To See is to Change: Kaushik Bhaumik
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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.
Kaushik Bhaumik, Vice President, Osian's - Connoisseurs of Art, spoke about the parallel histories of cinema and video art the relationship of scales that exists between cinema and video art. Cinema was, at the time these artists were making their works, seen as a space for everything-action cinema or epic emotional melodramas and so on. Video, by contrast, was seen as a more intimate space for trying out various things that cinema couldn't.
Bhaumik showed the following films:
1969 | Land Art | Gerry Schum (short version)| Excerpts 10 mins
1974 | Tanz für eine Frau | Ulrike Rosenbach| 8 mins
1988 | Der Herzschlag des Anubis | Bettina Gruber, Maria Vedder| 5mins
2000 | Buffalo Billy + Milly | Rosemarie Trockel| 5: 45
Queen's Mansion, Chemould Prescott Rd, Mumbai
Ashok: We come now to our final speaker for the evening. This is to remind you about the questions, the discussion round that will follow. From the size of the crowd, I don't think we need to write down questions. But remember them so that...you know...you can ask them at the end of this talk. Kaushik Bhaumik is the Vice President of the Osian's Connoisseurs of Art. He has published articles on Indian and World cinema in various anthologies. He is co-editor of 'Visual Sense: A Cultural Reader' due later this year from Berg Publishers, Oxford. Kaushik was originally slotted for tomorrow but he is now invited and welcomed today.
Kaushik Bhaumik: I would like to thank Shaina and Ashok for organising this very stimulating experience that we have been having for the last three or four months almost at various points in time, to look at the films and discuss them...and it has just been a very stimulating experience because as things are, one is very busy and then when you are presented with this material, it kind of stimulates you to think about certain things that you have seen in passing at various points in time and never had time to think through. So for that reason...I mean...it is a great pleasure to be here. Unless, of course, we get into the politics that I was scheduled to speak tomorrow, but rather not speak, but participate in various exciting combinations of being discussant and then presenting my selection.
So, what has happened is that...I was supposed to speak about certain meditation on the relation between the history of video art and representations of gender. And I have laid out the presentation in a certain format. And because of the way in which the programmes has...had to change because of my inability to come tomorrow, it will not be possible to actually contextualise my presentation in the manner in which I had thought I would earlier, which means that I will have to shift my focus slightly and talk about certain other things that would have been spoken about as a throw-away kind of context but now will have to be foregrounded because of the material I am going to show. But, hopefully, like it is for me now, I have managed to connect with most of the presentations...the two presentations that have been done in the evening. They have been very stimulating and helped me to think through my presentation in a very different light. Hopefully, what I present today will probably talk with what I was supposed to show you tomorrow. So, I will start off with a very short kind of introduction to the kinds of things I just wanted to think through and think aloud, think aloud with you.
I will start two clips - one very famous 1969 video art piece called 'Land Art' by Robert Schum and Ulrike Rosenbach's 1974 piece on dance and 'Dance for a Lady'. To begin with, being a historian and being a historian of cinema and moving images, I decided to kind of think about the parallel histories of cinema and video art, and then certain things, the basic thing that I kind of throw up as a topic to think about or discuss is that there is a relationship of scales between cinema and video art. There is a size...the big screen is considered, was considered at least until the late 1960s when Robert Schum's film was made, as a space for everything-action cinema or epic emotional melodramas and so on and so forth. And video which was just about emerging probably in the 1960s along side the first forays of television was seen as a more intimate space for trying out various things that cinema couldnt.
But when we look at the two pieces that I am going to show and I was supposed to show a loop from Hitchcock, a loop made by two German video artists on this films of Alfred Hitchcock. And I would start with Hitchcock for a particular reason. But, Robert Schum's piece and Rosenbach's piece dialogue with Hitchcock, so I wouldn't, I dont think that I will miss it so much. But I would just ask the audience to refer back to Hitchcock films which could be raised directly side by side with the two pieces that I will play one after the other.
Trockel rarely performs before the camera herself. She prefers to use her friends and acquaintances as the performers. In that sense, the filming always has the character of a social undertaking. Often enough, the performers are not told beforehand what happens. The 'stage directions' are given during the shoot, which leads to the kind of inflexibility that Trockel aims for in her drawings.
