"Avanto" is a Finnish word, which translates as a "hole in the ice", pertaining especially to swimming in a frozen lake or sea during winter. "Avantoscope" is a newer word and refers to an "international selection of the contemporary avantgarde of moving image in its shorter form".
Don’t Touch Me When I Start To Feel Safe
Among the focal points of Avantoscope 1 is the fragile and unstable nature of systems such as buildings and bodies. What is the essence of our existence as molecular machines, biochemical entities or perceiving and sparking bundles of synapses? Is somebody throwing sand in our eyes, and who is playing the Sandman? The works selected for this screening examine these questions without suggesting a final answer.
The three short works by Sami Sänpäkkilä – Hämeenkatu, Tarbotstraat and plantage midden laan – are portraits of the facades of European streets, realised using the classical method of “man and a Super-8 camera.” Sanpäkkilä has searched for rarely observed spots and places with no advertisements, and has shot his films frame by frame, walking along the streets and stopping for the duration of shooting. The films are Sanpäkkilä’s debut as a filmmaker in Avanto; in earlier editions of the festival he has performed as a musician, both using the pseudonym Es (Avanto 2000; as a duo with Pekka Airaksinen in 2001, when he also provided the video projections for the concert; and accompanying Bruce Baillie’s film Holy Scrolls in 2002), and as a member of Kemialliset Ystävät.
According to Stefan Macheiner, “the new state of visual reality is flowing and liquid, amoeba-like.” Macheiner’s Erase and rewind begins with collapsing buildings, after which the image melts into downwards- dripping shapes. Erase and rewind demonstrates how a machine-manipulated image simply cannot be easily traced back to human perception. The liquid sky of the synthetic image is already an inseparable part of our shared reality. The soundtrack is made by Elisabeth Meilinger.
The images of The Dead House, a video piece by Pekka Sassi, resemble colourful paintings in the richness of their tones. The painterly manipulation of the image distances it from realism. The use of out-of-focus image allows the colours of dimly visible objects to melt together at the edges. The manipulation emphasises the dimension of fantasy and memories. The creaking doors and mechanical typewriters on the soundtrack bring in the notion of the soundscape of a mystery film or a radio play, reminding us how the basic elements of sense perception in the generic code can draw on our own childhood impressions.
Theorists of digital art have discussed the similarity of precinematic and post-cinematic practices (such as early chronophotograhy and Quicktime video clips). The abstractions created by Robin Dupuis, such as Anoxi, can be understood as examining this connection in an aesthetic manner, but following and creating new forms and rhythms with the possibilites of the digital instrument. In Anoxi the elements in the picture are melting into new forms, separating and coming together in continuous transformation and variation.
Building, a digital animation by Anouk de Clercq, Joris Cool and Anton Aeki transports the experience of an architectural space to the screen. Aeki’s music becomes an inseparable element of the choreography of space and time created by the work. Building is inspired by the new concert hall designed by Belgian architect collective Robbrecht and Daem. The collective is well known for such exploits as the new Boymans van Beuningen Museum building in Rotterdam, and Building is a kind of homage to their work.
Extraneous touches cause the fragile stability of the body and the building to “fade, melt, collapse and recompose” in don’t touch me when i start to feel safe/waltz nuevo no. 1, a digital video work by Brigitta Bödenauer. Bödenauer reassembles stills (photographic images, graphics, sketches etc.) into animated trajectories beyond their original context. The music has been created by Ivan Pavlov, who will perform on the same evening at the Avanto Nightclub using the name COH.
Avantoscope 2002 screened Michaela Grill and Billy Roisz’s work My Kingdom for a Lullaby #4. This year’s program includes their new work in the series, My Kingdom for a Lullaby #2, which is composed of distorted sounds and broken, abstract images. This uncompromising work represents the indisputable apex of digital video works based on subtle, minimalistic variations of source material. The soundtrack is by Toshimaru Nakamura (Avanto 2001), Christof Kurzmann and Martin Siewert.
