Friday, 1 July 2016

It's Nick's Birthday in London

The Institute's short DIY musical It's Nick's Birthday will close the 2nd Slow Cinema Symposium at UCL next Friday. Please note, director Graeme Cole will tragically not be in attendance.

PROGRAM: Shorts 4
WHERE:  UCL Malet Place Eng 1.02, UCL Institute of Archaeology - 31-34 Gordon Square - London, WC1H 0PY
WHEN: Friday, 8th July 2016, 16.00-18.00 (symposium starts 09.30)
COST: FREE with registration 
NOTES: Some kind of talk with leading man Stewart Lockwood is likely to unfold.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Split Log 7

Out to shoot the wind, but the rain stole the show. The elements make for a flaneur's shot list: the shape of the city mutates when you're hunting for meteorological rather than economic or social currents. Split is full of - almost structured around - strange dead spaces, squares that no-one gathers on, paths that are crossed only laterally, semi-abandoned brutalist playgrounds, idealistically composed but lifeless would-be social spaces. There's another movie in there, or perhaps an opera of echoes; but for now, we follow the wind.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Split Log 6

Mihovil Pansini called his Zagreb ‘anti-films’ a “visual acoustic phenomenon” but it is the middle word that best evokes the feeling, of vibrations on air, of an architectural space to be filled, of an in-between rather than a finite surface. His opposite number on the coast, Ivan Martinac, regarded his own pictures as “films of state”, pyschogeofilmic distillations of a/the “shared otherworldliness” of Split on small format stock. Despite my narratively-oriented work, I feel closer thus far to these Croatians than the distant Belgrade Klub with all their ‘plot’ and “unembellished reality”. It is not so much that I have lost the plot, as that it has dissolved: in the spirit of Martinac and Pansini, hoovering up their images with scant regard for causality, and in unnerving contrast to my infamous Nexus residency in which I literally pre-scripted every minute of the whole three month trial, I have drifted these weeks, absorbing information and experience like a sponge, releasing pungent drips when squeezed by the participants of the Unfound Peoples Videotechnic.

The workshops have progressed well: the participants are broadminded, self-determined and curious, with a healthy dose of dissidence. Despite labelling this inaugural program UPV’s ‘Alpha Semester’, though, it remains very much a beta proposition: I am as yet unsatisified with both form and content, but these are early tests that need to be made, the felling of outlying trees (with attendant squirrel carnage) necessary to get our tractors to the rich bounty at the heart of the forest. We have, I believe, struck a nice balance of my meaningless English-language blather prompting homework assignments of serious enquiry inspired by mis- and partial-understandings of the obscure words and unstable theories asserted in class by a professor who must, above all else, profess to be a terrible speaker.

The Institute’s enemies will be bitter to hear it’s going so well that we have decided to extend my time at the Kino Klub for a few extra weeks. Research into the culture and history of the Kino Klubs, combined with preparing the workshops, has eaten into the time that I had hoped to devote to putting a new video together. Inspired by those historic enclaves of young (mostly) men, engaged in their ideas and their surroundings, creating and solving their own artistic problems, entitled, imprisoned and inspired, I hope I can work something out with their (mixed) spiritual descendents. As a pack-dog, a member of one official, one unannounced, and thirteen secret artist collectives, anyway, it is an unpassable opportunity to hole up in a Klub of huge cultural importance for a few weeks, to steal and to leak esoteric techniques and forge some irreverent tribute to the Yugoslavian ‘amateurs’ who changed the direction of Balkan film and art. I hope to warm up the sensors in the first couple of weeks of May.

Gastrodimensional cake-chart illustrating total of work yet to be achieved.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Split Log 05

The birds are chirping, although there’s no sign yet of the sun. I envy them their circadian rhythms, behaviour as secret information. I have become convinced that my own rhythms have become faulty, my feelings – which perhaps I should have left at home – ebbing and flowing with the unpredictability of the capricious Dalmation winds. Meanwhile, my information sources are wholly orthodox: books, videos, the internet, the flawed recollections of other people. They are reforming as quivering inaccuracies in my mind and, occasionally, as words on the internet or out of my mouth.

Saturday, we officially – but without ceremony – inaugurated the Unfound Peoples Videotechnic at Kino Klub Split (a temporary lodging for a roaming academy). The opening lecture, titled Mythology of the Self, seemed to be well-received by our historic initial cohort. It was a relief just to get through the damned thing without running out of things to say or being assaulted or, worse, called-out. I hope it was of some use, but in developing a total filmmaking education program (indeed, it is billed as a radical de-programming reprogramming program) this first lecture can only be regarded as the damping of the nib. It was far too factual, if my opinions were admirably smeared into the raw information, and with too many references to the ‘real world’. In preparing (destroying) a limited edition .pdf of notes for participants to take away with them, I began to find a greater poetry in omission and deliberate obfuscation; words, as some wise old chap once said, are given to us to hide our true meaning. I’m running an artist’s workshop, not a cooking show.

