Interview: Mónica Delgado
Antoni Pinent, filmmaker, curator and investigator, visited Lima, Peru to give a masterclass and workshop for the International Showcase of Audiovisual Appropriation – MUTA. Pinent, besides being a filmmaker, is a recognized experimental film curator in and outside Spain. Programmer of Xcèntric, Contemporary Center of Culture of Barcelona, and of the expos THAT’S NOT ENTERTAINMENT! – Cinema answers to cinema (2006-2007) and the famous and influential itinerant program DEL ÉXTASIS AL ARREBATO (From Ecstasy to Rapture, 2009-2012), on 50 years of the “other” Spanish cinema. His films, among them G/R/E/A/S/E (2008-2013) and FILM QUARTET / POLYFRAME (2006-2008) have been projected in different international festivals, both being awarded in several of them. In 2008, FILM QUARTET / POLYFRAME received the award of the Biennial Museum of Contemporary Cinema Foundation (New York, París, Madrid).
In Lima, he has presented a selection of over thirteen works that represent his labor as a filmmaker of “camera-less film” over a span of 25 years. In this interview for Desistfilm, he talks about his work, and the current state of appropriation cinema.
Desistfilm: There’s a tendency, especially in Peru among new filmmakers, to approach experimental cinema from found footage or appropriation, before even becoming close to other experiences of the support, a phenomenon that could be retraced back to the origins or history of the genre. How do you evaluate this “inverse” process?
Antoni Pinent: This is a common place in many places, not only here. From my experience as a curator between 2014 and 2015, I met the work of Diego Vizcarra for a project I’m involved right now for Los Angeles Film Forum and the Getty Museum, whose cycle of projections starts next autumn in L.A. and whose complimentary book will appear briefly (Ismo, Ismo, Ismo. Cine experimental en América Latina- Ism,Ism,Ism, Experimental Cinema in Latin America. University of California Press), a process where I could also watch Juan Daniel Molero’s El Obecedario. And yes, I realized that is an initiative where you make something different from your context, specially being aware of the extremes: working something on “material”, in an environment where everyone is surrounded by the digital. Then, as soon as the results are seen, and you have a minimum of public or interest, you can walk that road in the inverse way. For me it is something very natural, since you don’t have to go the academy, and this is the same for all practices in cinema. For example, behind every department there’s a teacher who offers lessons on the interest that he or she has on some filmmaker he or she has affinity with. If a teacher is keen on John Ford, maybe he won’t talk about Jonas Mekas to you, so that’s where I enter as a guest professor in universities, masters, or film schools, teaching the subject that the professor doesn’t, because it doesn’t interest him or it’s outside his field. I’m not saying this contemptuously; this serves as a complementary reality in teaching. So, in some way, and after visiting different geographies, it doesn’t seem to me so strange that a new generation had an approach to emulsion, and that after that it discovered what we could call “experimental cinema”, in the sub-genre of appropriation. So, from there you start looking behind the road, to see who the first ones were.
It’s interesting that you should mention the Peruvian context, because when I asked the people about it here in the workshop, most of them said: “there’s no background here in Peru”. And that happens in a lot of places, these intermittences of movements, collectives, “sniper authors”; isolated, for any type of themes: political, cultural, musical, theatrical, etc. We are living in a period of coexistence between analog and digital, this is a generation that is trying very hard to rescue those mediums so they don’t become obsolete or forgotten, so they feel the need to approach to them, from different perspectives, trajectories, sectors and disciplines.
Desistfilm: Now that you mention this spirit of resistance towards the disappearance of the analog film, how do you see the panorama towards this sense of conservation and action from the manipulation of the medium, the necessity to keep working with 35, 16 and Super 8mm formats?
