Curated by Robert Seidel
The program presented on 18 Sep 2019 at Floating Porjects draws from the on-going screening series Phantom Horizons Robert Seidel curates for Kuenstlerhaus Bethanien. The Berlin-based exhibition space and international art residency has hosted the film series since the year 2015. Focused on experimental works, Seidel presents digital as well as analogue films that question the paradigm of a linear perspective, seeking a new kind of “status perspective” [Bedeutungsperspektive]. The latter was a development of ancient and medieval painting, in which the size of figures is determined by their hierarchical significance.
Extending the status perspective approach, the works in question intensively contest the image-making process and create meaning from visual abstraction – a search above and beyond the boundaries of the digital and analogue film tools. Through the artistic reworking alongside conceptual frameworks and their art-historical anchoring in the flow of time, images arise that have never been seen before, fluctuating between unexpected artefact and its constructed abstraction, in which reality appears to shimmer through the layers of its decomposition. The free and conscious revealing in these cinematic architectures stands in diametrical opposition to the assumption that artists can no longer generate new images in today’s world or that one can create only out of existing – opening up multifaceted, unseen horizons.
From the selection of films from the last four years curator Robert Seidel selected 8 works to present a variety of conceptual and aesthetical approaches. The first work is the animated documentary “Kaputt / Broken” by artist Volker Schlecht and producer Alexander Lahl, which seeks access to a dark part of German post-war history: The story follows the voices of Gabriele Stoetzer and Birgit Willschuetz, who were imprisoned for political reasons in Hoheneck Castle, the most notorious women’s prison in East Germany. They report on the merciless daily life in prison and the psychological consequences of the incarceration, which continue to this day. Schlecht’s symbolically interwoven drawings and claustrophobic analogue textures show the forced labour associated with enormous pressure to perform for West German retailers, transforming the suffering of the inmates into enormous profits on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
The visual poem “Attraction” by Emily Scaife melts dense textures into fluid shapes, which later coagulate into flickering colours. In a spellbinding visual sensation the viewers are captured so intensely, that they themselves appear to become mating insects, blossoming plants or sporulating fungi. Scaife uses a complex transformational process from shooting on black and white 16mm film, to hand-colouring and digital editing to magnify into a world of small wonders. The captivatingly gloomy soundscape, composed by the artist herself, creates a unique perspective on the fragile interplay of nature, which is continuously threatened to disappear in the all-consuming Anthropocene.
The film “Hybrid” by Bianca Kennedy and Felix Kraus takes place in the fictitious city of Stevia in the year 3000: Using their media installation “LIFE 3.0” as a film set, both artists created a future scenario in which the world is populated by ‘normal’ people and hybrid beings of humans, flora and fauna. Along with the loss of the hybrids’ photosynthetic abilities and the increased oxygen consumption, both groups get into conflict. Under restless eye of the camera and the sonorous voice of artist Hans Op de Beeck, a narrative in visceral images unfolds that interweaves a personal drama with the moral questions of the society as a whole.
In “Dance with me” the artist Marianne Vlaschits devises a speculative vision of a future, where space travelling is exclusively carried out by female astronauts due to their lower energy profile. The basic concept of the poetic unfolding of this alternative universe circles around the ‘anthropic principle’. This philosophical consideration by theoretical astrophysicist Brandon Carter states that the universe is observable only because it meets all requirements that make a life possible for the observer. The animated drawings are citing scientific as well as psychedelic sources and follow the fictional female space traveller into unknown event horizons of the cosmos.
The film “Hydromanie” by Gudrun Krebitz bridges a rarely explored gap between the static and the moving image. By means of filmed nature impressions such as water surfaces, landscape panoramas and weather phenomena, the artist expands the reception of her static drawings. These drawings, created on paper, show a dense web of associations and perspectives on intertwined bodies. In superposition with the moving backgrounds, subliminal ‘displacement activities’ are triggered and liquify the drawn figures as well as their narration, transforming the essence of Krebitz’s previous animations into a new form.
