TRIBUTE TO AN EMPTY LANDSCAPE
The first contribution comes from Sebastián Díaz Morales. Born in Argentina, he studied at the Rijksakademie here in Amsterdam and became famous for his narrating, yet abstracted and mesmerizing video works. Material of the film we are about to see, Water from the moon, is used in a feature length movie that just premiered at the International Rotterdam Film Festival.
We see the back of a man, sitting on a bed, looking through a window, watching a desolate landscape; just a few trees, bending in the wind. You can hear the sound of water boiling, for coffee being made maybe.
He speaks, not in clear or logic sentences, but in lines of which I perceive just fragments, particles: “…shining black diamonds… heavenly lights… looking for god in the sky… bones, skin and skull… traces of someone… fences easy to trespass… strong winds from the west… water from the moon...”
The view of his back during the monologue – a mix between surreal poetry and Beckett-ian mumbling – are alternated with the image of a little tree being watered in the garden and a dark man, the gardener, listening without any expression.
Diaz Morales worked, for this part, together with Ulay, who joined Abramovic for a long time in their performance artists duo. He explains that when he traveled through Patagonia, Ulay was there as well – they met by coincidence. He talked about his film, and that he was still searching for a man to play the role of the man speaking. The exact text wasn’t there yet, but it would be the single spoken part in the whole movie. Ulay traveled further for a while, but he came back to the spot and was willing to cooperate. They spoke for hours, drank a lot and Ulay started to improvise with words, based on his experiences of the Patagonian landscapes. The very next day they shot it. The fragment we just saw was the first take. Sebastian tells us how he was struck by the almost apocalyptic vision and the feelings the words of Ulay evoked.
Katerina Sedá from Brno, Czech Republic, doesn’t pick up the phone. She couldn’t join us here since she had to be in London, but she agreed to come to the phone. Well, Julia says, her introduction to the film was difficult to understand anyways, Copying mother, copying father, copying child. Sedá once ended up at a chess contest, not knowing anything about chess, but she got the impression that it was all about ‘being in the middle’. And, based on that revelation she realized: a child is always in the middle too, in the middle of a family. That is what Julia understood. We saw the film at the New Museum in New York and it speaks for itself, she says.
We see Katerina helping her mother hanging the laundry in the garden, copying her movements and gestures. The same she does with her father gardening, and when they take as rest on the garden bench. When he lays an arm behind his neck or bends a leg over his knee, she does it, almost in sync. What will happen in the last part, you wonder. The three of them leave the house, cross the garden, take the road leading to the village center. Katerina kneels down to fix her shoelaces, while the parents continue their chat. We follow them, on their way (she’s staying in the middle) crossing streets without bricks, finally disappearing behind or entering a building. It is a pity she doesn’t answer the phone.
TRIBUTE TO MICHAEL JACKSON
Ola Vasiljeva from Latvia comes to the front. She studied at the Rietveld and lives in Amsterdam. She shows us two fragments of an animation, of which the first part is titled Death of Michael Jackson. But hey, you started this in 2006, he wasn’t even dead yet! Yeah, but she cannot help that.Death of… is hard to describe. We see a small film portrait of a singer surrounded by drawn figures, yellow and blue circles and shapes rotating; an old American song, sung in a funny way – it has an esoteric touch.
In the other part Michael Jackson teaches birds to sing. Sitting high up on the branch of a tree, between two black birds, a beautifully drawn Jackson starts to sing. We don’t hear his voice but can see the colors and lines that he is making, inspiring the birds to follow. Together they fill the air above them with a wild, intense composition, creating a whole visual universe of suggested sounds.
Ola tells that the animation consists of five parts, five myths so to speak, on Michael Jackson as some sort of Krishna figure, almost divine.
Do you think Michael Jackson sees himself also like that?
I don’t think he sees him self any more, she answers, but it’s how I see him.
Together with some people from Amsterdam and abroad, she founded the Oceans Academy of Art. They make unusual exhibitions outside the realm of the regular art scene. Try to find them.
Another exotic academy is the Nordic Art School in Kokolla. It is in the north of Finland where it is about 25 degrees below zero now. Pia Lindman, originally from Finland but working abroad, mostly in New York, is doing a project with students there, called Kännihurmos, Techniques of Drunk Ecstacy. She used Finnish people on You Tube as her models, exposing their very state of intoxication, seemingly experiencing some higher spiritual enlightenment. She drew some of the most striking expressions, movements and gestures, which formed the starting point of further research and experiments. Would it be possible to reenact these positions and to reach the same spiritual state without drinking any alcohol?
We will soon receive instructions from Pia and her students via skype, to reenact simultaneously some of the positions here at the Waag with the help of three volunteers in the audience.