Cinematic attitudes such as perfection and a beautiful appearance are consciously avoided. The first take is the only film version ever used. But the artistic editing during the post-production phase is carefully executed, and the artist treats the film as foreign material at that stage. Beside the technical effects, what also plays a major role in this distancing maneuver is the respective choice of music, especially because it blankets the original soundtrack containing the spoken 'stage directions'.
The music also gives the film an unmistakable rhythm and this accentuates the images. Apart from establishing a video-clip aesthetic the music evokes moods which either support the filmed images or deliberately run contrary to them.
2000| 'Buffalo Billy + Milly: Rosmarie Trockel' 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), 2004, pp. 307, 308.
Many of Hitchcock's films follow not the traditional oedipal path. Hitchcock has a constant obsession with gender play. Not only are feminine bodies quite abundant in Hitchcock's films, but traversing of both masculine and feminine characteristics makes Hitchcock's characters questionable, alluring, but almost always, the traps within the narratives.
The ambiguous sexuality in Hitchcock's films destabilizes the gender identity of the protagonists and viewers alike.
'The Queer Voice in Marnie' by Lucretia Knapp in The Hitchcock Reader', Marshall Deutelbaum, Leland Poague (EDS), 2009, pp. 265
So, the basic thesis is that the relationship between cinema and video has been a matter of scales which is also translated into a number of other things that have got transformed. It is a battle, which I say following the formulations of the French philosopher Michel ( Daniel)Bensai'd. It is a battle between the locomotive and the mole. That capitalism is at the speed of locomotives and there are these escape routes, Deleuzian escape routes, through which resistance kind of burrows into the foundations of capitalism like a mole and produces certain other kinds of lines and experiences.
Many video artists have produced films and video installations with a distinctly cinematic feel that is distinct from earlier artistic experiments with film in the theater; and there have been a number of film makers who have translated their works into installations or conceived new works only accessible in the darkened space of the gallery, while continuing to produce films for traditional theatrical release.
These two tendencies are significant for the current state of cinema, what Jacques Ranciere once called cinema's 'double existence'. There is an 'autonomic' existence which is eventually welcomed for artistic performances but which does not count upon the definition of artistic modernity; and there's another existence where cinema is inscribed by the redefinition of contemporary art.
Still, what is crucial about the mélange of video installation and cinema is the temporal ontology of video. Video has newly opened out from an obstinately present tense to include a past tense. As Peter Wollens contends, "The relationship of film and video involves many different and complex ways of presenting time." And that both mediums can function "in a very similar way".
'Cinematic reworkings of Video's durational space' by Rosalind Galt and Karl Schoonover in 'New Theories and histories: Global Art cinema', 2010, pp. 130, 131.
So, for all you know...if you look at it very kind of literally and simplistically, then cinema is definitely the locomotive. It has been the great capitalist mode of entertainment which has just zoomed through all forms of differences and distinctions and created these mythic pictures of the world. And video art coming out from an intimate, local context, artists working against funding system, could be the mole in this scheme of things. However, I could say that the battle is one between equals. I mean it is a battle of scales which has reflected
other battles of class, of gender and so on and so forth. So I will speak about gender right at the end. So the battle of scales is also a battle of genders is also being fought out in some ways. So, I shall start off with the two clips and shall come back to the relationship between cinema and Hitchcock. My presentation should be a very short one.
Land Art was the first production of Fernsehgalerie by Gerry Schum. It was an exhibition that used a structure to intervene into that of television, with utopian intent. It was a broadcast of instantaneous, unmediated art objects, mass communicated.
Schum explained in the introduction to the 1969 television broadcast of his Land Art survey program: "Objects of this nature as just as unclassifiable in the traditional terms of art as they are in the art market. The eternal triangle of studio, gallery and collector, in which art has taken place upto now, has been broken. Instead of private ownership of art, which obstructs further publication of work of art, there is now communication with a larger public by means of publication or television broadcasting."
'Endings and Dispersals' by Suzaan Boettger in Earthworks: Art and the Landscape of the Sixties, 2002, pp. 174.
'Who is not the author? Gerry Schum and the Established order' by Ian White in 'Afterthought: New writing in Conceptual Art' by Mike Sperlinger, 2005, pp. 69, 70.
