Interview and article originally published in full version in ‘RC Speciale Canecapovolto’ – Rapporto Confidenziale – Digital Magazine on the film culture, directed by Alessio Galbiati (assistant to DigiMag and member of the Network of Digicult) issue26, June / July 2010 pp.28-41 (www.rapportoconfidenziale.it)
What follows is a double-multiple interview with canecapovolto and malastrada.film (Alessandro Gagliardo) originally included in a special report by Rapporto Confidenziale on the art of the autonomous brotherhood named canecapovolto.
The stimulus which put me on the track of this “cultural product” is the publication, last winter, of the anthology of the works by canecapovolto: The Future is Obsolete [1992-2002], published (in limited edition) by (some friends) malastrada.film (in collaboration with the Gianluca Collica gallery and RISO, Museum of Contemporary Art of Sicily). Three DVDs and a book of reviews of the first ten years of audio-visual production by the artistic group from Catania.
It is an issue that brings to life, once again, three glorious VHS which went out of date too soon. It restores them before their extinction. And it also broadens the debate about them thanks to an invaluable volume (a little one) which includes some critical reflections by Adriano Aprà, Vito Campanelli, Massimo Causo, Sandra Lischi, Livio Marchese, Helga Marsala Salviano Miceli, Roberto Silvestri and Malastrada. film
The cinematic production of Canecapovolto is for experienced people, it is difficult to watch, it is underground, karst, borderline, or, if you prefer, experimental. The seminal, experimental, artisan cinema by this collective which produces motion pictures (it was founded in ’92 by Alessandro Aiello and Enrico Aresu and Alessandro De Filippo joined them in ’96) tends to escape the understanding, working on the meaning and the senses by subtraction; in other words the meaning becomes the battlefield within which the conflicts produced by the show society explode; this is the true constant target of all the production of this collective.
The point of view of Canecapovolto’s positions itself therefore in a situationist vision. The cinematic production of Canecapovolto is a cinema which breaks the rules against the standard methods of production of the contemporary culture, which is lived as a tool of annihilation of individuals and minds. Every short and long movie
shows a little debris produced by the tricks of a tyrannical system which controls society, which reminds us of the cinema of Ciprì and Maresco, either because of the frequent use of a claustrophobic black and white and a common preference for apocalyptic sets (and Not at all integrated), with the background of the same years of the nineties. But the reference to the cinema by Canecapovolto is the New American Cinema and not, as for the Sicilian couple (which exploded), the cynical comedy half-way between Svankmajer and a movie with Franchi and Ingrassia.
One of the main features of the cinematic production of Canecapovolto is the relentless work of research on media and formats. This, in the abovementioned anthology, ranges from the first experiments in painting on Super8 film,
which derives clearly from the work by Stan Brakhage, until the works of 2000 – 2002, included in the Drone series, which go beyond the cinema itself in the form of audio-video elements, heterogeneous and random, of the duration of thirty seconds: “It is a frame which can be disassembled and reassembled as you like in which fiction, abstract cinema, found footage and documentaries shot in super-8 and dv determine narrative areas, random episodes.”
What is clear from the vision and the reading of the elements of this anthology is that the research by Canecapovolto is focused on the social conflict inside the show society. This is realised through a research which measures itself with détournate theoris of Guy Debord, détourning them through an absorbtion of his way of thinking within Canecapovolto itself, a machine which products meaning. A meaning which is cinema, which is linguistic and aesthetic research but above all, politics.
Alessio Galbiati: The future is obsolete looks like a reissue, a technological update of the different visions of the cinematic production of by canecapovolto, from VHS to DVD, with the addition of a volume of critics in which, in the preface, canecapovolto himself reveals the nature of his action and tells about restoration work carried out. What major restorations were carried out?
canecapovolto: When Malastrada.film proposed to us to edit a copy of the three volumes of The future is obsolete, we immediately thought about a number of technical and quality matters we had to face and sort out in order to get to the final result. It should be noted that the first two of the three volumes of The future is obsolete (which we originally self-produced) were released on VHS and the works were edited with analogical technologies, also adding some materials taken from original sources such as cassettes and VHS. So when we realised we could not trace back to the sources we understood that a delicate reinterpretation of the short-movies, especially for audio parts was necessary. This is why some soundtracks, in respect to the original sources, wereexactly and precisely reconstructed.
Alessio Galbiati: Malastrada.film measured itself for the first time with an editorial retrospective. I guess the idea was born from a direct relationship with the authors, but knowing you, I would like to know how much of Malastrada is in The future is obsolete? Why did you cross path with canecapovolto?
Alessandro Gagliardo: The relationship of knowledge is the result of an interest in the practice of canecapovolto in its entirety. The self-distribution of the beginning, but even more the ability to constantly intend research as a fundamental element for the creation of visual objects, for a period of almost twenty years, established the prerequisites for a curiosity to learn, discover and compare (with them) navigation and experimentation paths. Thus the idea of an anthology edition takes life: at first it was designed as an opportunity of study to be released. We started from the beginning re-working the works of their first ten years of activity; but because of the ongoing activities by canecapovolto, now more than ever, they deserve (and this makes you think!) two or three editions of this type!
Alessio Galbiati: A limited edition DVD is a commercial product designed for a niche public, for a small circle of experienced people. At the same time, the existence of a support will allow an easier movement of your work in contexts probably unthinkable. What is the audience with whom you’d like to get in touch?
