To See Is To Change: Discussion, Day 1
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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.
The discussion panelists included Kaushik Bhaumik, Vice President, Osian's - Connoisseurs of Art, Ranjit Hoskote, cultural theorist, poet and curator, and Mriganka Madhukaillya, co-founder of Desire Machine collective.
Shaina: It's really sad we won't have Kaushik with us tomorrow but...he guess has mentioned both the Rebecca Horn film and the Robert Wilson film, which we will be screening in full. We will miss you Kaushik but we'll try to carry this conversation forward. We're open to... just come closer and let's not go by the write and submit but let's just take questions and discussion.
Queen's Mansion, Chemould Prescott Rd, Mumbai
Ashok: As a moderator I have two roles, one is to pull the sofas closer and the other is to suggest that this is also an opportunity to implicate ourselves in some of the questions that we looked at here. So it's also an opportunity to ask other questions that are not perhaps asked here... the people are here and they're here from all around and we can open up the discussion into a broader one.
Audience Member 1: There's danger at the back!
Kaushik: Lets' put off the AC at least!
Ashok: Now the real fire is a very far away. It's nice that you are sharing one sofa.
Ashok: So, we already have a question and let's do it this way. I don't actually need this mic.
Sebastian: It's maybe as much a question rather an observation... 40 years of German video art is quite a daunting task. You can only be lucky that it's not for 400 years of German video art. That does not work for technical reasons but also not for political reasons. Cannot be 40 because then it starts at a period of time that is not so problematic because video is also a good medium because at this kind of 40 years scope up of history. It's a daunting task and I'm still quite happy after the presentations and after the screenings because a couple of things actually became visible. And like the three speakers managed to... maybe just by leaving out 95% of 40 years German video art naturally, logically, and... focussing on a few things to make a couple of things visible and I don't have much... I can't offer much abstraction... there's just a few observations a couple of patterns that became clear.
It is not until 1968 that the chronology of institutionalized video art presentation continues; but then it is on a broader scale for complex reasons.
On one hand, art became increasingly dematerialized, moving away from material objects and thus eluding the grasp of commerce and the art market; on the other hand, it remained open to life, reality, and consumer society and thematicized popular and media related issues in a powerful way.
Video art and institutions: The First Fifteen Years' by Wulf Herzogenrath in 40 Years Video Art De. Digital Heritage: Video Art in Germany from 1963 to the present, Rudolf Frieling/ Wulf Herzogenrath (EDS), pp. 22.
Sebastain: Like in the first three videos this kind of ... espeically 'Geld' by Malaria and this cave... these walls... that later on ... in a slightly different fashion reappear in the Bettina Gruber / Maria Vedder video, [where] you also have this brick wall... its not that gothic cave anymore. There was definitely something gothic about it. These dark... I think there's something dark that runs through many videos. The Body Inside the Body (Korper im Korper) by Jorg Herold... which is also dark. In a way, many of these videos if you take them together then they're not videos that seem to, want to represent the state. They're quite... quite... some of the tasks, they're quite small and some of the tools they have used are quite obscure. Which brings me to the one point would maybe be an abstraction which is that ... 40 years of video art is the proposal. So the one historic rupture is not the one of... Even though it was very good when it was introduced... like, it took a French film to show that image of the concentration camp that is by choice absent from 40... only 40 years of German video art.
Sebastian: This cannot be the rupture. To me it seems the rupture is also visible in these films. Especially, that the rupture is not 1968, which people would assume, but actually 1977 punk. The biggest rupture in the German culture that happened in that period. You see it quite clearly in that video. Most of the videos we have seen were post-punk, so you've seen punk. And these two fabulous structural examples like the square and the circle we've seen... these were actually the two pre-punk videos. What happens with punk, you can see... you can see that space, you can see it obviously with Malaria which through the music more connected to punk. But, then all the other videos, especially the two last ones... these strange animals, projection of animals... on the animals... people in animal costumes...the dark spaces, the gothic spaces... the best example maybe, the one that which is the least likely is the East German one. Of this, the reputation of this....
Sebastian: ...very, very small sub-set of basic vocabulary but also the limitation to a very small sub-sets of filtered space. This kind of reduction... of the certain reduction to very basic things and very basic articulations which is one of the... one of the aspects of punk. You see, even the two last films I would consider because of the motifs of the nature and animals. I would rather consider them hippie films which would then be the other pre-punk kind of thing. But even then have to in this kind of cultural place and moment in time they appeared art-punk films. Even though they have this kind of nature and animal troupe, they are punk... it would have to be developed more but there is one thing I thought became visible. It was something one could see... in this kind of... moment in time. And maybe only tomorrow with much more recent works you see it maybe in a new rupture... that doesn't have a four letter name yet.
The gaze is both a metaphoric concept in film criticism and an integral part of film construction. Laura Mulvey first introduced the idea that men look at women in film with a sadistic voyeurism which is assisted by dominating male characters and a symbolic fetishization of women's sexuality (Mulvey, 1975). Mulvey argues that classic cinema creates the illusion, through a complicated system of point-of-view, that the male spectator is sharing the gaze of the male character thus women become objectified erotic objects existing in films simply as recipients of the male gaze.