Antoni Pinent: There’s a networking which works very well (LaborBerlin, Alemania; L’Abominable, Mire or L’ATELIER MTK, in Francia; no.w.here, UK; NanoLab, Australia; Double Negative, in Canadá; just to name some). I just spoke in a class about the political side of this act of resistance, the people out of place –displaced, marginal or outsiders-; or the ones who see the subject from the aesthetic side of purism, like Peter Kubelka, who only works in 35mm. And all of this has a history behind, since the support you choose to work in gives you a quality that digital doesn’t possess. There’s a material part, organic, on this need of picking up a piece of film, of having the time in your hands. It’s about a vast number of elements, where things like imperfection, alchemy, impurity, the manual work of printing, things that are both physical and craft-like. And then these qualities, let’s say, they are there, and the fact becomes a conscious resistance against the disappearance of the analogue format, something parallel to the Hollywood system, the majors, which are the ones that impose the times of formats for its filming and exhibition.
My function as a filmmaker is felt as a way to discover, show and transmit all those things that are involved in the fact of working in a material format that will eventually –definitively- be lost when it is transferred to digital form. It will be lost, fade away. For example, in my work GIOCONDA / FILM (1999) which is the translation of painting on its original dimensions, I’m looking for a fourth dimension –time- offered by the projector, where we find elements like sounds generated by the painting in the optical soundtrack, etc. These are elements that I can’t find in other disciplines. For example, in another work of mine, the series QR CODE/ FILM (2014 – ¿?), I’m working with a hybrid concept, the DAD (Digital/Analog/Digital); that’s why I work with the QR code.
I like works by people like Tacita Dean, when she made the manifesto of Film; or Rosa Barba, who insists on the importance of keep making work in 16 and 35 mm; the way that the commissions on 16mm works by João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva are obtained, in the museistic environment, these ways of motivating to the ones who want to keep working with celluloid, something that isn’t a whim, but a necessity. It’s something like when someone wants to make an oil painting, he/she won’t stop working in that technique because there’s spray painting now, and it has to be used. It’s not a thing of being stubborn either, but it happens because of the qualities that this kind of discipline and support offers to an artist, the freedom to make use of it, to choose your own materials of expression/experimentation without impositions by the system or the market.
As a curator I’m very strict, very critical. When I prepare a program I try to be very faithful to the original formats the film was made on when projecting it. If we’re not fighting for the original formats, in a museum, cinematheque, culture center, this is going to be lost, because it’s a fight that has to be done inside or through these institutions, which have available money or infrastructure. It’s about fighting to get the copy in existence and showing it the best way possible, with its intrinsic qualities, like an expositive showcase. And this practice should be developed by film festivals, as part of their job and responsibilities, since some places tell you that “they don’t project in celluloid anymore”. There’s a point where it’s just not possible to go to a festival and be told “we can’t project in your format”. The filmmaker has an obligation to say to the festival “my work is made in this format and should be projected properly”, not because this is a tantrum by the filmmaker or a gratuitous thing, but because it has been conceived in this way, and it should be seen and experimented this way. It’s a union that must be understood as something organic, global, and not only as an “ism”, because there are movies that will be projected and others that will not. I think there should be a clearer position of the filmmakers on this subject.
Desistfilm: And what happens with your works in festivals? How have you realized this transition of projecting them in its original format?
Antoni Pinent: It really depends on the place. I’m not a purist, nor do I keep a closed position. If I go somewhere, for example in Dobra, Rio de Janeiro, and can’t exhibit my work in its original format for whatever reason –logistic, technical, financial, etc-, another channel has to be found to do that, and I’m not opposed to that. If there are spaces that don’t have the infrastructure to project in analogue, what I’m interested in is that the movie is visible, that it is projected, with some minimum requirements. I can’t put myself in the situation of “ah, you don’t have a 35mm projector, then I won’t project my film there”. You must find a balance. Many festivals are looking for some films especially because they’re shot in 35mm, and then they program them alongside others. Something like that happened to me with the Valdivia Film Festival, where Gonzalo de Pedro programmed one of my works with Peter Tscherkassky’s The Exquisite Corpus, both in 35mm. Something similar happens in Rotterdam with the Silver Screen or in Steve Polta’s San Francisco festival – Crossroads Festival-, places where analog isn’t a luxury or a whim, but another way to understand the phantasmagoria, or the other elements that are intrinsic in cinema, even as a political act.
