Archive as a place to play

On the 10th of May, it’s the Master students of the Netherlands Film Academy that take their turn in creating an exhibition within the context of the EYE Research Lab. Their exhibition, Archive as a Place to Play, is the result of the work the students have done with Jyoti Mistry, a South-African filmmaker / artist / theorist, who has been invited to the Netherlands Film Academy as Artist in Residence. Below you find her ‘curatorial statement’ and the statements of all 10 students, present in the exhibition with films and installations. The exhibition lasts until 22 May.

The vast repository of images produced in the colonial histories of Indonesia, India and South Africa is historical testimony of ethnographic documentation of cultures that were foreign to the gaze of the coloniser. A century later investigating these images provides a liberating entry point to reassess how archive might operate further outside the bounds of its historical provenance.

In this Research Lab, Masters students from the Netherlands Film Academy worked with South-African Artist in Residence Jyoti Mistry to experiment in politically strategic ways with alternative narratives of histories, subjectivities and political experiences.

Writing back to history through films using the film archives, these projects are not simply about revisionist histories from the points of view of the subjects being observed but further aim to challenge the gaze regimes of these historically ethnographic images.

Each of the projects serves to suggest a contemporary relevance that invites personal reflection on a broader socio-cultural canvas. It is a way of exploring the film material as repository, as a place to play, where there is pleasure in the possibilities of meaning-making rather than in defining or finding a singular, definitive meaning in the material. It’s the pleasure of imagining how ideas are held together through filmic representations and images.

The archive is thus poignant inspiration for the release of cinematic imagination and narrative possibilities.

 

Jyoti Mistry

Artist in Residence

Netherlands Film Academy

 

 

EMILIO Bassail

EMILIO REYES BASSAIL

(Mexico City) is a filmmaker and sound artist. His work revolves around the questions of memory and time. Constantly experimenting with different mediums and forms, his body of work comprises of radio pieces, video art, film, experimental literature, sound installations, illustration and music. Currently Emilio is developing research on the history of the Mexican desert as it relates to violence and the formation of memory.

His films have been showcased in international film festivals like the FICUNAM, DOCSDF, Kansk IFF Siberia, Metahouse Phom Penh, Cologne OFF, Bogota Shorts, and at art spaces like the MUAC (MX), MUJAM (MX), ADA (MX) and the Aferro Gallery in New Jersey.

Antipodes

How to avoid the aesthetics of folklore when speaking about the past? While I was growing up, the art agenda in my country was focused on what would later be called “the post-neo-mexicanisms”. I believe the name in itself is revealing of the complex layers of history and its conflicted meanings. In the 1990’s questions about national identity and memory had already been through a process of deconstruction, destruction, oblivion, reconstruction and revision. It was no surprise that we grew totally skeptical about concepts of identity and history. National identity was the incommensurable pathos of our everyday practice. Currently working with archival footage from colonial times brings me back these questions. What happened to my generation? Did we solve our conflicting identity? What was the result of all the historical discussions? What is the role of memory in this debate? I tried to assemble this piece as a nostalgic wink towards my generation and childhood friends. We tried so hard to reject the faux-folklore of our fathers that, in the end, we were left with a strange voice that involuntarily echoed with the discussions from the 1980´s. I used this footage to tell a coming-of- age story that would somehow pose a layered question about identity, colonialism, trans-generational trauma and an individual act of editing historical footage to explore memory and collective History.

 

Aron Birtalan

ÁRON BIRTALAN

(1990, Budapest) is a Hungarian-born performer and researcher. With a background in music, video and critical theory, Áron creates work that spans through variegated mediums. Generated by a fascination for mythology, folklore and body movement, his works integrate methods and structures used in games, ceremonies and rites of passage. By stripping these oft-religious forms of their theatrical effects, Áron attempts to reveal the inner workings of liminal perception through a pre-modern discipline. Apart from his artistic practice, Áron is active as a guest-teacher and lecturer.

Patience (a game)

Patience (a game)is an experimental storytelling game that uses the framework of single player card games such as Solitaire. Further drawing from traditions in various forms of Cartomancy (card-based divination) as a way to create a chain of events – this work is inspired by an invitation to explore combinations and variations as each game is played.

With a diversity of framed stills selected from the archive material, a deck of cards is constructed in which the single player has to follow the instructions played through an audio guide. Different solitary playing forms create unique, reconstituted narratives which are inspired from the archival material and, fortune-telling traditions are evoked during the game.