In 1970's, artist began to explore the use of video in live performances that contrasted the physical action of an organic body with its electronically mediated reflection on a monitor.
Feminist artists exhibited the two simultaneous discourses in order to expose and subvert the traditional roles assigned to women in mass media.
'From Video Art to Video Performance: The work of Ulrike Rosenbach' by Gunter Berghaus in 'Avant Garde Film' by Alexander Graf, Dietrich Scheunemann (EDS), 2007, pp. 321.
The clip begins.
Land Art (1969) By Gerry Schum:
It has been argued that Gerry Schum, a German film director who made some of the first artists videos, coined the name 'land art' after he directed, produced and filmed the 1969 film of the same name.
The film showed work from eight American and European artists: Marinus Boezem, Jan Dibbets, Barry Flannigan, Michael Heizer, Richard Long, Walter de Maria, Dennis Oppenheim and Robert Smithson. Schum came up with the concept after searching for a new venue for art, in order to displace the studio–gallery–collector triangle, which he logically billed as a Fernsehgalerie (television gallery).
The television exhibition Land Art showed situations created by artists in more or less imposing landscapes. The artists had all, in fact, lived or at any rate spent a considerable length of time in the areas that figure their respective work.
Christiane Fricke in his essay on Gerry Schum says, "Working with eight Earth Art and Land Art movements that were forming at the time, Schum developed scenarios one film per artist, to be broadcast one after the other on April 15, 1969 as a part of the "Land Art" television exhibition on Channel One. It was without commentary, which was a good thing: as any explanation coming form outside would have destroyed the significanace and context of this work of art.
The film section of the program that Schum had broadcast after the art-exhibition-style opening in Studio C of SFB lasted for thirty-five minutes, with visual and sound starting signals to make it clear that this was an independent production. The original recording of this event held three weeks before the broadcast, is no longer in existence. But there are photographs showing a perfectly staged exhibition gallery with opening speaker and visitors drinking wine. The partitions have flush mounted monitors let into them, surrounding by large-format prints of black-and-white photographs taken by Schum's professional partner and companion Ursula Wevers during the shoot."
He continues, "Each individual film holds its own as an autonomous work. The overall homogeneous image of Land Art has been ascribed to Schum's ability to empathize with the artist's ideas. One typical feature of this is the clear, simple structure, supported by reticent but precise camera work and carefully considered use of the image material. There were no shot or camera operations that did not stem logically from the concept, and the same holds true for the sound. Most benefit was derived from Schum's instinctive understanding of the artist's ideas by those who approached the translation of their work into film with imprecise ideas and lack of prior technical knowledge. Only very few of them had previous practical experience with the medium of film. What all the projects had in common were the greatly magnified proportions of the pictorial plane: spacious landscapes replaced the painter's canvas."
1969 |'Gerry Schum: Land Art' by Christiane Fricke in 40 Years Video Art De. Digital Heritage: Video Art in Germany from 1963 to the present, Rudolf Frieling/ Wulf Herzogenrath (EDS), 2004, pp. 104, 107, 109.
Theories and documents of contemporary art: a sourcebook of artists' writings By Kristine Stiles, Peter Howard Selz.
Tanz Fur Eine Frau (1974) By Ulrike Rosenbach:
Rosenbach began to use video to create "documents of her inner life" as early as 1972. She herself is the point of departure and the subject of her performances. In her so-called video live actions, she exposes patterns of female identity construction and develops strategies of self-determination. She deconstructs woman's "image status" in traditional depictions of women in art, the media, commercial ads and film, marking the space of performance with materials which take on ritualistic associations and symbolic meanings.
Rudolf Frieling in his essay on Ulrike Rosenbach says, "Ulrike Rosenbach is not interested in video as a mass medium. She rather looks at it as something private and firmly unspectacular in quality as a medium and as something that can trigger irritation in the viewers through a conscious limiting of its scope of action."
