SELF-CONFESSION VS EXPLOITATION
Location: Filmtheater ‘t Hoogt
Privacy issues, confrontational self-portraits, camera scrutiny and the Internet as a public diary.
Under the pressures of a modern, highly individualized world, the engagement with the Self represents a never-ending source for cultural production, from the literary diary of the 19th century to personal video clips on the internet. Today, websites such as YouTube or Facebook facilitate a new immediacy to make one’s intimate life public, and to share it with others. Although motivation varies – from searching for a common identity to analyzing social practices or performing radical exposure –, we may question how these modes of self-expression relate to the process of their mediation, most prominently through film and video? What is the role of the camera, as it naturally shifts between being a tool of political commitment, a device for observation and control, an instrument of artistic imagination, or even an object of erotic desire? Against this background, Self-confession vs. Exploitation combines historical and contemporary films and video art, and selected clips from the internet. The program examines the ambivalent relationship between exposed privacy and intrusion, the integrity of the subject and the discerning gaze of the filmmaker or user.
PROGRAM 1: SUBJECTIVITIES
In this program, close depictions of leisure and home routines are juxtaposed with staged sessions that were to confront the privacy and self-control of the filmed person. Both procedures turn out to rather portray the respective filmmakers themselves, and their ways of expressing desire or challenging the power of their models. The screening of the films and videos will be interspersed with amateur clips from youtube.com.
Eltern (Mutter/Vater), Friedl Kubelka (AT 1997/1999 5:00 min)
The possible variety of reactions to the experience of being filmed is made apparent in Friedl Kubelka’s silent short Eltern (Mutter/Vater): at first, the loving and then hurt facial expression of the mother, who in the end disregards the filmmaker’s instruction and disappears from the picture, and then the father who sticks it out without showing his feelings.
Peggy’s Blue Skylight, Joyce Wieland (Canada 1964/1986 11:00 min)
Joyce Wieland shot Peggy’s Blue Skylight mainly in her loft in New York where she lived with her husband and experimental filmmaker Michael Snow for ten years. The film shows the hours both spend by lolling around between noon and the morning of the following day, or with friends who come visit. Originally produced on 8mm, Wieland’s intimate diary film was later re-edited and blown up to 16mm colour stock.
Trixi, Stephen Dwoskin (United Kingdom 1971, 28:00 min)
“Trixi is Dwoskin’s most convulsive version of his recurrent theme: the confrontation of a solitary girl with the camera. Shot in one continuous 8 hour session, the film records Beatrice Cordua’s responses to the situation, from initial shyness, fear and withdrawal through teasing and posturing to naked surrender and final exhaustion.” (Tony Rayns)
Masha, Dana Goldberg (Israel 2005, 10:00 min)
A woman in her mid-twenties and a fourteen year old boy are sitting one in front of the other in the woman’s bedroom. The woman is a director. She is the director! She probably auditions dozens of boys just like him every day. He cannot allow himself to question her; he must not refuse her order.
So sieht’s aus, Maren-Kea Freese (Germany 1984, 7:00 min)
So sieht’s aus documents the filmmaker’s one room apartment in West-Berlin, decorated with all kinds of utensils and colourful memories. She carries the Super-8 camera with her while performing her every morning routine: walking to the toilet, making coffee, looking out of the window into the backyard, leaving the house on bicycle.
What I’m Looking For, Shelly Silver (USA 2004, 15:00)
A woman sets out to photograph moments of intimacy. On an internet dating site she writes: “I’m looking for people who would like to be photographed in public, revealing something of themselves.” Silver’s high definition video is the record of this adventure, and of the connections formed at the intersection between virtual and actual public space. It is a short tale of desire and control.
PROGRAM 2: IMPOSING FAMILY
In numerous films shot throughout the 1960s, Andy Warhol documented and staged the underground stars that hung out at The Factory in New York, like Joe Dallesandro, Edie Sedgwick or German-born singer and fashion model Nico. Far from being a neutral and impassive recorder of the everyday, Warhol constructed stylized, extremely interpretive views of contemporary life and its social relationships.
Hall of Mirrors, Warren Sonbert (USA 1966, 7:00)
Hall of Mirrors is an outgrowth of one of Sonbert’s film classes at NYU, in which he was given outtakes from a 1948 Hollywood melodrama. Adding to this found footage, Sonbert filmed Warhol’s superstars Rene Ricard and Gerard Malanga in moments of narcissistic contemplation. Underscored by a rock and roll soundtrack, the film begins and ends with the protagonists’ movements enmeshed within multiple reflecting mirrors.
Ari and Mario, Andy Warhol (USA 1966, 66:00 min)
Shot in a cramped kitchen at the Chelsea Hotel, Ari and Mario is a manic, manipulative, tragicomical account of drag queen Mario Montez trying to babysit Nico’s toddler son, Ari Boulogne. Montez gets increasingly frustrated when Ari doesn’t pay attention to her singing and dancing. Meanwhile, Warhol is egging the kid on from behind the camera.
