Images Blog #4 Andrew James Paterson
I didn't take yesterday off from the festival. I did go to the International Shorts programme, which was about narrative and memory. So many images are about memory - how to remember, how one never entirely remembers - how true events become fiction due to the passing of time and the processes of narration. All very true, and then what?
I went to an International shorts programme tonight about landscape as a verb. To landscape. The ingrained and the possible alternative ways of landscaping. Landscape referring not only to relatively unmediated nature but also to mores and customs and politics. And also languages. Nikamovin (Song), by Kevin Lee Burton, was a wonderful short videotape about recovery and reconstruction (opposite of deconstruction) of the Cree language. Phonetics become rhythmic and landscapes become electronic on top of acoustic and oral traditions become fluidly intertwined with electronic digital practices. Burton's tape blends urban and rural, pastoral and techno. He rejects these still very entrenched but ultimately false binaries, and also poses the very direct question as to why have the Cree and other aboriginal languages become so precarious.
Also included in this programme (Blurring the Terrain of Landscape as a Verb) was Nocturne (lampedusa-fort Europe), by the Belgian artist Pieter Geenen. Lampedusa is an Italian island which is the closest European point to Northern Africa. It is therefore a site for African, Asian, and Middle Eastern asylum seekers, who make their moves by means of small boats. This completely silent film looks out at the flickering lights of Lampedusa. Sometimes there are only a few lights and sometimes many more. There appears to be perhaps nightlife across the bay, but for considerable stretches this appears to be an almost completely dark film characterized by minimal light phenomena. If I had not read the programme notes after the screening, I would have thought the work to be totally abstract and formalist. But the stillness of the film and its camera position does create suspense or tension - duration-related tension. And every shifting of legs or seating positions became so amplified in the Workman theatre. It was a pretty intense twenty-eight minutes.
I was curious about the Live Images presentation that followed, The Conversation, a.k.a. Everything is Everything, by Tasman Richardson and Kentaro Taki. This was a live or performative dialogue between a Canadian and Japanese artist with relatively parallel practices. Both artists characteristically deploy rapidly-montaged stock/appropriated images, frequently downloaded from television and/or 'popular culture". After each artist played a brief solo (Kentaro a 1998 piece, Richardson a 2004), they... uh... jammed. The two image-composers positioned themselves in front of the screen in the manner of two turntables, and improvised with reasonably loose guidelines. Start with news anchors or talking heads; move on to drama sans dialogue, and then hit the world of advertising. The session began quite slowly, too slowly. Talking heads talk, so it took until the manipulated drama and especially the ad-clips for the two to begin seriously riffing off of each other rather than tentatively stop-starting. There were some great hip-hop culture jam moments, but they were moments. And the bits that worked the best sonically involved repeated images. Perhaps a third image/sound source might have permitted a greater fluidity, or was that part of the intention?