Exhibition from 9th to 25th October in Halle (Saale), Germany
The exhibition .move presents 16 current works of 21 young and leading European media artists: video installations, interactive virtual environments, performances, and an Opera Digitale. The works were produced from 2008 to 2009 within the scope of the European Media Artists in Residence Exchange (EMARE) programme at the organisations Impakt (Netherlands), InterSpace (Bulgaria), VIVID (Great Britain) and Werkleitz (Germany). They will experience their German premiere in Halle. From October 9th to 11th the exhibition kick-starts with the artists discussing their works with international media art experts (respondents). The festival programme will be supplemented through presentations of students of the media art class of Burg Giebichenstein Halle. Nightly live acts and performances at the Riff Move Club are further components of .move. The European scene meets the local network of galleries in Halle. Unique locations like the state's museum Stiftung Moritzburg, the galleries Raum HELLROT, dieschönestadt, archcouture, the format filmkunstverleih, the Intecta department store, and the Riff Club will host the new art works. The title .move conveys the concept of the exhibition, including the motion of the picture as well as the motion of the audience fostered by the artistic audio guides of Ralf Wendt and Bertram Weisshaar. Furthermore, many works of the exhibition live through the mobility of the visitor, whether it is at interactive installations or by participating in community projects.
Artistic interest in the moving image began, some might say, with Nam June Paik’s TV manipulations in the 1960s or, others opine, with Walter Ruttmann’s first abstract experimental film Opus 1, way back in the early 1920s; to say nothing of those experiments with moving images pioneered by the like of Eadweard Muybridge in the latter half of the nineteenth century. And what visions are artists pursuing now, at the start of the twenty-first century? Why is the significance of the moving image in artistic production increasingly on the rise? In his work, Kommunikologie, media theorist Vilém Flusser differentiates between the magic lantern era, the written word era and that of the technical image, in which we now find ourselves. Flusser understands by ‘technical image’ all kinds of technologically generated image, from photography and film through to traffic signs and pictograms. By illustrating concepts rather than depicting reality, these ‘codify’ the world. Easily misinterpreted, if not downright deceptive, they can distort people’s view of reality. According to Flusser, the meaning of, and approach to technical images must first be learned: ‘Either we live within impermeable walls [composed] of meaningless images or we use these images to build bridges across the world’1. To build new bridges across the world is the very challenge that lies in using technologically generated images for artistic purposes. Sixteen new projects produced during the ‘European Media Artists in Residence Exchange’ programme (EMARE), fathom the inherent potential of different types of motion picture in a free, experimental manner. They were realized in the course of the last two years, in the framework of a two-month residency in Bulgaria, the UK, the Netherlands or Germany, courtesy of the European Media Art Network: InterSpace in Sofia, VIVID in Birmingham, Impakt in Utrecht and Werkleitz in Halle. The projects reflect their creators’ personal cultural background and often also that of the host country where they were produced. They are as heterogeneous as the diverse cultures, mentalities and languages found on the continent of Europe. Helene Sommer, Dagmar Keller & Martin Wittwer, Theo Prodromidis and Shu Lea Cheang all address the impact of globalisation processes on Bulgaria’s culture and self-image, whereby the focus rests equally on political, ideological and urban mechanisms. Questions of national respectively individual identity are also peripheral themes in the work of Katarina Zdjelar and Ran Huang, although each takes a very different approach to putting the spotlight on intercultural encounters. While Karen Mirza & Brad Butler examine patterns of civic engagement and the appropriation of urban space in Halle, Ania Molska & Krzysztof Franaszek pursue a similar path in Utrecht. Raymond Taudin Chabot and Tereza Severová, on the other hand, intervene in the actual exhibition venue. And, finally, Nika Oblak & Primož Novak, Kurt D’Haeseleer, Thomas Köner, Paolo Cirio, Don Ritter, and Julio Soto & Scott Petill address cultural and medial phenomena, not infrequently with subversive humour. Visitors’ interaction with the exhibits is provoked on several occasions. Thus, the exhibition title .move stands not only for the moving image so indispensable to each project but also for the recipient’s physical movement and his/her psychic agility in perceiving new and unfamiliar forms. .move invites visitors to take a walk around Halle, in the inspired company of audio-guides compiled by Ralf Wendt and Bertram Weisshaar, which open up access to the city’s urban spaces in an auditory-associative manner. In an open forum, on the opening weekend of the Festival, the respondents – international media art experts – will discuss with the artists the various positions on show. They also had been invited by the organisers to write the catalogue texts on the artistic works. The respondent method, derived from the scientific field, will hopefully serve to spur and deepen discourse between the artists, the experts and the public.