Sometimes also with my work, or programming, I find myself with demands like “lowering the projector speed”, such as in the works of Nathaniel Dorsky, who indicates that his film must be exhibited to 16fps, and, of course these are conditions that you as a curator have to know about the place of projection. If it doesn’t meet those requirements, the film won’t be appreciated as it has been conceived, and it’s better not to include it in the selection. It’s like placing a plotter in place of an original canvas. The image is there but the perception of the image is very different.
Other subject that can be discussed can be the difficulty you find with the works of experimental that are more conceptual, also realized in film support, like part of my production –for example KINOSTURM KUBELKA / 16 variations (2009), second piece of the Film Quartet trilogy and only available in 35mm- Or some of the excellent works by Mexican filmmaker Jorge Lorenzo Florez Garza, like On the Road by Jack Kerouac (2013) or his last installations in 16mm. These works encounter some difficulties to jump the queue on the competition of experimental festivals, where most of the times the programmers choose to place works that are more accessible, aesthetically pleasing or “effective”, and these other works doesn’t pass the rounds of preselection for the programmer politics of not reading about the work –a complimentary or technical text- before passing the first round, something that makes things very complicated, and even unsolvable. Maybe there should be a well-known name behind the work so some attention will be put to it, disregarding the complexity of the concept that the materialized work envelops. That would be a good excuse to have the finished film.
Desistfilm: How do you value camera-less cinema inside experimental, even with this theme of “authorship”, this common sense that persists where “someone who doesn’t film, doesn’t direct”?
Antoni Pinent: It’s very complex. When you appropriate something there is always a filter the material passes through. It’s not only about updating it or shoving it inside a –or in a new- context, it’s also a search, like something that happened to me in the trilogy of FILM QUARTET, where the first one and the last one are different. The first one, FILM QUARTET / POLYFRAME, made between 2006 and 2008, which captures different sources –as an assemblage- where there’s an amalgam of pieces that I didn’t know –still I don’t – where they come from, and try to construct something new where the precedence is of no importance, the content is. Through those elements I try to code things that contribute to my work, that ask me for a change, such as when I choose frames of a roller coaster, which can be split into four or other details and aspects, that’s what I look for. And when I find the precise point of the most authorial patina, such as when I chose Michael Snow’s Wavelenght and set it backwards, putting a frame of every minute of the original film. Then the 45 minutes of Wavelenght were set in 45 seconds, putting a frame and leaving 24 empty frames (black) and then ordering them in reverse. I inquired on the idea of the essay, I wanted to make the new generations visible –or at least hint to them-, something that allowed me to discover an author who will be a referent for me –I drink a lot from him-, but at the same time I updated it, so a history of cinema explained from images -a meta-cinematography- is created, a place where there’s a critical revision, a didactical and a creative original part. For example G/R/E/A/S/E was quite a challenge, because I made a Decalogue that proposed to make a new film from one only source, by deconstructing it –decollage-, doing a montage work in a complex structural level, portraying the different layers of what is in latency and inscribing it in another combination of factors of different readings: the homosexual latency, a critique to dubbing, the erotic, the subtitles of song lyrics, and you find that at the same time you’re having fun with its touch of humor, but it also contains another critical aspect in a different layer. It’s a work of a complex narrative structure, but it serves itself from the knowledge that the spectator has from the original source.
