ENGLISH / ČESKY
Festivals of Live Cinema
Collaboration of the Czech (PAF) and Norwegian (Screen City) Platforms for Film and Contemporary Art of the Moving Image.
Differentiated Cinema and Other Visions
#Erosion of otherness: According to the media theorist and philosopher Byung-Chul Han, we are living in a time of paradigm change, in a time of transition from a disciplinary society towards the society of performance. The individual socio-political features by which this society manifests itself, such as the imperatives of transparency, acceleration and immediate disposability, and an excess of positivity, and, on the other hand, social diseases such as burnout syndrome and depression, are observed by Han. At the same time, he connects these features with the media-technological development of the Western society. One of the dramatic processes accompanying this transformation is – as he states – the erosion of otherness.
#Difference: Otherness, which consists of negativity (temporal, articulative and refusal), is replaced by difference which emerges from the background of the same; comparable and therefore also disponable and consumable. The process in question moreover intervenes at all levels of the oriented relation to reality, which means it dominates not only its semantic, but also its logically connected temporal interpretative framework (both future and past are positively changed to an optimised, disponable present and are grasped by the temporality of the same).
#Database: In the background of this process, which is seemingly distant in relation to the subject of Other Visions, figure the same informational and communicational technologies which naturally determine the form of contemporary cultural techniques, including the manipulation of the static as well as the moving image. It is thanks to media-technological convergence, the digitalisation of analogue resources and the origin of publicly accessible platforms and networks for storage and publication of digital data, that an image was symbiotically attached to the database which does not know otherness, but rather knows differences and functional tags, and thus it became fully disponable on the level of production, distribution, archiving and consuming. Work with the moving image, which proceeds from this situation and reflects it by means of thematising new forms and functions of image, its semantic as well as factual and ontological instability, a narrativity derived from changed forms of its perception, audience phenomenon and so called screen attachments thus became a widespread practice of visual artists – and this year’s Other Visions selection consciously emphasizes this creative line.
#Discourse: It is not the first time in the history of the moving image when a certain tension and fundamental hybridization between film and artistic discourse occurs. It involves a commitment to re-thinking the question of their mutual relationship and to revise the traditional or, more precisely, dominant linkage between the moving image and film institutions with their conventional conditions of presentation. A terminological and conceptual grasp of presentation, distribution and archiving of time-based media art, specifically the art of “new forms of motion image of film and video”, possibly “artists’ cinema”, is presented as the subject of intensive discussions which have taken place on an international level and across various exhibitional, distributional and memory institutions since the beginning of the 21st century at the latest. In the Czech Republic this is, in the first place, represented by the PAF – Festival of Film Animation and its competition section Other Visions, which originated in 2007 and explicitly concerns these topics. At the same time the topics here are mutually interconnected, which is quite exceptional.
#Naming: The canonisation of “otherness”, as a term closely connected to new forms of moving image, happened because of the French film theorist and critic Raymond Bellour. By the early 1990s, Bellour was already dealing intensively with film installations in gallery premises. Influenced by the great number of such installations occurring at the Venice Biennale in 1999, he published the text called D'un autre cinema (Of an other cinema). However, the naming of Czech Other Visions has significantly its own, internal history. It refers to 2003 at PAF, when this term was used by the filmmaker and pedagogue Martin Čihák during his lecture on animation in American experimental film. At that time PAF introduced rather classical forms of animation. While the festival’s dramaturgy has changed a lot since then and has been opened to new trends of image manipulation, Martin Čihák has become probably the most influential mediator of this ‘other’ (in an experimental sense) film in the Czech Republic due to his long-term pedagogical activities at universities and festivals, with a clearly defined focus on work with light, film material and montage. Other Visions are therefore connected with a historical situation of more than symbolic meaning. However, they exceed this situation and differentiate themselves from the very beginning. The objects of their concern – though each year’s curatorship is always independent of the previous years – are the films that would rarely be included in Čihák’s “the subterranean river of cinema,” or more precisely in film avant-gardes conceived by him.