Shu Lea Cheang, USA / France Paolo Cirio, Italy Kurt D'Haeseleer, Belgium Ran Huang, China / UK Dagmar Keller & Martin Wittwer, Germany / CH Thomas Köner, Germany Karen Mirza & Brad Butler, UK Anna Molska & Krzysztof Franaszek, Poland Nika Oblak & Primož Novak, Slovenia Theo Prodromidis, Greece / UK Don Ritter, Canada / Germany Tereza Severová, Tczech Republic Helene Sommer, Norway Julio Soto & Scott Petill, Spain / USA Raymond Taudin Chabot, Netherlands Katarina Zdjelar, Serbia / Netherlands
Writing a text about an artwork that has been produced in and is directly related with a specific region this author has never been to is an interesting proposition. It was this alienated position that, when addressing Theo Prodromidis video piece ‘Je mehr es hervordringt’, brought me to the correspondence between Maxim Gorky and Lenin, which I had recently read. The Russian Soviet writer lived between 1906 and 1913 in exile, for political and health reasons on the island of Capri in Campania, Italy. From this isolated location he continued to support the work of the Russian socio-democracy and especially the Bolsheviks. On this small island, the southern part of the gulf of Naples, far away from the heart of the discussion, he developed his philosophy ‘God-Building’, leading to his suppression by Lenin. Gorky had set up a school, but soon saw himself being left by his students. The letters, travelling back and forth, likened a commentary, revealing problems and underlying structures of the debate, while Gorki himself moved farther away from the centre of the discussion with every letter. This process of unravelling through negotiation is closely related to the title Theo Prodromidis chose for his work, which loosely translates into ‘the more it becomes apparent’. Interestingly, writing this text on ‘Je mehr es hervordringt’ – knowing the artist but being distanced from the work’s context – evokes the position of the commentator – in a Brechtian understanding – addressing the artist’s approach. Ideally this text is read while watching the video, turning it into a commenting voice over the actual film.
Introduction of the characters
In the film we detect several protagonists: the architect, the musicians, the architecture to be build, the cityscape and the places of artistic production and presentation. The female architect can be considered as a spy, forming a portrait of the artist. She records the built environment, reflects upon it through various media producing architectural propositions. The musicians, a local heavy metal band, appear on several occasions throughout the film. We can see them first rehearsing in an empty building site, later driving through the city to pick up a musical score in the theatre, and at the very end performing for the city. But it is the city itself, which is the subject of the film. From the architecture we read its social, political and ideological constitution. Further there are three central locations, the Mall of Sofia, Sofia Business Park and Europe Park Sofia; of which Europe Park Sofia with it the Europe Tower is yet to come. This site reveals through its potential, the current state of Sofia. Spread throughout the city these commercial architectural structures evoke the region’s adoption of free-market capitalism. In contrast to that, we are presented with the footage of a theatre owing much to a strong communist aesthetic. Registration of a social political landscape A heavy metal band is rehearsing in an empty building site in front of Sofia’s business centre; the view is rhythmically interrupted by footage of the sharp-edged architecture taken from steep angles. The thick sound, characterised by highly amplified distortion, echoes through the building and the band members’ address each other, defining their relations and interpretation of the cityscape surrounding them. In the following scene, the architect is by herself in an office – we are still left in the unknown whether she is actually an architect or a spy. On the table we see plans, images of buildings, and modernist icons such as Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram building. The camera moves over a collection of antecedents, references, influences, and plans, reflecting and framing the position of the design at hand. On the wall we detect a map locating the different building sites in the city. Images of the commercial structures are attached to this plan and show the future shape of the city. She answers the telephone and… Prodromidis reminds us of the nature of the work. Instead of satisfying our expectation of a standard filmic narrative: he has her citing in German from Hegel’s work The Science of Logic. We cannot follow. She speaks to fast. But given the luxury of knowing the text we could understand this passage as a signifier for the artist’s approach to his work. The quote is serving as a catalyst to jump to the next sequence while we are made aware of the role of the actress and our own as viewer. We see the architect drawing over the material in view, moving into the painting of triangles: red, black and blue on tracing paper. A book by Berthold Brecht is in view, pointing us once more towards the act of intertwining the work and its very critique. With the French Nouvelle-Vague in mind, the insertion of philosophy is considered as an object and is part of the film set. He negotiates the present, future and past by translating the building into various media while making no attempt to suspend the viewer’s disbelief that there is a plot in the sequence of the moving images.
The act of translation
We find ourselves in a theatre. Architectural features, witnesses of a communist aesthetics reveal the history of the city of Sofia. A set is being built and references to constructivism with it. Triangles are the main shapes occurring. (I wonder weather it is indeed possible, that due to the simplicity of these basic geometric forms, a new beginning can be signified.) The architect recites again; a quote from Walter Benjamin Goethe’s Wahlverwandschaften. Cinematic time and space seem to break apart due to this insertion. As described in the quotation ‘the subject matter and the truth content, united in the work’s early period become apart during its afterlife’, the theatre’s architecture captured by the camera and the set design are negotiated in a future context. The architect takes notes on a musical score – processing the building through yet another medium into a musical notation this time, as an immaterial state of the architecture. Throughout the movie it is the same building, The Europe Tower, that is captured from a different angles, simultaneously performing as a notation and as a cultural object. Its references and the ideological state are abstracted.