The eroticization of women on screen comes about through the way the cinema is structured around three explicitly male looks or gazes: there is the look of the camera in the situation being filmed (called the pro filmic event); while technically neutral, this look, is inherently voyeuristic and usually "male" in the sense that a man is generally doing the filming; there is the look of the men within the narrative, which is structured so as to make women objects of their gaze; and finally there is the loom of the male spectator which imitates the first two looks.
Men do not simply look; their gaze carries with the power of action and of possession which is lacking in the female gaze. Women receive and return a gaze, but cannot act upon it. The sexualization and objectification of women is not simply for the purposes of eroticism: It is designed to annihilate the threat that woman (as castrated and possessing a sinister genital organ) poses.
'Introduction: Woman as the other' by Simone de Beauvoir in 'The Second Sex' , 1949, pp. 1.
'Is the Gaze Male?' by E Anna Kaplan in 'Women and film: Both sides of camera', E.Anna Kaplan (ED) , 1983, pp.30.
Since its brief moment of 'pure' explosion three decades ago, punk has rippled continuously and dynamically through popular culture, testifying to, and perhaps outdoing, the power of the original power chords.
During the beginning of the punk phase, the state security responded with drastic measures against the activists of the scene. A little later, the punk wave reached the artistic underground which was receptive to its rebellious, archaic, multi disciplinary attitude. This trend, aptly described by Christoph Tannert as 'the cement between basement and artist loft' led to a blending of and mutual inspiration by different milieus and left its mark on underground artists.
'Independent film in East Germany before and after 1989' by Claus Loser in 'After the Avant Garde: contemporary German and Austrain experimental film', Randall Halle, Reinhild Steingrover (EDS), 2008, pp. 101.
In 'The Birds' as a mother's love, Margaret Horwitz offers a heterosexual, Oedipal reading that posits the bird attack as symbols of a mother's desire to punish her son for his sexual desire for another woman. Also pursuing an interest in the film's complex of desire, rather than representing an oedipal desire, the birds actually work to block or mask the unconscious desire in the triangle of Lydia, Mitch and Melanie, particularly when the latter threatens to undermine the mother's fragile superego.
What is really being blocked is the fluidity of gender in the film's characters; in other words, Melanie's 'punishment' arises from Mitch's denial of his own feminine identifications.
'The Birds and Hitchcock's Hyper-Romantic Vision' by John P McCombe in 'The Hitchcock Reader', Marshall Deutelbaum, Leland Poague (EDS), 2009, pp. 265
Kaushik: I mean, I think that's exactly... that's why I referred to the... referred to that video because I think that's the thing that you know...that these Germans think... it's this body that's beating so hard that it would bring the buildings down. So that projection of a heartbeat... so that, you know... brings the buildings down. And it's some kind of great reaction to the logic of individuation of the capitalism... where you are driven to certain kind of loneliness, which is happening in the city in, say, Malaria performing in Berlin. But it's also happening in the Mid-West, you know, the (?) film. I think that really did kind of set up the argument that I was trying to make. That, there is a meditation not only of violence but also on the structures of the mind how they are changing under this logic of individuation, relentless individuation that capitalism forces upon the individual. Punk, I think, is absolutely. I mean punk and gothic are related because you know... that we've seen... the band that we've seen will be... what? Will be punk? Gothic?
Jitish: Just quick notes... I mean, these are notes which you could use for tomorrow perhaps. But I thought that... something Nancy brought up and we could get ...sort of clusters of artifacts from one nation and from her sort of words ... I derive two words.. you know the notion of patience and the notion of...of, of... forget the second word (laughs) But at least a certain kind of alertness when clusters of artifacts come together... and how do we approach them. And I was just trying to bring in ... say... the figure of Beuys and the figure of Baselitz... which we could probably use tomorrow. As we look at larger number of artifacts from the time and both of them work... and also the kind of expressionist image-making that continues even today with, say, sort of younger practicioners ... the angry young men...you know Jonathon Meese or Taller or Daniel Richeter... So that might be one against which we could look at ... you know figures like Olar Breuning perhaps... you know... who make some other kinds of imagery. And then to Kaushik, in terms of scaling... a sort of reverse question perhaps. To look at some of the heroism in television, perhaps through the idea of impact. And also the notion of the panorama that television holds which we otherwise don't tend to think when we think of television is perhaps the sort of space between the host and guest and the conversation and the images that flicker as content... you know... and do we have another kind of panorama, another kind of heroic and epic that's played out in what appears episodic and flicker.
In the 1970's many women concerned themselves with the problem of representation. They saw in the mass consumption of gender specific imagery a major obstacle to establishing an emancipated female identity and sought to reclaim the body as a site of female subjectivity instead of having it serve as a canvas for the projection of make desires.
It was therefore paramount to disrupt and subvert the accepted languages of representation in advanced information societies.
Both Body Artists and female video artists demonstrated in their works that just as gender was not biologically determined but socially constructed, there existed no natural sign of the body but only ideologically charged representations of it.
Video turned out to be a useful tool for deconstructing the dominant discourses of femininity because the displayed images on the monitor resembled those on the TV screen.