PROGRAM 3: LIFE CAST
Bridging the technical advancement of personal image-making in the past decades, from 16mm film and video to digital photography on the internet, this program combines works in which the camera is addressed in direct interaction. The camera functions as a true companion in order to convey ones intimate histories, sexual phantasies or ambiguous self-mockeries. The screening of the films and videos will be interspersed with amateur clips from youtube.com.
Adolf Winkelmann, Kassel 9.12.1967, 11.54 Uhr, Adolf Winkelmann (Duitsland 1967, 8:00 min)
While strolling through the city center of Kassel in the pre-Christmas period of 1967, Adolf Winkelmann carries a frame structure in front of his chest, holding a 16mm movie camera that shoots towards his face. Therefore, the filmmaker himself constantly appears in the picture, trying to withstand the camera’s gaze in front of the astonished reactions of the passer-bys.
Apologies, Anne Charlotte Robertson (USA 1983–1990, 17:00 min)
“This began as a graduate class exercise at Massachusetts College of Art: one action (Apologies) with two props (coffee & cigarettes) in various scenes. I could not stop! Years of apologies went by and two nervous breakdowns as a result. Now I am stripped of my neurotic guilt and only apologize when necessary, not for the trivial or automatic apology.” (Anne Charlotte Robertson)
Hold Me While I’m Naked, George Kuchar (USA 1966, 15:00 min)
“George Kuchar’s best-known film Hold Me While I’m Naked is a very direct and subtle, very sad and funny look at nothing more or less than sexual frustration and aloneness. Its odd blend of Hollywood glamour and drama with all-too-real life creates and inspires a counterpoint of unattainable desire against unbearable actuality.” (Ken Kelman)
Me and Rubyfruit, Sadie Benning (USA 1989, 5:30 min)
Based on a novel by Rita Mae Brown, Me and Rubyfruit chronicles the enchantment of teenage lesbian love against a backdrop of pornographic images and phone sex ads. Utilizing the low-tech intimacy of her toy camera, the Fisher-Price PXL-2000, Benning portrays the innocence of female romance and the taboo prospect of female marriage.
The Wet Index, Isabelle Prim (France 2006, 5:00 min)
A girl becomes aroused in front of police photographs and drawings of male rapists found on the internet. Her tactile affection to these images, her play with sex props and body liquids in an anonymous space, furnitured with a computer workstation and photo studio equipment, creates a disturbing ambivalence between obsessive desire and violence.
Face It! (Cast Your Self™), Michael Brynntrup (Germany 2007, 4:00 min)
Face It! (Cast Your Self™) consists of photographs collected from personal profiles of gay chat rooms on the internet. All images are self-portraits shot through mirrors, and in all of them the digital cameras hide the men’s faces. Brynntrup’s video, that was removed from YouTube due to its supposingly inappropriate nature, confronts its audience with the new privacy of the Web 2.0.
Birthday Suit, Lisa Steele (Canada 1974, 12:00 min)
Lisa Steele’s early video has entered the master canon of pioneering video art as both body art and statement of identity. Through the enumeration of many little scars and defects scattered around her body, Steele reveals a personal history through the evidence of body marks, and at the same time undermines the commodified image of spotless female beauty.
My Videomasochisms, Józef Robakowski (Poland 1990, 5:00 min)
My Videomasochisms is a sly riposte to the director’s fellow experimental filmmakers who mutilated themselves under the camera’s gaze and under the guise of performance art. Yet the piece doesn’t come across as bitter or bad-tempered, but warm and funny: accompanied by over-agonizing noises, Robakowski treats his face with a set of sharp tools and strings, resulting in a row of slanted grimaces.
PROGRAM 4: FRACTURED CONFINEMENT
Raw and shaky camera footage suggests an authentic take on reality, often blurring the border between documentary and fiction beyond distinction. Cyrus Frisch’s first feature film shot on mobile phone uses the art of low-resolution imagery to create an unsettlingly encapsulated vision of the world, a psychological drama at the heart of urban society.
Why didn’t anybody tell me it would become this bad in Afghanistan, Cyrus Frisch (The Netherlands 2007, 70:00 min)
Told through the eyes of a traumatized Dutch soldier (played by Frisch himself) who has returned home from the war in Afghanistan, the film documents the brewing tensions between native Dutch citizenry, immigrant youth and the police in a small square in the center of Amsterdam. In this decidedly experimental work, these tensions are made palpable through the accumulation of scenes observed from a claustrophobic, radically subjective viewpoint.
Florian Wüst― Curator
Florian Wüst is an artist and independent film curator based in Berlin. He has been a regular contributor to the Impakt Festival. Besides curating film programmes for international venues, Wüst frequently writes and lectures about topics related to film and society. Together with Stefanie Schulte Strathaus, he is editor of Who says concrete doesn’t burn, have you tried? West Berlin Film in the ’80s (2008).