My Story – Interview Artists

Published on January 8th, 2004


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Starting point of these interviews was to try to find out if the use of the newest media developments have let to different content or perceptions in storytelling.

Quite a lot has been written about the way narrative has changed with the introduction of new media. Most of these writings deal with the formal aspects of storytelling but few deal with a changing content in storytelling. The exhibition ‘My Story’ stories visualized also started from a formalist standpoint and shows the various ways in which artists visualize a story: through multiple screens, spatial montage or interactive approaches. All the artists told their stories in a very personal and insistent manner, while posing questions about the definitions of reality. This subject is not new, artists have tried for centuries to either portray, deconstruct or escape from reality by means of storytelling. So in what way help the new technologies to deepen the subject, or do they?

We asked the artists themselves for their comments.

Emmanuelle Antille

Annet Dekker [AD]: The Red Cabins is part of the project Angels Camp (which consists of a film, installations, website, books and cd), how do you see the relation between the different parts of the installation in regard to the project as a whole? Why did you choose this way of presenting the project?

Emmanuelle Antille [EA]: Angels Camp is the generic title of a body of works which turns around a fiction. This project as you said is composed by a feature film, a sound installation, a video installation, photos, objects, music and a novel. All those elements function as a family, being autonomous and strongly bound together. They complete each other and contribute in their own way to give life to the stories and the world of Angels Camp. It is a way to make this world as real as possible and to include the viewers as deep as possible in it. To create a bond with the viewers, to make them share the experience and to make it come to life through them.

AD: In most of your showings you show the installation version together with a film screening, why do you choose this way of presenting? Do you see a shift in content working with these different presentations? Do they raise different issues?

EA: Video installation and movie are to different ways of approaching a story and to communicate emotions.
What I’m interested in with a video installation is very different from what I look for when I make a movie. A movie is there to tell a story, which implies a certain time-frame, a chain of events, a structure of moments. It is a linear experience for the viewers. In an installation, the modes of perception are different and I always try to convey a direct emotion, some sort of physical impact.

The spectators are surrounded by images. They can project themselves into them and get directly involved, let themselves be carried away by what they see. Sound is very important too, I try to create environments between reality and dreams, hypnotic spaces. It’s fascinating, a bit like writing music. I have a completely different outlook on film editing. I often include the same scene, shot from various angles, that can be seen simultaneously on several screens. The spectators become actors, they¹re caught up in the scene. I use this type of work to try and understand narrative and emotional processes. In fact, I always work on a movie, a story, before setting up an installation. The latter always springs from the former.

Susanne Berkenger

AD: You have started working as a writer, in 1997 you won the internet literature prize, what interests you most in working with this particular medium?

Susanne Berkenger [SB]: Most interesting are the conversations with my computer. It gets angry with me, when I worke sloppily (forgetting for example a komma in the code), it lies to me with wrong error alerts, it suprises me with unexpected functions. In a word: I’ve found me a buddy for my lonely writing hours. That’s great!

AD: Did it change your ideas about writing or making art? Was there a shift in content, did it raise different issues as in other media?

SB: With my computer buddy I can spy upon the users, their actions and reactions. The results help my buddy to play jokes on the users (That’s what my buddy likes most). It makes them believe they were interacting. It makes them feel they are being treated as individuals. Of course it’s only a feeling. Individualistic clicking? There is no such thing.

My hyperfictional buddy is like a drunk at the bar who tells his story by mistaking the barkeeper for his wife. Naturally the barkeeper tends to forget he’s the wife, so the whole story starts wobbling.

AD: How does the subject affect your choice of presentation?

SB: I first choose the presentation, then I think of an adequate subject.

AD: Do you see multi screen installations functioning more in the world of visual arts and single channel work in film?

SB: What about zapping? Seems people wish to have a multi screen TV.

Persijn Broersen and Margit Lukacs

AD: In your earlier works you made a lot of use of new technical innovations. What is your interest in technical innovation, and how has it affected your work and approach to storytelling?

