By Raju Roychowdhury
With the advent of new technologies, there are clearly more and more artists who are experimenting with the emergent possibilities. TENT is relatively a new open-space in Calcutta, INDIA, that came into being starting December 2012 and since then is calling out to artists willing to plunge into this new prospect and expand the meaning of existing art practices by transgressing the boundaries. where perhaps the amateur, reckless and even the madcap will produce the new drift of art. Clearly, the digital turn and the omnipresence of new media in our quotidianess have transformed the ways in which art may be produced, received, and understood. In this regard, TENT Little Cinema International Festival for Experimental Films and New Media Arts which had its 5th edition during December 10-15, 2018 have already created a mark on the national and international scene by showcasing a collection of experimental shorts, as well as some staggering videos and new media art works from all across the globe, from Europe, from far east Asia, middle east, selected shorts from Berlinale, from South America namely Argentina and Brazil among many other works that challenged the prevalent structure of narrative cinema erasing the limits between genres, styles and formats.The festival is jointly hosted by TENT, Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan in Calcutta and is supported by India Foundation for the Arts in Bangalore, Arsenal Institute for Film and Video Art, Berlin, artvideo KOELN international and short film festival, Oberhausen.
The cinematic arts have always romped around the unknown. Historically, avant-garde experimental cinema has insisted on a vocabulary that allows for fiction and that qualifies uncertainty. Information is lost and doubt persists, but cinema can moderate such paradoxes by operating outside the standard systems, scales and paradigms, by introducing alternative patterns and measures. When cinema dwells on the incapacity of existing means to describe its functional system we are part of – it naturally points to its disorder. Most importantly, it can do this because it naturally joins thinking with doing, reflection with action. Experimental cinema is grounded on imagination, and only through imagination will we be able to envision other narratives from our past and new ways into the future. The film series Stay Strangulated presents a retrospective of the works of Duo Strangloscope by assembling recent works made during 2013 -2018 by Brazilian artists Claudia Cardenas and Rafael Schilchting for their maiden exhibition in India. The couple live and work from Florianopolis, an island city in the south of Brazil. Claudia and Rafael are not only filmmakers but also organize an annual experimental film festival called Mostra Strangloscope.
Duo Strangloscope’s compositional films have sought to antagonize the narrative tradition in film making. There has been a desire to break the illusion and to create non-narrative sequences by configuring a cinematic language that is abundant in its use of forms, motions, patterns and flows, ultimately leading to an excessively effusive visual pleasure and as Fred Camper said regarding one of the criterion for experimental cinema, they never offer a clear univalent message, moreover it is fraught with conscious ambiguities and marshals paradoxical, even contradictory techniques and subject-matters to create a work that challenges the viewers instead of lulling them into a false sense of reality. The abstract techniques employed open their video works up to multiple interpretations (or even beyond) and generate mixed feelings largely dependent on the viewers pre-existing attachments. To an expert’s eye it is both profound and scintillating, pragmatic and preposterous as they contradicts and criticizes themselves without advocating any particular way of thinking about it following a certain canon.
How to portrait time without any documental heritage that images always produce? An image in Contemporary Cinema is non referential in the sense that it goes beyond the imitation of nature, producing moments in a gap. To produce gaps in time and thus talk about the nature of images was something that lured Duo Strangloscope (Claudia and Rafael) to shot the film Time Gap (2013) in the decadent Detroit, the icon of american capitalism. It is an experimental film about the birth of image through the film skin in an 8mm material as a body skin to expose all its possibilities through the digital technology. The film evokes a video clip of the Smiths with the punk spirit of a song by Beat Happening building an elusive fiction playing with the delays and repetitions. During the time the film runs, the image we encounter is no longer an imitation of reality but a temporary hole. Nuclear Emulsion (2013), another film by the duo championed the Intersection between nature, painting, photography and cinema in search of a poetics that expresses the passage of time that is sculpted and at the same time paralyses the petrification of the human body as landscape. It gives us a food for thought on how the materiality of the grain (real and physical) impresses upon the immateriality of the digital (binary) image. In Child World (2015) Strangloscope duo made a montage which is cubist in space and impressionist in time, touching aspects of futurism as they talk about deconstruction of capitalist infantilism “Made in USA” adopting an overwhelming visual game animated with the slides and frames of found footage. We are all tempted into a childish mechanism of individual fetish and satisfaction – a compulsive kind of consumerism that concerns just in relieving our anxieties, insecurities and desperation. Ironically, “the contemporary man” is not certain about what he wants and hence he cannot be fulfilled. We inhabit a Child World in which we all feel like also-rans.
