Monday, 19 September 2016

Sarajevo-Split Log 3

Twas a dark and stormy night that played host to the first ever public screening of the Unfound Peoples Videotechnic, and the official closing of my residency in Split and Sarajevo (although there are screenings and meetings to attend to in the next few days before I leave). To see the work of the graduating students played out with structural rigour - one after the other with nary a mixtape artist's gesture to mutual complementarity - was to see four cine-voices of distinctiveness chant in startling, dissonant unison. Each filmmaker showed three one minute films, followed by video-manifestos of varying length, and we finished (still damp, only thirty minutes after coming in from the rain) with the rough cut of my own Split 'contemplation'. This is not the place nor the time for a full report on the residency, but those who've followed via this log, Twitter, meetings and presentations, and unprompted confessions on public transport, will know that I've been startled, confused, crushed and re-inflated by the variety of film, video, text and humanity that my research and response to the Kino Klub phenomenon and associated themes has provoked. As such, I find no better way to conclude my log than to publish the full screenplay of my final residency work. Hvala, and laku noc.

Exterior, stone town - Day

A lone figure, dressed somehow futuristically, wanders the abandoned arcade. The city howls with emptiness. Our hero shivers, although the morning is warm. She takes a communication device from her pocket, pokes at it with her thin, foreign fingers until the WiFi receiver flickers into life. There is just one, faint network available. It is named, in English “Abandon All Hope”. Arching her eyebrow, our hero stabs five electronic letters into the Password field. 


Dante. Password incorrect. Thinking again, our hero enters: 


Dialling up an old map application, she positions herself within parallel landscapes, one virtual, one made of the afore-mentioned stone. But the walls and passageways seem misaligned.

She tries a different application. Rather than satellites, it uses the vibrations of the street ambience to create an acoustic fingerprint that can be compared with those kept on a remote database, in a run-down renderfarm, in a forgotten bunker, on a different frequency. According to the application she is in Mirny, Siberia, 500 metres in the ground. But she knows this cannot be in Mirny, Siberia; she took the bus for the city of seven winds. 

She takes a WiFi meter from her pocket and holds it to the air. It is difficult to get a reading, but when the figures emerge, the situation is as she feared. The WiFi in this town is rotten.

Switching back to the map application, she accepts the faulty GPS for what it is. The real and virtual paths match up like misaligned ghosts on an old VHS tape. Perhaps like the offline movie she has searched so long for: the type her electronic eye implants, whose license period has long expired, can watch with impunity. Surely it is here, in the Paradise Video Rental store, as she was promised by the old man on the boat.

A breeze whispers through her soul, and she cannot identify whether it came from outside or within.

Exterior, town - Lost

The streets and monuments now palpably offset from the map, she roams skewed echoes of the routes described by what she now senses to be the deliberately warped cartography of the town.

As in a funhouse, which this is not, she feels herself manipulated by undulating surfaces and tricked perspectives, into taking a new path. But she locates herself yet; WiFi currents, like familiar breezes, define our understanding of a city – if, unlike the winds, they also define the city’s understanding of us. The index becomes the memory, she develops a sense for her position, but still…  

Exterior, day – Paradise Video Rental

Or is it? The letters are five metres wide on the map, but out here there is no sign, no buzzer. Just a door that seems to morph into a giant question mark. And our hero’s answer is, what the heck. She has collected too much dust in her shoes to give up now. This is where the corrupted GPS has directed her. Perhaps, someone even wanted to guide her here.

Forcing the door, she steps into the badly-mapped darkness.

Interior, mystery building - Day

It smells of mould and dust and disparate spores dragged by the wind from seven directions, deposited here and shut in who-knows-how-many years before.

Her heart begins to race, for her highly developed nostrils also pick up something that smells like videotape. Could it be her over-active olfactory imagination, whose development was inverse to the decline of her original eyes?

Interior, corridor - Day


Interior, office - Day

Watched by nobody, she stalks the abandoned building.

Interior, locker room - Day 

Maybe there was a moment, long before her time, when each video rental store would have one thousand employees. Perhaps this was such a megastore, staffed with low-paid workers from the underdeveloped hinterland, trained to process the exchange of videocassettes, little suspecting that cables with code were snaking their way into society, ready to puncture the throat of the offline viewing experience with the blunt plastic fang of the LAN plug. Possibly this is the fantasy of a jaded cyborg VJ whose eye implants have long outlived their license agreement.

She opens a locker by impulse, the locker with the Nick Nolte sticker. Treasure! A batch of videocassettes in unmarked sleeves, no rental collection but something else.