A triangular relationship is formed between the spatial positioning of the cards on the table, the drawing order of the cards and the instructions. This relationenables infinite permutations of events to unfold. The meanings produced are associative and informed by the imagination of the player. This form allows a new and playful way of “recycling” the archival material which serves to liberate it from its inherently retrospective loci.

 

Kristina Daurova

KRISTINA DAUROVA

was born in Krasnoyarsk (Russia, Siberia) in 1988.

She is a philologist (Russian and Polish literature and languages) in her initial educational training. After graduation she moved to Poland to write a scientific research project based on Polish Cinema. Kristina worked as a film programmer in documentary films; has been a performer and choreographer. She directed several independent short films and music videos and created dance spectacles and art performances. She is primarily concerned with a wordless language of telling stories. Kristina is building her research with a focus on gestures, details, bodily language and atmosphere.

EYE contact

Eye contact occurs when “two people look at each other’s eyes at the same time.”                                                                                         (Cambridge Dictionary)

Eye contact is a form of nonverbal communication – the most reliable, the most dangerous, the most honest and the most “unreadable” part of human connection.

There are hundred years between us – as a contemporary audience – and the eye contact made by the individuals in the archival material. We will never know each other. We will never meet one another. The individuals in the film no longer exist. And we will not exist one day, yet our images may well endure a hundred years from now. But when we look into each other’s eyes, we begin to live in the same reality. There is no more time and no more space – only our eye contact…contact made across time and space.

How do we see ourselves when they look at us?

 

Sophie Dixon

SOPHIE DIXON

(UK) is a cross disciplinary artist. Her previous projects have been centered around historical events which have wrought irrevocable change in the lives of individuals.  Her work has examined the Sudetenland expulsions of 1946 and the rapid decline of the UK and French coal mining industries in the 1980’s.  Adopting a documentary style approach, she records individual stories set against a greater historical backdrop. The process of researching, collecting and re-interpreting is fundamental to her work and, in previous projects has manifested itself in the form of text-based artifacts, split screen films and installations. Her current research at the Netherland’s Film Academy is focused on the relationship between externalised information, memory and narrative. The questions of how externalised information may relate to memory, and the means by which such information may be recalled, are central to her current enquiry. www.sophie-dixon.com

Untitled 2016

At the seashore, between the land of atoms and the sea of bits we are now facing the challenge of reconciling our dual citizenship in the physical and digital worlds.                                                        (Hiroshi Ishii, MIT Media Lab)

The starting point for this project is a deteriorated section of family; the footage, barely distinguishable, traces the ephemeral outline of a woman and child paddling at the shore. Film is an inherently fragile substance. As both substance and medium it also exists as a cultural artifact, an archive tightly bound to individual and collective memory. Reel upon reel, archives are now converting analogue to binary, in a bid to safeguard against the fragility and limitations of its own materiality. Such digitisation is not exclusive to film. For decades, major libraries and institutions have invested heavily in the conversion of analogue materials into digital form – digitisation both as a means of making materials more widely accessible, and as a means of preservation. Bits, binary data, however still require a physical resting place.

Abby Smith Rumsey, a historian previously associated with the Digital Preservation Programme at the Library of Congress, proposes in her book ‘When We Are No More’ – two major threats facing us in a digital age: the first, an amnesia-like condition brought on by the loss of information embodied in both digital and analogue media, and the second, a forgetting, forged from an inability to form lasting narratives amidst an abundance of information.

This short video presents a sketch of questioning what forgetting may mean in a digital age which promises to remember everything.

 

DANIEL DONATO

DANIEL DONATO

is a Brazilian filmmaker and cinematographer. His Master’s research deals with the materiality of the body. When I think about body, I think about its materiality – the flesh. I am proposing a separation of the body between ‘body and soul’ or ‘the flesh and the spirit’. What interests me about the flesh is its negative connotation linked to sexuality – always opposed and contrasted with rationality. It is a concept and binary of flesh and spirit inherited from a religious discourse connected to sin and a sort of sexual animal instinct – a primal drive – inside each of us.

What you are?

This intimate exposé draws from the archive images to create a story, simultaneously about the memory of the body and the experience of the body. The question posed speaks of an object: the body as material that has its inherent potential but also the possibilities to become something else.

A body that changes over time and assumes another form and identity.

