I have the honour of heading out to the next Oberhausen International Short Film Festival (its 61st edition, no less) in early May, to sit on the judging panel for their MuVi Award for music focused film and videos. In the festival’s own words: “Any music video with production or direction located in Germany can be submitted for the MuVi Award competition. An independent committee views all entries and selects about ten candidates for presentation during the Festival. An international jury then chooses the winners from among these nominated works.
In the current issue of The Wire magazine, I’ve interviewed the artist and poet Heather Phillipson about her work. I really enjoyed her performance at London’s Serpentine Gallery late last year and have followed her work for a while, so I thought it might work out to write something up. Read the article and judge for yourself – but you’ll have to pay for a copy of the magazine to do so!
So, for those of you who don’t have the cash (or can’t be bothered to click around any further into the internet), here’s a short snippet: “There’s a segment in artist and poet Heather Phillipson’s 2014 video Put The Goat In The Goat Boat where a herd of cows in a field stand together in a neat line and look straight into the camera, right at you. An ominous zombie aggression lurks behind their dumb stare. “It’s come to our attention that you and your kind are trying to eat us all up,” says a husky and flat toned woman’s voice, channeling the bovine collective’s innermost thoughts. Rattling away in the background is the sound of typing on a keyboard. “One nice chop at a time until there’s nothing left but gristle,” they accuse me. “Legally there’s little we can do to stop you. However, we’d like you to know that there’s actually quite a lot of us animals… If you attempt to eat us all we will stick our hooves so far up your arses it will take the next Big Bang to dislodge them.” The phrase “Big Bang” is cut and looped as the cows continue to glare. The voice abruptly cuts back in, “Seriously, don’t fuck with us.”
(Collage above is by Phillipson)
Watch a teaser for a film I’m making with Theo Cook about music festivals, premiering May 2015. (Teaser music by Benedict Drew)
“Sounds Fragmenting is a forthcoming film about some of the world’s most cutting edge, experimental new music and art festivals. Travelling to nine different festivals across Europe, Sounds Fragmenting looks at the artists, audiences, organisers and labourers who make up the festivals, as well as how they provide spaces for challenge and innovation, relaxation and hedonism, discussion and dispute – how these particular festivals sit at the centre of new cultural production and audiovisual reality.
Festivals featured include: TodaysArt (The Hague), Cimatics (Brussels), Musikprotokoll (Graz), Skaņu Mežs (Riga), Unsound (Kraków), Insomnia (Tromsø), Cynetart (Dresden), CTM (Berlin) and FutureEverything (Manchester).
Film by Nathaniel Budzinski and Theo Cook. Teaser music by Benedict Drew“
This piece is called “Eternal Pish” (it’s about a website called Eternal Bliss, geddit?) but it could’ve been called “Hands Off My Soul” – though that seemed a bit OTT.
“The marketing narratives laid down by the likes of Red Bull and similar have helped beckon forth an enveloping haze of meaningless positivity, creating a world that’s happy yet contentless, adult but toothless.” Nathan Budzinski assumes the lotus position, breathes deeply and becomes mindful of Eternal Bliss™
It’s also me finding an excuse to use the word “vibrationship” and reference Carl Sagan yet again…
Another small segment that I’m happy with: “It doesn’t matter if a story is true, it becomes real if you tell it often enough: take all the literature ever published about Atlantis, toss it all into the sea and you’ll get a real island to match the tale.”
I wrote that in 2008 in the UCL Institute of Archeology Library when researching for a project about “edutainment”(well, a series of essays). Though they haven’t happened, much of that research still feeds into my writing and other projects. The library itself is a strange, cramped and airless place that has (or did when I visited) rows of study booths that were so extreme in their will to focus an untrained human mind like mine that they reminded me of Jonas Mekas’ Invisible Cinema.
I’ve had the pleasure of writing a piece about the legacy of Kenneth Clark’s televisual self-emissions and the dramatic-o-ccult vibez of Civilisation for the new Frieze Masters publication, out now.
A small, slightly squished, sample:
“In one viewing of Civilisation, Clark is a tweed-wrapped fuddy-duddy touring Europe, self-consciously posing next to selected art works while delivering over-wrought conjectures with aristocratic authority. Clark as King Midas inverted: the man with the wooden touch. From another viewpoint, Civilisation joins the ranks of artefacts that it once addressed […] Clark spends a lot of time fondling things, whether they’re the ones he is attracted to or the ones he fears. A Civilisation cameraman, in discussion with historian John Cronin, describes a segment in episode seven, ‘Grandeur and Obedience’, where Clark paws Giovanni Bernini’s marble Apollo and Daphne (1622–25) at length: ‘He just keeps stroking it […] it looks almost manic, sexual.’ Beyond the weaving of television magic there’s a hint of an occultic sensibility vibrating through Civilisation. ‘I can’t say what civilisation is … yet,’ he says, but Clark knows it when he sees it, feels it emanating from the objects he caresses.”
Also, in the November–December issue of Frieze (the monthly UK one) I’ve reviewed Jennifer Tee’s exhibition, Occult Geometry, at Kunsthal Charlottenborg (curated by the excellent SIGNAL space in Malmö)
AND if that isn’t enough self promo, then I’ve got an interview with the Copenhagen based Selvhenter ensemble in the November issue of The Wire!
