Directors Lounge 2008 • Berlin, february 7-17

Tuesday, February 12

... but the city's been bled white

(JB) I originally meant to include Stephanie Gray's “Gertel's Galore ... lore ... ore” from 2007 in yesterday's blog post, as it fits well with the both other films by Sebastian Bodirsky and Masha Godovannaya I wrote about. Actually, it fits right in between Bodirsky's formalist extraction of the graphical form and Godovannaya's more melancholic trip through NYC. “Gertel's Galore ...” is a 7 minute collage of various, often close-up shots of Gertel's Bakery, a now historical kosher bakery on New York's Lower East Side. Gray's focus lies on the different signs and typographic elements found on the buildings' façade, eventually including a paper note announcing the bakery's closing in June '07. There is a obsessive-compulsive feel to the camera clinging to the store's front, seemingly unable to keep its attention fixed on any of the individual motifs; many of the signs and words are shown just as fragments, in anticipation of the gradual fading out of the bakery from both the actual and remembered cityscape.

Sigalit Landau IL Barbed Hula 2 min, DV 2000

There were two other films on Monday I'd like to drop some lines on, Sigalit Landau'sBarbed Hula” from 2000 and Eytan Heller's “Love Sum Game” from 2006, two highly political pieces by Isreali artists. Sigalit Landau, born in 1969, is surely one of the most established artists in this year's DL programme, having represented Israel during the '97 Venice Biennale and having shown works on the Documenta X and on various solo & group shows all around the art world. “Barbed Hula” is a rather traditional piece of body art in the vein of Marina Abramovich; the film itself – Landau nakedly twirling a hula hoop made of, well, barbed wire – could have hardly been performed in an more reduced way, but the simple act of self-mutilation and the symbolism of the barbed wire itself (I suppose I don't have to specify the possible political connotations here) would have made much less impact with any kind of attached narrative or commentary. With its brutal rendition of what is essentially child's play, Landau's film also was a slap in the face to Peter Snowdon's “Two Thousand Walls (a Song for Jayyous)” (2006), shown right before, which used impressions of innocent, poetic childhood for an overtly simple equation of poor Palestinian babies vs. evil Israeli oppressors; Landau does not have to rely on any kind of explicit side-taking for her commentary; the oppression expressed in “Barbed Hula” might be as well military, as religious or patriarchal.

Like in Landau's Film, there's some subverted recreational activity at the centre of Heller's “Love Sum Game”, although without the self-mutilation; it's more of a Fluxus performance than Body Art. You might read his documentary on a tennis match played across the West Bank barrier as an absurdist take on the impossibility of communication, but I'd prefer to see it as an anarchic embodiment of the Olympic Spirit. Of course, employing humour in rather dire situations might seem slightly frivolous, but I'd gladly try to laugh away political obstacles with Heller than reinforce them with obvious propagandist clichés, like Snowdon does.

Check back for some notes on Tuesday's programme later, and be sure to drop in at the lounge for today's shows –

Cheers, JB