'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. 324.
The first generation of German video artists were specifically influenced by one central figure: Joseph Beuys. Beuys is perhaps the best example of an artist in the 1960's in Germany whose work tried to change the society.
Rather than adopting a purely formal and aesthetic perception of art, he developed a concept of social sculpture that includes the kind of human action that is directed at structuring and shaping the society. Beuys calls it the social organism. When seen in this way, art is not just a material artifact: it is also, above all, action designed to have social consequences.
Beuy's idea of relating artistic creativity to sociopolitical activities revived the social utopia of the historical avant garde.
'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. 82.
Kaushik: I think what you are saying is something that's absolutely... something I was thinking about it... that heroism... that's why I said that the locomotive-mole argument is not so easy to make. Because after a point it's very hard to say that cinema actually turns out to be slower medium than television and video. Actually television and video is the medium that really starts to move very fast now with of course digital technology. It moves much faster than cinema. And cinema of course has never been able to keep up with that kind of avant-gardism that has happened at the local level. So therefore, I am trying to probabatise... I am not, in fact... I'm trying to kind of think through... this battle of course up to a certain phase in history... I mean the 70's, 80's. And after that I think things really change in the 90's. That the relationship has reversed. Until then, I think there's still some kind of give and take happening between the two scales.
Kaushik: And then, at some point... you know... cinema can adapt to television upto a certain point... like I think a lot like of the 1970's American avant-garde cinema came out of television. Scorcese wouldn't have been possible without television. But, I think I'll leave it at an indeterminate stage that ... you know, the televisual images and the panorama and the kind of... other kinds of images which are not to do with experimentation and are not to do with thinking through movement in a radical kind of avant-garde way. Say like when Mriganka was saying he wanted to say Apeechatpong from Thailand where that kind of imagery would fit in, both a video installation artist and filmmaker on 35mm. That I think I see as some kind of an escape from this binary and starts to produce some other world which I think is becoming quite important. And how that world will be worked through in relationship betwen video and cinema is I think what we are looking at now. When a director like Apeechatpong comes along, I think that's exactly what is being shown. I think Sebastian mentioned that there's some other kind of rupture that's happening that might not have a four-letter word yet. But I think that rupture is coming out of certain televisual practices that have been happening parallel to what I said. Which have now kind of started to produce artistic images which were not possible... the documentary. So when you look at documentary and you look at Apeechatpong and you say 'Oh! Apeechatpong is making an artistic documentary in a certain narrative style.' Now, that I think is a huge rupture from the (?) I am talking about. There's an escape, a lateral escape from binary which seems to me (?) People are sick and tired of people, say 'Out with it'.Maybe that's what's happening. That's my speculation.
Rana: I have a question about fact and detail in your presentation Ranjit... I was wondering if you could just say little bit more about what you meant by voice and language and how one became the other. Were you speaking truly about sound and the human voice or was it a certain kind of metaphor for a formal shift that you saw in these pieces?
The video camera encodes and transmits pictures electronically, directly and without time delay into monitors. As such, the process is different from film, which fixes image chemically on an oxide coated plastic carrier and makes them visible to the naked eye. Video sequences can be simultaneously recorded and played back; film, on the other hand, required time consuming and often costly laboratory processing before the images recorded can be viewed.
'From Video Art to Video Performance: The work of Ulrike Rosenbach' by Gunter Berghaus in 'Avant Garde Film' by Alexander Graf, Dietrich Scheunemann, 2007, pp. 321.
Ranjit: Yeah, let me try to revisit what I was saying. I think specifically what seized my attention there was the spectrum of possibilities...especially in the Herold. I think what I was thinking of was a conetxt where silence or dissimulation was crucial to survival. What kind of level do you have to bear down to, to say something and still has valency. I think that's the kind of question I was grappling with. So, it wasn't actually a formulation. I was throwing it out a field that one would explore further. Because I think brief and condensed and powerful as that film is it really needs to be visited again and again. So, that's the sort of domain I was looking at it. Because on one hand what seems to happen is that the voice there actually renounces articulation. It's either the breath of a prisoner or a fugitive, someone who is running out... actually literally, running out of breath. And in that sort of condition throwing out this alphabet of possible forms. So, that's what I was really looking at. I mean, what sort of poetry emerges from that bare tongue, almost destroyed emission of language, where there's no complicated articulation. What am I saying? There's no attempt to produce anything in the nature of a complex, linguistic encounter with the word. There are just these bursts, very, very specific... almost material. And out of that in an unspoken way emerges a view of the world. I mean, that's what happens to me when I see that. Does that respond to your...?
Many of the early video-art tapes were produced by painters and sculptors who had switched time-based art in the wake of the Happening and the Fluxus movement. The production of electronic images offered an alternative to canvas and easel, just as cinema had challenged previous generation of artists. Videomakers continued the process of 'dematerialization of art' – to use a term coined by Lucy Lippard – which had been started by the Dadaists and developed further by the Action Painters of the 1950's. In the 1970's, video art was often related to Conceptualism, as electronic images were considered 'art ideas' rather than physical 'art objects'.
