March 14th–20th, 2016 / Cinema Muzeul Țăranului, Cinema Elvire Popesco, Universitatea Națională de Muzică / the 6th edition
The Artist Is Present
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International Competition - The Artist Is Present
Curatorial presentation by Andrei Tănăsescu
The insertion of an artist within their work - besides the formal and thematic tropes - is a statement of creative authority, control and self-reflexivity. It also invites the viewer to engage with the artwork on a deeper level of reading, requiring that one goes beyond the surface to extract the suggestive elements that make up its artistic core. The films compiled for the competition program The Artist Is Present offer themselves as meta-texts whose authorial presence manifests itself in a myriad of ways. These are movies about artists and their métier, whose formal and thematic audaciousness will require repeated viewings to decipher.
Wonderfully refreshing and meaningful in its subtextual discourse, Territorial Marking is a beautiful work of naïf art by Daniel Djamo. We see the artist appear on screen, waving the Romanian flag through a forest. On voiceover, we hear a recording of his anxious mother discouraging him from creating his next controversial art piece. Blessed with an artist’s stubbornness, Djamo refuses to submit to his mother’s fear of the French authorities and continues the back-and-forth until the perfect alternative is discovered (accidentally and under duress) by the matriarch. Yet listen closely, for behind their domestic argument and the mother’s consternation, you’ll find the traumatic paralysis of the immigrant Other, made worse by the scar of Communist oppression, rearing its head like Djamo’s flailing flag.
On July 22, 2014, New York woke up to an unexpected silent declaration: Brooklyn Bridge’s Old Glory was gone, replaced by two white flags blowing in the high winds. In a post-9/11 New York, this gesture galvanized city officials and the media into knee-jerk reactions of fear, anger and panic. In short, a response that every a work of art should produce. Compiled from TV, radio and online reports, Symbolic Threats traces the lifespan of Leinkauf and Wermke’s art installation / intervention, bringing forward the predictable rhetoric seeking culpability rather than discourse. Once the proverbial dust settles and the fever-pitch frenzy of the media machine dies down, we’re afforded poetic tranquility to ponder not only the role of art in our world, but that of our own citizen-selves.
Carlo Mollino, famed designer and architect, departed from our physical world in 1973, leaving behind an astounding legacy of form and beauty. In his latest film, Yuri Ancarani capitalizes on Mollino’s preoccupation with the occult to conduct a live séance in the artist’s home. Seated at the dining table with the resident caretaker in service, psychic medium Albania Tomassini becomes a conduit for the architect, whose spectral voice reflects on his past life’s work. Ancarani’s aesthetic eye is a perfect match for Casa Mollino’s baroque décor, incubating us within the walls of the lush apartment and its sonic atmosphere of hushed spirits. Séance summons the perfect interlocutor for the intense life-force at work in Ancarani’s films, pulling us into its house of memories and catapulting us into the state of transcendence offered by the act of creation.
The analogy of life and cinema has never been so delightfully and cleverly laid bare, as in Karen Akerman and Miguel Seabra Lopes’ October Is Over. Cherubic protagonist Tontom declares that ‘film grows old’ and is rightfully met with the appropriate response from his unseen parents (played by the filmmakers themselves). Their gift of a Super8 camera sparks the toddler’s imagination and the journey of life begins. Discovery leads to frustration (there’s never enough funding!) and under the sleep suggestion of his progenitors (Godard, always!) nocturnal inspiration reaps rewards. Constructed with a formal simplicity that reveals deeper layers of Lacanian psychoanalysis and Eisensteinian montage, October is Over is a wonderful homage to cinema and the creative spark that gives it life.
In direct address, Vika Kirchenbauer invites you to Please Relax Now. You’re about to experience liberty and desire, under the guiding voice of the artist. Calm and composed, Kirchenbauer breaks down the cinematic screen’s barrier of distanciation as she methodically lays bare (pun well-intended) the power-relationships at play between art and its consumer. As spectators, we are encouraged to subvert passivity and reclaim our position within the space we occupy. How? By exploring, here and now, the pleasure principle of art to its extreme. Abandon all preconceptions, democratize the space and fully submit to - and indulge in - the communal experience. Political and playful, Please Relax Now’s deceivingly simple premise will become one of your most challenging viewing experiences. Should you resist? No, just relax.
'Once upon a time, before people came along, all the creatures were free and able to be with one another', narrates the voiceover. 'All the animals danced together and were immeasurably happy. There was only one who wasn’t invited to the celebration – the frog. In his rage about the injustice, he committed suicide.' Something Romani and frogs have in common is that they will never be unseen, or stay unnoticed. In her film Batrachian's Ballad, young director Leonor Teles weaves the life circumstance of Romani in Portugal today with the recollections of a yesterday. Anything but a passive observer, Teles consciously decides to participate and take up position. As a third pillar, she establishes an active applied performance art that becomes integrated in the cinematic narrative. Thereby transforming 'once upon a time' into 'there is'. 'Afterwards, nothing will be as it was and the melody of life will have changed', explains a voice off-camera. (Berlinale)