Sebastian Buerkner was a painter before he applied his conceptual and compositional ideas to the moving image, focusing on perceptual process chains. Keeping a strict structure of isolated sequences, each individual scene in “Weresheglanspertheere” contains a unique, abstracting optical apparatus. These systems deconstruct online news footage by isolating and stacking their luminous, volumetric as well as unsteady perspectives. Even though these scenes seem visually simplified, their retinal impact is more direct, leaving an overwhelmingly emotional concentrate of the agitating tendencies in news media.
In poetic images, “Plant Dreaming Deep” exposes the exhausting transitional phases of loneliness, insecurity and isolation. By means of analogue video synthesis, fine-pored textures and washed out veils of colour were created, which find a suitable complement in the pulsating soundscape of Emilie Payeur. Like misunderstood or unprocessed experiences, the traces of old video recordings flash through this retro-futuristic collage and the main protagonist, the flora structured by human hands, appears simultaneously connected with freedom and suffocation.
As a preview of the next Phantom Horizons in Berlin the film “Serial Parallels” by Max Hattler is presented. The Hong Kong-based artist and curator created an experimental portrait of his current living place. In Hong Kong more than 9000 high-rise buildings divide up the valuable property of its densely populated coast today. In the 1950s it was necessary to accommodate refugees who fled communist China, so the city adapted the modernist philosophy of affordable mass architecture to create monumental public housing areas, fueling an industrial boom. Hattler examines these reiterating housing structures by traversing
photographs of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories with an artificial camera. In his precise cinematographic dissection, he reveals stroboscopic effects within the repetition, seemingly creating multi-layered perspectives — while structural variations of the architecture become animated in themselves. Each floor of a high-rise building corresponds to a singular frame of a celluloid film strip, ingeniously merging technological as well as conceptual timelines of modern architecture and experimental film.
The screening finishes with a video by the curator for the band Esmark. The track “Husby-klit Bk.” is taken from Esmark’s double album “Māra I & II” and the accompanying music video by Robert Seidel is based on a live video performance in which a modular video synthesizer generates mental spaces between floating and overwriting realities. The visual material is based on a convolute of geographical impressions that are fused by the cinematic soundscape into a continuous stream of dissolving memories. This emotional state is usually created in the flux of constant travelling, being captured between euphoria and vertigo.
After the presentation at Floating Projects the series Phantom Horizons continues to present one contemporary or historical position every one to two months at Kuenstlerhaus Bethanien. In 2019 Seidel was invited to curate a Phantom Horizons exhibition of 16 video works for Galerie B of the Public Library in Stuttgart, Germany. This form of expanded presentation established a dialogue between the artworks for the first time and opened them to a wider public audience from different age groups and cultural contexts.
This broadening is very important since experimental or abstract film only fills a niche. Given the pioneering accomplishment of artist like Oskar Fischinger or László Moholy-Nagy, one has to conclude that the abstract film unfortunately does not represent the artistic and technological saturation of our age. Historically observed, the training of our optical senses remains unparalleled, but visionary creation falls so far behind the voracious image-producing industries like advertising or narrative cinema, that opening these horizons is a challenge for artist, curators and institutions alike.
Kaputt / Broken Volker Schlecht & Alexander Lahl Germany / 2016 / Colour / Sound / 7’ 02” / HD
In devastating tableaux, the animated documentation seeks access to a dark part of German post-war history: The story follows the two female narrators, who were imprisoned for political reasons in Hoheneck Castle, the most notorious women’s prison in East Germany – transforming the suffering of the inmates into enormous profits on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
Volker Schlecht works as an illustrator and filmmaker in Berlin. He studied Communication Design at the Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design Halle and taught in the Animation department of Film University Babelsberg Konrad Wolf. Currently he teaches as a professor of Sequential Illustration at the BTK University of Art and Design. Alexander Lahl studied Cultural Sciences in Berlin, Wroclaw and Frankfurt (Oder). He works as a writer, filmmaker and producer and co-founded the media label Die Kulturingenieure”. Their film “Kaputt / Broken” was awarded with the Grand Prix of 23rd Stuttgart Festival of Animated Film, a Jury Special Award at Animafest Zagreb 2016 and Best Short Documentary at Calgary International Film Festival 2016.