A new life that signals a new feeling – the feeling of being a woman. A body that is based on sexuality; ultimately it is an experience which is momentary; it is just sex, it is just an illusion. A body that sees itself as being different or displaced from normal conventions. A body that is questioning, searching for answers to prove itself. A voice-over narrates these experiences which are projected onto the archival material. The images of a couple starting a new life with their children builds an atmosphere and an ambiguous relation when the text raises questions about the specificities of the body. What was it, what is it and what could it have been?

 

Gustavo Garnica

GUSTAVO LORGIA GARNICA

is a Colombian filmmaker and visual artist. His artistic research deals with the relationship between de-colonial critique and the cinematographic language, understanding the film medium as an intrinsic result of modernity and thus, as a mechanism that is historically associated with the hierarchical reproduction of western cultural values.

During his career, he has worked together with different indigenous groups of Latin America, mainly the Huichol people in Mexico and the Inga community from Colombia. His interest in working with these groups is to achieve an audiovisual representation that gets closer to their own lifestyle, philosophy and cosmo-vision. To this effect, he has developed a creative methodology in which oral tradition serves as a narrative basis for his films coupled with collective participation of the community which is integral to his production process.

Monumental fragments of our distance

These archival images hold singular power: they contain elements that communities have lost because of the accelerated and imposed rhythm of modern times which have superseded their traditional ways of living. In this piece, I offer an intervention on these elements that contrasts the monochromatic texture of the images, to single out the survival and resistance/resilience of these communities despite the cultural violence of colonization.

Since this collection of images constitutes such a significant testimony of these ancestral groups, I remove them from the virtual space of film and place them again into a psychical medium, as a reflection on how digital technologies are affecting both memory and its relationship to our material environment. The images are printed on negative film of 35mm; it is almost impossible to observe the details of the colorful intervention made on the surface. Instead the spectator must use a magnifying glass – a predecessor of the zoom lens, designed for filmmakers to get closer to those realities of which they are not a part – to individually magnify the images and the work requires an active participation with the images in order to understand their historical significance and contemporary meaning.

 

Louis Hothothot.Still006

LOUIS HOTHOTHOT

is a multimedia artist who combines curating, visual art, and art criticism as part of his practice. His research is a concern with politics and identity. He comes from China and studied at the Central Academy of Fine Art. In 2012, he enrolled the Master of Fine Arts at the Dutch Art Institute. Presently he is studying at the Netherlands Film Academy. His work is regularly shown in galleries, dance festivals and film festivals. His work has screened at: Seattle International video dance festival, Cinedans, “Moving future” Dansmakers, “Using the Museum”. Heis works has exhibited in Van Abbe Museum, Beijing Yanhuang Art Museum. His curated exhibition “Urgent Care of Identity” included works by artists such as Jonas Staal and Heath Bunting, and was shown at A-Lab in Amsterdam in 2015. Louis Hothothot is also an art critic for Chinese magazines “Art & Design” and “Art World”, and international media such as “Financial Times Chinese”, RNW Media amongst others. Apart from art practice, he volunteers at Amnesty International and the We Are Here refugee corporation.

Letters To Magritte #1 FATHER

My long term research is about “the politics of identity.” The relationship between father and son and its allegorical political relations, whether in the past or the present. I draw on John Locke’s premise: “The Government commonly began in the Father”. Early colonizers evoked terms such “motherland” and “fatherland” in order to affirm a maternal or paternal relationship to the colonised power in order to maintain an emotional and infantilising relationship with their colonial subjects. The colony governors made a selfless, natural and objective mask which was/is “fathership”. Therefore non-biological fathers worked on changing colonized people’s identities and loyalty, as well as their sense of belonging. In the archives of colonial history, I discovered a video of a Dutch father in Indonesia with two sons. What is the relation between a white father and a dark skin son? How does a father look at his non-biological son? This was the premise for the film.

 

Wietske de Klerk

WIETSKE DE KLERK

graduated in 2012 from the Academie St Joost in Breda. During her final year she experimented with visual research which was significant for her creative development. In her graduation film Continuüm, Wietske focused her research on the themes of film, acting and the architecture of location.
More specifically, architecture is used at a metaphorical level at which to interrogate the medium of film. The events take place in a house that is shown two ways: in all its filmic realism and also as a consciously staged setting through decor. This raises questions about how a human being will stage their own lives, and whether this staging is informed by reality. Or is it nothing more than an illusion that we choose for ourselves. After graduation Wietske held various assistant directorships, conducted film workshops and made several short films.
At present her Master’s research focuses on addressing the question how cinema can reveal the relationship between family rituals and spaces? Her research interests traverse: framing, the structure of storytelling and conceived and lived spaces.

