In this sense, is video art as much of an ossification as installation art with the transgressive developing a rule book for the performers.
These are some of the concerns that we have brought to our re-reading and re-annotating of the archive. And we invite you to participate in this adventure with us. Thank you.
NA:And now I would like to invite Ranjit Hoskote who will be inaugurating the screenings of this package this evening. Ranjit..
RH: Hi. The idea is for every presentation to be followed by a round of questions. It would help us enormously if if you could write out your questions and hand it to Ashok who is the chair for the day and then we can gather those in and respond...In the end..each speaker will then take his/her questions and mull over them and respond.
Ok...I am in the familiar position of never wanting the speaker before me to stop. I am so reluctant to do these things but here I am. Uh...it's wonderful to have all of you here and many of you have come...have chosen us over many other festivities that are going on the art world. We...we cherish that fact.
RH:So to pick up on Nancy's remarks, I want to start off by saying that what we are going to map here through these presentations is certain interests and fascinations which then touch on larger narratives. So I will just spell out some of...where i am coming from in this. This archive of video and transcripts super-annotated works offers us the opportunity to map in various ways the shifts that have taken place in the German (?) , if you like, from now Adenauer to Merkel as it were. So we are really looking at political history, certain , if you like, entanglements that have taken place, certain ways in which artists have either approached large public questions or escaped from them. And really what we are trying to do here is to plan that history in slightly innocent kinds of ways.
RH:So in the selections that I am presenting, I am presenting three, I would like to attend to the intriguing manner in which this archive is coded.For instance, again as Nancy said, it appears that there really is in these 59 or so works only one work from the former GDR. And that is one of the works that we are going to show.That is Herold's "Körper im Körper" ,"Body Within a Body" which was made in 1989, the fateful year in which, of course, the Wall came down and all things changed.
And I will dwell when I show that work on Invisible Undergrounds and how certain records of artistic activity could well be just wiped off the record and what is the value of excavating these. So the three works I am going to show are Marcel Odenbach's "As if Memories Could Deceive Me" made between 1984 and 1986, Jörg Herold's work "Körper im Körper" made in 1989 and Geld made by the group Malaria. It is a sort of proto music video made in 1983. So I am attending very much to the, sort of, currents of the 1980s ( inaudible) various debates and dissensions that led to the breaking up of the wall and the re-unification, contested as it was, of the two Germanys. And what interests me, no matter what the location of these artists, is the persistence of so-called German historic themes, narratives and questions in all their work whether it is aesthetic or cultural or political. For instance, what I am seized by is the way in which the notion of the poetic sublime comes up again and again in these works.
RH: Uh,there is also from my own concerns as a poet, I have been fascinated by the way in which in each of these works there is something that you could identify as stimme or voice. And I am very interested in how stimme or voice becomes sprache or language. That also comes out of a certain German tradition of looking at the source of sound, of language, of meaning. And really sound becomes not just an add-on or an illustration or an annotation, but it becomes an acoustic presence in some of these works.
RH:There is also an enquiry into German national entity and its discontents. There is also a tendency towards abstraction which plays out in some of these works, especially Herold's. And that abstraction is not explored uncontextually. It is not an abstraction that hangs free of history. It actually appears in relation to pretexts and to allusions and to very particular predicaments and I will come to that as we go along.
RH:And always these video art works remain compellingly aware of the shifting nature of the image and what goes into the making of images in very particular historical moments. So I think the rest of my comments (inaudible).
'As if memories could deceive me' is a key video work by Marcel Odenbach from the mid-1980's, one that paradigmatically displays the central theme of his video oeuvre, which focus on the ability of the media to construct history, memory and identity.
In 'As if memories could deceive me' a piano keyboard, a symbol of German bourgeois tradition, is the metaphorical ground upon which Odenbach devises a dynamic associative discourse on the construction of personal and cultural identity. A haunted theater of collective and subjective memory is constructed from archival film and mass media representations.