The meditative work 20.21 by the Russian duo of Galina Myznikova and Sergei Provorov combines structuralist cinema with absurd narration. The film focuses on the exhausting amount of information stored in newspapers, books and newer forms of collecting data. The film is named after a composition by Ivan Pavlov, and consists of 30575 completely or partially stopped images which are used to create an illusion of movement by means of animation and rapid editing. Pavlov’s composition has been published in the Ars Electronica-winning series of recordings by the Raster Noton label surveying the state of minimalist electronic music at the turn of the millennium.
Nicolas Schevin´s unique world is habited by odd creatures, which are animated with brittling lines. According to the artist, digital animation Ghost of Chance is a “film about being a target.”
Ryoko Kuwajima’s Monstergangster – The ray of figurine is a one-minute electronic watercolour about a monster gangster figurine. In addition to being a video artist, Kuwajima is also a musician and a member of the Lappetites, a laptop group established by Kaffe Matthews (Avanto 2000) and comprised of female laptop musicians of different generations and nationalities.
The digital video work by Börries Müller- Büsching is based on the German romantic author E.T.A. Hoffman’s gothic novel Der Sandmann (1816), a tale that has inspired interpretations from Sigmund Freud to video artist Stan Douglas. The images of The Eye of Olympia are complemented by Andreas Wodrascha’s music, which features the ravishingly beautiful voice of Juliana Venter.
The screening is completed by Myriam Bessette’s digital animation Nuée. Critics writing on Bessette have found in her method of utilising the transparent, opaque and illuminative qualities of colours a connection to the endeavours towards aesthetic abstraction of the avant-garde cinema of the 1920s, such as Man Ray’s technique of exposing objects directly to film without a camera (rayogram). In Nuée Bessette makes the animated images of bubbles and drops of water appear in the soundscape, which combines the sounds of electricity and water.
For the sad, the depressed, the insomniac, the lost, the fearful, the lonely
Cities Under Fire Will Not Fall, a work by Nosfe (a.k.a. Pilvari Pirtola), reminds us of the price of war using a manipulated video image that distances the piece from direct representation. Graveyard, the "city of the dead", is an ironic analogue to the city mentioned in the title of his work. Sami Sänpäkkilä's film Kubistisia vittu saatana extracts strange beauty from the demolition of an automobile. The act of destruction is portrayed as a melancholically consoling rebellion of emotions. The work is dedicated "to the sad, the depressed, the insomniac, the lost, the fearful, the lonely."
Screens is a work presented by Tuulanauhat, a group producing music, moving image and sound. The video is directed by Markus Koistinen, Gregoire Rousseau and Samuli Tanner, and its soundtrack is made by Lassi Nikko. Screens has also been displayed as an installation. It combines images of a wind turbine's wings with views opening from the window of an airplane. The images and the music are spacious and free, even consoling. In the electronic landscapes of Te[de] The Defrosted World by Ryoko Kuwajima, shapes, figures and colours rise out of pixelspace in order to form layers, blend and disappear in it again.
Collage film meets the Underground, political satire, sci-fi, even romantic movies, in Deep Blue by Mark Boswell, the director of The Subversion Agency (Avanto 2003). In this short collage film chess master Garry Kasparov, famous for playing against the Deep Blue computer, confronts IBM, Pentagon, NASA and Hal, the speaking computer from Stanley Kubrick´s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
In his work SET-4 Jan van Nuen has recorded three ping-pong games from the Eurosport TV channel. He has mixed, overlapped and superimposed them into loops creating an endless, spiral-like kaleidoscope space with beating and echoing sounds.
Pieces of drawings from old encyclopaedias flicker amidst digital chaos in zijkfijergijok, a video by reMI (Renate Oblak and Michael Painter). Their work examines the coexistence of old images and new technology, reminding us how our contemporary knowledge is a historical phenomenon not unlike the medical methods of bygone days such as exorcism and bloodletting.
Black and white images alternate in a distorted, rigorous rhythm in Nichts, an existential video piece by Pekka Sassi. The flashing of black and white is concerned with basic questions of image and of existence: the problematics of manifestation and non-manifestation.