Beneath the surface 

The film from the archival source A Holiday in Port Elizabeth contains scenes of a beach with long observational shots with people bathing, swimming and having a lovely time. These wide angle shots full of happiness are meant to establish a general atmosphere and feeling or “sense of feeling” for the place.  It fascinated me that so many hidden storylines are alive beneath the surface of this wide-angle view of the beach. These almost objective shots deny the little, nuanced or detailed storylines of a single more pointed moment. What is beneath the aesthetics of this surface? And what lies behind the large wide-angles of the observational shots? The notion of personal perception of place plays an important role in this archival research. All the individuals we see in these shots have had different experiences of that single moment and with reference to the specifics of this place. Everybody perceives this place differently because we (as the spectators) project our backgrounds onto that beach Reframing and manipulating the archival material made it possible to hone in on the individual dreams and desires of the people on this beach and enabled the search for the personal within the wider established panoramic shots.

 

Alex Perry

ALEX PERRY

is a filmmaker from Manchester, UK. Beginning his video career in the music industry as a teenager, he went on to study Multimedia in Brighton before pursuing careers in cheffing and singwriting while always keeping a hand in community filmmaking. His most notable collaborations have been with young offenders and domestic violence survivors. His current research at the Netherlands Film Academy is focused on biographical shame from the perspective of both victim and perpetrator, including the nuances of language as a vehicle for, and obstacle against, examinations of historic violence.

Ons levenslied

Ons levenslied (Our Torch or even Our Tear Jerker), is the basis of my exploration of the polysemous quality of historic family narratives, with an emphasis on tragedy and private shame.

The original piece, a home movie from the Van den Bussche family, shot over 13 years, focuses on domestic activities and special events, documenting the family’s growth as they move between the Netherlands, Japan and Indonesia. Taken at face value, the images appear to show an idealised family history. But the very fact of their recording is evidence of a hierarchy of power and control. In choosing how to frame and what to omit, the “director” holds the key to a recorded past.

I am interested in the archive as a visual representation of memory triggers in a fragmentary dream of confession, the mechanics of which are borrowed from Catholic orthodoxy. As the imagery gossips of youth and optimism, the memories are weathered and deteriorated by experience. The ellipses in the dialogue represent not just a dereliction of recall but a pregnant void, a counter point to the corrupt fiction of the narrative, inviting the viewer to interrogate the reliability of our witness.

 

LISA MARIE VLIETSTRA

LISA-MARIE VLIETSTRA

(The Netherlands, 1990) is a visual artist based in Amsterdam who graduated from the Photography Department of the Gerrit-Rietveld Academy in 2014. Working within an interdisciplinary field of film, photography and performative arts, her work embraces a sustained interest in the psychological aspects of the human mind. This derives from a necessity to come to an understanding of the world and the people in it, viewing them in terms of the ‘other’ and the ‘self’. Vlietstra investigates this dichotomy by positioning the camera between her subject and herself, creating a power play, a struggle in re-presentation of self and an unusual relationship with “self and other”. She attempts to transform the personal into the universal, dealing with the semantics of relationships, the origin of self, family, tragedy, addressing the human and the elementary.

’POR QUÉ NO ME VES’’ / ‘’WHY DON’T YOU SEE ME’’

‘’Por qué no me ves’’ is a film with estranged archetypal suggestions, translations and continuous re-presentations of one woman left alone. It portrays a broken character, who is fragmented and dissected by herself and others, over and over again. The archival footage functions as provocation to create an interchangeable and troubled persona. The piece longs to dismantle the traditional modes of understanding and reading cinematic reality. It challenges the roles of the director, the actor and the viewer simultaneously, by generating an anxiety in their contrived relation. It aspires to break with the importance of realism in cinema and its role to function as a re-construction of the ‘real’. The film consciously ignores the contract between the viewer and the viewer’s expectations of cinematic realism as it insists on simulating incoherencies and challenges assumptions of linearity. This film aims to alter cinematic conventions by challenging cinematic reality and its language through developing dissonance and evoking rupture within the construct itself by meditating interventions that insert disorder, repetition and transparency into its spoken words: ‘’The realism that you want is not the realism I will give you’’.

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