Signifiers of German history and cultural heritage- Wagnerian opera, Hitler's rallies, Nuremberg trials, Bavarian folk dancers- are orchestrated and conjoined on the screen with male-fashion iconography and autobiographical references. From ornate 19th century baroque architecture to a contemporary menswear emporium, the artist traces a historical trajectory of cultural excess.
'Actions and Interventions of the German Video Avant Garde' by Annette Jael Lehmann in 'After the Avant Garde: contemporary German and Austrain experimental film', Randall Halle, Reinhild Steingrover (EDS), 2008, pp.89, 90.
RH: This is Marcel Odenbach's "As if Memories Could Deceive Me".
As if memories could deceive me (1986)
by Marcel Odenbach :
Doris Krystof in her essay on Marcel Odenbach says"As If Memories Could Deceive Me- the title of a videotape from the year 1986 aims at the centre of Marcel Odenbach's work which fits into the second half of the 1970's and revolves around the conveying of history , memory, and questions of identity through media.In the mid-1980's, when Odenbach was invited to spend three months in Boston and develop a work for television in conjunction with the Contemporary Art Television Fund (CAT),the young artist from Cologne was considered one of the most renowned spokesmen of video art.The project sponsored by Goethe Institute in Boston presents Odenbach's first collaboration with television(...)Requested to produce a video work for an American television network in Boston, he directs his gaze at the availability of corresponding on-location archive material and, therefore the official level while working with the Goethe Institute, an organisation appointed to spread german culture worldwide. Later discussing this in an interview, Odenbach explained, "Abroad I was confronted with the way that the Goethe Institute represents German culture. And I suddenly made a sensational discovery: there was no film material whatsoever on the Nazi period ....I belong to the post-war generation, which had the most trouble with German history and was always told by its parents generation, We had nothing to do with it ....The cliché-ridden contents of the film material made available through the Goethe Institute was not able to deceive the memories of other media images on German history. Alongside the supply of images that Odenbach brought along from Cologne, corresponding film passages on the National Socialist period were made available through the archives of the Jewish Institute in Boston."
'1986 | Marcel Odenbach:As if memories could deceive me' by Doris Krystof in 40 years video art.de digital heritage: Video Art in Germany from 1963 to the present.
, Rudolf Frieling/ Wulf Herzogenrath (Eds.), pp. 228, 231, 232, 233.
Confronting his bourgeois German past, Odenbach achieves a personal history that questions the construction of identity within his cultural context. The video documents a performance or rehearsal of New England Conservatory Symphony Orchestra, through close up's, split screen effects, and collage techniques.
Instruments are filmed in close up and appear in boxed off portions of the screen. As the music rises, archival film images begin to creep in. Many times they are superimposed over the instruments.
The original footage produced for this work, commissioned by the German Goethe Institute was shot at New England Conservatory of Music, the Goethe Institute and a clothing store.
'Actions and Interventions of the German Video Avant Garde' by Annette Jael Lehmann in 'After the Avant Garde: contemporary German and Austrain experimental film', Randall Halle, Reinhild Steingrover (EDS), 2008, pp. 90.
RH:..(?)instability and through that ground tries to address these questions of what is a national culture and what are its discontents and, uh, it is interesting that the music that gets played by this...this...this symphony orchestra which is such an image of a well-ordered and harmonious society is naturally Schumann's "Manfred" which is based on Byron's dramatic poem "Manfred", which is one of the masterpieces of the Gothic and in some sense it leads us back to the kind of romantic disquietudes that lie behind the notion of the nation-state, the way in which they played out in Germany. And Manfred, Manfred, is this archetypal Byronic hero who suffers from some unnamed guilt and cannot purge it. He invokes the spirits who cannot help him. So he can neither forgive nor forget. And eventually he kills himself. So this freight of undealt with historical trauma, guilt, sin, things gone wrong... all of that plays as a continuous kind of narrative beneath all of these achievements of high culture... that also plays at some level...so what I respond to... is the kind of continuous collision, dissonance, between these two discourses thorugh this, the apparatus of high culture, authenticity, bourgeois accomplishment on the one hand and all of the sinister, dark underside off hand.