My own studies, however, focussing presently on the Kino Klub movement, are drawn into a peculiar dichotomy of word and sound-image: the Klubs’ golden era, the hub of their collective thematic resonances, was half a century ago; the movies of the time are largely wordless, but are explained in a tornado of written manifestoes, articles and histories which variously overlap, correct and contradict each other. It’s most inspiring, all this writing, and a curious analogue to what would have been the equivalent had I ‘been there’ – conversation, both languid (lazy young revolutionaries pushing ideas around with twigs on the beaches of Split) and quasi-diplomatic (the minuted, numbered and catalogued ‘discussions’ of Zagreb’s smoky projector rooms). Of course, I wouldn’t have understood a word if I’d ‘been there’. Maybe that would have engendered a more appropriate feeling. Certainly, I’m enjoying (and understanding) the films more on a collective level, starting to feel I know the filmmakers (which I never will) better than I know the films (which I have watched repeatedly). Projections…

Your corrections are welcomed in the Comments box.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Split Log 04

Dazzled by words and light, unable to form the former or comprehend the latter, for now a synthesis of both in the precisely 11,000 as-yet unphotoshopped words below. Logging with words-words is proving somehow unnatural for now. Embiggen for detail.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Split Log 03

Scouting for locations, feelings, in Omiš.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Split Log 02

The first Friday night at Kino Klub brings a screening of Duet for Cannibals, Susan Sontag’s take on the daftness of politicians and activists alike, starring a young Martin Freeman.

Afterwards, we discuss the movie (a Bunuelian Godard spoof?) with Kino Klub director Sunčica Fradelić. A bottle of slivovitsa is brought through from a smoky backroom where local musician and Kino Klub member Karlo Silic is routinely thrashing his colleagues at some esoteric card game. Such is the dynamic social tension that pulses beneath the surface of the Klub today. I am introduced to their pet Super 8 camera (just when I thought I got out of Super 8) and the possibility of 16mm is also dangled enticingly in front of my slivovitsa-reddened eyes.

Saturday is spent flipping through archive DVDs, reading up, wandering through Split: two millennia of settlement, obsessively traced on film by the Klub’s camera-clutching flaneurs who – as my meagre research so far suggests – preferred the body of the polis to cinegraphic contemplation of their own flesh.

Split presents itself as a languid port town in which countless concrete people-boxes have sprouted from beneath the extended back yard of the Diocletian Palace, the still-inhabited stone labyrinth which remains the social hub of the area today. Diocletian was the first Roman Emperor to voluntarily retire, and the people of Split have prided themselves on their laziness ever since. Beyond the palace walls, leather jackets and torn jeans form a triumvirate of distressed patinas with the ubiquitous concrete, and tiny dogs are de rigueur, perhaps as a device to draw attention towards the owners’ footwear, which is universally excellent.

The filmmakers of the Yugoslavian region didn’t get around to making their first feature until 1941. The first Tito-sponsored amateur film clubs popped up as classical Hollywood faltered and Cassavetes itched, the key second generation of the Split chapter emerging as new waves began to roll in Europe and elsewhere. The Klubs thus form a unique node between a very brief classical cinema, and both the cinematic and 'fine' art developments to come (perhaps best exemplified through the legendary figure of Zagreb's Tomislav Gotovac, who was muddled up both with the cinematic 'Black Wave' of the 60s/70s and the art scene over the half-century before his death in 2010).

My early impressions of the early Kino Klub Split filmmakers are of an equipe of antagonistic (not angry), curious (not academic) men (not women) with a self-imposed mission that I am not yet at liberty to disclose. As one band of curators points out, these filmmakers have been categorized under a number of overlapping terms – amateur, experimental, avant-garde, anti-film (mostly their Zagreb cousins), alternative film (Belgrade) – precluding, at least until much more recently, the label of ‘video artists’ because video (and possibly artist) is a dirty word. It is curious, then, to work with the club today, when everyone’s packing video, everyone’s an artist, and the former terms have lost their pungency.

Except, perhaps, for that of amateur, a word that adds legitimacy/democracy to the efforts of the casual masses and pride to the enthusiasts. I’ll continue in that spirit, as a kind of enthusiastic sponge, to be wrung out on film before the end of the month.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Split Log 01

Arriving in Split as a self-appointed ‘failed-filmmaker-turned-guru’, I am to undertake a residency at the city’s historic Kino Klub, absorb the artistic and pedagogic technique of the ‘Split school’, and feed back into the loop with a series of workshops drawing on the Institute’s research and my recent studies at film.factory in Sarajevo (just 150 miles east from here). I will also mount some kind of film/video production inspired by or perhaps merely as a distraction from my quasi-academic work.

Secretly, it’s also a mission to make sense of a lot of fragments, scraps, vacuums and glitches that have accumulated in my already-ragged knowledge over the past couple of years and left me feeling more lost than ever. Combined with my pre-existing specialism in misplaced, damaged and impossible films, and a critical exoticism/guilty fetishism for the severity of socialist institutional nomenclature, the project has been christened as the Unfound Peoples Videotechnic.

Seduced by a stray quote from the Klub’s foremost historical figure, Ivan Martinac, I intend to spend the month on the (figurative) beach in a mood of “near insane contemplation”, knitting together some of those fragments into a workable comfort blanket with which to warm myself and those who would join me for breezy Split evenings and British winters to come. Perhaps I will remember to document my progress here.

I have also begun scribbling about some of the variously obscure/classic regional films I'm watching on Letterboxd. I'll try to pin them up here too.