Artur Zmijewski (Poland) - 80064 (2004) (11 minute video)
I don’t create entertainment for the mass public. Seeing to the well-being and comfort of viewers isn’t my intention. I don’t care if someone gets a headache after watching this film. The world isn’t a safe place…
Artur Zmijewski’s re-staging of the Stanford Prison Experiment Repetition was one of the three films presented in Part 1 of The Ethics of Encounter. The disturbing film 80064, the artist once again returns to the subject of power relations, this time coercing a 92 year –old Auschwitz survivor into having his identification tattoo refreshed, despite his clear protestations. The eleven-minute film adheres to a traditional documentary structure, taking the form of a two-part interview during which the detached artist calmly interrogates the subject, Jozef Tarnawa, about his experiences in the camp and his attitude towards his identification number. Anecdotes about the horrific abuses of Auschwitz and the inevitable submission of the prisoners are duly recounted before the artist insists on carrying out the ‘renovation’ of his tattoo. Tarnawa’s response conflates the artist’s position with that of the Auschwitz authorities: ‘I’d have never expected that something like this will happen to me again…that they would renew my number.’ Through this small-scale re-enactment, Zmijewski presents a ‘live’ interrogation of human responses to the exercise of authority that is reminiscent of the infamous social psychology experiments conducted by Stanley Milgrim in the 1960’s.
As with Zmijewski’s other video documentations, 80064 reveals his fascination with real bodies in a social space. By approaching politics through the body, violence (whether explicit or subcutaneous) regularly features is Zmijewski’s special brand of realism.
Courtesy of the Foksal Gallery Foundation
Artur Zmijewski’s ‘80064’ is currently showing at Stills Gallery, Edinburgh as part of Social Documents; The Ethics of Encounter, until March 6 2011.
The history of documentary
The brothers Auguste and Louis Lumiere are credited with the world’s first public film screening on December 28, 1895. The showing time of approximately twenty minutes in total was held in the nasement lounge of the Grand Café on the Boulevard des Capucines in Paris and would be the first public device they called the CINEMATOGRAPH which effectively functioned as camera, projector and printer all in one.
Their work consisted mainly of moving images from scenes of everyday life. Ironically as we look back in retrospect in comparison to what film has developed into today, the Lumiere brothers believed it to be a medium without a future as they suspected that people would become bored by such images. However, their film sequence of a train pulling into the station reportedly had audiences ducking for cover as they believed that the train itself was about to plow into the theatre.
The Man with the Movie Camera - Dziga Vertov, 1929
The Man with the Movie Camera
The Man with the Movie Camera, is an experimental 1929 silent
documentary film, with no story and no actors, by Russian director Dziga
Vertov, edited by his wife Elizaveta Svilova.
Vertov’s feature film, produced by the Ukrainian film studio VUFKU,
presents urban life in Odessa and other Soviet cities. From dawn to
dusk Soviet citizens are shown at work and at play, and interacting
with the machinery of modern life. To the extent that it can be said to
have “characters,” they are the cameramen of the title and the modern
Soviet Union he discovers and presents in the film.
This film is famous for the range of cinematic techniques Vertov invents,
deploys or develops, such as double exposure, fast motion, slow motion,
freeze frames, jump cuts, split screens, Dutch angles, extreme close-ups,
tracking shots, footage played backwards, stop motion animations and a
self-reflexive style (at one point it features a split screen tracking shot; the
sides have opposite Dutch angles).
The film, originally released in 1929, was silent, and accompanied in
theaters with live music. It has since been released a number of times with
Song Tao My Beautiful Zhang Jiang (2006) @ The Elephant building (September 2010)
Q & A with Song Tao
This question and answer session between curator Hannah Conroy and artist Song Tao, regarding his work My Beautiful Zhang Jiang took place just before the Castle & Elephant screening of the film, in the Elephant.
HC Can you give a synopsis of My beautiful Zhong Jiang? What are the main
ideas behind this work?
ST Sorry, I don’t want to answer these questions.
HC Do you feel that My beautiful Zhong Jiang transcends cultural boundaries?
ST I never think about such question.
HC Do you consider how an audience (not living in Shanghai) might
perceive the work?
ST I don’t care about this either.
HC What would you like your audience to take from the work?
ST At the end of this video, the smile of the girl is the take what I
extremely want to take. All the takes I took before just for lead to
the SMILE. I hope I can deliver this moment of smile and such feeling
of the girl to the audiences.
HC Does this matter to you as an artist?
ST It doesn’t matter for me.
HC I read from an interview that ‘Birdhead’ did with Paul Gladstone that
you describe the artist as Hunter and audience as the Rabbit. Is this
the case with your work as an individual?
ST That was an interview in 2007. Now, I have no such big interest on it.
This video was completed in 2006 which can as a case for my answer in
HC I have read that you don’t have any interest in Politics but do you
see your work in the global sphere or is My beautiful Zhong Jiang a
personal commentary on you life in Shanghai?