#Synchronicity: In December 2007 PAF – The Festival of Film Animation in Olomouc introduced Other Visions for the first time. The main topic of the international short film festival in Oberhausen, which took place in May of the same year, became the programme named Kinomuseum. The main curator Ian White attempted to outline a vision of differentiated cinema. His speculative concept thought through the borders between cinema and museum and between reproducible and unique artistic artefact. With respect to the nature of the moving image and artists’ cinema he asked the museum questions concerning qualities that specify his main object of concern. He criticised the institutional conditions of display and planned a new museum as a cinema based on different qualities; “the principles of impermanence, immediacy, the temporal and the temporary.” It is also important that the attempt to implement this concept took place at the festival, whose director, Lars Henrik Gass, perceived a festival format as a place to take responsibility for abandoned and disappearing cinemas and at the same time as a format that reacts to the crisis of museums through a programme with the aim of jointly forming “new cinema.”
#Modes of presentation and distribution: The demand for “the third place,” the place “in-between,” “new cinema,” and the place “between cinema and museum, differentiated cinema” is repeatedly emphasized at round tables, in contributions at academic conferences and by dramaturgists and curators. This demand is accompanied by theoretical concepts, manifests and live experiments with the idea of how this place should look and function. Agreement is reached mostly on the fact that, due to the conditions of relevant cultural techniques (ranging from production to archiving of work) that were modified because of digitalization, the institution of cinema and museum fails to present in an adequate form the new type of moving image; great hopes are pinned precisely on festival formats.
Other Visions consist of works that frequently originate within the framework of artistic – rather than film – discourse. The modus operandi of cinema on one hand and museum/gallery on the other is presented as a topic which is inscribed in a specific way, or more precisely by the possibilities of their “functioning.” This functioning – balancing between projection and display – is, in this way, defined and conditioned by the very concept of Other Visions and responds to natural development in the area of the moving image: by no means can it be perceived as the imprudent diktat of PAF dramaturgy.
For the whole period of the festival, the selected works are presented individually on the festival premises, alternatively in a series of several short films following one after the other in an endless loop, i.e. in gallery mode (though without any specific installations of individual works), while a block, composed with respect to curatorship and intended for screening in a cinema screening room, is presented within the festival programme only once or twice. The reception of Other Visions at PAF therefore proceeds mostly by means of exhibition mode; a host platform of the film festival, concentration and the immediate vicinity of cinema screening rooms determine the reception in a cardinal and necessary way. Besides the four days of PAF, during the whole year, the competition selection is presented and distributed mostly in the form of a screened block, for understandable reasons. Thus, in its base Other Visions are spread over two different modes of presentation connected with various institutional assumptions that are logically softened due to the festival background. If anything at all is characteristic of them, it is their inner differentiation.
#Collection: The selection of Other Visions finalists is – rather than with respect to content and form – generally limited with respect to technique: besides the previously mentioned condition of two kinds of presentation, the works must not be older than 18 months and must have been produced in the Czech Republic. The output in the form of a block, as another crucial factor, suggests a reasonable footage of individual works. Therefore the collection demonstrates the current production of “new forms of moving image of film and video” in the Czech Republic and the specific curator’s tastes and intentions.
The privileged viewpoint, when selecting this year’s works, was connected with the intention to thematise and emphasize the above mentioned difference. Other Visions were perceived in their problematic setting, or more precisely, in their latent assumption of the festival as the “third place” through works that, in a certain way, demonstrate the meaning of the presentational context. This year’s Other Visions do not want to be other, to relate to the imaginary whole of the image universe and to examine otherness on the dissolving margins. For this year Other Visions are differentiated visions: they are composed of distinctive or internally differentiated works that, by means of their visuality, narrative structure, a combination of the two or in other ways, have a leaning towards the space “in-between”. Alternatively, through various formats of presentation, they develop a different level of meaning, either supported by or connected with a projection/installation situation.