Harmony is a disaster from the point of view of experimentation. Because it has a certain tendency to deflate the intensity of artistic problems and bringing up all the cliches of a beautiful soul. Ultimately a harmonious work is a religious cinematic art, in the sense of being docile and imposing a universal syntax. If we agree that social problem cannot be solved in the space of cinema and artistic problem cannot be solved in the social space, then what we are left with are tensions and differences. Cinema can of course work towards betterment, but things can never get any better for cinema. It must stay disturbed. Cinema’s entire possibility for tensing up is to be at the same time problem-oriented and conflict-aware, while being skeptical of itself. Duo Strangloscope’s artistic endeavor are so veracious about this. In one of their recent films Movimento (2018) the artist duo highlight the investigative power of art as a form of aesthetic and political experience, promoting collisions and rupture in the social space in which they operate. The film investigates how our bodies respond to the artistic and social environments of struggle and social action on the streets in the current misrule of things. In a corporeal ballet, the images play with the movements of counterattack, resistance, rebellion, seeking to respond to the current global and local crises, the ultraconservative revolutions, the migratory policies, racism, class hatred and xenophobia.The metamorphosis from human to animal no longer symbolizes a return to the wild nature. In Leopard Man Study (2017) we see how impossible it is to turn back to a natural paradise that was once fantasized by the human thought. Honra ao mérito (2017) is a video found footage of 16mm material that edits a series of military medal of honor sequences in order to provoke, through the repetition of the gesture, a movement of critical escapism to the displayed element. What is received as honor is a shame, is the result of the destruction of hundreds of thousands of lives around the planet earth. All these works in one way or the other have some elements of dissonance between the rhetoric and the ocular.
Deriva (2017) is very close to a structural film where the duo perceive the conception of space as a labyrinth, a space to be deciphered (as a palimpsest of secret characteristics) to be discovered through direct experience. Manipulating the surface structure of the film medium is a focal point here and this foregrounding of film material leads to an awareness of the viewer’s own physicality and shatters the illusion inherent to popular cinema. Deriva is a different figurative avatar to their earlier film Living Still Life (2012) where maximum energy is encapsulated in minimum space, a space that is infinitely extended far away reaching the sea as if forming the artist’s canvas that follows the cusp of a geometrical landscape and being within, the viewer can feel the existence of space time as a trope to find the truth. In Solo un poco aqui (2018) the vibrant space of images are constructed with the divine intervention, each pious figure remain in their place, come towards us with a cry of despair on their face and the color of the face intermingle in the same expanse in which life continues to flourish. In a continuum of differences there is delay and irritation as signs of life; surges of energy and playfulness transport bodies of all kinds, and there are frottage of information in the push and pull of assemblage, if we pay attention to the frayed dynamics that are introduced in their misc-en-scene, it can sensitize us to the crisis and tensions of representation through which we live, and propose imaginings to overcome the disconnections – without prescribing highroads as to which connections to forge in, which entanglements to articulate on, which historical sequence to extend further. In this way the Duo Strangloscope’s artistic experiment is deeply rooted in the performance of uncertainty, in the interplay between knowledge and ignorance.
Like Brakhage’s films that are often compared with the abstract expressionist paintings of Williem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, Duo Strangloscope’s latest film Vazios Habitados (2018) is the hieroglyphs traced by the inspired perception of four artists during a residency amidst the nature of Chapada Diamantina. They discover what is pre-existing inside each one of them by letting themselves sunk into the surrounding nature. This work was neither conceived, nor was chosen to follow a singular trajectory, but was discovered, revealed, excavated in this natural landscape in a processual way. Sounds and images of surrounding nature scanned and superimposed through continuous projections reinvents a new geography what Brakhage calls in Sitney’s Visionary Film “In intensive crisis I can see from the inside out and the outside in…I can see patterns moving that are the same patterns I see when I close my eyes; and can also see the same kind of scene I see when my eyes are open.” Vazios Habitados that was made of the re-contextualized sounds and images seeks the possibility of generating temporary situations within this crisis that renew our sensibility and broaden our understanding of the experience of such encounter with the practices, strategies and operations of audiovisual artistic production. Last but not the least sound design remains one of the enigmatic element throughout their oeuvre. There are instances where the sound was isolated from its original context and later was associated in fragments by affinity. Duo Strangloscope create new fictional soundscapes where the limits for interpretation are redefined. The space always itself behaves as a looking device capturing images from inside and outside of the frame of reference in real time.
Curated Program : Stay Strangulated
Curator : Raju Roychowdhury
Total Duration : 80 minutes (approx.)
Living Still Life (4’51” – Brasil, 2012)
Time Gap (10’59” – Detroit/Brasil, 2013)
Nuclear Emulsion (4’12” – Brasil, 2013)
Child World (10′ – Brasil, 2014)
Leopard Man Study (7’34” – Belgrado/Brasil, 2017)
Honra ao mérito (9’45”- Brasil, 2017)
Deriva (3’11” – Brasil, 2017)
Solo un poco aqui (5’33” – Mexico, 2018)
Movimento (3’09” – Brasil, 2018)
Vazios Habitados (21’04” – Brasil, 2018)