I’m happy to report that Theo Cook and I have been awarded the ECAS documentary commission open call for 2014–2015. We’ll be travelling to each of the nine festivals in the ECAS network, filming and recording at each to produce a documentary about the music and sound art festival project as it ends its five year cycle. ECAS (European Cities Of Advanced Sound) is a network of the most forward thinking, independent, non-profit music and sound art festivals in Europe – they are also linked into the ICAS network (International Cities Of Advanced Sound). The work will premiere in Berlin in May 2015.
Part of our proposal said:
“Sounds Fragmenting Our Present Tense (working title) is an audiovisual docufiction work looking at and listening to the nine different ECAS festivals. Narrated by a chorus of different voices, female and male, from different nations, ages and historical moments, Present Tense reflects upon the current state of music, national borders and identity – imagining what Europe, and the world, would look and sound like if they were organised using the logic of music…”
This time last year I was in the mountains of Serbia in the small town of Guca for their annual trumpet festival. Initially Sabor Guca started out as a celebration of folk music and traditions of this part of the Balkans, but has in the last decades turned into a hedonistic carnival, attracting a large amount of Serbians and an international crowd. It still is centered around the competition for top trumpet group in the world, though it’s mainly Serbians who enter the competition – one recent exception was an American group, as documented in the documentary Brasslands.
It is also an interesting meeting place for many of the dynamics that shape current Serbian, and Balkan, society: It is seen as a rare opportunity to let loose in a country that is economically struggling; it is seen as an important, positive part of Serbian national identity, especially after the horrors of the 1990s; there is a large congregation of Roma and Gypsy musicians – widely mariginalised across Europe – many of whom earn a living playing at weddings and other gatherings; it is regularly coopted by politicians seeing popular approval; even the food shows up the rural history of the country: pigs and lambs are roasted at improvised kiosks that pack the streets, plumes of smoke covering the town’s valley, beer as plentiful as the river that runs through the town.
Last year, along with Luka Ivanovic, I interviewed a variety of people involved in the festival – from one of the original founders (it started in the 1950s) through to musicians, people who walked the entirety of the country like pilgrims to the festival or rode there on horseback. Currently the video is in post-production and should be finished by early 2015. Until then, here’s a few select pictures I took there last year.
Golden Age Problems is a project by Auto Italia and Nathaniel Budzinski featuring Oreet Ashery, Marleen Boschen, Olivier Castel, Leni Cedric, Benedict Drew, Marianne Forrest, Mette Hammer Juhl + Lorenzo Tebano, Pablo Navarro MacLochlainn, Terence McCormack, Plastique Fantastique, Richard Thomas.
Art institutions sit comfy in the pockets of big corporations, broadcasters continue to sow the image-seeds of a tedious spectacular capitalism and publishers proliferate middlebrow infotainment and zombie-commenters. Compounding the problem, many artists remain enthralled by the mainstream, commercial art world.
As the worlds of art and mass media collide, converge and change, there’s a need to rethink our relationship with the narratives broadcast by these institutions of cultural emission – if they can’t serve us now and for the future, but retrench their ambitions into yesterday’s hallucinations, we must create new options rather than have them created for us. We must create a new world within this world.
Golden Age Problems is an exhibition of images, objects and stages, activated and explored through narrative presentations and a series of performance events. Energy is only ever amassed collectively and so for any real transformation to take place we must not work alone. Soon the Auto Italia space will become a nexus of celebration dispensing with notions of success and failure, providing collaborators with space and time to imagine alternative, independent entertainment formats: anti-genius narratives, anti-talent show, proactive and present.
Sunday 22nd June – Sunday 13th July
Opening hours: Wed – Sun: 12-6
Preview: Saturday 21st June, 7-9pm
Events as part of Golden Age Problems: Very Special Episode Saturday, 28th June
‘Malmö Konstmuseum director Cecilia Widenheim is in charge of keeping an archive of over 40,000 artworks, with a remit to collect Nordic art – an increasingly vague notion in a city like Malmö that has had large waves of immigration from the 1970s onwards, plus, Widenheim says, “maybe to grab the real ‘Nordicness’ you need to go to Berlin”.’
“Puncturing fantasies: exhausted images and the ‘me’ generation” is a Focus Interview that I did with artist, musician and video-maker Benedict Drew in the June 2014 issue of Frieze (link here but it’ll be behind a paywall for a bit)
“NB Like the wobbly knees in that introductory video at Matt’s? I thought those were very funny, but also touching.
BD They weren’t necessarily meant to be funny. I mean, they can also be disturbing, or a sign of weakness or sexualized, too. I wanted to show how video can take different body parts and almost tear them from their own bodies. In pornography, it’s not about the body, it’s about parts, and images have been infected by this way of looking. These ideas come from conversations I had with the late artist and writer Ian White; they really stayed with me. I watch a lot of TV, and even cookery programmes use this type of pornographic technique. I’ve spent the last year watching footage demonstrating high quality digital cameras. It’s like these images want you to do something, but at the same time want to act upon you. They want you to get aroused or buy a camera; there’s so many images out there trying to act upon you.”