He continues, " Tanz Fur Eine Frau (Dance for a Woman) from 1975 assumes a spot in the works of Ulrike Rosenbach, and included her working with Ingrid Oppenheim and others. Tanz Fur Eine Frau is a work dedicated to the themes of self-reflection, reflected imagery and narcissism. The video is frequently identified with these themes and iconographically speaking they also link with specifically female aesthetics. As in the case of other women artists, her spectrum ranged from strategies of misdirection, ahifting, and hindering maneuvers, to disturbances in the disposition of the voyeuristic gaze directed at the female. A shifting of gaze is experienced while viewing a dancing woman dressed in a ball gown with her shoulders barred. Ulrike Rosenbach achieved the camera angle by having a mirror attached to the ceiling, which creates an eternal triangle of the camera, mirror and dancer. One one hand, we lose track of the woman's eyes and face and register merely the contours of her body; on the other hand this woman- becomes, literally, reflected, since the dancer- Ulrike Rosenbach herself- whirls about in a a gown made of fine tulle, studded with small mirrors. Standing in the center of attention for others, for whom the dancer dances; but also in the physiological sense of centerig oneself in one's own movements, amounts to a precarious status often only sustainable for the duration of a single song or piece of music. The dance and the music also promise salvation, as reflected in the choice of the song's musical motif, Ich Tanze Mit Dir In Den Himmel Hinen (I'll dance with you to heaven)."
The image is both: dizzy and unsettling. The figure appears from above like the turning ballerina of a music box gentling swaying to and fro in the frame of the screen only to balance itself out again in the centre. The dancing woman resembles the core but, in this form, causes fright. She turns into a record stuck to the turntable of habit and role-playing. The togetherness suggested by the tune is missing completely. The artist paraphrases the title of the waltz 'I dance with you into the heaven' by relating it solely to herself. At the end of the tape she breaks down.
1974| 'Tanz Fur Eine Frau: Ulrike Rosenbach' by Rudolf Frieling in 40 Years Video Art De. Digital Heritage: Video Art in Germany from 1963 to the present, Rudolf Frieling/ Wulf Herzogenrath (EDS), 2004,pp. 146, 148, 149.
Ulrike Rosenbach was one of the most important representatives of feminist video art and one of the leading pioneers in the genre of video performance. She used video technology as "a psychic feedback" and showed that the sign "woman" was not a natural, given thing but a product of society. Thus, she helped to dismantle conventional modes of representation and foster a new consciousness of the relationships between woman, art and nature.
From the very start, Ulrike Rosenbach's video performances confront the patriarchal tradition and its image of women, using the media presentation of body images to reflect on the cultural and historical clichés related to stereotypical representations of femininity.
Her actions also have a strongly ritual and magical character, as reflected in the use of symbols and materials such as circles, pentagrams, salt and fire, and in their motifs and forms of presentations. They also represent timeless forms of communication.
Fundamentally, Rosenbach regards her video art as political feminist practice, video functions as a medium in explicit contrast to mass media as well as modes of representation shaped by art history.
'From Video Art to Video Performance: The work of Ulrike Rosenbach' by Gunter Berghaus in 'Avant Garde Film' by Alexander Graf, Dietrich Scheunemann (EDS), 2007, pp. 321.
'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. 83, 84, 85.
Rosenbach's videos aim at altering viewing habits through their sculptural, spatial elements, and especially beginning in the 1970's by viewing her videos as an optical extension of her body.
Skillfully she plays with viewer's visual habits, thwarting their expectations as television consumers through a pointedly slow tempo, scant use of cuts, and a detailed precision in the sequence of shots, forcing them to consciously open themselves to a different mode of seeing, one in which every alteration can be perceived as something new and exciting.
'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. 86.
To come back to what I had kind of introduced as a kind of relationship between cinema and relatively early video art again. Well, first sequence which we saw of Robert Schum's famous work 'Land Art' and I immediately associated with the famous dustcropper sequence in 'North by Northwest'. I mean it is the pace at which it is shot and the famous sequence where Cary Grant waits or someone has come he is supposed to meet. Temporalities are very similar, the setting is very similar. It's an agrarian landscape. And there is a certain sense of boredom in the scenes which the moving of the tractor also tends to kind of reflect in some ways. It is not like Robert Schum was referring to Hitchcock's film but it was a tradition where such images were reproduced. And what interests me is that at this point in time there is a relationship of scales possible between cinema and video art. I mean this could be seen as epic video art in some ways as compared to what went on later on. But I also see this image as some kind of vanishing point of the image that Hitchcock produces. It is as if we are going off to sleep we forget the action. The action slows down and all that we see is Robert Schum's image and that's when we are going off to sleep. That is how cinema stays on in our minds. The action slows down and what we see is this kind of still life which stays with us before we go to sleep.