And there’s a name and last name behind all this critique, since it’s not about agglutinating different sources. As it is the case with Kogonada, who makes editing works from and for internet, mashups but with a work of montage of an outstanding quality, controlling the times, the music, the pulsating editing, like when he made that “compilation” of shots working the fugue point on Stanley Kubrick’s cinema. It transmits not only a cinephile look, but also a look of some creative level. With the ease that we have in the media of capturing an internet image, remixing it, making a montage or critique, the ones who end up legitimating some works and not others are the festivals, programmers or curators, as it is the case of Christian Marclay’s The Clock for the Biennale d’Arte di Venezia, even picking up the Leone d’Oro in 2011. For now I’m interested in the work of Emmanuelle Nègre of France who has a very interesting quality, or others that I have been able to discover through the excellent program of MUTA’s first edition, here in Lima, like Soda_Jerk & The Avalanches, Mónica Savirón, Derek Woolfenden, Marco Pando, Cristian Alarcón Ísmodes, Stephen Broomer or Guli Silbertein. There’s still a whole gamut of this generation of artists and filmmakers that are yet to give the leap to festivals. Even the programmer himself relegates, cuts, censors, decides which movies are meant for the internet and which ones are of interest for a festival level.
Desistfilm: Tell us about some experience that exemplifies your way of understanding and making cinema.
Antoni Pinent: When I made the Kubelka films in 2009 (it came up during the curating job that I made in Xcéntric, during its 5th anniversary with the showcase THAT’S NOT ENTERTAINMENT!), I was working with the Arnulf Rainer piece in its original format during its installation… and I said to myself, “why don’t I make a literal adaptation –remake- of the film, following my technique of Film Quartet, for its 50th anniversary”, so I reduced every frame of the classic film, because it’s a binary system –white (transparent) and black (opaque)- reducing each frame of the original to a perforation, so I synthesized the movie to 96 seconds –a fourth of the original- without setting a beginning and ending queue, with the rule of projecting the film as it came from the distributor’s box. You can watch the film in 16 different ways, but you just can see one of them, it’s random, with the projector being the object that selects the option of viewing. That’s where the influence of John Cage came in play, where I install the concept of randomness in the world of the cinematographer, finding a component that is offered by the film material itself. I’m interested in using the random through the 35mm reel. What I like about cinema is that, the things that I can do materially – manually-. That’s why the work in film is very rich and keeps surprising you. That’s an action that has a lot of elements yet to be explored, without an ending in sight, of continuous discovery.
Desistfilm: Your work as a curator in FROM ECSTASY TO RAPTURE was one of the most influential works, both for curators, programmers and cinephiles, at least in the Latin American region, since it showed a way to discover a cinema that was almost invisible at the time. How have you articulated your work as a curator, investigator and filmmaker?
Antoni Pinent: I come from the field of film creation, history of art and fine arts; I was doing films at 13. My first official film is from 1992 –I have previous experiments I haven’t shown-, it is N°0. psicosiS, and the last ones would be of 2017, now in process, which is something that would materialize 25 years of global work in cinema or arts. Somehow, to make a living out of experimental cinema is impossible unless you frequently win prices, or unless you’re Ben Russell or have a gallery that sells your works, or are able to exhibit in Documenta, in a context of art market, from ground zero, especially if you are not a Jonas Mekas, Bill Morrison or a Marclay. But when you’re young you have no conscience of this structure. Why did Robert Breer, Ken Jacobs, Hollis Frampton, Len Lye, Michael Snow, John Smith, Peter Tscherkassky or Paul Sharits dictate –or are dictating- lessons? Some of they would say “I don’t want to give lessons, I want to make films”, but that may be impossible because of economic viability. I don’t intend to win money with my films, but at least amortize my expenses to continue my production with what I can get in the distribution houses I’m included, like Light Cone (Paris), Canyon Cinema (San Francisco) o CFMDC (Toronto). There are several ways of finding money, like giving lessons, or doing other things –complimentary or out of this realm-.
