ROOMARTSPACE October 4 London
Video screenings of works by artists can sometimes be joyless, or tedious affairs in which outsiders struggle to suspend their disbelief for the full duration. This might be because the films were under, or overcooked, or because the artist saw no need to moderate his narcissism in a way that will enlighten others. Most of us are accustomed to well-manicured movies that are the fruits of a budget big enough to rally an army of fully trained professionals. By curating a rich body of work from many European countries, Difference Screen re-splices some of these disciplinary differences and provides a high quality of content that stands for itself.
Our visit to a London presentation of Difference Screen in early October 2014 was a pleasure, despite its somewhat primitive venue, which contrasted strongly with the surrounding opulence of the W1 area. We were welcomed warmly by the hosts and ushered up some cranky wooden stairs and into a series of viewing rooms. Many of the screenings were running in parallel, although sufficiently spaced out to avoid interfering with one another. In the initial hour or so, the atmosphere was similar to any small gallery space, but it rapidly thawed up as the visitor numbers swelled into respectable house party size.
When the time came to run the main movies the audience was too big to fit into the largest room, so it was decided to have two parallel viewings. Even then, we only just managed to fit into the spaces. After a brief introduction by Ben Eastop, we kicked off with a disturbing video by Inger Lise Hansen. This consisted of a ponderously slow-moving tracking shot of an industrial landscape, shot completely upside-down. The unusually high quality of the image means that we get a worm’s eye view in which the sharpness of focus is matched by a vast depth of field. It is hard to say how an unpopulated apocalyptic wilderness can be so heart-wrenching. There is something about rusting iron and concrete that reminds us of our callousness and, yet, of our existential frailty.
This was not the only bafflingly emotional film. In Walk of the Three Chairs by Breda Beban, a woman and a man on a barge are serenaded by a gipsy band as they proceed slowly down a river. The atmosphere is tense. The man looks into the woman’s face and sings a phrase, perhaps in Serbian. She tries to respond but her voice fails her. The woman is close to tears. She valiantly tries again and manages to raise her spirits. After the screening we learn the title of the song they were singing, ‘Who Does Not Know How To Suffer Does Not Know How to Love’.
A range of work from other countries offers an impressive range of ideas and emotions. Perhaps the international nature of this selection makes politics the common denominator. However, not all make references that are explicitly political with a big ‘P’. Adad Hannah’s Russian KAMA3 seems to take more of a playful interest in the formal qualities of shooting a still image with a movie camera and tripod, rather than a still camera. A man and the woman are trying to keep their poses without laughing, while the camera runs for three and a half minutes without a break. In an Afghan film, A Drone Wrapped Up in Flying Carpets Riaz Mehmood weaves ancient fictions and contemporary media snippets together to make a narrative that seems childlike, yet hauntingly cynical.
Tischler & Wood
Peter Wareing discussing his film From Tiziano Vecellio to Barnett Newman and back