The section of the Sónar of Barcelona dedicated to the seventh art, SónarCinema , was held for the eleventh time (the first season being held in 1998), during all the three days of the festival, from noon to 8 p.m., as usual at the Auditorium of the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona .
This year, and for the first time, the organisers of the kermes chose a common theme for all the extras of this festival that has always had interdisciplinarity as its distinguishing feature. This character has been clearly expressed in its diurnal location, in the structures of the above-mentioned CCCB and of the MACBA ( Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona ). This common theme was cinema: Cinema beyond Cinema was the theoretical idea to which all different fields were linked, i.e. SónarMàtica , Sonarama , Digital Art À La Carte and of course the exhibition SónarCinema: a choice made for ratifying a reconciliation between digital art and the early cinema or, more in general, the prehistory of images in movement, which lately has been imposing itself.
A choice that aims at questioning the present to understand the future, through the awareness that what is brought up for discussion again by the revolution of digital media has the same ontological basis of visual stimulations following one another on the retina, the same limit met by the magic lantern and by the audience of nickelodeons at the beginning of the XX century, perhaps the very same audience of the beautiful piece exposed in the corridors of SonarMàtica .
Perhaps, SónarCinema is an oasis of coolness and peace, before anything else, where to refresh the body from the tight and exhausting programme of the Catalan festival. I’ve attended the festival for a few times and I feel the need to put in some words to describe, to whom has never been here, the unique modality of fruition of images in movement, a modality which has the merit of setting the vision of images all around a much richer context.
A few minutes sitting in this very cool room are enough to remember that outside it a whole world of sounds and images is flowing fast. You have the sensation to be surrounded by music which indeed filters trough the walls, giving its echo back. In this exceptionally marginal cinematic oasis, curator of the section Andrew Davies plays with the Sónar , offering a polymorphic exhibition of heterogeneous material made up of 14 different selections, for a total of 58 works and 48 directors involved. Total runtime: 585 minutes, a little less than ten hours!.
During the three days of the festival, the projection schedule gave each work the opportunity to be seen twice, within a democratic logic of visibility of each unit. It is a polymorphic exhibition of heterogeneous material linked by the common theme, which this year is named CineMaterial , or the manipulation of pre-existent material through editing. Davies, whom we will interview for the next issue of DigiMag, carves out a niche, in the heterogeneity of SónarCinema , for his homonymous micro-manifesto-exhibition, made up of three works that can be regarded as real paradigms of the themes that have made this season of SónarCinema come true. The rest is chaos, organised in the form of a menu selection that, on one side, answers the need of the organisers to give visibility to the contributions of a number of artists and, on the other, stages the multitude of audio/video material developing around the electronic scene all over the world.
What’s certain is that Andrew Davies’s exhibition has been, this year as well, rich in varied material, maybe a little inclined to present little-known works, exposing himself to criticism on the debatableness of his choices. But during ten hours of scheduling, something interesting will be surely projected, also for the more delicate palates.
As already mentioned in the introduction, Andrew Davies selected very carefully the main menu of this season of SónarCinema. CineMaterial is a reflexion on manipulation and on the appropriation of pre-existent material: it is a theme broadly represented in the other sections of this selection, but here it is brought to a level of explicit evidence.
Norbert Pfaffenbichler’s work, Mosaik Mécanique (9’30”, 2007), is a manipulation-decomposition of a 1914 Keystone classic ( A Film Johnnie , directed by George Nichols), starred by Charlie Chaplin and Fatty Arbuckle: he created a symmetrical grid of 98 different squares, each one showing a different single sequence delimited by editing cuts. The total length of the mosaic is the same of the original movie. What is dilated is the concept of sequence: they’re all presented simultaneously.
Work, Rest & Play by Vicki Bennett (People Like Us, 2007) “plays” instead with the tripartition of image, staging with an absolutely original modality what could be the dreams of the little boy who is on screen from the beginning to the end. Bennet creates a stratified message, open to a multitude of interpretations, putting together a number of images coming from industrial archives from the period 1940-1975, recorded in two of the largest web film libraries, the Prelinger Archives and the AV Geeks.