It was through Xcéntric, when I was in Barcelona from 2004 to 2010, that the possibility of making an expo opened, in 1200 square meters, with the title THAT’S NOT ENTERTAINMENT! El cine responde al cine (cinema responds to cinema), inaugurated in 2006 and co-curated with Andrés Hispano, where we included works in 16mm by Stan Brakhage. We had Mothlight, The Dark Tower, and in other room we had Kubelka’s Arnulf Rainer in 35mm placed in the wall, and if you rotated you had the 16mm projector in loop with the film. We had Gustav Deutsch with his Film Ist in eight screens as a video installation; we had works by Jonas Mekas, Martin Arnold, Matthias Müller, Kenneth Anger, Andy Warhol, Jean-Luc Godard, Kurt Kren, Guy Debord, Peter Watkins, Jean Genet, José Antonio Sistiaga, Pere Portabella, Chantal Akerman, Benet Rossell, etc. Also my labor as a programmer in Xcéntric in the section of Invisible Cinema –with the “in” crossed by an X-.
Then my trajectory as film curator started in a deeper way with FROM ECSTASY TO RAPTURE as a project, and then the second part came in Latin America, CINE A CONTRACORRIENTE (Countercurrent film) and now Ism, Ism, Ism, also about Latin-American experimental cinema, which comes with a publication that will be on sale in September or October by University of California Press. We’re several curators and each one has deepened in a field, movement or author. I am the only European curator. Jesse Lerner and Luciano Piazza are the editors of the bilingual book, and the whole project. This work has been supported by the Los Angeles Film Forum, with grants by the Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts, Mike Kelley Foundation and the sponsorship of the Getty Foundation’s Pacific Standard Time. My collaboration in this project is centered in the pioneers of camera-less film of the Southern regions, under the spell or enchant of experimental animator Normal McLaren, who was in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay in the 50’s and 60’s, being invited for the first edition of São Paulo Film Festival (February, 1954), Mar del Plata (March, 1954), Córdoba (August, 1964); and who kept a close relationship with Víctor Aytor Iturralde Rúa (VAIR), Luis Ricardo Bras or Roberto Miller. It’s from some notes, documents, drawings-schemes, and letters, and also from their filmographies that I established some nexus between this specific period and the figure of McLaren, placing him in some of the chapters of the publication as a first inquiry or mapping under the umbrella of camera-less film.
Desistfilm: Now that you mention Norman McLaren, I see that in his works of the 40’s and 50’s, in these initial stages of the technique, there was a didactic intention or a pedagogic one, showing a cinema that was made without camera, through the “what you’re going to watch was made without a camera” line and explaining that all this was about experimentation in film material itself. How do you see this pedagogic end of some filmmakers? Is this still happening?
Antoni Pinent: There are a lot of examples, but most of them have been forgotten by historiography. Roberto Miller was one of them, for example, in Brazil he was one of the maximum experts in McLaren, transmitting his knowledge on the subject in conferences on animation festivals or roundtables; Víctor Iturralde was another one in Argentina, even publishing on McLaren in 1981. Something which is very interesting in Latin America is McLaren’s influence and some of the reasons why he had so many disciples –or people that knew his work very well-. McLaren started his works having some infrastructure because of the support of John Grierson, when he decided to hire him for the British General Post Office Film Unit in London, then he went to the USA for two years, in New York, where he made some works for the Guggeheim –when it still was The Museum of Non-Objective Painting-. And again, Grierson convinced him to become part of his cast of filmmakers but in a different country, in the Film Board of Canada, becoming part of the department of animation, where he would take the direction of that section shortly.
From that time, a catalog was made available as part of a cultural policy, and some works of the NFB were available for the audience –neighborhood libraries, cine clubs, fine arts schools, etc.- through the cultural embassies of Canada in several countries, the film libraries –that were also free-. This is explained as well by Irene Blei in her recent publication Canada. Frame by Frame. That’s how McLaren, besides being exhibited inside the film festival programs, was known thanks to these channels created by the cultural organism of Canada, also satisfying the potential animators in formation, cultural activists and historians or people with several concerns. By that time, he had already won important prizes like the Palm d’Or with Blinkity Blank in 1955 and the Oscar with Neighbors in 1953, which made him even more known. He had his visibility. I can even say that, after making all the investigation process for the ECSTASY TO RAPTURE project, you can still assembly at least a couple of programs on the filmmakers influenced by the camera-less film techniques of McLaren, only in Spain. And these are filmmakers that have seen his cinema through the end of the 50’s and beginning of the 60’s.