The simultaneous production of architecture
We follow the heavy metal band tracing the city from East to West travelling through the trajectory of the film. Building sites, a huge amount of towers appear in front of us. We arrive in the historical centre where the places for cultural production are connected to the urban layout. The front man of the band picks up the musical score left behind by the architect in the theatre – after which the band starts playing. All this in front of the Mall of Sofia next to a socialist apartment block locally referred to as the ‘Chinese Wall’. To choose a heavy metal band to express form into music may seem surprising, as we know this research from early modernism where form was performed trough serialist systems. Here instead, the musical antipode for the Europe Tower is found in the aggression and power of heavy metal, while the humble position of the underground scene is criticising the current political and social state. These transformations between materiality and immateriality contain the memory of every single one, a memory that is captured through the movement of the camera. The architecture that is yet to be built is created and rehearsed. The constructivist structures of the set design sketch out the angles of the camera to represent form. In parallel we experience a musical and cinematic performance; of the band and the camera. The camera does not register its environment anymore but expresses the architecture and its critique by creating an affectionate and expressive cityscape. Representation as production Now the props and the film are displayed or displaced in a German rather then in a Bulgarian context. Emare commissioned the film, and this exhibition in Halle, Germany, works as a time loop. By placing the set-design next to the projection Theo Prodromidis reflects upon the origin of the production of the work and tests the correlation between representation and production. The incorporation of time is a common thread throughout the artists work. The relation of the work to its present state is in constant dialogue with the past and the future, negotiating and creating its own position. As such the negotiation of this particular architectural form reveals the history, current state and potential future of the region in which the film is produced. The underlying structures and problematics become more and more apparent.
Not the word before the notion, but the word as notion and as historical agent.
« Communism » is a word with a strange story. It is very difficult to rigorously trace its origin. Nevertheless, it is sure that the word “communist” existed already in the XIVe century, with the meaning of “people having in common a property belonging to the category of “main morte” – that is, not being submitted to the law of heritage” : a monastery belongs to the community of the Monks, which is, as community, independent from the individuals. It seems that at the same time and even before, from the XIIe century, the same word designated some aspects of communal law and was linked to the communal movement which expanded as the beginning of a bourgeoisie.
Later, namely in the XVIIIe century, the word appears in a text written by Victor d’Hupay de Fuveau in 1785 – four years before the French revolution. It designates the project or the dream to found a community of life – which precisely is supposed to replace that of the Monks.
Here for example a quotation of d’Hupay :
Cette union et cette communauté de régime moral économique serait praticable par pelotons, dans tous les états, sans confondre les fortunes, eu égard au juste mérite de divers talents, moyen que n’avaient point encore voulu admettre les Zélateurs de la République de Platon. Elle fortifierait l’amitié humaine dans chaque profession, en excluant toute vaine et extérieure distinction, odieuse dans une même classe de Citoyens : rivalité puérile qui confond et entraîne ensemble tous les états à leur ruine et à tous les crimes. Tel fut l’abus funeste auquel remédia par ses simples Lois Somptuaires le bon Roi Idomenée, modèle de nos deux Henris. Les Agapes des premiers Chrétiens tendaient au même but, en réunissant les Hommes dans cet esprit de simplicité le plus propre à maintenir la paix et la religion. Il appartiendrait donc à un Prince qui voudrait mieux mériter le titre de Père de la Patrie, que tous ceux encore qui ont favorisé l’établissement des Moines, devenus inutiles aujourd’hui, placent ces vrais et nouveaux Modèles de tous les états, chacun relativement à leur fonction, dans les divers Monastères qui se dépeuplant tous les jours, semblent attendre une meilleure destinatio
D’Hupay was a a friend of Restif de la Bretonne’s, who is known to be the first to present, among the several kinds of government, the « communism or communauté » . In his autobiography (“Monsieur Nicolas”), he expounds it as one among 9 types of government and writes this one is only effective for some people of South America, who “work together in the morning and play together in the afternoon” (this is not very different from what Marx says in German Ideology).
A short time later, at the time of the French Revolution, (and this is well known), Gracchus Babeuf, taking part in the first “Commune insurectionnelle de Paris”, used several times the word “communautariste” in the context of his thought about the “Egaux” and the phrase “communauté nationale”.
Beside the explicit use of the word, we have to remember how other nouns designated the same thing, for example in the doctrine of the English “Diggers” of the XVIe century, who spoke of the land as a “common treasure” and who belonged to the time of the first English Revolution, which ended with the creation of the first Republic under the name of Commonwealth which had at the time almost the meaning of “res publica”.