Persijn Broersen and Margit Lukacs [PB/ML]: In ouder werk maakten we o.a gebruik van fotoanimatie (met de computer). Deze techniek gebruikten we om foto’s, bevroren momenten, tot leven te wekken. Zo werd tijd een kneedbaar element, en konden we het tot in het detail heel precies naar onze hand zetten. Ook keken we tot in hoeverre we de realiteit konden oprekken zonder slechts een truc te laten zien. De video’s die we maakten waren dan ook meer uitgerekte momenten dan een lineair verhaal met begin en eind.

Met Crossing The Rainbow Bridge wilden we wel een a-z verhaal vertellen. De animaties in deze film zijn onderdeel van het vertelde verhaal over 2 mensen in een relatie. De realistisch documentaire beelden afgewisseld met de animaties zorgen voor een dromerige sfeer, die minstens evenveel over de hoofdpersonen vertelt als wat ze zelf zeggen. Daarbij ontstaat er een extra dimensie waarin ze in hun ideale maar onrealistische droomwereld leven. (in crossing the rainbow bridge geldt dit trouwens ook de droomwereld)

De animaties en de documentaireachtige beelden hebben elkaar nodig in deze film. De afwisseling tussen het echte en het onechte, tussen waar de hoofdpersonen in willen geloven en wat waar is, wordt voor de toeschouwer inzichtelijker en acceptabeler gemaakt door deze droomwereld in onze film te laten zien. Wanneer een eruit zou gehaald zijn, zou de film uit evenwicht zijn en zou hij irritant of saai geworden zijn. De animaties krijgen een emotionele lading door de documentaire beelden.

De precieze manier van werken tijdens het maken van animaties heeft zich wel doorgezet in het monteren van normale filmbeelden, ook hierin willen we alles wat we kunnen en willen beïnvloeden onder controle hebben. Feitelijk maakt het voor ons dan ook niet uit of we met ‘new technical innovations’ of met normale video werken. De concentratie werkt op dezelfde manier.

Het is wel zo dat we absoluut nieuwsgierig zijn naar manieren om de werkelijkheid te manipuleren omdat dit tot nieuwe manieren kan leiden om een verhaal te vertellen, en sterker nog, er kunnen ook nieuwe verhalen zichtbaar worden die anders nooit verteld (hadden kunnen) worden.

AD: In what way does the subject affect your choice of presentation?

PB/ML: De keuze was erg logisch. We wilden een verhaal vertellen over 2 mensen die ondanks dat ze zo dicht bij elkaar zijn, toch een verschillend leven leiden. Door de dubbele projectie konden we de hoofdpersonen fysiek van elkaar scheiden, slechts 1 keer komen ze samen in een projectie. Daarbij konden we het verhaal op verschillende manieren tegelijkertijd laten zien, waarbij hetgeen wat er gezegd wordt versterkt wordt door wat er op het andere scherm te zien is. Wanneer de projecties wel samen komen, is de vereniging extra sterk voelbaar.

De toeschouwer krijgt een bijna fysieke ervaring wanneer de 2 dingen die eerst gescheiden leken te zijn, wel vast aan elkaar blijken te zitten.We hebben er bewust voor gekozen om het splitscreen op verschillende manieren te gebruiken (contrast, versterking, terwijl, scheiding en samenkomen)

Door het splitscreen kan ook de toeschouwer zelf het verhaal enigszins beïnvloeden, doordat hij/zij keuzes moet maken waar hij/zij naar kijkt.

AD: Do you see multi screen installations functioning more in the world of visual arts and single channel work in film?

PB/ML: Nee, multiscreen is in feite een heel natuurlijke manier van kijken. Als je om je heen kijkt zie je van alles tegelijkertijd in heel snel afwisselende kaders. Op televisie krijg je steeds meer informatie tegelijkertijd, Persijn kan niet naar 1 televisienet tegelijk kijken, ook al is de film nog zo goed. Tv, internet, radio, GSM : je bevindt je altijd in het middelpunt van de aarde en definieert je eigen kaders, mensen wennen daaraan. Het wordt steeds logischer om een film ook op die manier te maken.

AD: How do you see the involvement of the visitor in the future?

PB/ML: We willen geen interactief kunstwerk maken, dus wat dat betreft heeft de toeschouwer geen invloed op ons werk wanneer het af is.