To me everything is the same all, the labor as curator, filmmaker, programmer, etc. As the critics on Cahiers du Cinemá, when they felt that they were making films writing his critiques in that magazine. We give lessons, we spread the will of making, the passion, we transmit our experience in the trade, but actually we are all learning, since it is a mutual and constant exchange. When you cure an exposition you live that as an enriching experience, with an important phase of investigation, and all the process can be applied or translated to the creative realm –or vice-versa, since I conceive the trade of curating as a creative/artistic act-. And that’s happening with my new cinematographic work STEREO FRAMEWORK / ASYNCHROMY, where I make an essay on primitive 3D, examples on double screen, the mirror, etc. To teach, to make a showcase, to write an essay… these are communicating vessels, they are part of an everything, and I feel identified with each one of the fields I work with, because an author seal is generated, since there’s something yours that is impregnated in the action, in the result, by the way you cut the shot and join three different shots, one is … -maybe inevitably- one is always identified in whatever one has been involved.
Desistfilm: If we think about the work of Ken Jacobs, his evocation of the Magic Lantern, in his NeuroSystem, in the things you mention on primitive 3D, in the effects of flicker film, a relation between experimental cinema and its scientificity is stablished. For example, you’re talking about your new project, STEREO FRAMEWORK / ASYNCHROMY, as a process which requires investigation, which you’re looking to back up. Do you think this relationship between art and science is really happening?
Antoni Pinent: Yes, there is a more scientific process. For example I’m now in a project in Milan, (since I live in Italy, in Venice), and I’m also linked to a network of independent labs, like UnzaLab in Milan or Crater-Lab in Barcelona; and getting to know the work of Richard Tuohy in Australia, or Kevin Rice, Roger Beebe, etc., people that frequent the independent, self-funded and artisan laboratories, giving practical workshops. Many people go there to learn a very precise technique, and forget about the theoretical part. From my “experience-ed” point of view, I think we need to deepen our studies and have the theoretical and historical part present, and its political context. For example, you learn to burn the film live for a performative or expanded cinema action, that’s pure technique, and a lot of time it is presented without content, just aesthetics, and in other occasions it’s well applied, giving that act a theoretical corpus, and creating a solid anchor like Holis Frampton, David Gatten, Nicky Hamlyn or Morgan Fisher did.
People come close, the new generations, to experimental, to emulsion, maybe for a fetishistic aspect of the media, affective or tactile, to touch the film, but then almost nobody offers or gives the basics for coming up with a theory that allows them to delve more, to evolve in other fields. Theory is often not used, text analysis, a wide bibliography, about the neurology in the use of the shutter –flicker film-, aspects of alchemy, or that sort of things that are more scientific, physiologic or chemical. If you read Hollis Framptom’s Selected Writings, where there’s a historic background that goes back to Marey and Muybridge, for example… you understand better all its richness in his proposals as a filmmaker. For example, the book on Paracinema by Esperanza Collado is very interesting to me, because it has a historical rigorousness in it without not being entertaining. In it she traces a wide panoramic on different practices on the world of art cinema, a very well structured one, creating resonances for a realm of creating, such as where she explains the concept of stereo time, mentioning José Val del Omar (the time of filming and subjective time during the watching session). There, I would add a third layer, for example, in some films of Jonas Mekas where he uses his voice-over, at the same time watching a material that is very old but commenting it on present time. Adams Sitney has very good texts on this aspect in his filmography. Other author who encompasses different aspects in a profound way is Michael Snow. His work –such as sound, or print written on screen- is always creating different layers of aesthetic reading and reflection behind the image, as concept and discourse, images that feed, suggest, stimulate, resound, and generate reflection and echoes in new creators and thinkers. These are erudite people who write very well and transmit their ideas in essays, like Frampton, José Val del Omar, Paul Sharits, Gregory Markopoulos, Robert Beavers, Nathaniel Dorsky, Morgan Fisher, Len Lye or Stan Brakhage, just to mention some of them. There are a lot of people that watch films made with flicker in video and that makes no sense because the work with the shutter in the neurological field isn’t shown. And I don’t like to appeal to the “must-do”, but I recommend suggesting readings in each workshop. The theoretical part is something useless to many people but it’s important to have it present, to enrich yourself and evolve.