Finally, the work that struck me the most: Kristall , directed by Christoph Girardet and Matthias Müller (Germany/2006, 15′). This multi-awarded short film is the quintessence of the love for cinema, since it collects a remarkable number of sequences extracted from a set of renowned films from the period 40s’-60s’. The protagonists of these sequences are actors caught in front of the mirror in an astonishing game of reflections that, beyond its intrinsic beauty and the emotions it releases, reveals a set of conventions characteristic of classic cinema. The woman that thoughtfully looks at herself in the mirror while combing her hair, the angry man that shatters the mirror and, again, the woman that reads a letter in front of the mirror and the man that steals in behind the woman in front of the mirror; Girardet e Müller assembled a breathtaking sequence, which will remain, once grasped by the eyes, an indelible memory, pure poetry in images. ” Kristall creates a melodrama inside seemingly claustrophobic mirrored cabinets. Like an anonymous viewer, the mirror observes scenes of intimacy. It creates an image within an image, providing a frame for the characters. At the same time it makes them appear disjointed and fragmented. This instrument for self-assurance and narcissistic presentation becomes a powerful opponent that increases the sense of fragility, doubt, and loss twofold” (Christoph Girardet & Matthias Müller).
What The Future Sounded Like
Director: Matthew Bate; producer: Claire Harris; sound: Richard Pilcher (Stereo 5.1 Surround Sound); motion graphics: Greg Holfeld; super-8 sequence: Ian Helliwell; sound design: Pete Best; sound edit: Liam Price; mixer: Peter Smith; post-production: Facility The Lab; post-production: Meredith Hosking; archive researches: Archive Research Claire Harris; archivefootage: Crown Copyright, Film Images, Film Australia ITN Source, Reuters, British Pathe, BBC Motion Gallery, Getty Images, Terry Nation Estate, EMS Archive, Tristram Cary Archive, Peter Zinovieff Archive, Film World, Canberra Times, Yancey e Hawkwind Archives; co-produced with: Australia Film Commision, South Australian Film Corporation, Adelaide Film Festival Investment Fund, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC); format: HDV and Digital Betacam – 16:9 Widescreen Anamorphic; country: Australia, production year: 2007; runtime: 27′
This interesting documentary, very British from the point of view of the production (interviews and stock footage are the carrying structure), tells the memories of one of those musical research institutes devoted to electronic, much less renowned than the Parisian GRMC (Groupe de recherche de musique concrète), run by Pierre Shaeffer, or than the Cologne radio studio WDR (Westdeustcher Rundfunk), run by Beyer, Eimert e Mayer-Eppler (but Stockhausen is their most renowned name), or also than the Italian phonology studio RAI, run by the brilliant Bruno Maderna e Luciano Berio, and whose headquarters were in corso Sempione in Milan.
Pilgrimage from Scattered Points
Director, writer, editor and photographer: Luke Fowler; producer: Toby Webster ( The Modern Institute ); score: Carnelius Cardew, The Scratch Orchestra, Thurston Moore; country: UK ; production year: 2006; runtime: 45′.
“Pilgrimage from Scattered Points” is the odd title of this documentary directed by Luke Fowler and presented at SónarCinema 2008 . During its 45 minutes, the documentary tells the story of the avant-garde musician Cornelius Cardew (1936-1981) and its Scratch Orchestra (founded in 1968), a experimental music ensemble composed of non-professional musicians and created with the totally political purpose of a real musical liberation of the population. A utopian project of liberation of the masses, music for anyone produced by anyone, in accordance with the Marxist motto “Silence is therefore the only possible means of communication”.
The direction of the Scottish thirty-year-old Luke Fowler is frantic, characterised by an incessant editing that seems to pursue the idea of giving an atemporal form to the material. It is a really interesting choice that requires a monumental work of editing and source treatment completely original and well done. Fowler mixes stock footage, containing Cardew’s political declarations (Marxism and Maoism tout court), with a rationed sample of interviews with his collaborators, among which Howard Skempton and Michael Parsone, remembering the past. However, in doing so, he avoids the typical documentary-style, sifting all contributions by means of a range of visual effects and, as I said before, a frantic editing.