Attraction Emily Scaife UK / 2017 / Colour / Sound / 4’ 32” / HD
The visual poem melts dense textures into fluid shapes, which later coagulate into flickering colours in a spellbinding visual sensation. Using a refined process the images are shot on 16mm film, hand-coloured and edited digitally editing to magnify into a world of small wonders, which is continuously threatened to disappear in the all-consuming Anthropocene.
Emily Scaife is an experimental filmmaker based in South London. She has an MA in Animation from Royal College of Art. With a particular fascination of texture and colour she works with film, photography and animation to create dense audio-visual artworks. Scaife often starts with macro photography, projecting shapes and textures of the plants she captured on 35mm B&W film stock. She then colourizes them via multiple exposures onto 16mm, sequencing the photos into moving rushes. “Attraction” has been screened at over 30 festivals, was awarded Short of the Week’s “Best of the Month” and was Finalist for the Biennial British Animation Awards 2018.
Hybrid Bianca Kennedy & Felix Kraus Germany / 2015–16 / Colour / Sound / 10’ 03” / HD
Using their media installation as a film set, the duo created a future scenario in which the world is populated by ‘normal’ people and hybrid beings of humans, flora and fauna. Illustrated by dystopic images as well as the sonorous voice of artist Hans Op de Beeck, a narrative unfolds that interweaves a personal drama with the moral questions of the society as a whole.
Bianca Kennedy studied art at Athens School of Fine Art and the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich and completed her diploma with a Meisterschueler Degree in 2017. Kennedy’s animations, AR experiences and site-specitic installations were shown at CCBB Rio de Janeiro, MACBA Barcelona, Literaturhaus Berlin and Colombo Art Biennale in Sri Lanka. In her analytical animations she depicts the human abyss and works regularly on mixed reality installations and drawing series, where she stages self-created miniatures. Felix Kraus is the founder of The Swan Collective and studied media art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. He received the scholarship “Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes”. The group mixes different techniques like Virtual & Augmented Reality, literature, painting and paper embossments. Works of the collective were shown in institutions like Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, CCBB Brazil, Goethe Institute Toronto, Espronceda Barcelona, Literaturhaus Berlin & Egyptian Museum Munich.
Dance with me Marianne Vlaschits Austria / 2016 / Colour / Sound /8’ 46” / HD
The storyline of “Dance with me” constructs a speculative vision of a future, where space travel is exclusively carried out by female astronauts due to their lower energy profile. The poetic unfolding of this alternative universe circles around the ‘anthropic principle’ by theoretical astrophysicist Brandon Carter. In its animated drawings the film is citing scientific and psychedelic sources, following the fictional female space traveller into the unknown.
Vienna-based Marianne Vlaschits works primarily in the medium of painting and installation and tends to see her installations as expanded paintings. Currently she is most interested in astronomy, science-fiction, feminism, space exploration and the past as well as the future of humanity. She studied at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and at the Slade School of Art in London. She has exhibited her work in various local and international institutions, galleries and independent spaces like Austrian Cultural Forum in Warsaw, MeetFactory Prague, Duve Gallery Berlin, KW Institute for Contemporary Art Berlin and Galerie im Taxispalais Innsbruck.
Hydromanie Gudrun Krebitz Germany / 2019 / Colour / Sound / 9’ 33” / HD
The film explores a gap between the static and the moving image: drawings, created on paper, show a dense web of associations and bodily perspectives, which are superimposed with moving video backgrounds. This unusual combination triggers subliminal ‘displacement activities’ transforming the essence of Krebitz’s previous animations into a new form.
Gudrun Krebitz lives and works in Berlin and London. In 2015 she graduated as an MA from the Royal College of Art in London after receiving a diploma from the University of film and television in Potsdam-Babelsberg in 2012. Her work has been awarded at various international film festivals including the “Golden Horseman” for her experimental short “Achill” at Filmfest Dresden 2013, the Grand Prix for Best International Animation for her film “I know you” at Tampere Short Film Festival 2010 and the “New Perspective Award” for “Achill” at Pernambuco in Brasil 2014. Recent exhibitions and screenings include the Institute of Contemporary Arts London, MUMOK Vienna, Museum of Contemporary Art Frankfurt, Oberhausen Short Film Festival, EMAF Osnabrueck and Uppsala International Short Film Festival.
