personne (Michaela Schwentner, 2017)

By Claudia Siefen*

Yes, I’m still sure about the fact that galleries are the new cinemas. And the topic of subsidies, still discussed this year, became something which I wouldn’t really call a “discussion”. If you ever happen to find yourself sitting down with a filmmaker for a chat, you find yet another fact: the “new generation” see themselves as artists, wild artists, with annoying opinions which they feel the need to transmit to the rest of the world, for whatever reason it might be. It doesn’t sound very logical to me. As the charismatic Austrian filmmaker Peter Kern once said: “If you need to make a film, just do it, sell your house and your family, sell yourself. If you really want to make a film, nothing will stop you!”.

So, at the Diagonale, as in any other venue, I encountered these two camps again: those who consider themselves artists with the clear expectation to be subsidized for it and make films, and those who treat the business as an everyday job. In order to be a filmmaker, you have to make a choice, it seems. And obviously, making films is not about just using talent and creaming off the most interesting subjects for your work anymore. It has become about a series of wider issues, sadly. If you want your work to be screened at cinemas or galleries, you have to consider being able to work on projects which are about money and networking.  And networking only works like clockwork when an artist keeps their feet on familiar territory. The business is the same with the new generation (and different families), but despite of that I managed to find few works that I’m really happy with, which made their way to cinemas. And galleries.

Liquid Sonic Palindrome by Lisa Kortschak

Liquid Sonic Palindrome is a wonderful sound-composition/ballet performance, which unfolds the architecture of a swimming pool, the famous Viennese “Amalienbad”, built in 1923/26 by architects Karl Schmalhofer and Otto Nadel. The beauty of water and its movement creates gaps which are filled and connected by the exhausting movements of the performers, all dressed in black swimsuits and black swim trunks. These 15 minutes bring together the human effort which comes together with a will to create, something connected to the corresponding noises of the work. It starts with silence, and ends with silence, until the last wave in the pool calms down.

personne by Michaela Schwentner

personne brings an analogue touch to the concept of the so-called social media. A woman (Stephanie Cumming) prepares and freshens up her make-up, obviously expecting to be looked at. But by whom? Scarce actions are frozen in long, tableau-like shots. These shots, mysterious as they are, question the boundaries of reality and illusion. Schwenter exposes us to the act of seeing, thus forcing us to become voyeurs with a sense of safety. personne is an amazing cinematic contemporary work that would have surely been received differently 15 years ago.

Untitled by Björn Kämmerer

Untitled is a work which manifests as a smart essence of cinema, letting light in and out, opening up to it or refusing it. Does sheltering always contain a refusal of the self? Kämmerer’s colours silently slash out across the screen, disappearing a reappearing as different colours and possibilities: a warm poem dedicated to cinema and vertical blinds.

-5°C 40%rF by Simona Obholzer

-5°C 40%rF shows a natural event in the age of technical (re) productivity: cold abstract and still cinematic reflections on the atmospheric qualities of the weather. It’s a work about artificially and artistically alienated natural spaces, about the simulation of reality and the construction of emotions – about the illusory worlds of cinema and reality. In the end, what is all that snow really for?

Accelerando by Georg Wasner.

In his film Wasner relies on the general education of his spectators, basing his artistically edited documentary on Norman Angell’s manifesto Europe’s Optical Illusion, in which Angell warns us of the violent reactions people would have against globalization, which was something lingering in the air in those times. Angell (1874-1967) developed his ideas about the delusion that war could bolster the status of countries in an economically civilized world: “What were the fundamental motives that explain the present rivalry of armament in Europe, notably the Anglo-German one? Each nation pleads its need for defense, but this implies that someone is always likely to attack, or has an interest in doing so. What are the motives which each state fears its neighbors might obey?” Wasner finds his way to bring these still contemporary questions into the big screen.

* Notes concerning my very personal selection of austrian avant-garde cinema, seen during the “Diagonale” – Festival of Austrian Film 2017.