Much of the work is obviously dedicated to honour some performances of the Scratch Orchestra, with images taken from a 1971 documentary of British public television, Journey to the North Pole (directed by Hanne Boenish), which, thanks to its big super-8 perfectly combines with Fowler’s taste for “dirty” image. Even if it is divided into chapters, the documentary can’t make itself clear to the audience. It seems that the huge work of footage research made the director lose the lucidity necessary to explain with adequate clearness the events. The style itself, frantic and incessant, brings the whole operation towards the absolute incomprehensibility (if we want to be indulgent, we could call it “complexity”), the events narrated are not explained with wealth of detail and everything looks like a kind of mockumentary, a fake documentary of something plausible but completely made up. But if everything is real, Fowler has made an excellent documentary; at the worst, a superb mockumentary!
The invective contained in the book Stockhausen Serves Imperialism is absolutely appealing and, exceptional case, blames the German composer and, more in general, the whole avant-garde, for a whole set of composition and execution modalities that perhaps should be examined again, to take off the pedestal much experimentation that, for its intrinsic complexity, we are induced by now to “consume” uncritically.
Director and writer: Bruno Natal; motion graphics: Adriano D’Aguiar and Juarez Escosteguy; filmed by: Bruno Natal; sound: Lontra Music; editor: Daniel Ferro, Julio Adler, Rafael Mellin; score: Digitaldubs Sound System; producer: Bruno Natal; country: Brasile; production year: 2007; runtime: 71′.
I particularly liked Dub Echoes , for some strange reason I’m unaware of. It may be the sounds, which I didn’t imagine could be so pleasant; it may be the beautiful locations; it may be the will to think of Dub as the navel of the electronic music world, the perfect combination (as well as the more lasting on the scene of sampled music) of old and new, past and present. Dub becomes a kind of religion, the Word turned into sound, or even air to breathe. In the end, Dub is everything, a real philosophy through which taking possession of everything around us in the most free, democratic and peaceful way. A wind of creativity that from Jamaica spreads all over the world.
The most striking thing in the work of Natal is the number of musicians, scholars and other people interviewed all around the world: 2manydjs, Aba Shanti-I, Adam Freeland, Audio Bullys, Basement Jaxx, Beat Junkies, Bill Laswell, Black Alien, Bullwackie, Bunny Lee, Congo Natty, David Katz, Dennis Bovell, Dj Spooky, Don Letts, Dr. Das, Dreadzone, Dub Pistols, G-Corp, Glyn Bush, Gussie Clarke, Howie B, Kode 9, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Ltj Bukem, Mad Professor, Marcelo Yuka, Mario Caldato Jr., Mutabaruka, Nação Zumbi, Peter Kruder, Roots Manuva, Scientist, Sly & Robbie, Steve Barrow, Switch, Thievery Corporation, U-Roy, Victor “Ticklah” Axelrod, Zion Train.
This choice, placed at Natal ‘s disposal by an obliging and moneyed production, fits perfectly one of the strong messages contained in this work: the idea that the Dub is spread all over the world becomes a fact, since these people are actually talking from the four corners of the Earth. And the rebounding is incredible, there are shots/countershots between interviews to different people in different parts of the world. A man in Rio De Janeiro declares that Dub is freedom and in London , another man adds that this freedom comes from the very nature of the technique used. Perhaps, it is the best documentary of this season of Sónar , because it combines a quite neutral and well realised shooting and editing technique with a very interesting subject, never investigated with such wealth of detail. Bruno Natal realised a didactic video on Dub and its echo will possibly start spreading in the years to come.
Part of the Weekend Never Dies
Director: Saam Farahmand and Soulwax; editing: Kurt Augustyns; photografy: Saam Farahmand; producers: Sasha Nixon and Grace Bodie; country: UK , Belgium ; release date: 25 August 2008; runtime: 60′.
Last year SónarCinema hosted the clamorous Beastie Boys’ DVD (Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That!), in which 50 cameras operated by 50 different people, from 50 different point of view, recorded the whole performance of the New York band at Madison Square Garden . This year, a single camera records 120 shows of Soulwax around the world. After all, Part Of The Weekend Never Dies is one of those hagiographic audiovisual objects that conveys the mythical aura surrounding successful bands: journeys, concerts, life backstage, famous and less famous friends, hotels, airports, fans, groupies
We’re taken for about an hour inside the Radio Soulwax World Tour, in close contact with the 4 members of one of the most successful bands of the last few years. The movie is produced by Factory Partixan (a real quality trademark) and directed by Saam Farahmand (together with Soulwax themselves), author of successful clips for Klaxons, Hercules & Love Affair and Janet Jackson. Personally, I don’t love this type of works much, maybe because I don’t have a band, and even less I happen frequently to go on world tours. What puzzles me is the real meaning of these works that are not even capable of conveying thoroughly the essence of the music that is being played, they give me the impression of a mincing product that is an end in itself.