The other film that comes to mind and suprisingly you know I have not thought about it until quite recently as that is '8 1/2'. But again Fellini is playing with incredible scales of shots. There are huge sots and there are small shots and there are medium shots and there Fellini is locating this logic of battle of scales and where television is coming in, to a clash of sensibilities, provincial sensibilities and cosmopolitan sensibilities and he starts off with 'La Dolce Vita' and taking it off on those lines. And so,therefore, you know there is in cinema, in '8 1/2' a meditation on scales which related to the advent of television which is seen as being traumatic. That somehow the huge scale, the epic scale of cinema cannot be read inside with the kind of imagery that can be seen. And the dance film that we saw again refers to...I could make a reference to a famous sequence in a rather obscure Hitchcock film 'Topaz' where there is a fantastic shot of a woman who is shot right from the top and she dies as she is shot. And Hitchcock takes a top angle shot and she falls and her gown kind of unfurls just the manner in which the dancer here when she falls, her gown again unfurls.
And so again, I mean until the early phases of video art there seems to be a synergistic relationship with cinema possible. But I think what happens later on is that this relationship breaks down and I think that video art discovers the radicalness of, say, the music video 'Geld', the music video by Geld. Or some of the more avant-garde kind of psychological videos that went on to get produced which were absolutely avant-garde and radically disruptive of viewing practices. I think there video art discovers a certain kind of autonomous space which, I think, destroys the cinematic space.And I would say that in that sense there is an escape away from the epic mode of cinema that Hitchcock produces in 'North by Northwest' which Hitchcock is actually always alluding to. In 'North by Nortwest' there is an escape from an epic heroic figure becoming an ordinary person. And this escape is produced as much by the political violence as by the deconstruction through discourse theories and through life of individuals who have to cope with new conditions of living.
And, I think, there a certain kind of interesting traffic is happening between two kinds of movements I kind of discover in these videos that I have chosen. One is the movement which is the action movement which is frenetic, iconic and in the films of, say, Schum and Rosenbach something that is very rarely possible in cinema- an ability to saturate the eye, to saturate the movement away from the eye, to erase the movement, to erase the frame and so on and so forth. So,I want to able to make this point and I wanted to make this point very clearly in my talk tomorrow through the work of Robert Wilson's 1978 film, where he actually actively deconstructs the eye by saturating it with an artisanal mode of working on the image. He actually, almost like, takes a carpenter's instrument and just kind of chisels away at the surface of a very rough layer of action cinema makes it smooth and in that sense he kind of, you know, deconstructs the epic mode of looking into a reverie, something that is always there when we are watching cinema but we are never aware of.
In epic cinema, the two kind of - action and reverie - stay together like Hitchcock's image. There is huge fields of saturation and there is a person looking through. They come together. But in video art, I think, they are separate. And I think this movement between saturation and a certain kind of psychotic movement on screen is something that has defined the political, psychological kind of logic of the development of video art. In some ways there has been a thinking of what would happen to epic action. It was that...like Godard in his cinema is always meditating on the inevitability of human ecstasy which will need a large scale, which will need to dominate nature by its performance. And the inability to do so, that this inability to work against the reflexes of the mind is something that, I think, worked out very well in the history of video art because it is an intimate scale when these things can be thought through the movements of the mind, through the intimate movements of the mind. And that is what we see happening through the seventies and more in the eighties and the nineties. And so, therefore what I am trying to say is that the battle of scales is then worked out through a certain kind of meditation on the relationship between epic action and this reverie like space which actually holds every action and holds our minds together and what is the relationship between the two.
The humanity is male and man defines woman not in herself but as relative to him; she is not regarded as an autonomous being. Michelet writes: 'Woman, the relative being ...' And Benda is most positive in his Rapport d'Uriel: 'The body of man makes sense in itself quite apart from that of woman, whereas the latter seems wanting in significance by itself ... Man can think of himself without woman. She cannot think of herself without man.' And she is simply what man decrees; thus she is called 'the sex', by which is meant that she appears essentially to the male as a sexual being. For him she is sex – absolute sex, no less. She is defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her; she is the incidental, the inessential as opposed to the essential. He is the Subject, he is the Absolute – she is the Other.'