'From Video Art to Video Performance: The work of Ulrike Rosenbach' by Gunter Berghaus in 'Avant Garde Film' by Alexander Graf, Dietrich Scheunemann, 2007, pp. 322.
Rana: Yeah, yeah it does.
Ranjit: There is also the other thing that struck me about that particular piece.. it's that you hardly ever see anything in the nature of an ecology. You know, what you see is built form and agressive built form. The built form always suggests closure, incarceration, surveillance, motion that is very, very controlled, I mean those are the kinds of things that come across. That's the texture of everyday life there. So it seems to me that the only way that this disembodied self can actually lead beyond this agressive built form and move to something more cosmic or more inclusive is through the space and threatened resource of the voice. So those are the kinds of thoughts I had. Does that answer your question?
Rana: Yeah, while I was thinking about it, I also made an observation which struck me the first time and also this time... which is the order of things because you see a sign that says 'zone', etc, etc. You see a window, it says 'fenster' and you begin to ask youself what is the relationship between these things? Is he seeing an image and naming it? Is he being tested in some way for the recognition of objects? And then comes... what I think is a unique thing where he says 'frau'. And there is no woman on the screen but one appears after that... as if he is some broken through the order of things and managed to produce images of his own (?). The screen becomes a phantasmatic space that is well constructed as well. (?)
Ranjit: Yeah, but there is, there are moments where... eventually he begins to anticipate things that then show up. Or there are moments where, I think at one point, he says 'zone' but actually what you see is the burst of light in the window. So, there's a kind of variation that was out all time. It's in that sense what I meant that you know he begins to make his world out of these things. Because eventually the permutations do change. It goes from description, hanging on to the bearings in a strange world to a point where out of these very austere resources, he achieves some kind of control of where he is. I suspect that that is one of the movements of in this piece.
Shaina: I just wanted to tie in with what Jitish said and Kaushik's response. I think that point is well taken to address these boys... I'm not sure of Baselitz, I don't come from that kind of art practice. And I think we will address heroic acts tomorrow. Short-lived ones perhaps but video as a medium in the 60's and 70's brought with it the belief of being ablet to do a lot of things, utopia. And ironically and sadly, television did. It was video and television as a medium that suddenly began to inform artists. And post-Fluxus this is where they were going to be able to articulate a lot of their actions. And, as, we'll see maybe tomorrow some here hugely short-lived and we won't address them anymore because it's post 80's and post 90's... like where we are.
Shaina: So yeah, Kaushik, there's cinema and video practice but there is artists coming from fine arts traditions of painting and sculpture in the 60's and 70's move into performance... and video... and have this very short-lived... both in America and Germany... committments in dealing with broadcast audience, television audience... I mean, the Marcel Odenbach film comes on TV. What we have in the last ten years... whoever will see the documentary turn. And I really appreciate the films Mriganka brought into this because he looked back and he looked in front and looked outside of the package. In our conversation about representation, Mriganka, after Kaushik finishes, I'd like you to maybe pose for us some of the challanges, like you mentioned, in fact, you brought the cinema and video artists in Iran Makhmalbaf and his gentle, poetic realism was Shirin Neshat's extravagant exoticism, sort of...
In the 1970's and 80's the exploration of television images was dominated by progressive, political intentions. Analysis focused on the construction and manipulative potential of images disseminated publicly and through the mass media.
The video works of Ulrike Rosenbach, Klaus Vom Bruch, and Marcel Odenbach formulate elaborate analysis and critiques not only of mass media and art, but of politics and culture in the broader sense. Their topics refer to the relationships of the artists with post-war German society by recycling found footage from the televised archive. They were also a part of the 'social movement' in Germany which sought a new fusion of social policy and artistic practice in the zeitgeist of the 1970's and under the influence of the German critical aesthetic theories.
'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. 93.
Rosenbach stages the female body using estranged images of motion, with an altered and extended radius of actions. The space in which this action takes place is the virtual, technically manipulated space provided by the medium of video. Thus her works are based not on an aesthetic premise of a previously existing and immediate physicality, which technical media can record but not adequately capture, but in fact on explicit interaction of physical acts with technical conditions and potential.
Consequently, the often emphasized aspects of self presentation and self mirroring and thus the exploration of artistic or female identity do not fade into the background of work.
'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. 87.
Kaushik: Yeah I think that's what not showing Rebecca Horn was a great, great problem because I would have come to that issue through Horn. I mean, in some ways there are two herioc moments in the late 60's and 70's. One is peformance art and then there's other which is political art... which is political cinema which is being produced on video. I mean these are two different forms of heroism but they are somewhere related. I mean there is a certain connection I mean between the worlds that are making it, and there's a certain tacit kind of political linkages between these two words and... those worlds I think talk about explicitly because I think they are mediators of a certain passage for me. I mean, they are sign of the certain passing of a certain order and there's a transitional phase that happens through the politics of a class, politics of a certain generation, of traditions, of the 70's and 80's.