I mentioned the work of Beastie Boys not at random, because I think that these two projects in a way represent the two poles of narrating live shows: on one side, the performance seen as a collective event which the audience is an active part of; on the other, the audience is just the interchangeable background (London, Paris, Rio and Tokyo look like a single huge metropolis behind the stars) and, besides, very homogeneous as for types of reaction to sound stimuli, and for look. Moreover, all places are, according to Marc Augé, “non-places” desolately empty of their identity. The presence of other famous artists and DJs (James Murphy, Nancy Whang, Erol Alkan, Tiga, Justice, Busy P, So-Me, Peaches, Kitsuné and Klaxons) seems necessary to spice up a dish that might otherwise turn out to be insipid.
Even though it is excellently realised and will get a sure positive replay by the audience, this documentary doesn’t completely convince me, it fascinates but it is never sincere. After following the Soulwax around the world, at the end of the tour, we don’t really understand who hides behind this name. Every hagiography presupposes faith, otherwise the trick gives itself away, risking to fall into ridicule.
The film was previewed in Spain , the DVD will be available from the 25 th of August, for the delight of the fans that are waiting forward to displaying a new merchandise fetish in their video library.
Author’s Clips: Choreographies
Following the tradition, this year too the festival couldn’t do without a selection of clips from the last year and a half, linked by the staging of choreographies (a concept, to tell the truth, applied in a very broad sense). We go from real Broadway-style choreographies in the clip directed by Douglas Wilson, who plays insolently with the rhythmic instrumental of Goldfrapp’s track, to the less conventional and remarkable for its direction technique (single long take) and for the dance technique of the dancer Bill Shannon (born with a degenerative psychomotor condition) Work It Out , directed by one of the most talented videomaker in circulation, Joey Garfield.
Bat for Lashes – What’s a Girl to Do? . Regia di Dougal Wilson . 3′
RJD2 – Work It Out . Regia di Joey Garfield. 3′ 30″
Kid Acne – Eddy Fresh . 3′
Buraka Som Sistema – Sound of Kuduro . 4′
Goldfrapp – Happiness . Regia di Dougal Wilson . 3’30”
Justice – D.A.N.C.E . Regia di Jonas & François. 3′
Trans Am – Tesco vs. Sainsburys . Regia di Subway Lung. 4′
Bomb the Bass – Butterfingers . Regia di Perish Factory. 4′
Author Clips: Osaka
After seeing the selection of clips at issue, my impression was that there’s something wrong in the air in Osaka . You could expect an extraordinary use of digital technologies and, instead, you find yourself facing images, of course digital, of course ultra-manipulated, but the aesthetic is not that of hypertechnology. In short, it seems to witness variations on the theme of early Shinya Tsukamoto’s aesthetic: post-post-punk?! The soundtrack, very homogeneous but always quite identical, comes from some of the most experimental bands and characters of the musical scene of Japanese metropolis.
The musical part of the diurnal Sónar hosted some of the representatives of the scene of the Japanese city: on Saturday afternoon, the SónarComplex was open to the notes of Ove Naxx, Bogulta, DJ Scotch Egg and Morusa. Destabilizing!
Zuinosin – Scool Oi . Regia di Catchpulse
Baiyon – Under the Bridge . Regia di Catchpulse
Nanycal – Drumsmemen Father’s Song . Regia di Catchpulse
DJ Scotch Egg – Scotch Bach . Regia di Steve Glaisher
Ove Naxx – Donga’s Monsta Circus .
Maruosa – Muscle Spark .
Author Clips: Audio Dregs
Audio Dreges Recording is the name of the Portland label founded by Eric Mast, aka E*Rock: versatile multidisciplinary artist who sweeps from music to audiovisual production with absolute ease. E*Rock makes clips with flash, a damned popular software on the web, which has difficulty to impose itself out of it. He produces little, lovely animations in synchrony with the accompanied sounds, a light and fantastic world rises from the juxtaposition of microsequences of images in movement: in the most modest results, they look like much amateur material, but in his most successful works he is able to create wonderful interactions between images in flash and real actors. It was a strange choice to include a monograph like this, which is not certainly outstanding for its quality and originality.