'Introduction: The Woman as the Other' by Simone De Beauvoir in 'The Second Sex' 1949, pp. 1.
To come to now the issue of gender, I go now to what in some ways when Mriganka said he was talking about the prison, what we find is the imagery of suffocation for example. I mean I find that very interesting. Something that I find in the East German video that Ranjit showed us. That there is a certain inability to come to terms with the masculine phallic quality of socialist architecture by a man and in some ways the suffocation produced by this interminable masculinity of that scale is producing a huge contradiction which is then shown as breathlessness, a certain kind of suffocation of the senses which relates to what Mriganka said that there is a prison house which is being created by capitalism, by foregounding a certain kind of masculine muscularity at the centre of action until the 1980s at least. And then it changes.
In the major classical genres, the female body is sexuality, providing the erotic object for the male spectator. In the woman's film, the gaze must be de-eroticized (since the spectator is now assumed to be female), but in doing this the films effectively disembody their spectator. The repeated masochistic scenarios effectively immobilize the female viewer. She is refused pleasure in that imaginary identification, which repeats for men the experience of the mirror phase. The idealized male screen heroes give back to the male spectator his more perfect mirror self, together with a sense of mastery and control. In contrast, the female is given only powerless, victimized figures who, far from perfect, reinforce the basic sense of worthlessness that already exists.
'Is the Gaze Male?' by E Anna Kaplan in 'Women and film: Both sides of camera', E.Anna Kaplan (ED) , 1983, pp.30.
So then this imagery of suffocation is, I think, a very important thing to think through in the terms of what Mriganka said about prison in this battle between action and saturation. I mean there is a certain kind of battle going on in art through these two kinds of movements. So I will show the last two pieces, actually talk about them, come to gender and finish off my presentation where actually two artists present their work through evocation of suffocation where one is escaping a certain identity of an action hero and that creates a suffocation because there is a huge crisis of identity and then within the suffocation there is a certain transformation possible. And within that world of suffocation we turn back into something else because there is no other way out. As the French philosopher Maurice Blanchot said when we are looking at the East German video, it seems that it really is what he said that man is looking for, is always searching for the voice of his mother which is something which is made very explicit in a film like 'La Jetee' which is very similar to the East German video that was shown where the suffocation of a man in a technocratic regime is redeemed in some ways by the female voice and there is a very interesting discourse going on about suffocation and the question of gender identities in a technocratic regime. So, we will watch the last two back to back again.
Der Herzschlag Des Anubis (1988) By Bettina Gruber/Maria Vedder:
In her essay on Der Herzschlag Des Anubis, Rosanne Alstatt says, "Der Herzschlag Des Anubis is a contemplation of the struggle of existence, death; and passing to the afterlife and was the climax of collaboration between Bettina Gruber and Maria Vedder. Anubis was made expressly for the television set or monitor, though video projection did exist at the time. For Gruber and Vedder, the television set would be the box and its screen the window into an interior space."
She continues, "In Anubis, the viewer peers into an illuminated world that plays out one of life's mysteries in four tableaux. Like the slides in a peepshow, each tableau presents a different scene, their creating a complex story through layers of symbols and associations. There is little movement but much implied action in the limited number of images that are interspersed between each other during the units of the story."
In the religion of ancient Egypt, Anubis is the god of the dead. This figure with the head of a dog or a jackal led the souls of the departed towards the west over the waters in the underworld. In a boustrophedonic choral dance, this image alternates with the décor of the world of Horus, the falcon whose eyes are the sun and the moon and whose wing tips touch the earth.
Rocking back and forth in a mythology of life and death we are confronted by two modern, parallel-conceived scenes. The breath of a reclining man activates a tooter with two feathers, a rhythmic musical ode to the ka, the winging pneuma, the soul ascending to its destination. In an other scene, this theme is brought to life with a metaphor from nature: after a successful chase, a hunting leopard claims the life of an antelope. Though this is not exactly a tale, Gruber and Vedder make use of the human instinct to form a narrative from sparse bits of information thus coaxing the viewer to fill in the gaps between the images while increasing the video's sense of mystery and hidden meaning
1988| 'Der Herzschlag Des Anubis: Bettina Gruber and Maria Vedder' 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), 2004, pp. 234, 236.