Actually, those historical data are unable to give us the origin and the meaning – or, even better, the sense – of “communism”. No history, no etymology either, can produce anything like sense.
But there is something we may understand from those data : something has been at stake with this word, with the invention of it and with the attempt or the need which was involved in it. Something – which is still in front of us, which is still to be discovered, or which is still to come.
Communism – the word, again. The word as presence, as feeling, as sense (more than meaning).
To a certain extent, it seems strange that the inquiry or commentary about this word should be so rare. As if it were always considered as self-evident… It is, in a way – but in which way, this deserves a little more reflection …
Even if history is not enough to explain what we could call the "destiny" of this word, something seems to be positive : community - koinonia, communitas - emerges at times of profound social transformations and/or trouble or even destructions of social order. This is the case at the time before the Christian era as well as at the final time of feudalism or later at the time of the first industrial revolution. The first time was that of the transformation of the whole social and cultural structure of the antique world - that is, the final achievement of what had opened his antique world itself : the deconstruction of agrarian culture and of theocracy. Such a deconstruction makes clear, or pushes to the foreground what was hidden under or inside the construction : that is, the togetherness of people (admittedly, even of people with every other being like animals, plants, even stars and stones...). Before and out of the Greek - occidental - moment, the togetherness is given first. We call that "holistic society", supposing that such society understands itself as a holon, that is a whole. To the whole we oppose the parts - as parts taken out of their whole - or a togetherness of several wholes - that is, of individuals. In both representations the same question arises : what becomes of togetherness when a whole is not given, and perhaps even not to be given in any way ?
Thus arises koinônia or I would say the drive to it, the drive to community. It comes or it emerges, perhaps it constitutes itself because what it calls, what it names or designates is not or is no longer given.
Certainly, many important features or trends of common life – or, to be more precise, life in common - are already given with the first kind of mankind, as certainly as precisely the first kind of mankind is or has never been an individual but a group, a gathering of many. But as far as we can see, something of the togetherness is given - and is given with or through an aspect of the whole, of totality (which has nothing to do with what has been called totalitarianism).
If togetherness is given without this aspect, that is, if it is given as a society - an association instead of, say, an integration like the family, the tribe, the clan - then the association as such opens a questioning about its own possibility and its own consistency : how is it possible to associate those who seem not to want it or even to reject it. Society then is what its members - the socii - have to accept and to justify. Communitas on the contrary, or communio, is invented as the idea of what justifies by itself the presence and even the existence of its members.
Communism is togetherness - the Mitsein, the being-with - understood as the belonging to existence of the individuals, which means, in the existential meaning, to their essence. Society means an unessential - even if necessary - link between individuals who are, in the final analysis, essentially separate.
(I will not enter into the analysis of the word socialism neither in general nor in Marx’s text. As we know, for several historical reasons but as well - this is my belief – on account of the strength and depth of the meaning of the word (of the image, of the symbol), communism alone took and kept the force of more than a political choice, a political line and a party.
This, for me, is the point : communism says more and says something else than a political meaning. It says something about property. Property is not only the possession of goods. It is precisely beyond (and/or behind) any juridical assumption of a possession. It is what makes any kind of possession properly the possession of a subject, that is properly an expression of it. Property is not my possession : it is me.
But me, I, never exists alone. It exists essentially with other existing beings. The with is no external link, it is no link at all : it is togetherness - relation, sharing, exchange, mediation and immediation, meaning and feeling. The with has nothing to do with what is called collective. Collectivity means collected people : that is, people taken together from anywhere to the nowhere of the collectivity or of the collection. The co- of collective is not the same as that of communism. This is not only a matter of etymology (munire versus ligare) . This is a matter of ontology : the co- of collectivism is a mere external "side by side" which implies no relationship between the sides or between the parts of this "partes extra partes".
The co- of a communism is another one. It is, in the terms used by Heidegger about the mit of the Mitsein, not a categorical but an existential with (mit, co-). A categorical one means, in a more or less kantian way, that it is merely formal and does nothing more than distinguish between with and without (you are here with me, but you could be here without me ; it does neither disturb the fact you are here, nor the fact that you are you as I am me). An existential with implies that neither you nor me are the same together or separate. It implies that the with belongs to the very constitution or disposition or as you may wish to call it - say : to the being of us. And there is more to it : only in this case is it allowed to speak of a "we" - or still better : only in this case is it possible that a we comes to be spoken. Or even better : if the we can only and each time be a speech act, then only a we existentially spoken may perform its significance (what is exactly this significance is another matter : for now, I note only that it implies a relationship, not a mere side-by- side).
(Another parenthesis - sorry ! It is not sure that there is, absolutely, something like "a mere side-by-side". Side-by-side is already taken in a relationship. But we may discuss this point later.)