She checks the other cabinets for the appropriate machinery, but they are empty.

Interior, laboratory - Desperate

She stumbles upon racks of test air, abandoned miniature thermals. From amidst rows of the desperate scientist’s long-deserted and now highly-valuable booze stash she grabs a vintage tin of energy drink.

Interior, junk room - Soon after

She finds the appropriate machinery.

Interior, locker room - Again

The sound of the machine taking the tape is like a thirsty dog lapping at water.

The first tape is meaningless, but the colours feel good on her eyes. The footage is teasingly short, a throwaway snippet of a council worker in a crane who appears to have been dispatched to rescue a pair of shoes from the high branches of a tree.

The shot is abandoned by its anonymous creator before the action is played out. We can say that it is completely random, most likely never uploaded. To see real live recorded people in a space that she knows to have been vacated, a place she has seen with her own eyes, seen it unpeopled, chills her bones. What is this city, whose only moving parts are the reel hubs in the cassettes she herself has disturbed?

She plays back the short clip again and again, perhaps looking for a pattern, although perhaps she does not know this. Well, one random film by itself can be non-narrative, but as soon as you add another, a narrative is suggested.

The images on the second tape appear to be a curated selection of corrections, each shot framing a focus or aperture adjustment, these fixes arranged rhythmically, the naked sound of the camera’s moving parts whispering candidly of the anonymous author, we will call him Bogdan Sumnja, obsessively, neurotically searching for an ideal setting, a focal length to believe in. A masterpiece in structural ASMR, or the offcuts of the driest holiday video, both or neither, the author – if so arch a term can be assigned such an insecure cinematographer – a dabbler maybe, an amateur in the Latin sense: from the Latin, amore, amator, to love, lover… but a grim kind of love, a determined enthusiasm, hobby as destiny.

Glimpses of the city’s natural zone, the national park, assert themselves, almost embarrassed to be there, the accidental testimony of a space that just was.

Now and then, images of a woman: her identity unknown, unimportant, even as her agency, authority permeates the image, pushing the water and the insects and the leaves down the hierarchy, demanding respect.

And all the time those sounds, too real, too intimate, their presence an agonizing tension between the unintentional and the deliberate. This is the city as a negotiation that cannot be won, a dance with invisible currents, the citizen as slave to entropy, it is video waste matter, a smear of pixels, a stinking byproduct of one doubtist’s near insane contemplation. Vernacular surveillance of a malevolent stillness, the incriminated cityscape frozen in the headlights, dust and butterflies animating the complacent air between buildings.

She is becoming convinced that these videos are the work of a local chapter of the international Random Visual Recordings Club, an unintentionally mysterious cabal of video listeners obsessively gleaning the pixels of found tapes and stolen camera-phones, vernacular realism as Rorschach test, amateur media theorists, outsider psychologists whose day-jobs as architects, engineers or surgeons cultivated vulnerable new understandings of a visual form of whose canonical works they probably had very little understanding at all. They strained against randomness, their semi-abstractions seeming to ask: what is a recording? What is a scene? What is a video, a movie? What should go in? without every approaching a convincing answer, wanting not to be convinced, yet pompous enough to never doubt the importance of visual recordings.

And here is the third tape. Random yet; she begins to trace overlapping materials between the purportedly discrete recordings.

The director of the third tape, a paint technician, we will call her Zorka Glupost, features prominently: she can be recognised from the previous recording, Bogdan’s assemblage of focus changes and zooms, which we can assume are out-takes from another of Zorka’s visual recordings. This is how they worked together, Zorka directing Bogdan’s camera to capture random raw recordings for her to work with, Bogdan using the offcuts to make his own experiments, to declare his own marginality. Between Bogdan and Zorka grew a mythology of the mundane, a private universe of moments and microclimates whose index radically scrambled its referents.

And here, on this tape now, Zorka Glupost disappears into the city through a series of audaciously tasteless video effects, the meticulously documented weather systems in and around their shared apartment crushed, prettied, or – the visitor cannot be sure – perhaps they are legitimate electronic interpretations of the psycho-meteorology of the place. Where are Glupost and Sumnja now, where are their children or their children’s children or the descendants of their friends and enemies? What happened in this city that only the weather remains?

Interior, locker room - Half-daft

The fourth tape. Another anonymous authoress, another paid up subscriber to the Random Visual Recordings Club. The wind traced through clip after clip of the disturbance it leaves in its path. And which of the city’s seven winds?

The recording has a structure, but an idiot’s structure. Only an idiot would film the wind. Take your child to the zoo – you will get your screenplay. This recording has the innocence of a baby photo.