I think the 70's are still in some ways a cultural enigma for me. I still have to come to terms with it as a historic because so much was possible and so little was under that. In the 70's at least in terms of technology and in terms of democratisation of technology, India had its greatest decade in the 20th century history. There was the density of cultural production that happened... the ability of the people to move in the streets with speak and talk about things, being censored but able to fight very intelligent battles with the authorities and winning the battles. And starting off new institutions which were to kind of see some great glorius years between 1975 and 1985 for example. And then after '85 everything changes. And that I think is a generation which we have to visit through the polarities of the kind of things that I have spoken about. I think what you are saying, I completely agree with you on that.
In the 1970's the most important of the television related post-utopian strategies were the analytical deconstruction of the mass medium using resources of art; an approach to television that abandons exclusivity of artistic purism to some extent; the subversive strategy of artistic occupation of niches in expanding media landscape; and a direct cooperation with television to develop innovative media techniques.
Ulrike Rosenbach, Marcel Odenbach and others are working toward a new function for mass media, changing the representational processes and visual languages of film and above all television. At the same time, most of their videos are aimed at linking personal and social experience.
'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. 93.
Performance art offered possibly the most perfect medium of artistic communion because life and art came together in a shared or even collective 'happening'. In live art, no artifact stood between the artist and the audience and no object remained after the event to be collected, sanctioned and sanctified by the critics, historians and collectors controlling the art establishment.
'The art context: the death of the art object' by Willoughby Sharp in Video art: A guided tour, Catherine Elwes, University of Arts, London (ED), 2005, pp. 6.
Mriganka: ...selected was a little like two films look like one room and the last film... that's why it was also a reason. I think last time when we... I was able to see the film in your space, what really struck me, the whole idea, you know, that whole idea of documentary and coming, bringing documentary into gallery spaces or discussing about all that. Actually last month I encountered a new kind of term and actually I'm still baffled. It's something called art documentary. So I said, you know, probably one is art documentary... like... because... I think I also had like about discussion...like a lot of... even Indian video artistes... like I was organising the screening and I said, 'Ok, experimental and if grunge perhaps.' Experimental video of Kiran Subbaiah. So he said I wouldn't want experimental. Don't write (experimental). Write home videos. And, I think the whole idea of video art or documentary... I think the notions, I think we are confronting is the idea of representation, because even in a documentary, you take it for granted... specifically in the case of Tehran or Iran it was like... before it was taken down, I think a lot of ruptures happened really within Iran.. like probably before... I knew about this war.. probably what stands in contrast to like... Mohsen Makhmalbaf or Shirin Neshat or those kind of productions... like, somebody like Abbas Kiarostami like... say very specifically...like... some of his work really sends out ... some of the challenges which video art proposes or trying to give... facilitate those kind of representation.. probably to give anything of... Taste of Cherry<?i>
Mriganka: So, you're trying to liberate and like... you see the outcomes and at the end of it.. like even mainstream, like David Lynch... you see those kind of experimenters. And it's very interesting that maybe... I don't know whether it is little questionable, whether video art influencing the whole notions of representation or within the film itself, within the film language itself there is a whole problem that's developing. For example, as Kaushik has said Apeechatpong... it's very interesting when he is in Venice Biennale as an artist and at the same person going to some Interfilm film festival as a fiction filmmaker from Thailand. So, you know.. his position, it is quite an interesting one and I think to give a very personal link to Tehran in 1980's and why it really struck me and made me want to choose it was actually... four years ago when I again... we are in the North-East, I am from the North-East, so the whole problemtics start working... when you start working with visual and it's a whole notion of representation. Am I going to get trapped with... you know, stuck with? So we started making a film on Guwahati, a film on a city and you know... it was... because nobody funded it so I was open to using those kind of...
(Audience asks another question which is not recorded)
Kaushik: True, I mean, to follow up on what Shaina asked... enigmatic because it does come down to the question of audience. (cut) ... world where, I mean, the relationship between live performance or a live, political act and television of course is very interesting. And the fact that now that is replaced by a screen and all that representation can happen and all that abstraction can happen is fantastic. The feeling is stunning. Because space dissapears on the screen. The audience also dissapears alongside that. The screen somehow seems to replace that space when it's possible. There's a relentless evolution going on at the background. Now it's coming to the border. Because what is now... kind of cutting edge was happening on the margins of imaging practices (cut) now it seems that it's tipped over into something. The avant-garde has come in the foreground. What's the difference between a mass audience and an avant-garde audience? Hard to say. Whereas it seems that the world of Apeechatpong seems to be a continuation of that older political cinema by some other name, that's getting over of the foreground and the background. It's what I find interesting.
Shaina: This background is... was made for broadcast. And till the end of '69.. at the end of the last telecast in Germany and France and some other countries in Europe, this played on loop for about, I don't know the humming (?) means but they played... IFNA.. which was television as a biopic. So, here's the potential to reach out... like Rana was saying yesterday... not just to Germany but all of Europe and France and it took collaborations with state... television... you know... it's just... here's an idea, here's a herioc act..
Zasha: I'm not really sure who I'm going to address the question to but I was wondering if you could talk a bit about who was seeing these films and where they were being seen. I'm sure it'll be different for each film... (unclear) I was also wondering if you could connect it to another questions about how television, at one point, was the place for avant-garde cinema. You were talking about heroics happening through television right now, but I'm not sure if that's really heroic in the avant-garde sense. I think it's there's a difference between kind of sentimental heroic, that... (cut)
Ranjit: I think that comes from... I don't know if resistance is the right word... but there's still kind of East German critical position to have wider acceptance in a certain circuit of art-making. That's been the general (?)