By putting together the various arguments I have used so far, I can say : communism is the speech act of existence as it is ontologically being-in-common. This speech act claims (for) the ontological truth of the common, that is the relation - which ultimately is nothing else than sense.
(I can come back later or elsewhere on this identity of sense and relation - as well as the identity of truth and existential co-)
Further : the truth of the common is property. Property does not mean only the possession or the belonging. In a reverse way, one should rather say that possession or belonging may only be truly understood and determined if property is first understood.
Marx wanted to open the way for a property he calls "individual property" just as distinct from "private property" as from "collective property". Private and collective refer both only to the realm and to the category of law. The law knows only the formal and external links. Individual property means : property which is proper to the proper subject (we may call it "person" or even, as Marx does in this passage "individual").
Subject means the capacity of what we could call “properness” : the way to enter a relationship or to engage in a link, an intercourse, a communication, which has nothing to do with possessing something (but may be possible as well with things, objects). I am proper in so far as I commit myself as well as I communicate, that is, as the word makes clear, I am in the common (which in English can be the name for the common or communal place), I am made of it, by it, to it. Freud is the best way to understand it : as he states, the I or the ego is only a small disk, almost a point, emerging at the surface of the large it which is the totality of the other being of the world. Even in solitude, I am made of the whole world as it takes with "me" or as "me" a new singular point of sensitivity.
Communism, therefore, means the common condition of all the singularities of subjects, that is of all the exceptions, all the uncommon points whose network makes a world (a possibility of sense). It does not belong to the political. It comes before any politics. It is what gives to politics an absolute requirement : the requirement to open the common space to the common itself - that is neither to the private nor to the collective, neither to separation nor to totality - but without permitting any political achievement of the common itself, any kind of making a substance of it. Communism is a principle of activation and limitation of politics.
At this point it becomes necessary to question the -ism. Any -ism implies a system of representation, and a kind of ideologization (in the marxian meaning as well as in the arendtian meaning of ideology). Cartesianism is the ideologization of Descartes's original drive.
I do not want to go into the question of historical or so-called, so oddly called real communism. Communism is still exposed to the jeopardy of becoming an ideology and should lose its -ism. The word is commun without -ism. Not even commun - common, kommune, any thing that could be taken as something like a form, a structure, a representation - but com. The Latin preposition cum taken as the universal pre-position, the presupposition of any existence.
This is not politics, this is metaphysics or, if you prefer, this is ontology : to be is to be cum. (At the very moment I am writing this, I am surrounded by a singing crowd of futbol aficionados on a plaza in Madrid : there is there a multitude of symbols, problems, feelings about the common) But it asks politics this question : how is it to think about society, government, law, not with the aim of achieving the cum, the common, but only with the hope of letting it come and take its own chance, its own possibility of making sense – if, as I wish to suggest, any sense is necessarily common sense or, if not “common sense” in the common meaning of the word, then in the meaning that any sense is made of communication, of sharing or exchange. But of an exchange which is not an exchange of possessions, but an exchange of property : where my property becomes proper by its own commitment ; sometimes this is called “love”, “friendship”, sometimes “faithfulness”, sometimes “dignity”, sometimes “art”, sometimes “thought”, sometimes even “life” and “sense of life” – under all those names there is nothing else than a commitment to the common.
If the question of communism is the question of property - namely, the question of neither collective nor private property but of individual as well as common property, then it raises a double question :
1)what does it mean to be both "individual" and "common" ? How are we to understand "the individuality of commmonness" and "the community of individualness" ?
2) how are we to think of wealth and poverty in the realm of common-individual property?
To the first question I would like to answer by arguing that it has to be taken in terms of singular plural, which has other implications than "individual-common" ; I do not want to address this matter here (I have already written some pages about it) ; but to say the least here I would suggest that singular-plural avoids the jeopardy of the double substantiality which may be involved in "indidual-common")
2) concerning wealth and poverty, the question is clear as it is obviously presented to us : wealth means to possess more than common life needs, poverty to have less. The first commun(ist) command is obviously that of justice : to give to the common what common life needs. This need at the same time is simple, evident (in a way, it is included in human rights - which nevertheless may be discussed from other points of view) - and it is nevertheless unclear : from the need to the desire or to the wish, there is no simple nor clear difference. It is then necessary to think differently. We shall not only take a first step of "needs" and their "satisfaction" - even if, of course, we shall absolutely consider a level of elementary or minimal satisfaction. But we shall as well consider that infinity is involved in each need and as the very essence of it. Need is to be taken as an impulse to get something (like bread, water or space) but as a drive toward what is not a thing, and maybe is nothing - but infinity.
At this point we are close - again... - to capitalism. that is, to infinity taken as endless accumulation of things (which are all equivalent, as measured by the very possibility of accumulating them, whose name is money - money taken itself as the endless process of making money). Capitalism is endlessness instead of infinity, or infinity as endless production of capital itself.