– Cherry (musica: Ratatat).
– Dead Weird Keks (musica: Global Goon)
– Dome TV pt.2 (musica: White Rainbow)
– Geomagnetic Mind Feed (excerpt) (musica: E*Rock)
– I Love Your Music (musica: Tobiah)
– Mind as Master (musica: Sack & E*Rock)
– Native 78 (musica: White Rainbow)
– New Alium (musica: Lucky Dragons)
– SHTML (musica: Yacht)
– Streets (musica: Valet)
– The Physical DJ (musica: E*Rock)
– Uncle David (musica: Neon Hunk)
Clip di artisti della Audio Dreg Rec.
– O.Lamm – Aerialist . Regia di Mumbleboy
– O.Lamm – Bu-ri-n-gu za-no-i-zu! . Regia di Ian Lynam
– O.Lamm – Genius Boy . Regia di Kumi Kamoto
– WZT Hearts – Discuss Winter . Regia di Mark Brown
– Melodium – Felt Melt . Regia di Torisu Koshiro
Mort Aux Vaches Ekstra DIEM
Kristian Vester, more commonly known as Goodiepal (but lately he opted for the name Van Den Gæoudjiparl Dobbelsteen), is considered one of the most influential and interesting artists emerged in electronica in the last few years. His sensitiveness, his way of working, his particular approach to musical creation are the main qualities of a bizarre Danish little/big genius.
The birth of this work is odd (it was born as a series of lectures held by Goodiepal at the Dansk Institut for Elektronisk Musik, it later becomes a book and finally a recording of one of these lectures made by the Dabish television), as well as its content, a theoretical and conceptual ground, very tricky for a cinema critic who enters precincts only sporadically frequented. Fifty minutes of Pindaric flights and musical improvisation, disguised as a lecture or rather as the overflowing monologue of a genius (whom would have possibly been called “revolutionary” in another age).
In The Name of Kernel: Song of the Iron Bird
Joan Leandre is a Catalan artist who works since the beginning of the 90s’, manipulating the virtuality, and the aesthetic, of videogames to propose an odd vision of the digital worlds generated by last-generation calculators. Leandre, aka Retroyou, seems to have a particular fixation with flight simulators. Simulator of simulators, which seems to be quickly running towards the duplication of reality.
80s’ aesthetic stolen from commercial broadcasting, teleshopping for white teeth and that kind of stuff. And moreover: anihilation of every humanity and plastic conformism. Wild animals scattered here and there (Charlemagne Palestine might like it?!?!): men and beasts. The editing is extremely basic, elementary cut-and-paste made up of odd juxtapositions of meaning. The sound flows over the images with no link whatsoever. Animal Charm is the pseudonym behind which Jim Fetterley and Rich Bott hide, this Californian duo that has been working in visual experimentation for a bit more than a decade and which is marked out by the debunking aptitude towards pop imagery. Their style is that of homemade digital handicraft, youtube aesthetic ahead of its time. Their main butt is that mass culture disseminated by commercial broadcasting; they parody it by means of a dismantling editing which circulates paths of meaning wisely defined “Dantesque” by the curator.
Hereafter are listed the proposed works, for an overall runtime of 40 minutes: Animal Charm Live, Lightfoot Fever, Street Shapes, Computer Smarts, Brite Tip, Il Moulle, Sunshine Kitty, Hot Mirror
– Lightfoot Fever (1’30”, 1996). Take Jim Bailey singing the classic Fever , assemble it with images of wild animals, shake the sound sampling the different parts of the tune, alternate a sensuous duet of the singer with a sinuous partner and images of those same animals with another of their same species and you’ll get the eccentric blend staged for this short and lightning experiment. The clip is part of the compilation Animal Charm Videoworks: Volume 1 and of the anthology American Psycho (drama): Sigmund Freud vs. Henry Ford .