Kaushik: Well, I mean historically if we look at this spectrum of production... there really is no gap between what was happening in television and what started happening in galleries... because it's very clear what happened in the 1960's '70s, say around '75. That you know, artists would go over the television centres, present their work and say, 'We want to do this.' And then logically a new space would be created where that work can be shown. I think that the heroism on the part of the artist will get spilt over the space. So it will be very difficult to say whether what happened in television was really heroic or not. Rather you see it as a spectrum of practices which needs to keep things happening, because television becomes conservative and... it always was.
Kaushik: I think the more interesting thing is to ask why did television become even that much radical from that point of view of who was holding on in the reins of power and why was it that between 1969 and '75 you have radical experiments in India? And it would be hard not tosee that Bhuvan Shome
not coming out of the experimental insights or experiments and so on and so forth. In the same period, Mozambique invites Godard to set up its television, the entire television network. Why doesn't this period and its people think that you should get Jean-Luc Godard to set up the television. I think this kind of thinking on behalf of the nation-state is (?) in my imagination. And that I think has to be constructed to get to the point that... you are looking at. And I don't think we've still got the answers to that. I mean there's populous argument that is made that Madhav Prasad also makes about Hindi cinema that it was part of the government trying to actually radicalise people through a certain kind of shock treatment through radical images. But, well, I mean that doesn't answer all aspects of this development around that period. And after that, it slips, of course, into independent direction... it goes into crisis, was in a complete stupor... And then re-emerges in the '90's through a certain different channel and all kinds of other agencies. Would you like to add?
Mriganka: I would like to answer a small instance which I just remembered because opportunity looks in television offers... so like... there's a film... like.. I was .. I am answering to what I said regarding the whole thing... There's a film... it's a incomplete film by Eisentein in Mexico... it's called Que Viva Mexico
. And it was not really shown... because of it's problematic things on Mexico and all other things. And after... I don't know how many years... after 70 or 80 years... an American rockband called Rage Against the Machine... they put those footages and they made a music video. Till then that film was not accessible. And it was about Japanese stars who went and creating those found footage. Now that's also a create an opportunity like (?) television created an opportunity to see even using those footages and in a different light. I mean it's a different kind of interaction. I don't know what that fits into but later... the extend into a different rupture like the music video offers... like.. more or less I also see... with respect to that video 'Geld', I see also that many more underground images can be televised and shown very easily. Like the whole internal connection between surrealist and makers of music videos. Like one see very easily Chris Cunningham or Bjork... those kind of... you know... interesting propositions.
Kaushik: I think there's a very interesting book by a man called Tom Frank (?) about.. It makes a very interesting argument about the music industry in America. He said that one has to take into account that the music between '67 and '75 was produced by (?) who actually have very radical life styles. So therefore it is not just that capitalism is outside of the personalities who are quite radical. So that's a very interesting argument to follow through, through the politics of generation and how they are brought into power and how they transform above the years. I think we have had a too kind of historical... view of capitalism and not really looked at personalities... who these chaps were, what they were trying to do. And I think that plays a very important point.. that you know, these record executives at Warner Brothers sitting in LA, were very funky people and they wanted funky music. They just got the people who they liked and that was how it happened And yet it becomes (?) capital and that's what Frank said, that's the interesting thing, that's where the challenge lies. To seize when that generation walks into the capitalist trap in a certain way and gets destrotyed.
Nancy: Just one thing and it will recur in the questions... and this is addressed to Kaushik. I think something that I missed while you were talking about the forms of art by women is the production of space and its corrollary, the production of self... In terms of women artists, who use performance art in 70's. And I think that perhaps somewhere you missed out on the discourse of gender as it was played out, why these women artists who used their own agency to deconstruct the male gaze, who, in the case of Ulrike Rosenbach, for instance, she incarcerates herself in very Brechtian chalk circle. But what she used, she uses the idiom of whirling dervish as we know the dervish tradition is one of dissolving the self, creating a transcendental self and dissolving the self into the divine. And also the fact that she uses this idea of... the gown which she actually wears is the dancing gown for the ball. So there's a kind of melding of various traditions... of ball dancing, of whirling dervish and as I said the Brechtian chalk circle in which she finds herself is a kind of incarcerated male gaze. But she doesn't return it because the whole technique of this Rosenbach video was that they shot with the mirror on the top and with cameras around it. So you have this whole triangular thing, the camera, the viewer and the dancer. I think that perhaps you to talk little about this as well which within the larger discorses of cinema and video art and scale model... (unclear)
Rosenbach's videos display the revocation, the rejection of coherent visibility and clichéd representation of the female body. However, this is not done primarily in order to avoid voyeuristic reception, but rather to counter a receptive attitude known in film theory terminology as 'suture'.
The term refers to the technically evoked illusionistic identification with what is shown, achieved especially through the impression of coherence and closure. Instead Rosenbach's works display a formal aesthetic interest in a different way of representing body images that is undermined by a performative restaging.