RH: And again I am attracted to the way in which sound is constantly being dragooned into order throughout the duration of the work. And...you know, I wont spell out the...it's obvious the way in which the various stations in the National West, the music, Schumann, Bach, the baroque interiors, palaces, cathedrals and all of that. But what I find interesting is that there is a collision of archives going on in the body of this work. And we know from Odenbach's own account that this work arose for him from a certain disquiet at what in fact was being put out in the name of German culture by the Goethe Institut at that point. Jayshree, don't take this personally. It's all part of what goes on in cultural politics, as we all very well know. So Odenbach's starts off with the question of what is available to the world as contemporary or twentieth century German history and he records that he was disturbed by the fact that nothing from the Nazi era was actually available for obvious reasons. Obviously, that could not be part of "national culture". It is proscribed in Germany.
The 17 minute long film is distinguished in particular by the nuanced montage technique whose dream logic is referenced in the central section of the video through a recurring motif of a sleeping boy. The division of the screen into three vertical fields emerges as an opportunity for multiperspectival presentation. Yet, the videos themes are not reflected only in the images of the American Symphony orchestra. The choice of one of the pieces is rich with associations as well: the overture to Robert Schumann's 'Manfred', based on a poem by Lord Byron tells of the inner fatal conflicts of its young hero. This reference plays on the theme of identity, which only truly takes shape in the second part of the video, set against a historical backdrop.
'Actions and Interventions of the German Video Avant Garde' by Annette Jael Lehmann in 'After the Avant Garde: contemporary German and Austrain experimental film', Randall Halle, Reinhild Steingrover (EDS), 2008, pp. 90.
RH:So what he does actually is to go into, as you saw from the credits...he actually takes material from Brandeis, from the Jewish archive there. The Archive of Jewish Films. So all that you saw- the Nuremberg rally, uh, the Nuremberg rallies, indeed, yes..also, the book burnings and of course, the Nuremburg War Trials. All of that comes from that particular archive. So again...something that...when we are talking of questions of readability and how do images disclose themselves, it is interesting to see how what appears to us as one composed, reasonably seamless ensemble is actually made up of very very disaggregated parts and comes from sources that are in collision that would not necessarily work together to make the textures of this work. It actually invite us to open it out and break it away in some sense. So,I find... I like the fact that there is this whole self-critique going on at various formal and conceptual levels.
RH:And of course, I am attracted to the fact that there is a temporal experiment. In the course of seventeen minutes and forty seconds or something like that he actually traverses through several centuries of German history. And what you have in some sense is a video work that is readable as a scale model of 1817 to... through to 1950.With that I would like to go on to the second work I want to show which is Jörg Herold's work Körper im Körper. I could never ever get the o and the ö."Körper im Körper"- "The Body within the Body". 1989. That goes on for eleven minutes and seventeen seconds.
Jörg Herold's "Körper im Körper" (The Body within the Body), 1989.
Korper Im Korper (1989)
by Jorg Herold:
Jeannette Stoschek in her essay on Jorg Herold says "Jorg Herold calls his black and white film 'Korper Im Korper' - shot in 1989, before the fall of the Berlin Wall, as a Super-8 film and transferred on to VHS after 1990- as a 'self portrait of his childhood.' The film was made in Leipzig and conceptually points to the working methods of a private investigator and to his own private search for clues. Through his childhood memories, Herold investigates his own history. Locating his identity is developed as a theme, and the story of his search for himself inspires associations with the Christian story of Creation-or with a Birth."
Adding further,"Harold reconstructs his perception.He refers to the story he experienced through the placement of fragmented and concise words and images, which referentially assume the role of his formative surroundings and experiences.He transports his images through his own code, a pictographic alphabet, which conveys his memories of the contours of his first light. Herold shows images of his journey, his solitary path to knowledge-to the light-and he writes:On arriving at my destination, surfaces were facing one another in silence and arranging themselves for the lifeless transition into the light.In this field, I became the body in the body. Like in the photo-mechanical principle, at birth our bodies, too, are exposed.The body becomes visible;it quickly develops a relationship to time and its surroundings.It reacts But when the light and connection to the outside world is missing, an anonymous body is created at the moment of birth-a body in the body."