Desistfilm: What do you think about the relationship between film criticism and experimental cinema? Since it’s not a narrative cinema, there’s a conflict with the system of conventional critique, which a lot of times stop in plots, argument, the thematic.
Antoni Pinent: When I was a teacher in the Film Observatory in Barcelona, I dictated a part of film criticsm lessons, and there I recommended some films available in cinemas to make practical exercises. And it was usual that the participants, before writing, read some reviews about the films on internet or printed magazines, and that showed on the writings. Then I proposed them to write about films that were more difficult to find information from, to deal with something new for them, unknown and difficult to classify –like when you see art from another culture or time, you are lacking tools to develop a critical work-. I chose to give them the task to see films in the regular Xcéntric screen at the CCCB (Contemporary Culture Center of Barcelona), films that had no kind of reviews, not even the author’s biography, I wanted them to stumble upon the silver screen with nothing behind, with the material of film itself, and that was the work. It was a good challenge for future film critics… I think it was a good exercise, where we all learnt from those experiences.
About film criticism, there’s the descriptive, informative, journalistic one (daily, weekly or monthly), then that one in where you have a little more time to work and take more distance from the work from its viewing –or even being able to have different viewings- to make an essay; and a third stage in which it turns into a creative act itself, that of an author. Anyway, I reaffirm myself in this posture that if you want to write about a film, you should watch it at least three times, especially because if a filmmaker has taken the time to make a film, you should take a time to write about it, for ethical reasons, as respect out of the work. I’m not saying this has to always be like this.
I write very little on experimental cinema, it takes me some time, not because making a description isn’t useful, but because I try to put part of that energy the person has dedicated to do their film, out of mutual respect. It takes a while to investigate, widen elements, compile information, etc. I’d rather not write at all than to say silly things, being superficial or just descriptive, since it’s not conventional cinema you are describing. Experimental, expanded cinema is experiential, and translating that into words is impossible, but if you have to do it you end up doing it, trying to salvage just mere description; or in turn doing the same as some of the texts of Alberte Pagán, that are more analytic, so the people can see what’s the film about, since there are films you can’t have access for, or are unique sessions. For example, I’m from the pre-internet era, I read in books about Ernie Gehr’s Serene Velocity and imagined what the film was, from photos that appeared there to illustrate the text.
There’s a lot of ignorance, for example there are so many “specialized” film critics who dare to write on experimental cinema without valuing the theme of sound in found footage, without covering minimum technical topics. Most people who write, teach, and make cinema, and the ones who haven’t had that background, have informed themselves about the technical part of the films, and that shows in their texts. There are texts of pure experimentalism that don’t reach the spectator but which are shared between filmmakers, especially on processes, on investigations of the film experience itself, that are not shown in theory books, but there are other publications like the “Animation Journal” or “Millenium Film Journal” which cover this more academic terrain; and others like yours “Desistfilm” with a wide field of readers, a magazine which honors me with this interview.
And before I finish, I want to thank the people of MUTA: Efraín Bedoya Schwartz, Milagros Távara, Nicolás Carrasco, Natalia Inés Verástegui Walqui, and everyone behind the organizing team. I’m very thankful to all of them.
Translated by José Sarmiento Hinojosa.