#Installation: Therefore Other Visions 2015 also include works that not only enable presentations in their gallery mode, but – if they are not intended to be reduced to “video in loop”, which they are not in these surroundings – they also demand specific installation (Tereza Adámková, David Možný, Janek Rous), in one case even a performance (David Helán). For this reason this year Other Visions takes place outside their traditional shelter in the attic, and also involves Differentiated Visions; an “accompanying programme” which is not – in a similar way to the screening of the block itself – a mere attachment and exclamation mark for the incorrect privileging of the selected authors. Instead it presents an integral part of the whole programme which follows the works’ attitudes towards the needs of differentiated cinema.
#Representation: Due to the existence of a short annotation for each work, this competition section becomes a coherent part in the context of the film world, in which annotations and genre identification are among the fundamental items of equipment of the power apparatus of the cinematographic industry. The first of this year’s curator’s interventions – not only because of balance, or more precisely a loosening of this significant link to one specific mode of representation – consisted of a slight modification to the application form: besides an existing column intended for an annotation, a space for adding key words was included. This enables a different comprehension of the work and also reveals the context of the author’s perception regardless of fulfilling the general idea of an adequate form of annotation. As another thematic stratification of this year’s leading question of Other Visions, asking for various forms and modes of re/presentation, collected authorial texts (i.e. description and tags) are admitted and used as official informational resources which will be linked to individual works during the presentation and distribution of Other Visions 2015.
#Block: Compared to an exhibition mode, when installation of each work can be arranged individually, any immediate links to other finalists can be minimalised and the presentation may be eliminated from other works. A block of films is relentless in many respects: it counts the minutes and it is too demanding of a viewer’s attention due to the necessary confrontation of individual works and through the use of material as metanarrative. The second crucial viewpoint for the selection of this year’s competition works was the possibility of their functional interconnection in a block; this predetermined not only the order, but finally also the choice of the Other Visions top ten.
#Cosmological anthropology (dystopia, model, video-essay, experiment, metafiction, memory of a body, reinterpretation, tubular post, sci-fi, heliosis, end, light, fictitious documentary, existential sci-fi, fragment, deconstruction, constellation, rotation, probability, muted horizon, fata morgana, weightlessness, oasis, wilful digression, anonymity, time appropriation, utopia):
While the individual works of Other Visions expand as solitary video-bodies of the moving image into the physical and mental space of PAF – The Festival of Film Animation, in the orbit of a projection screen they form a feature film of speculative and science fiction processes which, by their very nature, occur in a time loop. Because this has been said: time is a moving image of eternity and circular motion is a motion of thoughts.
Being animated by a generous boom of hypnagogic sensations, they talk about dispassionate views of communication rackets and about authors being reinterpreted and who, as cosmonauts, set out to experience the zero gravity of space surrounded by the sound of distorted signals. They speak about a demiurge with a pocket broadcasting device and about liquidators and fighters who, for the first time, look into the core of their own anxiety with horror and surprise: on the edge of an empty battlefield. They also speak about transforming bodies into bodies of synchronised formations, into compositions of post-industrial fotogeny, into phantom/fata morganic limbs, as well as someone’s memory being scattered on a mute horizon – but whose? They speak about incarnations into ideal worlds calmly flooding in a high gloss of their perversely smooth prefabricates and about the paradox of standardised individualisation. They also talk about Beckett’s place without qualities and about one steady Bradburyan image of the world when things work autistically and become live, even after humankind has disappeared. However, instead of blackened silhouettes on the wall, one abstract pattern and a voice without a body remained.
Ultimately, Other Visions 2015 – besides the message about contemporary forms of moving image of film and video and about transformed qualities of otherness and difference – transmit an existential contribution to cosmological anthropology into a probable world and an appropriated future.