In this way she fills a gap between performative presentation and media recording methods, between the revelation and concealment of the body and its masked representation, between the availability and revocation of what is shown. This underlying subversive trait of her videos can be regarded as the true point of reference to performative aesthetics.
'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, 87.
Kaushik: No, absolutey, that's why minoritized discourse on gender... because I'd set it up as Hitchcock as a very interesting master of saying that battle between scales and also the battle between genders. He does it in Birds
in an incredible manner, there's a play of scales and there's a play of gender. Stephie Anderson (?) is going to be in a small room, she's going to be attacked by birds, rotting, that's got huge spaces. And he is playing and it's incredible... uses the mother an an intermediary who is male-female both you know in a very interesting way because she's father and mother to (?). I mean so whenever there's a spooking this gender landscape in Birds
which is very, very interesting and which is about scales.
Kaushik: And I think I was then going to talk about Wilson and Trokel (?) and say that Wilson is doing a simple thing like regional saturation like Rosenbach is doing. But Wilson is the figure of... Clarke Kent-like superman figure who is the insurance salesman who wants to commit suicide... doesn't commit suicide. I think they are very interesting kind of addmittance of the inability to submit whereas Rosenbach can easily submit the body and landscape can merge, you know, in a way and there is no contradiction in doing that. And using movement and space to produce the certain continuity between body and space with a certain ease. Which Wilson has not been able to do. I will show certain escapes that logic and always goes into creativity... I'm the creator, I create the space. Whereas in Trokel's film, there is not such hubris, there is no such kind of space within which she can talk about all the fabrics that have been made by women and therefore, have a very interesting take on what's going on there. You know, I mean there's a certain way which Trokel kind of... you know.. against submits the whole materiality into space. A (?) which Wilson can't. I mean you can read it you know... Those were things I was going to talk in greater detail if we've seen Horn, Trokel and the Hitchcocks.
Nancy: Also she plays with the contradiction. It looks like a fluid circle, as if there's a kind of continuity between the body and the space. But... the thing is that she finally just falls down, completely exhausted. And here the way the frame very gently moves so that the figure of the woman is almost marginalised.. or cut half by the frame itself... towards the end.
Kaushik: I mean it's of course also very explicitly invokes a gramaphone recording plate. So therefore it a gramaphone recording plate producing the music and the woman is dancing on that. And, it is critique of labour, repetetive labour which drives someone to a certain kind of exhaustion. But ever (?) becomes a very interesting name because then that is what allows the (?) in some way. That's the distraction which allows... produces a commodity which has a different life altogether. It is a critique of capitalism - it says that the commodity can only be produced in a certain space like that in exhausation, as a distraction, which can now (?).
Kaushik: So I can detail... but that's the point which I had taken up... you know Wilson's films and Hitchcock and you know even Robert Schum and shown how there is a different logic at work in these. Like, for Schum, there is still a space of masculine labour which is resolved, where (?) and (?) meet and there's masculine and feminine and all those symbolisms are being played upon. But as some kind of a meditation, as history finally achieve, like Chris Marker does in all this films. He will pose a contradiction but then he will say that history will somehow resolve it in some point in time. Whereas with Rosenbach, there seems to be no contradiction. You just walk out of history because, phew, you're exhausted. You're set in some ways, your marginalisation from history and survival, in a certain way, which is very interesting. There is no questioning of one's.. you know.. the presence of the mind in history. There's always a tension in Wilson and in Schum... they can't somehow see themselves being subsumed in time and be wiped out and you know... and be erased out. Because in Rosenbach there is a acceptance of even that, the fact that one has been exhausted out history is accepted as a certain amount of grace. And there's a certain kind of ability to do that. As Wilson is saying the figure of Clarke Kent and why can't we do that? Why can't we erase it? Why can't we?
Nancy: I don't know whether Rosenbach is really erasing the self or trying to transcend the incarcerated self, which is determined by society. I think that there's a difference. Rosenbach, if you look at her background again...
Kaushik: It's an erasure of the mind. I mean, the body can then survive on its own. Yeah, the self can be erased but the body stays on its own. So, there's an erasure of what is counted as important history, that's an intelligent mind which is connected to male labour and so on and so forth. That is the reason. That space of cleverness, that space of artifice, is erased. And only the body stays. And that has dignity. She shows that that is still worth it. It is something to reckon with. Which is not happening in Schum. It's somehow... There's something that I must do but I can't do. And history will take care of it in the end. It's a very interesting kind you know two completely different mental spaces there.
Shaina: It will be interesting tomorrow to see, I mean, to think of Rosenbach with Rebecca Horn and Valie Export.
Ashok: This is a question maybe for Mriganka. It also comes to the name of your collective and your (?) of train... this dea that... your description of electrochemistry of video and video as a kind of machine, cinematic machine, and so on. And so I'm trying to think of this practice with video. I mean this is something that has happened in the last decade as we know that the video camera, the intimate spaces generated by these machines. So, in your work with video you see it as a kind of war machine. Do you see it was a war between the video machine and the state machine or the video machine and the police machine or the cinema machine. Is there an aspect of that you think about, in terms of your work with video, which I know that...