She continues "Korper Im Korper referentially stands for the Super-8 films that Herold has made since the mid-1980's, which made him a prominent representative of the unofficial short film scene in GDR. In his Kaspar Hauser project (1991), he connects with the themes of identity search. He identifies with the figure Kaspar Hauser and draws parallels between Hauser's fate in the nineteenth century and his own integration into society. The historical figure offered Herold vital links, which allowed him yo knowledgeably overcome his cultural shock caused by the fall of the Wall, his confrontation with westernised culture, as well as the loss of his own history and biography."
'1989 |Jorg Herold: Korper Im Korper' by Jeannette Stoschek in 40 years video art.de digital heritage: Video Art in Germany from 1963 to the present.
, Rudolf Frieling/Wulf Herzogenrath (Eds.), pp. 246, 249.
RH:If that was a painting, I would like to have that on my wall next to my (inaudible). It really has some of those moving qualities of, I am not over-estimating it, of religious poetry. At one level, it has an incredible scale
of, various scales that goes on from very very intimate to very very cosmic. And it is all done, at one level, through just the building blocks of language. And some one...the way it which it opens, with this breath...I am not sure if it is breath or (inaudible) building up...lights on a ceiling or sun, sea and desert delirium and all that happens at one level is the enumeration of very ordinary things - light, sky, house, window - and the elements of it are made from this unpromising townscape, if you like, of Lipzig. We've zapped far to the east, of course.
RH:And...it's...what...what...what I responded to immediately was the sense of an undercover agent or a fugitive, someone who was taking a very, very deliberately marginal position in relation to the familiar and the strange in it. But you also have a sense of work done under surveillance and at the margins and in danger. All of that comes through. And for me its...just as much as the image, it's the incredible music of very simple things like breath and voice that produces this work.
RH:Uh..It is the self that is moving through this. And that is the body in the body of the title. It is as though
there were a self within the self that is politicised and explained through discources of politics that is working from within and articulated. It is also the reason for me a meditation on the nature of language. And again, this is a work to which I respond to intuitively and I really have no immediate words for it. I know Rana does and you are going to respond, right?
Rana Dasgupta: Tomorrow.
RH: Ok. Just want to put in two emotions that we would work with in relation to this film. One is, for lack of a another word...I have been thinking of it as "pulse-beat-breath" unit. It is the way in which the image comes at you in pulsations which seem to correspond to breath units and that again by free association ideas leads me to think of what Celan used to describe as "Atemwende"- the turning of the breath because for him poetry was constructed in terms of which the breath came and went or how it turned. And I think, that is...these two things - the so-called pulse, beat or whatever you want to call it and the Atamwende - these seem to be structuring principles at work here and what I am struck by is the way in which these very abstract, seemingly poetical concerns - these are concerns to the domain of poetics - they have very very strong and palpable political overtones and I do hope that we will discuss these peculiar origins and contingencies when we pick up on this tomorrow. I don't want to hold us up and so let me go on very quickly to "Geld" by Malaria.
by Malaria :
Rosanne Altstatt in her essay on Geld (Money) by Malaria says "Bettina Koster and Gudrun Gut stepped away from the all-female Punk band Mania-D in 1981 to re-emerge on the Punk/New Wave scene as Malaria! with Manon P.Duursma, Susanne Kuhnke and Christina Hahn.The new group was an instant underground success, soon travelling throughout Europe and the USA to promote its records, spreading a dark aesthetic of highly stylized Expressionist angst and anti-everything protest with intellectual overtones. Malaria!, bred in Berlin, an island of capitalism floating in the German Democratic Republic. This was embattled territory, where residents lived among missiles pointing east and violent protests for the squatter rights and no-nukes regularly took place(...)Berlin's lifestyle placed a heavy emphasis on 'style',but not at all in the sense of clean living .Geld( Money) documents the androgynous look that ruled the day.