Wel hebben we plannen voor een film die uit nog meer splitscreens zal bestaan, dit vraagt natuurlijk ook meer van de toeschouwer omdat die nog meer zijn eigen verhaal moet destilleren uit het aangebodene.

Tijdens het maken van ons werk is de toeschouwer een belangrijke factor. Als kunstenaar moet je je soms afvragen tot hoeverre je de toeschouwer wilt begeleiden: wat je wel vertelt en wat niet, wat je laat zien en wat de toeschouwer zelf moet invullen.

Shahryar Nashat

AD: The installation Laterally Yours which is on show consists of multiple monitors and a large screen, do your treat the different pieces in the work separately or do you work on it as a whole from the beginning?

Shahryar Nashat [SN]: I wanted to work on the ambivalence between the protagonist’s fantasy and reality. The situation he’s describing refers to the images on the monitors whereas the projection shows a more fantasized image. Every image is inter dependant of the other and is synchronised in order to create a rhythm that is similar to the character’s variations of speech.

AD: Why did you choose this particular way of presenting?

SN: It came naturally. I was ready to work on a multiple channel piece and had come up with that one image/scene I wanted the spectator to focus on at some point. When the camera zooms onto the character’s face. I had a special box made that would switch off the electricty on all monitors at specific times in order to get the viewer to concentrate on the projection.

AD: Not all of you work is presented as multi channel. How does the subject affect your choice of presentation?

SN: The subject is just a part in the decision. The choice is mostly bound to my body of work. I am slowly developing a way I think moving image should be displayed within a given environment. To think of a piece that challenges the space is not easy and seldom successfull. You can’t just project two images on a double screen for the sake of having an installation. Artists often think ‘the bigger the better’ and there is an abuse of multiple channel works that are only motivated by visual and aesthtetical concerns.

AD: Do you see multi screen installations functioning more in the world of visual arts and single channel work in film?

SN: They are certainly more impressive. Take a triple projection on a reasonably big screen. If the image is moderately curated, the aesthetical effect is rarely disappointing. Nevertheless if there is no conceptual or narrative need to multiply the screens, the piece is a failure to me.

The installation suggests the idea that the timeline is not continuous whereas the single channels deals more with a ‘beginning to an end’ structure. Again if these aspects are not taken into consideration or aren’t challenged in an innovative way I think the piece doesn’t work.

AD: How do you see the involvement of the visitor in the future?

SN: It all depends on his will to experience new ways of making work alongside the already exisiting forms. Today not only the formality of a work is evolving but also the way in which it’s been shown. The spectator has to constantly adapt himself. But isn’t it a simultaneous evolution between viewers and exhibitors/artists? I would tend they say it is.

Jogchem Niemandsverdriet

AD: Your life is the internet, or better the internet make you alive, what interests you most in working with this particular medium?

Jogchem Niemandsverdriet [JN]: It’s immediate. So when I make something today, I can expect some reactions this evening. And maybe I’ll make some corrections. It’s never finished. People expect you to keep building, and that’s just what I like to do. A final version of NobodyHere.com would be impossible for me.

The audience can participate. They give comments and sometimes images or technical tips. A group of Japanese translators made a complete translation. Visitors can contribute to the site by choosing one of 600 insect personae and scattering comments throughout the pages. There’s a real time chat: a sink filled with different ‘bugs’. One hour after I upload something new, there’s a response. This quick feedback filters out any error or misspelling, but sometimes when I’ve added something that’s close to my heart, I like to switch off the feedback for a couple of days.

AD: Did new technical possibilities change your ideas about making art? Was there a shift in content, did you raise different issues as in other media?

JN: The audience might appear to have a tiny attention span, but when people regularly visit a site, make contributions and form a community, storytelling is stretched out over a longer period and may continue indefinitely in totally unexpected ways. People loved my pink teddy bear, so I’m giving him his own site at nobodysbear.com. In the Dutch site, they could vote on a destination for my holiday by placing flags on the Dutch map. It turned out to be a rainy trip to Amsterdam.

AD: How does the subject affect your choice of presentation?

JN: It’s all about being indoors, dreaming and feeble attempts to make contact. The internet is perfect for that.


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