Out of the Ether
Avantoscope 3 traces paths and landscapes in the expansive networks of space and time. A far-reaching probing of the different phenomena of optical light and a close examination of the conditions for perception and memory take us to the molecular level of film and the abysses of pixel-depths of the digital image. We will also witness the spectacular outbreak of sublime emotions and pathos on the perpetually surpriseful theatre of glitch, without forgetting ether-vapoured visions of other worlds.
In her film Out of the Ether the San Francisco-based filmmaker Kerry Laitala combines her own film material with found footage into an audiovisual collage that glows with the strangeness of dreams and hallucinations. The medical imagery turns feverish when seen through the green fog of the ether. The alchemical transformations are accompanied by a synthetic soundscape that features fragments of music reminiscent of themes from agent films, science fiction flicks and horror movies. The closing credits of the film include special thanks to the Institute for Unpopular Culture.
Michaela Grill’s structuralist video work Kilvo is based on a geographical spot of the same name in Finnish Lapland. The picture has been manipulated to the point of abstraction and is combined with music by Radian (Avanto 2003) inspired by the same landscape.
Lotte Schreiber’s I.E. [site o1 - isole eolie] takes place on the volcanic island of Stromboli. Super-8 footage reminiscent of landscape paintings alternates with stumbling hand-held video shots. With a small glimpse we see on the wall a picture of the actress Ingrid Bergman, who played Karin, a Lithuanian-born woman who moved to the volcanic island in Roberto Rossellini´s film Stromboli (Stromboli, terra di dio, 1950). We feel the isolation of the island, but also the power of nature and its forces. The soundtrack consists of location sounds and music by Stefan Németh of Radian.
The source material for Michaela Schwentner and Didi Bruckmayr’s Giuliana 64: 03 is taken from Michelangelo Antonioni’s film The Red Desert (Il deserto rosso, 1964). Images of Antonioni’s favourite actress Monica Vitti (playing the role of Giuliana) are fragmented by rapidly moving rectangular shapes with large pixels. The soundtrack (which includes sounds of the factory and some dialog from the film) is also based on the Antonioni classic. The British filmmaker Ian Helliwell is one of the regular names of earlier editions of Avanto. Helliwell has worked since the early 1990s with Super-8 film material, painting it by hand, treating it with various chemicals, and using the technique of stopmotion animation. In Compound Eye he examines the aesthetic potential of Super-8 film with an alchemistic joy of innovation. Helliwell makes the soundtracks for his films himself.
TJADER-KNIGHT inc. are Helsinki-based Maria Tjäder and David Knight. Their work Caustically Happy features one mouth and two mouths in a closeup. Due to its long duration, the close-up grows into an entity of its own, a microcosm that becomes something more than a disembodied detail.
Pierre-Yves Cruaud´s Vivantes lueurs (“Living Lights”) seems to investigate the relation of the images of perception and the images of memory. “Hundreds of photographs more or less well defined were used in making this film. The slow process of making these images appear includes the use of a video system that focuses on the development of light. The video stream operates the appearance of these images, the light feeds their existence and becomes a sculpture in its own right. The light beams attempt to extract the presence of human shapes. The birth of these images recalls the birth of a story, the desire of fiction to be seen…” (Microcinema International Database)
The first images of Abroad by Alli Savolainen show ocean waves breathing into the sands of a beach. Still images of a Latin American city repeat the rhythm of the waves, forming layers and creating a transparent space, an image of living memory modifying the present moment as if in Henri Bergson’s (1859–1941) famous cone of virtuality of the memories, inside of which the virtuality of the memories are stratified into transparent layers. When we search for a memory of a certain moment amid other memories, our mind focuses on one of the layers, holds it still and creates a snapshot or a freeze-frame of it, while the whole of the layers shine through the suspended memory-image.
Sinus Passage, a video piece by Didi Bruckmayr and Michael Strohmann, both also members of the band Fuckhead, is based on a formative principle of digitality – that every piece of data has the potential to be transformed into another form. The music of Fuckhead is utilised as the generative basis for sounds that become images. In addition to being the vocalist of the band, Bruckmayr is an actor, performance artist and a media artist working with 3D environments and interactive user interfaces based on sound. Strohmann, interested in “entropy vs. self-organization, anxiety and liberty”, is a composer and a user-interface designer.