– Computer Smarts (1’30”, 2002). If it was possible to translate into images the transfer of the encyclopaedic memory of a calculator to the tiny brain of a parrot, we would find ourselves in front of the short film at issue. The clip is part of the compilation Animal Charm Videoworks Volume 3: Computer Smarts
– Brite Tip (3’00”). With a whole set of editing effects ranging from wipes to lap dissolves, in this clip we find images juxtaposed in the style of Kuleov, describing the forced education to which children and police dog are equally (?) subjected. As if saying that education is in any case a little forced. The clip is part of the compilation Animal Charm Videoworks Volume 3: Computer Smarts. These three titles are given here just to outline a very complex style, difficult to narrate with words.
Soundtrack: Martin Siewert
This monograph dedicated to the postrecordings of Vienna-based Martin Siewert is pleasant; the selection gave the chance to display some very interesting works by authors coming from Central Europe: Gustav Deutsch, Jan Machacek and, with even three works, Michaella Grill. Five works that perfectly summarise the different forms of collaboration and the different aptitudes of these directors, three absolutely leading figures, both artistically and technically. .
– Film Ist # 9 . Regia: Gustav Deutsch (AUT/2002).
Film Ist is a project that reached its second phase (chapter 7 to 12) in 2002. It is a series of twelve chapters composed of variable sequences of small fragments of early cinema films, recovered and restored by the five film archives that collaborated on the realisation of this complex project directed by Gustav Deutsch (one of the most important living filmmaker). Recovered and restored, but unavoidably silent, the films are accompanied by Martin Siewert’s lunar and electric tunes. SónarCinema extracts the four elements that made up chapter No. 9, named conquest ; Deutsch tones the colour after the fashion of many films of the origins and assembles independent micro-narrations: the conquest is the steam engine (9.1), the conquest of the sky with the airship (9.2), that of the flesh on the soul, of the white on the black, of mankind on beasts (9.3), and then the conquest of the enemy camp by armies that, in the beginning, fight with bayonets and then, in a military crescendo, get to fight with mechanical instruments of war (9.4).
– Erase Remake . Regia: Jan Machacek.
– Hello Again . Regia: Michaella Grill.
– Trans . Regia: Michaella Grill.
– Cityscapes . Regia: Michaella Grill.
Urban glimpses of the early 1900s’. Almost unperceivable, dirtied with a digital patina that makes them hardly visible. The effect that Michaella Grill pursues, seems to head towards the materialisation of the distance of time that separates us from the capture of an indefinite town of the beginning of the century.
Regia: Edward Quist. Musiche: Pan Sonic. Montaggio Wargula. Durata 35′ . 2008.
Pan Sonic’s first-ever release on DVD. This datum yet makes the work at issue an event: it is the result of the collaboration between the Finnish duo and digital artist Edward Quist, who created a complex image of a cathode ray, in which faint images of the two appear, as accompaniment for the abstract sounds that they produced during a live performance. Ilpo Väisänen and Mika Vainio are the only protagonists of this interesting audio experiment which, in spite of what we could imagine, avoids turning to the synchronisation of sound and image, the two tracks (audio and video) run independently as for progress and structure. A product absolutely in line with Pan Sonic style, essential, minimal and very noise.
Regia: Edward Quist. Musiche: Del Marquis & Edward Quist. Durata 5′ . 2008.
The passion, fixation, of Edward Quist with filming electrons observed in a vacuum tube (the physical phenomenon that allow the generation of cathode rays) comes back in this short work which illustrates a variation on the theme expressed in the preceding work.
In transit and passing, and extensively journeys and transformations, is the theme chosen as a common thread running through the three short films that, although in different ways, grapple with movement and perspective.
Please Stand Back by Stadtmusik (2007) relates to town architectural space thinking of it as the motive-power of the processes that make it up. Space is read as a superimposition of pictures where to move your point of view and where the dynamic between the movement of the eye watching and the perspective that contains it assumes traits different from reality.
fourtythousand3hundred20memories directed by AGF and Sue Costabile (2006) heads us off, making us believe that we are one step from understanding it. Instead, it makes us embark on a journey whose borders, escape us very soon.
Kaamos Trilogy by Mia Makela (aka Solu) is a reflection on light, or its absence, a journey into the darkness in the cold North of Finland. “Kaamos” is the Finnish word for the sunless months in the northern hemisphere, when light is a rarity.