Buffalo Billy + Milly (2000) By Rosemarie Trockel:
In her essay on Buffalo Billy + Milly, Doris Krystof says, "In Rosemarie Trockel's complex work, video and film function as equals alongside other media. Since the early 1980's by combining media, Trockel has been addressing themes such as identity and aesthetics, the relationship of the individual to the group, forms of consciousness, perception and recognition, as well as relationship between human beings and other animals."
She continues, "Trockel's cinematic work is frequently characterized by a laconic abbreviation and highly unassuming production. What Trockel finds most appealing about the film medium is its simplicity, and so she subjects it to an enormous reduction of complexity. Trockel's films usually evolve without a script and are based on ideas quick to transpose."
Further, she says, "The short video work Buffalo Billy + Milly refers to Trockel's entire body of work. She brings together different strands of concepts and weaves lines of thought, together with the exploration of identity and questioning the specific consciousness of animals. The video's concise form makes it seem like a cinematic caprice, teeming with lightness, hidden meaning and rules of its own."
....."The discrepancy between the completion and reworking of the film can also be observed in Buffalo Billy + Milly. What are clearly carelessly shot filmed images hold precisely to the rhythm of the music, and the use of digital-image processing program allows for an additional estranging effect on the visual level: the film becomes an entirely covered by a drawing-like structure and is reminiscent of the grain of wood, the coats of animals, and sometimes knitted material. The video was shot at locations, and with people, from the artist's personal sphere. The videotape of a somnambulant parade of animals was developed as a contribution to the exhibition shown at the Stadische Galerie Karlsruhe in the year 2000. Carried by suggestive music edited to an endless loop, a rhythmic sequence of puzzling images evolves in which actors disguised as animals give short individual performances. During the course of their masquerade, each of the friendly creatures acts out a short drama, which usually ends with looking directly into the camera for a moment."
2000| 'Buffalo Billy + Milly: Rosmarie Trockel' 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), 2004, pp. 306, 311.
I guess very fascinating pieces of the transformation in medium that video is. And I mean to finish of, I mean meditations, the kind of binaries that I have been working with if only to kind of set up a field and then deconstruct them.
One is that... coming back to the logic of suffocation which is very present in both of the films. There is a nocturnal scene in the Vedder and Gruber film where it is very explicitly marked out as a scene where you are in your coffin, where you are hardly breathing. And that is leading to all kinds of transformations and exchanges of identity, between human beings and animals and so on and so forth. So there is that space where transformation can happen under this welter of heightened stimulation, where you are driven to a stupor and all kinds of qualities are then mixed in that stupor. The Trockel film, which I would have played as a counterpoint to Robert Wilson, again deals with a very similar world. But the point that I wanted to make there was that this logic of saturation that Trockel is working with again. She is saturating the frame and there is no action possible which is being saturated materially and so on and so forth to produce the suffocatory logic to the eyes. The eye is used to action, now you stop the action. And now you suffocate them and then transformations can happen. Grotesque things happen and you can see that gender transformations are not really happening because they are all going grotesque.
Rosemarie Trockel is an artist who works with every conceivable medium and form. Her previous, continually changing ambivalent oeuvre, shot through arcane refernces to art history, might at first appear to be not from a single hand, and yet numerous self references are detectable.
Trockel likes to take her as her subject matter anthropological and scientific phenomena. She investigates patterns of thoughts and behaviour and her videos suggest the empirical approach of scientific observation and study.
Trockel's reputation was established by knitted images first shown at 1985 at the Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn, which were, and still are, a provocation to the art world. Abstract patterns or familiar symbols – such as the Playboy rabbit, hammer and stick or woolmark – were introduced in the knitted image as integral parts of the picture support. By choosing the material of yarn and the activity of knitting, considered typically female, Trockel set out to test the validity of this underrated medium in the context of fine art.
At the same time, she subverted the issue by having each one-off image industrially by the computer, rather than creating it by the hand. This ran counter not only to the classical idea of painting, but also to accepted methods of mass production.
'Rosemarie Trockel' by Uta Grosenick in 'Women artists in the 20th and 21st Century', 2001, pp. 517.