Weresheglanspertheere Sebastian Buerkner UK / 2014 / Colour / Sound / 5’ 07” / HD
Former painter Sebastian Buerkner creates abstracting optical apparatus for his films. These visual systems deconstruct online news footage by isolating and stacking their luminous, volumetric as well as unsteady perspectives, leaving an overwhelmingly emotional concentrate of the agitating tendencies in news media.
Sebastian Buerkner was born in Berlin and studied fine art at the Burg Giebichenstein – School of Arts and Design in Halle, Germany. Then he moved to London to complete his fine art education with an MA at Chelsea College of Art and Design in 2002, where he was awarded a fellowship residency the following year. His work has been exhibited in several group and solo shows internationally. Since 2004 he has worked exclusively on animation. He has had solo exhibitions in London at the Lounge Gallery, Whitechapel Project Space and The Showroom. He is a part-time visiting teacher and visiting lecturer at several colleges and universities in London.
Plant Dreaming Deep Charlotte Clermont Canada / 2017 / Colour / Sound / 7’ 11” / SD
This video poem captures the exhausting transitional phases of loneliness, insecurity and isolation. Like misunderstood or unprocessed experiences, the traces of old video recordings flash through this retro-futuristic collage and the main protagonist, the flora structured by human hands, appears simultaneously connected with freedom and suffocation.
Charlotte Clermont has a Bachelor’s degree in Studio Arts from Concordia University. In her video and sound works she addresses the concept of time through symbolic and emotional associations. Often collaborating with others, she uses analogue recording devices and works with the malleability of film and magnetic tape to build space-time-hybrids that reside between imagination and memory, the past and the present. She has exhibited at festivals and exhibitions including the Rendez-vous Québec Cinéma, Paris Festival for Different and Experimental Cinema, IFF Rotterdam, Transient Visions, Arctic Moving Image & Film Festival and the Edinburgh International Film Festival.
Serial Parallels Max Hattler Hong Kong & Germany / 2019 / Colour / Sound / 9’ / HD
This experimental animation approaches Hong Kong’s unique architecture from the conceptual perspective of celluloid film. By applying the technique of film animation to the photographic image the city’s horizon-eclipsing housing estates are re-imagined as parallel rows of film strips revealing stroboscopic effects within the repetition and seemingly creating multi-layered perspectives.
Max Hattler is an artist and academic who works with abstract animation, video installation and audiovisual performance. He holds a master’s degree from the Royal College of Art and a Doctorate in Fine Art from the University of East London. Hattler’s work has been shown at festivals and institutions such as Resonate, Ars Electronica, ZKM Center for Art and Media, MOCA Taipei and Beijing Minsheng Museum. Awards include Supernova, Cannes Lions, Bradford Animation Festival and several Visual Music Awards. He lives in Hong Kong where he is an Assistant Professor at the School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong, with his research focusing on synaesthetic experiences and visual music, the narrative potential of abstract animation, and expanded artistic approaches to binocular vision.
Esmark – Husby-klit Bk. Robert Seidel Germany / 2017 / B&W / Sound / 5’ / HD
The experimental music video by the curator of “Phantom Horizon” is based on a live video performance in which a modular video synthesizer generates mental spaces between floating and overwriting realities. Fusing visual material based on a convolute of geographical impressions with a cinematic soundscape, Seidel creates a continuous stream of dissolving memories.
Esmark, named after a glacier at Spitzbergen that debouches into the Ymerbay, is a collaboration between the sound architect Nikolai von Sallwitz (Taprikk Sweezee) and the artist Alsen Rau (Scheich in China, On+Brr). Robert Seidel created the video and is an artist as well as the curator of the Phantom Horizons screening series. Together they performed at WDR Sound Art Festival in Cologne and presented the film at Animafest Zagreb, Italic Gallery Berlin, Kunsthaus Erfurt, Punto Y Raya rocław, Festival du Nouveau Cinéma Montréal, CVM Visual Music Symposium at Sonoma State University and Vienna Shorts.