Alessandro Gagliardo: The existence of the niche often arouses immediate feelings of cultural restrictions and economic segregation, while the mass distribution is still seen as the missed obstructed and denied opportunity. It is never seen objectively as the scenarium of generalized equivalences, as the engine of dehumanizing dynamics or the schizophrenic jumble of rotten relationships. Reading the “curriculum vitae” of canecapovolto, or the ones of other authors who were spread by malastrada.film, there are dozens of screenings, festivals, exhibitions, press articles, speeches in lectures, workshops, etc: this is to say that very often the niche is a much broader system of references to what the term itself should now indicate.
In this sense, the consideration about the visibility/invisibility of a movie can be accommodated only within a context where between the concrete parameters of the circuitry (which can also be exchange tête-à-tête) you consider numerical issues, proclamations, movements sketched for a common purpose which hide specific individual interests: a perspective to which in these years I felt very close, sometimes even being its developer. But not now. I think the human niche is something more authentic, I find this kind of shadow zone a bit more intimate. It is an area of lack of control, in which the sphere of public domain does not prevail the most authentic intent in operating.
For this reason I do not think the issue will facilitate the contact with unimaginable situations, but always the work done and the one which we are doing now in terms of creation and visual theory will do it. The box is therefore an organic tool which testify a phase of the action by canecapovolto, which in this particular case, as always, in my opinion chases the audience rather than the phantom of the public.
Alessio Galbiati: Il futuro è obsoleto is also a critical volume on the cinematic production of canecapovolto with texts by Adriano Aprà, Sandra Lischi, Massimo Causo, Vito Campanelli, Helga Marsala, Livio Marchese, Salviano Miceli and Roberto Silvestri. How was this book conceived? How did you come to this selection of critical essays?
Alessandro Gagliardo: These essays by different people unite our paths, we are friends. We are all people who always managed to maintain a critical eye with regards to the surroundings and who, on several occasions and in different ways, have always wanted to give a critical contribution to the work of each other. This anthology and these reflections are first of all an honour, then an interesting “scientific support”.
Alessio Galbiati: Moving images are subject primarily to physical laws. The supporting structure of the display, which can be film, video or a digital representation degrades over time. In your experience, and especially in refer to the anthology we are debating about, what different mutations did you find? Are you thinking of a sort of
system for storing your films?
Alessandro Gagliardo: With your reflection on digital preservation you are answering your own first two questions. Cinema as a material degrades exactly like a book or an old iron travel razor dated early 1800s. I agree with the idea of a dramatic historical mistake but not for its troublesomeness which only is another thing to get anxious about. A historical mistake which is pursued is the genesis of a entropy: if we lose everything, we can do it all again, maybe simply with an open mind and differently: the history of images is far older than daguerreotypes or celluloid. But I do not think DVD is the real problem; this support will disappear in a short time; the file is what really matters. Just consider the development of the systems for recording images. We are gathering together tons of hard disks. It is the first time in history that such a lot of recording systems have a mass distribution.
That is to say that the preservation of the image still is something to be solved. Photographers keep the negatives to be sure of the possibility to reproduce their pictures. Today we should mirror a lifetime’s accumulation of data, a back-up of images and of all the other digital tracks (Acquisitions, text, audio, etc) hoping that once the first hd is dead the other one will save us. It is difficult to say what this mean in practical terms. I think that the 3 terabytes of information I have accumulated over the last six years, according to the principle of conservation of substance, should already be 6, In fact they should have doubled. If I apply this discussion to an entire life, I should imagine a refrigerated room in my apartment where I can store what I call my himmag, my digital transcendence, which my sons and daughters will deal with afterwards.
It sounds like science fiction, but clearly it is not. On the other hand we do not know how long the servers (usually far away and not directly under our control) will be inviolable. Moreover we are evolving as a species:
We should understand how we can face death without any kind of drama, Probably in this direction the future could seem less obsolete.
Alessio Galbiati: The third DVD contains seven short films from the series called drone. What are they about?
canecapovolto: They were the first studies on the modular structures and on the need for classification of still and moving images, texts, sounds and music. Then the discussion got to the extreme “Stereo_towards Infinite”: the video that never dies, the video which is never finished. It is made up of some editings which are in chronological order. Each of them is linked to a unique projection-event. This system was the way in which we were able to extend the “random” method from cd to dvds (in that case the machine performed the final editing of the work)
Alessio Galbiati: Generally speaking all your audiovisual production is continuously related to the concept of seriality. Your own cinema is frequently conceived as a serial product almost as if the thought that generates it is searching for possible meaning of the apparent chaos of inspiration and results in this recurrence. Why? Is it a deliberate choice, attitude or what? Are we still within the logic of criticism to the show society?
canecapovolto: We have a cult of seriality in our DNA simply because we believe that any “cell” of information
never cease to own some communicative potential. We are not trying to find a meaning in the chaos of inspiration therefore, it is all about its exact contrary: opening up to the chaos that is capable of generating a single information depending on its position and its agreement with others. “Stereo_towards Infinity” is the apotheosis of seriality and structure, but before that, some sound works designed for a random listening or videos like “The word which deletes”, experienced repetition as a possibility of liberation for the spectator. We critisize the consumption of information as a performance of communication which is given to the spectator as a homeopathic medicine
Alessio Galbiati: Which artists and filmmakers do you feel closer to your own artistic research?
canecapovolto: Of course Alberto Grifi, the “Situationists” and recently the “plagi-ariste” practices by the group Praxis.