This has been, so to speak, a choice of civilization. At one point (even if this point is extended through some centuries) the western civilization opted for endlessness. This point was the one where infinity as the absolute given in each existence changed into infinity as an endless process toward accumulation.
Of course it has been connected with a change about wealth.
Control, regulation of the market is not enough. The challenge is not only about managing the system of production-consumption
It is about the meaning of wealth. Wealth and poverty may have two quite different uses and meanings. One can be accumulation vs disaccumulation, if I may say so, or getting rich vs inpoverishment. Another can be what I would name glory vs humility. ("The Humble", the name of a virtue became the name of poor people...).
Possibly glory and humility could not even be called wealth and poverty. They are related to each other not as the plus to the minus but like, let’s say, a monk in his simple frock facing a golden altar. Or myself listening to Beethoven’s quartets.
Possibly this relationship, whose proper name is adoration or worship, which names a kind of prayer as well as a form of love, never took place as such in society or was always already mixed with or transformed in the opposition between wealth and poverty. Nevertheless, as a matter of fact, the couple rich/poor as such and as a philosophical as well as moral and religious theme or topic was formed precisely at the time of pre-capitalism, that is in Antiquity, between Plato - and the critique of money making sophistes - and Christ - with his strong rejection of wealth. This age has been the first, and in a sense maybe the last, time of the critique of wealth, that is of no longer thinking of it as glory. On the contrary, thinking of it as the fake brightness par excellence.
Our civilization is a schizophrenic one that thinks its own value, its main value is fake.
The question of property is the question about the proper property, which belongs to the proper "person" : that is, of the proper "wealth" (or "glory" - or, this is the same in a way, the proper "sense"). Such a proper property may only be common. As private, it makes no sense (sense for a single one is no sense at all) ; as collective it makes the same effect for the collective is a single - mechanical - unity, not the plurality of the common.
Common is the adequate word for the properness of being, if being means ontologically being “in common”.
Edno Magazine issue 76, pp 76-77
A Greek artist made a film in Sofia
Theo Prodromidis is an artist, working mostly with media. He was born in Thessaloniki, but he lives in London for 10 years now. Last autumn he spent two months in Sofia as a resident of the InterSpace Media Art Centre in the frame of the EMARE (European Media Art Network) residency. Theo Prodromidis graduated from the prestigious Goldsmith College in London. His work in the field of art is varied– he does photography and performances, he paints, from time to time he resorts to digital media, but he expresses his ideas mostly with films. For the first time he showed his works done in Bulgaria at the exhibition and events programme Stay, Stay, Stay that took place in the former Sofia Central Bathhouse (the old Secession building is now being renovated and will become a classy spa-centre and a history museum of the city). Theo presented at the exhibition a sculpture and collages. His works were something like a trailer to his film Je mehr es hervordringt that he shot during his stay in Sofia. Here is what Theo told me when I visited him in his atelier just a few days before he left Sofia.
How have you chosen to come to Bulgaria?
I wanted to make a film about Bulgaria since it entered the European Union. The subject that I explore in my work is the city – as an urban landscape and architecture. When I learned that there is an opportunity for a residency here decided to shoot a film about Sofia. I am interested in the way the city landscape has been changingin the last years. Another subject is the investment – not just in terms of financing. I mean investments in ideas, culture and art – for example an artist can invest in his work given value that gradually increases and at a certain moment it becomes an artwork with a critical potential. An investment can be something very beautiful. So my work in Sofia is an investment in the city.
Most of the people in the team you worked with were Bulgarians. How did you find them?
It was not very easy because usually I work with people that I know and in most of the cases they are my friends. When I arrived in Sofia the first thing I did was to take a bicycle and go round the city searching for places that I like and find interesting and also to get used to the people and the way they inhabit the city environment. Bit by bit I started to find the track, to get to know some people and to ask them about both life in the city and about the pragmatics of a production there. My initial idea was to do something related with the shopping malls that are being built now; I had in mind something like a performance. I wanted it to be based on the fact that the malls actually shift the centre of the city toward its periphery and become the new centre. But eventually I decided to concentrate on the new architectural characteristics of the city and in the city.
Where does your deep interest in architecture arise from?
What I want to research is why certain buildings inhabit a specific space in specific time. At the Stay, Stay, Stay exhibition I showed a sculpture which was the visual equivalent of the Europe Tower project in Sofia. I exhibited also altered found images of socialist buildings that I found in books published by the communist regime. I tried to apply aesthetic manipulation to these buildings.This action was very much influenced by the Suprematism and the result resembled a movie story-board – the triangles that I added to the pictures represented the camera, and the lines – its movements. My aim was to visualize a possibility in the buildings with the means of the cinematographic language.
Tell me more about your film Je mehr es hervordringt that you made in Sofia.