Now there is a very interesting move that Trockel makes from a very rural landscape to an urban one at the end. And that I find fascinating because that...and then love is possible, there is possibility of love when that transformation happens. And that really brings out the point that I have been making that the relationship between cinema, video and the battle of scales is really kind of being worked out through some kind of implication, usual implication of scales and categories of life as anthropological theory, or sociological theory or historical theory has traditionally used. It is this mixing that is very interesting that is happening under this logic of suffocation where the rural moves into the city as the ghetto and the last scene could be a scene on a street in LA. And therefore, the so-called regional kind of imagery that Robert Wilson uses or Trockel uses which is a very regional imagery. It is all about Mid-West America and what happens there and there is a song that is playing which could easily be used in a David Lynch film or in an album by Frank Zappa.
The genesis of Rosemarie Trockel's world of images was initiated by machine made knitted pictures and Minimalist over-hotplate objects. Under investigation at that time, set against the backdrop of the neo-Expressive painting style that dominated the 1980's , was whether traditional themes with connotations to women's handcraft and household chores could be transferred to the sphere of art.
Sweaters as well as knitted clothing and fashions expanded the score of motifs, and wool became an artistic medium in every possible variety. The spectrum ranged from wool pictures to wool sculpture, from balls of material positioned in spaces to drawings of stitch formations.
Wool represents an important structural motif in the cinematic works as well. The wool thread serves not only as a working material for Trockel, but also as a significant vehicle for the work's development in an act of metaphorical transference, whose effect reached as far as the linguistic usage of its reception. For this reason, Trockel's complexly operating articulations are frequently described as heavily branched densities, in view of noticing the repeated loss of an underlying thread or leitmotif.
2000| 'Buffalo Billy + Milly: Rosmarie Trockel' 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), 2004, pp. 307, 308.
I mean there that resolution, that irony is resolved in some ways in the last ghetto scene where there is a kind of, weird kind of reconciliation that happens. And in all this, therefore, the movement and again the point about gender will be made by contrasting this with Rebecca Horn which will be the most important piece that I could have shown is just to finish of with certain questions that we can think about is that this relationship between violence and androgyny and so on and so forth whether we have been thinking about queer theory that is now on the rise. And somewhere I feel that looking at video art and its relationship with cinema and looking at the entire spectrum of moving images and how they have worked out this battle of scales might start to give us an idea as to how the queering of human existence has happened through a certain kind of relationship with a very turbulent period in our history. And I think that a film like Trockel's really shows the logic by which a certain kind of radical, politically and socially radical kinds, would produce a pressure within which, then as I say, that gender then becomes a randomly distributed set of sensory attributes which you can't any longer place in one body. But it kind of goes in various directions, in the kind of disitenation that you see in both the Vedder-Gruber film and Rosemarie Trockel's. So that will be all. Thank you.
Expert 3: Yeah, that measuring ability makes the whole (?) and definitely that's the whole ... why.. the whole idea of static and movement that were you know, inside the train and you're looking at the whole scenario... you know, movement. That makes a whole, kind of, anxious movement. Now, we need to extend that, I would say that probably that one direct application of something which is completely opposite.. like that was definitely we never spelt out, but, probably we're asking and I need to take.. When the space in which we have started it was on a ferry. Probably, one thing also thought, the whole antithesis of also stationary or you know, wing on the continent grounds. So, certain thing cannot be... you cannot answer it, because you cannot come out of those categories. So it is also something which is on a flux, which is also on a space which is not stationary. You need to move, you need to be very shaky about it. So, its not prominent. I look at it as the whole again.. starting of the space is also.. I looked at it past the one year. I am not being rude to any of my... I see that this is my work. Probably its good... the thing itself is I see it's dumb.. from the river you see the land and that gives you much more opportunity to look at you know... the images of war, looking at train and the horizon...
Just trained into your landscape... whatever overcomes your writing power.
Kaushik: Just an idea that Daniel had said... a great philosopher... the hole and the locomotive and capitalist locomotive that kind of (?) audacity between the speech and the image. And not just (?) that there's an escape and you know the more you try to accomplish the capitalists bring it down and you are just... escaping from this relentlessly moving capital and doing something which is always a negative counterpoint but in a creative manner.. what's going on inside the capitalist (?).
Shaina: In a way to end we have overshot by almost an hour. But, since I have my notepad on I have scribbled a line.