Directors Lounge 2008 • Berlin, february 7-17

Sunday, February 10

Beneath the archway of aerodynamics

(JB) Telemach Wiesinger and Thorsten Fleisch showed a selection of their films on Saturday evening, which I did enjoy quite a lot. All films were shot in either 16mm (Wiesinger) or Super 8 (Fleisch), and projected using the respective equipment.

Like other technologies on the verge of obsolescence, 16mm and Super 8 display certain aesthetic qualities, and evoke certain associations which might go well beyond simple nostalgia. Although I rather dislike the idea of the so-called analogue image (or sound) being somehow more authentic than the digital image for purely ontological reasons (well, it's light colliding with an receptive medium in both cases, so ...), “traditional” film – and especially the gauges below 35mm – has this kind of documentary feel which might be simply a matter of habituation. Very likely, the 16mm or Super 8 films most of have encountered will be either documentaries or amateur cinema – but this might be a generational thing, which, as I suppose, will be supplanted by Mini DV or even mobile phone videos for those born later in the late Eighties or the Nineties (Jennifer Davy's “Mulo” from 2008, shown in Kim Collmer's programme on Friday, used this effect by shooting an entire film with a cheap pocket Camcorder, so we might have been witnessing a shift in cinematic strategies of authenticity here).

Director Telemach Wiesinger, long time regular of DL, arriving from Freiburg

The documentary aspect is prevalent in Wiesinger's films, who concentrates on the peculiar beauty of aquatic machinery. This goes very well with the 16 mm medium; there is a certain air of intimacy between the movements of the weird maritime contraptions & draw-bridges and the steady buzz of the film projector. As Telemach Wiesinger told me, some of the machines shown in his films have been decommissioned since, so there is another analogy between these machines (which do look as if they might have been originally steam-powered) and the dwindling 16 mm technology. I was delighted to hear Wiesinger call the machines “Viecher” (German for “beasties”), as I did have the impression of watching an nature documentary myself several times during the evening. There must be a lot of waiting involved in the production. At least for yesterday's audience, the final event of a drawbridge performing a bizarre contraction for a couple of approaching boats was received with a sense of comic relief, so you might imagine that the slowness of Wiesingers work is rather different from the one you might experience while watching Richard Serra's great, similarly-themed Railroad Turnbridge from 1976.

Also, there is a almost graphical quality to the films of Wiesinger and Fleisch, which reminded me of the work of one of my favourite contemporary artists, Tacita Dean, who not only uses film material in an often similar way, but obviously shares some of the interest for tourism and maritime topics. There were two pieces during the screening that used text in a way that supported this graphical approach really well; one by Fleisch, starting with seemingly random nightly shots of car & traffic lights, a flashy red-white-yellow pyre from which eventually the illuminated sign of a Rettungswagen – the German ambulance – emerged; then, the so far whimsical conceptual footage harshly turned into a short impression of an actual case of emergency, making full use of the aforementioned documentary qualities of the film material. In a longer piece by Wiesinger – accordingly titled as a “visual poem” – quite at the beginning of the show, the footage was interspersed with shots of naval markings and ships' names; the clean-cut sans serif type-setting might be read as awkwardly placed subtitles or even – as all of the films were projected without soundtracks – as the title cards of a silent film. They did not seem to build a coherent narrative, though, but evoked an poetic and often absurdist atmosphere – “Grimaldi Lines” written on a sea ferry might seem pretty obvious, but, on the over hand, does ring some very different, possibly metrical or even mathematical bells (Fibonacci Numbers, anyone?) ...

OK then, see you later at the lounge – JB