At the beginning of the movie we see how Linda, the main character, observes the construction site of the future Europe Tower in Sofia. In the next scene we land in Sofia Theatre where we see stage design students making a stage reproduction of the same building. This is the transformation of the building process into a scenic construction. At the end the whole process passes over into the music of the metal band that plays on a building block opposite to Sofia Mall. These three scenes are symbolically linked by the sense of the city they create.
What were your criteria in choosing the music?
I wanted to find the musical antipode to Europe Tower which is very pure in its form but at the same time very aggressive. For me metal music best translates the image of this tower into sound. In the last century modernist composers transformed the form into sound using serialist systems or electronic music. According to me, Sofia’s urban landscape cannot be represented by it. I had to find something more powerful. Another issue was that the metal music remains underground and very rarely reaches the mainstream. The bands that play such music are absolutely aware of the fact that they will never become very popular. I work often with musicians. I like to participate in the process of creating of muisic because it is similar and also different to the creative process of a visual artist.
Why does the main character in your film speak German?
This character is to a great extend autobiographical. The framework of the residency expects from me pretty similar things to what the character is doing– observation, transformation and the offering of an outcome. The choice of having the main character related to Germany is also because I came here thanks to the EMARE network that is based in Germany, in Halle where the film is also going to be exhibited next year. And the architectural office that designed Europe Tower is German as well. I think that Bulgaria has a long historical connection with Germany – also Sofia sometimes reminds me of East Berlin.
I was very impressed by the way language is used in your film.
The aim of the text was to function as Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt. Actually the role of the text is of relative importance to the action, but still it creates a totally different feeling of space. The fragments where you see photocopies with text cut the flow of visual pictures. When I use the word in my work I want to give it a very pure form and to represent it almost as an object. For this work, I chose pretty difficult texts – by Benjamin and Hegel. It depends on the spectator if the text will be useful for him/her. Actually it is almost impossible to understand these texts from the first viewing. It is more likely that they make one eager to see the film again. And these are texts that we read over and over again as well.
How do you find Sofia? Do you have a critical attitude towards its constantly changing landscape?
Sofia is a city full of contradictions. It is interesting for me how the political and historical context changes it. Capitalism transforms the city with slight regard to past and future but the development of the urban landscape is likely to be dependent on the political regime. It changes the strategies of how a building should operate for example – in the socialist times everything was grey and now there is the other extreme of the exaggerated gaudiness. I am not in to criticize but I am convinced that we should forge history in order to think of the future. My aim is to create aesthetical works that are like artistic reportages.
Тео Продромидис е класически медиен артист. Роден е в Солун, но от 10 години живее в Лондон, а тази есен прекара два месеца в София благодарение на Интерспейс и германската програма Емаре за обмен на опит в областта на медиийното изкуство. Завършил е престижния Голдсмитс колидж в Лондон. Заниманията му в областта на изкуството са доста разнообразни – прави фотографии и пърформанси, рисува, от време на време прибягва към дигиталните медии, но най-често изразява идеите си с медията филм. През октомври за пръв път показа свои произведения в България в рамките на изложбата Остани, остани, която се състоя в Централна баня, (мястото скоро ще бъде превърнато в лъскав спа център и в музей на банята, така че това беше една от последните възможности да се види в сегашния му вид). Тео Продромидис участваше в експозицията със скулптура и колажи. Може да се каже, че произведенията му изпълняваха функцията на нещо като трейлър към филма му Je mehr es hervordringt, който той направи по време на престоя си в София. Ето какво ми разказа Тео, когато го посетих в ателието му в стара кооперация на улица Бенковски, броени дни преди да си замине от България.
Как попадна в България? Исках да направя филм в някоя страна като България или Румъния, която съвсем наскоро се присъединила към Европейския съюз. Темата, която най- много ме вълнува в работата ми, е града – имам предвид градския пейзаж и архитектурата. Когато видях, че има проект за медийни артисти с престой в София, ми се дощя да снимам филм във вашия град. Интересува ме как градският пейзаж се е променил, откакто сте членове на Европейския съюз. Друга тема, която ме вълнува, е инвестицията, нямам предвид чисто финансовия аспект. Става дума за инвестиция в областта на идеите, културата или пък в изкуството – например един творец инвестира в своята работа определена стойност, която постепенно се разраства и в един момент се превръща в художествено произведение с критичен заряд. Инвестициите могат да бъдат нещо много красиво, така че моята работа в София е един вид инвестиция в града.
Екипът, с който работиш, се състои предимно от българи? Как ги откри?