ST I cannot help but I answer it.
HC Your work echoes ideas of the body and its relationship to the
city, can you describe this further?
ST First of all, I appreciated your kean understanding. Yes, if I grew
up in the tropical rainforest on the border between China and Burma,
one thing is for sure, which is, my work could echo ideas of the body
and its relationship to the rainforest either.
HC You often work with fellow artist Ji Weiyu as Birdhead. How do you
Differentiate the work that you do with Birdhead and the work that you
do as a solo artist.
ST It’s hard to differentiate. I can accept any work which makes me
happy, whatever solo or with a group people. Contrastly to say, work
with others is more challenging. Because everybody has its own soul.
In the process of the cooperation, confrontation and compromise may
happen at any time. Convince myself is as same important as convince
the opposite side. Yes, “work together” drives me very happy.
HC Can you give a few sentences on what inspires you? For example:
books, films, art theory, philosophers, other artists.
ST Recently, for me, I feel so happy from the calligraphy of Yan
Zhenqing.(One of the greatest calligraphers in Chinese history, Tang
Me ++ by William J Mitchell
The movement of the physical body throught and between the constructed enclosures and spaces of the city in Song Tao’s My Beautiful Zhang Jiang highlights similar themes to those in this text by William J Mitchell:
Song Tao at the Elephant Building
My Beautiful Zhang Jiang, 2006
The Elephant Building
Coventry Sports Centre
Private view Thursday 2nd September > 6pm - 8pm
Open Friday 3rd - Saturday 4th September > 11am - 6pm
Castle & Elephant is pleased to present a short film by Shanghai based artist Song Tao.
My Beautiful Zhang Jiang is a poetic portrait of the artist’s own generation, who are living amongst the rush and calm of Shanghai’s developing landscape. The film opens in an office as a sleeping girl is picked up from her desk by a co-worker. Gradually she is transported through the city in the embrace of strangers. Asserting a rambling narrative, the film uses Zhang Jiang as a prop to perambulate the metropolis. These bodies, negotiating the city reflect Tao’s deep interest in both documenting and creating atmospheres that are rooted within his own life.
The film will be projected for three days within the unique architectural extension of Coventry Sports Centre. “The Elephant” building bears resemblance to the mammal that has featured as a symbol of fortitude on Coventry’s city crest since the seventeenth century. Castle & Elephant (the name of which also derives from this historical reference point) is a nomadic platform which presents experimental film and moving image in underused spaces across the city of Coventry.
Song Tao (1979) lives and works in Shanghai. Recent exhibitions include China Power Station II, Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, Norway, Birdhead Photography Show 2006-2007, BizArt, Shanghai, China and Individual Position II, ShangART, Shanghai, China.
Damir Očko - The Age of Happiness, 2007 (installation view) (B&W photographs taken by Pete Lord)
Some images from the private viewing of the Damir Očko exhibition.
John Cage - 4:33 for piano, 1952
Parts of the narrative from Damir’s most recent film “The Moon Shall Never Take My Voice” (showing upstairs in the gallery) are concerned with John Cage’s “4:33”.
John Cage on the nature of silence
“There are two things that don’t have to mean anything; one is music and the other is laughter” John Cage paraphrasing Immanuel Kant.
This conversation took place between artist Damir Očko, curator Hannah Conroy and researcher Ruth Scott on Friday 7th May.
HC: Glad we can all make it; I want this to be a brief chat to create some additional information about the work you will be presenting for Castle & Elephant. As well as discussing previous work and ideas that parallel your practice.
DO: So, let’s talk.
HC: Ruth is joining us, because she will be researching projects that will relate to your work/ and developing the ideas and notions within your practice.
HC: I wanted to talk about the work you will be presenting; maybe we can start with ‘The Age of Happiness’.
DO: Sure, these two films I will be showing are quite different in relation to each other.
HC: I suppose this work relate quite easily to the first piece I saw of yours ‘The Boy with a Magic Horn’ maybe you could discuss the themes that run through your work leading up to ‘The Age of Happiness’.
DO: Yes, ‘The Age of Happiness’ is in a way close to my previous films and especially to ‘The Boy with a Magic Horn’ but it takes things a bit further. In ‘The Boy with a Magic Horn’ it is a much more closed situation, narrative is focused on a very specific idea and a fragment of history. ‘The Age of Happiness does not have one “grand” narrative.
RS: So different narratives intertwined?
DO: Yes, more or less. There is a narrative I worked with during the research concerning Scriabins project ‘Mysterium’, notably but in the film itself this is not the main plot. In ‘The Boy with a Magic Horn’ you have a distorted version of the Wagner scenario for ‘The Ring of Nibelung’, this is very strong in the film but without any indication of the Wagner.