Mriganka: Yeah, it's a really tricky question. Yeah, I agree. I think... like...I can see the way I picked up the thing... I always.. It's personally, I am not saying but I am also a part of this Desire Machine collective. I'm saying... I'm always in a dilemma and in this dilemma we try to create work and one dilemma is definitely... one side is definitely looking at the whole machinic productions. I think some of my work, actually, now I felt like ripping apart myself... you know, somewhere I could see two kinds of forces trying to pull me. And the second thing is.. again, I was telling Shaina about the whole idea of representation. Again, there is also... which I have not been able to deal with till now but that is definitely within. There is machine which is operational in the whole idea of representation, the different kind of machines which are there.. if you say, the whole... in this context, in my context it will be like the whole colonial representation. The whole machinic production of self...
Delezue and Guattari define desire as a machine what produces that which is real, not metaphoric, desire as a machine of intensities and flows. The machine is a desire; desire is a machine, and not a metaphor. Movement, flow and production are all important elements to these mechanic alliances.
Need is derived from desiring machines. It is the counterproduct within the real that is manufactured by desire, and lack is a countereffect of desiring production within this real that is natural and socially constructed.
Desiring machines create voids that they need to fill. Desire is a desiring machine that manufactures, in every possible way and with any available materials, the desire to produce. Desiring machines never constitute a whole, but rather each is a component of a universal continuum of ceaseless production and consumption.
'Beyond the nation's material bodies: Technologies of decolonial desire' in 'The Decolonial imaginary: writing Chicanas into history' by Emma Perez, 1999, pp. 105.
Mriganka: Actually I missed out something which I was going to share before showing Metropolis
... The thing was I was talking about the whole audio-visual production of self... which really struck to me... and as I was telling you that being ... having a background in science and trying to bring those coonections to that kind of visuality... I definitely looked very artisitically also, I try to look at he machinic productions. And definiely the whole thing of productionor the creation is within the framework of different assemblages which is happening... if you put yourself... very definitely. So, somwhere also I'm trying to say that, when you say machine it also has to be very definite something... which I want to say that something which is very loose.. which is very formless, which is something like traces. So probably within that thing or within existing... or I don't know the work that currently we are doing. It is quite difficult when you call it a work. But we're still struggling. It is towards something like traces. It is towards something like, having no form. And probably even something which is just a product of an interaction... which is of a very different level.. which I need to understand probably.
Mriganka: It is trying to reflect but it is challenging. I agree that lot of our work is also not something.. which I standing in this.. you know, different point of time and space, I am also very critical about certain points. Like, there could be certain demands, like yesterday I was trying to argue something which is, I'm trying to bring in here, make it much more (?) That is also happening, certain dillema of preparedness, which I was trying to tell in a different context. Like, that makes me uncomfortable, that brings the whole anxiety as an artist.
Mriganka: The thing is that the whole idea of... the whole vocabulary of film form, that I was... I am trained as a film maker. I never went to art school but within that framework trying to create another form through juxtaposing, problems of representation, problems of criticality or... and different sources of things. But, to be very frank, it is like... the whole framework, which I definitely tried to imply about the machinic thing and definitely... that's why you know the whole reading of television you know... the whole concept which has really made us start the Desire Machine collective... and definitely, I agree it has to be in stages, I completely agree. It started off with certain problems of representation like you say... It is a colletive. It is Deleuzian which is not (about) represention. But then, you start believing the problems of representation and then, you start getting machine. Already, we're five years or four years... The works are trying to... we're able to deal with them () then directly as can be. I don't know if I've understod you...
Ashok: Just in terms of training (trailing?) into your landscape, rhetorically speaking. The Desire Machine collective? The ways in which... Is it a war in that sense?
Mriganka: Yeah, yeah. That imagery definitely brings the war and definitely that's the whole ... why.. the whole idea of static and movement... that you're inside the train and you're looking at the whole scenario... you know, movement. That makes a 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, being on permanent ground. So, certain things 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 permanent. In a sense I think that's...I look at it as the whole again.. starting of the space is also.. I looked at it, for the past the one year, I have not been able to do any work. I see that that ok this is my work. Probably it goes through or not, cause it's the thing itself as is I see is (?), and you look 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
Shaina: And the horizon...
Mriganka: And the horizon, yes! Not to miss it.
Shaina: I think we have to end. We've overshot by almost an hour. But, since I had my notepad out, I scribbled a line. I don't have it in total but "... capital moves at the speed of locomotives and (?) the Deleuzian escapes..." Something like that. Can you repeat it? It was nice.
Kaushik: Just an idea that Daniel (?) this French philosopher, who talks about the mole and the locomotive and capital is the locomotive that kind of moves through a landscape (?). And artists look for the Deleuzian escape and pick up the mole and burrow it into the foundations of capital. And video artists are escapting form 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 locomotive.
Ashok: Announcement: tomorrow at 11am at Chemould, next door.
Kaushik: Just an idea that Daniel had said... a great philosopher... the hole and the locomotive and capitalist locomotive that kind of principal action between the speech and the image. And not just the loophole 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 (?).