Void, a video piece by Pekka Sassi, is a study on the porous nature of matter and the microcosm of a dining hall.
According to Norbert Pfaffenbichler, a fellow director and a curator, Karø Goldt’s Lost is a work where “the openly romantic meets lyrical symbolism.” Goldt has since 1999 worked with a self-developed technique called “fotofilm”. In Lost she has attached thin, transparent colour strips to her photographs. The music is by the duo rashim (Yasmina Haddad and Gina Hell).
In Ich bin traurig by Didi Bruckmayr and Michael Strohmann, a 3D-animated head is singing an opera aria or a lied of lost love. Referring to the ideas of J.G. Ballard, this work has been interpreted as a clear indication of how new technology creates new obsessions, wishes and perversions, but also the possibility of novel syntheses where human emotions can manifest themselves.
Ian Helliwell´s Super 8-film Beyond the Light demonstrates the aesthetics of light dispersed through a prism in the spirit of a romantic synthesis of art and science.
The screening finishes with Dichtung und Wahrheit (Poetry and Truth), the latest film by Peter Kubelka, one of the pioneers of Austrian structuralist cinema. The film is an impressive tour de force from one of the masters of avant-garde cinema. The film premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in January 2004. Kubelka describes the work thus: “Dichtung und Wahrheit contains collected pieces from publicity films with a common element: they show actors before they start and then begin to play what they are directed to represent. Repeated ready-made takes create cycles of symbolic significance, glorified glimpses of the contemporary human condition: the beauty from a hair conditioner, courting and insemination by chocolatefeeding, labourless birth onto a varnished floor, animal and inanimate companions. It was my aim not to shape the found material perfectly into an unambiguous message but to preserve the full richness of archaeological information. My point of view has changed from the contemporary artist into an observer looking into the distant past.”
The philosophy of Untitled (by all means) by Nicolas Schevin is summed by a sentence appearing in the work: “The possible events that can occur in the wink of an eye are endless, absolutely endless.”
In Parachute by Robin Dupuis abstract forms open and close like umbrellas. The movement is accompanied by an electronic soundscape moving jerkily forward with pulsating motion.
Norbert Pfaffenbichler’s notes of film01 -else features five adjacent images, each displaying the same young woman dressed in furs. The high contrast image quality yielded by the black and white film associate the figure with the femmes fatales familiar from the history of cinema from the early films to film noir. Underneath the pictures the word “if ” is moving and changing into the word “else” through many mutations. Orchestral soundtrack seems to be full of strange quations of modernist compositions and film music. The soundtrack is composed by multi-instrumentalist Wolfgang Frisch.
Junaunia by Laura Mela and Janne Lappalainen consists of sounds and images related to historical manifestations of Finnishness, appearing as if halfway somewhere between sleep and wakefulness.
Displaced by Pure DeKam sets off with rapidly spinning wiping motions of abstract forms that look as if they were formed of magnetic particles. The atmospheric soundtrack with its metallic distortions and echoes contributes to the effect. Slowly, the starting point for all this, situated in a room, is revealed.
Sami Sänpäkkilä : Hämeenkatu (2002, Finland), 3´50´´ / Tarbotstraat (2003, Finland), 0´45´´ / plantage midden laan (2003, Finland) 2´17´´
Stefan Macheiner : Erase and rewind (2003, Austria), Sound: Elisabeth Meilinger, 3´20´´
Robin Dupuis : Anoxi (2003, Canada), 4´13´´
Anouk de Clercq / Joris Cool / Anton Aeki : Building (2003, Belgium), Animation: Anouk de Clercq and Joris Cool, Music: Anton Aeki, 12´30´´
Pekka Sassi : Dead House (2003, Finland), 5´35´´
Brigitta Bödenauer : don´t touch me when i start to feel safe / waltz nuevo no.1 (2003, Austria), Music: Ivan Pavlov, 4´15´´
Michaela Grill/Billy Roisz : My Kingdom for a Lullaby #2 (2004, Austria) Soundtrack: Christof Kurzmann, Toshimaru Nakamura and Martin Siewert, 10´
Galina Myznikova/Sergei Provorov : 20.21 (2002, Russia/Sweden), Music: Ivan Pavlov, 15´35´´
Nicolas Schevin : Ghost of chance (2003, Finland/France), 3´
Ryoko Kuwajima : Monstergangster - The ray of figurine (2001, Japan), 1´
Börries Müller-Büsching : The Eye of Olympia (2003, Germany), Music: Andreas Wodraschka, Vocal: Juliana Wenter, 11´
Myriam Bessette : Nuée (2003, Kanada), 2´36´´
Avantoscope 1 will be screened in the Kiasma Theatre on Friday, November 19th at 17.00.