HC: You mention Wagner - I remember when you were first talking about ‘The Boy with a Magic Horn’ when we were on an exchange in 2006(?) The first thing you said was that you were making an opera- I was really impressed.
DO: I was, and still am very interested in this form but over time I have learnt to approach this more carefully.
HC: What do you mean?
DO: I use music as a device to tell the story.
HC: So maybe we should talk about ‘The Age of Happiness’, can you give a brief synopsis of what it is about.
DO: Yes, to do it briefly is quite hard so I will start by mentioning some material I worked with. First of all this is a project by Alexander Scriabin “Mysterium” which the composer never finished. Scriabin planned some sort of a multimedia musical performance that would happen on the Himalayas and the climax would be an apocalypse.
RS: I think with this film you previously mentioned that’ there will be no spectators, all will become participants’. How does this fit in?
DO: Where all humans would change into higher human beings. This was the purpose of the project. No one is to look form a safe zone but all have to participate. I think this ‘utopia’ reflects very much problems we have today.
RS: So that everyone feels that level of discomfort?
DO: I would not say discomfort but maybe community. Another important thing for me was that Scriabin actually believed his project was realisable.
HC: That through the performance he will achieve a higher level of humanity?
DO: Yes, that was the point – to change a man, mankind with his art. Crazy!
So…. I asked myself a question, why cannot I think the same?
DO: Or even imagine this. I can imagine, no problem, but as soon as I do it, I “KNOW” it is impossible. And then I felt as I have lost something, and this is what I dealt with in film.
HC: I feel that to be an artist you have to have absolute belief in what you do.
DO: I think this is not the problem
HC: And maybe try to gain an innocence again.
DO: But we always assume what is possible and what is not possible.
HC: No we don’t –
RS: Do we really?
DO: Of course not but this is how our culture works.
HC: We make massive assumptions – remember they thought the works was flat for a long time.
DO: Yes, but we now know the world is not flat. If you think of the Moon before we landed on it, we could project so many different things on it.
DO: Cheese yes
HC: So are you talking about expectations and disappointments?
DO: In a way, yes or more about projection and a failure of the realisation. Sometimes things are suspended in the air, in between – like in ‘The Boy with a Magic Horn’ or ‘The Age of Happiness’. But in this film I worked with some other materials, like a glass harmonica which was an instrument used in early hypnosis by Franz Messmer (Messmerised). The instrument was forbidden in the 19 century because it was believed to cause many strange things such as deaths (which was only partially true).
HC: These additional stories are so intriguing.
DO: Yes, I had a lot of time to work on that film.
RS: Where did you get the instrument?
DO: The French musician Thomas Bloch performs it. He is playing all the strange instruments including Matrenot Wawes (also in the soundtrack). M. Wawes were used by Messiaen to mimic birds.
HC: Do they create the soundtrack specifically for the film, or do you appropriate material that already exists?
DO: Most of the time they provide me with the instrumental samples and I make soundtrack and music on my own. This was the case in The Age of Happiness and The Moon shall never take my Voice. I compose music aswell.
RS: I like how you use the word layering when talking about your work, in some ways I like to visualise these elements even if they are not apparent straight away! I suppose timing is very important too… choosing the right instrument for the right visual.
DO: Yes, I work parallel on a sound design and image editing. It is done in the same time.
HC: Hence one year per project?
DO: Yes, that is why I make things slowly.
HC: I was surprised by your other work ‘The Moon’. It seems to be a step in another direction in relation to your other films, ‘The Age of Happiness’ and ‘The Boy with a Magic Horn’ are very filmic, where this is more theatrical.
DO: This was my agenda; to make something different, to avoid social gathering and the Moon was a very personal. With this film I worked with a different form, A “Lied” or “Das Lied”. It is a form of music for a singer and accompaniment developed for Salon Events in the 19th Century. However later it was far removed from this context and has become a way to “speak about things” in a very direct way. Three songs took place in this particular piece:
1). A Funeral Procession for a fireman:
This was observed by Mahler from his hotel room in New York where steps were counted only with large military drum strokes with a large pause in between. He actually realised that the strokes were so strong and loud, only because this “nothing in between” was so long. So this nothing has become a music.
2). How 4.33 by John Cage was imagined:
His famous visit to Harvard – an An-Echoing chamber, where he was expecting to hear nothing, but instead was disturbed by his own shadow…his nervous and blood systems working and sounding. He conceived this work as “absence” rather than “silence”.
3). Neil Armstrong Interviews (half imagined):
The interview is about his famous sentence, which he is known never to discuss. He failed to say “a man” but instead says only “man”. This vocal just slipped away. In this song the astronaut is trying to speak but he fails because on the Moon there is no air so it is impossible to have any kind of sound. At the end of this he imagines sounds and voices.
HC: Your ideas are very poetic
DO: You know, there is one little hint at the end of the last song. Beethoven wrote in one of his last letters describing his last string quartet:
“Only now when I am completely deaf, I hear a real music within me”