Не беше много лесно, защото обичайно работя само с хора, които познавам, в повечето случаи те са мои приятели. Когато пристигнах в София, първото нещо, което направих бе да взема едно колело и да обикалям из града в търсене на места, които ми допадат, а също така да свикна с хората и начина, по който те се движат в градската среда. Постепенно започнах да се ориентирам и да се запознавам с разни хора и да ги разпитвам за монтажисти, за оператори, както и за актьори, които говорят немски. Също така исках да открия подходяща метъл група. Моята първоначална идея беше да направя нещо свързано с моловете, които се строят в момента – представях си нещо като пърформанс. Идеята беше базирана на факта как моловете постепенно изместват центъра на града в неговата периферия и се превръщат в новото му средоточие. Но в крайна сметка реших да се концентрирам върху новите архитектурни особености на града.
Откъде идва задълбочения ти интерес към архитектура?
Всъщност това, което ме интересува е да открия, защо дадени сгради обитават конкретно пространство в точно определено време. Примерно на изложбата в банята Остани, остани показах скулптурата, която е визуалния еквивалент на проекта за Europe Tower в София. Освен това бях изложил снимки на соц-сгради, които открих в стари книги. Опитвах се да подложа тези постройки на естетическа манипулация. Тази акция беше силно повлияна от супрематизма, а също така напомня на сториборд за филм – триъгълниците, които съм добавил към фотографиите, изобразяват камерата, а линиите движението на камерата. Всъщност целта ми беше да визуализирам сградата с помощта на кинематографичния език. Разкажи ми повече за филма Je mehr es hervordringt, който направи в София? В началото на филма виждаме Линда, главният персонаж на филма, как стои и наблюдава строителната площадка на бъдещия Europe Тower в София. В следващия момент попадаме в театър София, където наблюдаваме как студенти правят сценична репродукция на същата тази сграда. Това е трансформацията на строителния процес в сценичен образ. Накрая целият този процес преминава в музиката на метъл групата, която свири на строежа срещу Бизнес парка. Връзката между трите сцени е доста символична – основното сходство е чувството, което те създават за града.
Кои бяха критериите в избора ти на музика?
Исках да открия музикалната противоположност на Europe Tower, която е доста изчистена като сграда, но едновременно доста агресивна. Метъл музиката според мен най-добре превежда визията на тази кула в звук. През миналия век композиторите от епохата на модернизма траснформираха формата в звук, служейки си най-често с електронна музика. Според мен градският пейзаж на София обаче не може да бъде представен чрез електронна музика. Трябваше да открия нещо по-силно. Освен това ме привлича факта, че метъл музиката в повечето случаи остава в ъндерграунда и много рядко достига мейнстрийма. Групите, които правят този вид музика, са с пълното съзнание, че никога няма да станат много популярни. Аз много често работя съвместно с музиканти. Харесва ми да участвам в процеса на създаване на музика, защото според мен той е много сходен с креативния процес на визуалния артист.
Защо главната героиня във филма говори на немски?
Този персонаж е замислен доста автобиографично. Картината, която пресъздавам, до голяма степен рефлектира моя престой в София – наблюдаване, трансформация и даване нещо в замяна. Фокусът пада върху Германия, защото съм дошъл тук благодарение на германска програма за обмен, затова филмът ще бъде показан догодина в Хале, а освен това и компанията, която прави Europe Tower е немска. Смятам, че България по някакъв начин е свързана с Германия – София за мен е като източен Берлин, що се отнася до архитектурата и начина на живот на хората. Силно впечатление ми направи използването на текст във филма. Целта на текста е да служи като Брехтовия похват на отчуждение. Всъщност ролята на текста е доста второстепенна за самото действие, но за сметка на това пък създава съвсем различно усещане за пространство. Откъсите, в които се виждат фотокопия с текст, прекъсват потока от визуални картини. Когато използвам писмената реч в произведенията си, имам желанието да й придам много изчистена форма и да я представя по възможно най-обективен начин. Избрах доста сложни текстове – на Брехт, Бенямин и Хегел. До голяма степен зависи от зрителя дали текстът може да му бъде полезен. Всъщност е почти невъзможно от един прочит на тези текстове те да бъдат разбрани, по скоро те амбицират зрителя да гледа филма отново. Същото е и със самите текстове – човек непрекъснато се връща към тях. Как ти се струва София? Имаш ли критично отношение към
непрекъснато обновяващия се облик на града?
София е град пълен с противоположности. Интересът ми се върти около това как политическият и историческият контекст променят града. Става дума за начина, по който капитализмът преобразява града, без да се съобразява с миналото и с бъдещето. Развитието на урбанистичния пейзаж до голяма степен зависи от политическия режим. С него се променят и стратегиите как да се презентира примерно една сграда – докато през социализма всичко беше сиво, сега сме преминали в другата крайност на прекалената шарения. Аз не съм в позицията да изразявам критика, но смятам, че историята трябва да се уважава и освен това не може да не мислим за бъдещето. Моята цел е да създавам чисто естетически произведения, напомнящи на артистични репортажи. А моите герои са далеч от мейнстрийма, в повечето случаи става дума за хора като мен – артисти.