Nosfe : Cities Under Fire Will Not Fall (2003, Finland), Video: Nosfe, Music: 110, 6´
Sami Sänpäkkilä : Kubistisia vittu saatana (2003, Finland), Music: Es, 4´45´´
Tuulanauhat : Screens (2004, Finland), Directed by Markus Koistinen, Gregoire Rousseau and Samuli Tanner, Soundtrack: Lassi Nikko, 3´03´´
Ryoko Kuwajima : Te[de] The Defrosted World (2002, Japan), 4´38´´ CANCELLED
Mark Boswell : Deep Blue (2003, USA), 9´
Jan van Nuenen : SET-4 (Holland, 2003), 3´50´´
reMI : zijkfijergijok (2003, Austria/Netherlands), 3´
Pekka Sassi : Nichts (2004, Finland) 6´20´´
The films in Avantoscope 2 will be screened at the Avanto Nightclub in UMO Jazz House on Friday, November 19th. In addition, the programme will include the short film Man and His Wardrobe by Pupu Lihavisto and featuring Läjä Äijälä.
Kerry Laitala : Out of the Ether (2003, 16mm, USA), 10´
Michaela Grill : Kilvo (2004, Austria), Music: Radian, 6´
Lotte Schreiber : I.E.[site o1 - isole eolie] (2004, Austria), Music: Stefan Németh, 8’
Michaela Schwentner/Didi Bruckmayr : Giuliana 64:03 (2003, Austria), 3´
Ian Helliwell : Compound Eye (2004, UK), 3´02´´
TJADER-KNIGHT inc : Caustically Happy (2004, Finland/UK), 4´
Alli Savolainen : Abroad (2004, Finland), 4´
Pierre-Yves Cruaud : Vivantes Lueurs (Living Lights) (2003, France), 10´
Didi Bruckmayr/Michael Strohmann : Sinus Passage (2004, Austria), Music: Fuckhead, 4´
Pekka Sassi : Void (2004, Finland), 3´49´´
Karø Goldt : Lost (2004, Austria/Germany), Music: rashim, 5´
Didi Bruckmayr/Michael Strohmann : Ich bin traurig (2004, Austria), Music: Fuckhead, 5´
Ian Helliwell : Beyond the Light (2003, UK), 3´30´´
Peter Kubelka : Dichtung und Wahrheit (Poetry and Truth) (2003, 35 mm, Austria), 13´
Avantoscope 3 will be screened in the Kiasma theatre on Saturday, November 20th at 16.00.
Nicolas Schevin : Untitled (by all means) (2004, Finland/France), 1´
Robin Dupuis : Parachute (2002, Canada), 1´20´´
Norbert Pfaffenbichler : notes on film01 -else (2002, Austria), Music: Wolfgang Frisch, 6´30´´
Laura Mela/Janne Lappalainen : Junaunia (2004, Finland), 4´
Pure DeKam : Displaced (2003, USA/Austria), Video: Johnny Dekam, Music: Pure, 10´24´´
The films in Avantoscope 4 will be screened at the Avanto Nightclub in Gloria on Saturday, November 20th. The programme will also include two short films by Philipp Reichenheim featuring music by Alec Empire, and The Leo Bugariloves music videos directed by Tuija Karén, Pupu Lihavisto and Samuli Alapuranen.