She continues"Streaks of light were projected onto the musician's faces and re-filmed so that they seemed to peek out from behind a layer of torn darkness. This low-tech effect was made through simple projection and re-filming, but looks like one of the many high-tech video effects being developed on new editing systems. Stop motion technique gives the drummer a jerky movement at the beginning of the video,and refined use of double exposure combined with a cross fading technique shifts the visuals from scene to scene, putting this work into the nebulous realm of the lyrics' there is no clarity/there is no fog.'(...)Geld is a music video that isn't: technically a short film, it made the most of what could be accomplished with the super-8 medium and was released before MTV ever arrived in Germany. Super-8 was being rapidly replaced by video on the home- market at the time, and though it was often lauded as an inexpensive alternative to film meaning 16mm and 35mm-it was still out of reach for those who had nothing. Super-8 cameras could practically be picked out of the trash and became part of a do-it-yourself aesthetics for newly coined amateur film-makers."
Further adding "Super-8 films had a very specific context: they were projected on stage while a band played,shown before the feature film at cinemas in squatted houses, at local clubs such as Martin Kippenberger's SO 36,and basically everywhere a projector could be set up-including on the Berlin Wall. Super-8 was an integral part of the city's alternative art scene,including being screened at Bettina Koster and Gudrun Gut 's punk store and general hangout, Eisen grau.
'1983 | Malaria : Geld' by Rosanne Altstatt in 40 years video art.de digital heritage: Video Art in Germany from 1963 to the present.
, Rudolf Frieling/Wulf Herzogenrath (Eds. ), pp. 204, 207.
"Geld" by Malaria, 1983.
The inexpensive Super-8 format was the size of choice for home movie makers for over three decades, until the 1980's when low cost video cameras virtually destroyed the Super-8 market. Super 8 does not capture a very sharp image and blurs with quick movements because of the small 8mm negative from which it derives its name.
It's instantly recognizable and its associations with the past era have been widely exploited.
'Style and the camera: Videography and cinematography' by Jeremy Butler in 'Television: Critical methods and applications', 2007, pp. 167
RH:Again the reason I selected this to round off my set of three was because it seems to pick up on other themes and motifs that we visited in the other two works. I am fascinated by the locus, the locus classic of the cell, for instance with which this work opens. Classically the site where maniacs, the lunatics, ghosts- all that is unbearable is in the cell. And then you have this parade of gothics, sinister figures. And again this is the kind of work where you look back at over the decades and...this kind of work occupies a threshhold. At one level it seems very dated and at another level the impulses in it,if you like, if you will, the cultural energies are still potent and meaningful. And we begin to look at them afresh from that point of view. I just love, literally, the choreography of it. And I know that the lyrics were either not clear or were not subtitled but essentially there is a kind of anomie or a sort of...sense of being in a moral vacuum or uncertainty of what is said or what is sung. Essentially, this incredible refrain "Geld", which is, of course, money but then along the way one hears, "there is no charity, there is no fog".
RH:So, there is a peculiar kind of dealing in dualities but dissolving them towards something that is completely open-ended. So, there is that whole sense of anomie which is playing out at one level. And on the other hand, there is here, as in the other two works, a kind of tracing of historical themes. Again when I look at this, what I see is not the proto music video, not the punk gothic, not the peculiar fashions and the dancing styles of the times. But I think again of the peculiar architecture in which this choreography is taking place. I am reminded, for instance, of and it opens with (?), suddenly you begin to speculate is this a bunker, is this an air raid warning, are there catastrophes that will never go away. And so something that seems very much of its period and dated and unable to travel through time actually seems to take on resonances that help us to snap back and forth in time. And to me, that is the value of a work like this. Not merely as historical artefact or curiosity. But as something that through its campness and strangeness can still speak to us in very urgent ways.
Thank you for your attention.