She fidgets on her pop crate, the temperature has shrunk since the wind video started playing. What does she know about the seven winds? The north wind, the 205, brings a chill, but it clears the air; the skies turn blue, rivalries and arguments cool in proportion to the strength of that particular occurrence. The south wind, the 508, an infinite, looping, miserable wind. Countless fine minds have been lost to the 508. The 102 is the wind of waiting and of solutions. It would not have been uncommon to see, on such days, the people of the city standing on corners, sitting on the church steps or riding the orbital bus around and around until the wind should pass and long-sought understandings be reached. It was said to be highly unlucky to remove a pot from the boil on a day that the 102 was blowing. The twin winds, the 300 and the 303, a wind within a wind; these are disorienting winds, contradictory winds, winds that bind, winds that betray, winds in which not to utter a secret. The 208 is the returning wind; a wind that never drops its scent. A wind full of nostalgia and regret, constructed from Proustian gusts. A house burned to the ground in the 208 would shimmer, ghostlike, when the wind returned months later, shimmer on the nasal frequencies of those who smelled the smell the first time round. But the seventh wind, the 404. Nobody talks of the 404. What was this wind? A malevolent wind, a wind that consumes? Is this the wind the random videographers were testifying to, warning of, even? Leaving shoes, unpeopled, hanging from the branches; was it the 404 that Bogdan Sumnja was struggling to expose, rather than landscapes, insects or people?; Zorka Glupost’s study, diary of swirling atmospheres around her nest; and now this idiot’s movie, anonymous, obsessive, a hunter of malicious breezes?

These recordings are neither art nor science; like the former, they are a puzzle with fuzzy edges, implying connections yet impossible to click together; so fuzzy are those edges, you could slip between them and disappear. If these films are a code, a science report, who were they intended for? For Her? History is solipsistic; it makes an Other of those outside one’s specific timeframe. But culture is a waterfall, a flame: it is the shape of the temporary. Was it the wind that took them, the 404, were these their screams, futile, lost in the wind?

Her attention is drawn back to the electronic map; its deliberately warped dimensions disguising the true lie of the city to her, yet guiding her to this unexpected trove of irrational recordings. These young ancestors did not claim to be artists; they did not claim to be activists; but they dressed like activists, cameras in hands, pissing photons in the wind, apolitical post-humans protesting they knew not what, for is it any good to protest the wind?

Exterior, stone town - Day

In a post-digital toybox wasteland, the wind-up mechanical snake is king. Meteorological reports imply a delay of 216 frames due to a pressure system with an existentially suspect codec; digital artefacts lingering in the atmosphere, perhaps even as low as head height; anyway, we know the people here were tall and would have been highly sensitive to the threat of low-hanging doorways, windswept gulls, and the like.

She walks heroically towards the sunrise."

Friday, 16 September 2016

Unfound Peoples Videotechnic: Alpha Semester Graduate Screening in Split

Following a harrowing semester in which students grappled with modules such as Mythology of the Self, Rotting the Image, and Setting Your Attitude In Stone, the first ever class of the roaming UPV film and video school are to present their coursework for the public’s appraisal. 

Each of the students created a series of one-minute films in response to the aforementioned topics, contributing to a program of true range and appeal. The Videotechnic took place at Kino Klub Split in April of this year, where the students were aggressively reprogrammed with a warped practical history of artist-oriented film and video. 

Furthermore, the Videotechnic’s principal, failed filmmaker turned guru Graeme Cole, will present the work in progress of his Kino Klub-inspired new video, created as part of an artist’s residency at Kino Klub Split. There will be a brief introduction, and a Q&A at the end, after which those students who graduate will be freed to the outside world to pursue careers of unparalleled artistic excellence and enviable economic stability. 

The screening is open and free to all who wish to attend. It should take less than 2 hours. 

This project is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. 

EVENT: Unfound Peoples Videotechnic: Graduate Screening 
WHERE: Kino Klub Split, Ulica slobode 28, 21000 Split 
WHEN: Sunday, 18th September 2016, 20.00 

Monday, 12 September 2016

Sarajevo-Split Log 2

Foreign friends; local heroes; student clich├ęs now with added drones; Kusturica issues; corny Croatian gangster flicks; far too much time spent shuttered from the Balkan sun, frantically editing my Kino Klub flick; and, from the horse's mouth (in Kino Bosna, of course), news of a fringe Sarajevo Film Festival that ran counter to the official one, when the latter was seen to have become a little alienated from its roots.

They used to have a fringe.

VR seminar at SFF

Friends old, new and smiley.