But, damn, the connection fails. There is no network access at the moment, so no skype, at this centre of new media. The technical man will try to fix it during the break, so we go on with something else then, something strange from recent history.
Once there was an American videotape, sent by Pepsi and the US government to Russia, short after Gorbatsjovs Perestrojka. Alexander Skantarovsky, received it on high school in a box together with some other products, such as Pepsi Coke, and peanut butter, which was about the best things he had ever tasted. But he didn’t have a VHS player, so he wasn’t able to watch the tape right away. He saved it though, as an invisible American dream, and watched it years later. He recently saw it again, but this time in the US where he had moved. He now wants to share it with us.
It contains a cheesy broadcasted exchange, probably via satellite connection, between scholars in the US and Moscow during a television show. Via video diaries and the live connection they share experiences and talk about the freedom that has been gained. They hear and see from each other what they do during the week or weekend in the late eighties, early nineties. Thanks to western influence they seem actually quite alike!
There is also some astonishing footage from 1991 when Jeltsin revolted against a let’s get back to communism army coup. We see tanks riding through the streets with people, Moscow citizens, sitting on top of these tanks. The tape offers us nice, nostalgic Pepsi propaganda as well. All together it is a curious document that reaches us now as some sort of time capsule. We might be able to talk to him later, if the network allows us.
Over from London we have DJ Doug Shipton. He’s the founder of Finders Keepers, a record label for ‘accidental collective second hand music – weird things with re-releases’. Found music, almost lost music: old national, exotic or rarely heard songs that are now living a new life thanks to Doug.
After the break the network functions again so we go back to Pia in Kokolla. Three drunk positions will be reenacted, simultaneously in Kokolla and at the Waag, via skype. The performers over there give instructions to the volunteers in Amsterdam: Joris, Kaleb and Winnie. We see them doing the position ‘Drunk Russians Fighting’, amongst some others. Bend the knees, more… no to the left, yes! A bit to the right now... Limbs try to bend and try to stay in the frame of the web cam, while Hilde is bending too, trying to hold the laptop at the right angle. As soon as a position seems to match the original we compare it to Pia’s drawing, to affirm and applaud. They manage to reenact them all and both audiences are yelling and clapping at the end. Bye, Kokolla! Bye Amsterdam!
We can now also skype with Alex from Moscow, now living in LA.
Question: Did you move to the US because of this tape then? He answers no. What does your weekend look like? Julia asks further.
Oh, I actually work all the time. Does sound very American huh?
DON’T DO IT WRONG
A recent video of what happens daily at a school in Turkey shows, in a way, some other western influences on the east.
Katarina Zdjedar from Belgrade, Serbia, filmed the morning ritual at a primary school in Istanbul. The kids are exited, moving in chaotic ways, wearing blue dresses and suits, choreographed by the school’s director. He shouts where to stand and how to behave. It is an event, every morning, meant to create a shared experience, a feeling of we-ness amongst this young part of the modern Turkish population. It is a ritual full of tension. Holding the flag is a very special task, but not easy to handle. Don’t do it wrong, they hear, as a warning. For one boy the flag is too heavy, and a girl seems to be on the verge of a panic attack, in between decisions, whether to give in and cry, faint or escape, or to stay calm, wait and see as if nothing is really wrong here. You can see the intense struggle on her face. One moment she seems to fall apart, howling, the very next second she turns her face checking the situation.
In the end all the children form one body together, disciplined by the director, singing the national anthem initiated by Ataturk, and speaking out loud a list of intentions: “My idea is progress and to advance…I promise to walk with persistence, and I devote my existence to the Turkish existence”, and so on. An 8 year old girl recites: “Don’t destroy your self; heroine and cocaine destroy your health!”
Finally an electronic school bell sounds, with the tune of Beethoven’s Für Elise, and off they run.
ME SINGING LOVE STORY
Peter Wackers studied in Arnhem. Since he graduated he worked for fashion and industrial designers, magazines and architects, making professional videos for a living, but he also makes movies for his own sake. Just recently, he made a video based on the concept of girls singing famous love songs on You Tube. The girls are about fifteen and around, performing from their bedrooms most of the times. In this case it’s a song by Tailor Swift of which they use the karaoke version. “Romeo, take me, where we can be alone, don’t be afraid, it’s a love story, baby just take me, oh ooh, baby just save me”
Out of many of these clips Wackers edited a perfect love song, in which the girls are united. He has sent it to all of them and they love it.
An urgent note from a notorious question seeker in the audience: where does the music come from? It is illegal! You put them to a criminal act!
We talk about it for a while and then call it a night.
We are taking our chairs and get the chance to dance on Finders Keepers records. Next event will take place at the 26th of February in Vilnius, and the 5th of March in Amsterdam again. If you have anything to present, please contact the Lost & Found team.