Screen City – Moving Image Festival presents an expanded cinematic experience about Labour 0

Q&A with Daniela Arriado, Curator of Screen City Festival

- Screen City Festival -
“Labour & The City In-between”
Stavanger, Norway
October 15 - 18, 2015

The Screen City Festival is dedicated to both presenting the moving image in public spaces, and to exploring the relationships among the moving image, sound, and architecture. The festival's format expands the borders of the cinematic experience – reflecting upon the line between the cinematic and the non-cinematic.

Rosa Barba

The point of departure for this year's Screen City Festival program is the post-industrial climate we see in Europe today. This theme has a lot in common with topics actively being discussed now in the Baltics. For example, the issue of an urban environment created by the third industrial revolution was raised at the Tallinn Architecture Biennale, while Tallinn's Photomonth looked at the consumer of the future as an active participant in the manufacturing process. Artists are encouraged to actively focus on these issues, and they do so even without any extra spurring. Do you believe that artists are able to provide valid and usable real answers for change and for a better future?

Yes, it is a topic that is relevant, and it has been circulating pretty much since 2008, when the first increment of the financial crisis appeared. You will find this topic being discoursed at both small shows and at the 56th edition of the Venice Biennale. Yes, I believe that artists, or let's say ART in general, can have a strong effect on society. This we have learned throughout the times. I also believe that an interesting piece of art somehow suggests, or even insists, on a dialogue with its surroundings. And our current surroundings (and not only in Western society) are in constant negotiation and conflict with new industrial culture(s) and the powers surrounding them. Labour is being redefined – and hence, so is our identity. Now the artist has a dual role: on one side, being an active participant in society; and on the other side, being an observer. An ephemeral role. I believe that no matter what happens, the artists will continue to reflect, produce, and provide valid – and sometimes invalid – answers; this depends on how we perceive their work. The question, I think, is if we as curators, or producers, can somehow manage to mediate this matter to the public, to society… and create an audience. Presenting this art in the public space is a good and interesting starting point.

Beathe C. Rønning

Please tell us about the festival’s curatorial team, and the way in which the artists were selected for the program.

The festival is held every other year. This model has given me time to research and select the artists at a good pace. For me, it’s difficult to say what comes first: the artists or the topic, because sometimes an art piece is the point of departure. Harun Farocki and his body of work was, in this case, my point of departure in a curatorial sense. I’ve always admired the force in his work, and the way he and his colleague & wife, Antje Ehmann, keep exploring and visualizing the different aspects of labour, and connecting it to the temporal and motile aspects of film. Sadly, Farocki passed away last year.

Walking along the old industrial port of Stavanger and looking at the canning factories, I envisioned his remake of Workers Leaving the Factories being projected onto the façade; and at the same time, his and Antje’s film, Labour In a Single Shot, screened along the streets on empty shop windows, in what used to be old worker housing. It is quite a nostalgic approach, but then I realized that both the area and the topic are still relevant, and that there are many contemporary moving image artists addressing this, like Katherina Gruzei, Beathe C.Rønning, Knut Åsdam and Rosa Barba – each presenting a different perspective and shape to it. 

Together with the PAF Festival of Film Animation, Screen City forms part of what is called the Festivals of Live Cinema, which focus on mediating manifestations of live cinema that exist in the traditions of cinema, contemporary art and sound, and in the specific contexts of the Czech and Norwegian cultures. Martin Mazanec (PAF) and I invited a list of Czech and Norwegian artists, and commissioned works from them to be presented at both festivals this year. It has been a great journey. There are so many talented artists from the Czech Republic who explore the art of the moving image. They have such a long and interesting animation history. We also have Eliška Děcká with us, who curated an animation program for children.

Dan Gregor

What about the technical aspects of this festival – what can you reveal about the innovation and technology solutions?

There are two projects I would like to highlight when it comes to the relationships among image, sound and technology, and both are being produced for the concert hall. The Czech artists Dan Gregor & Michal Pustějovský will present an audio-visual piece for the façade and interior of the hall, using light paths and sound landscapes with real-time tracking processes, which means synchronizing and creating relationships between the projections and the moving lights.

XYZ is a new audio-visual project by the Slovak artists Pjoni & Jano Sicko, and presented in collaboration with the composer and organist Nils Henrik Asheim. They will create electro-acoustic spatial landscapes in real time, using technologies that allow for a landscape of image and sound that take up various relative positions in time. The viewer will be invited to become part of the scene.

Silos Svankevigå old industrial port in Stavanger

One would think that the process of finding the right architecture for the presentations was one of the most complicated tasks. How did you deal with this? How were the locations and buildings chosen?

There are many ways of approaching this, but I think the best way is to invite selected artists to the city, and through endless walks and talks, find a place – one that relates to the topic and, most of all, inspires the artist. In the end, it its about storytelling – creating a dialogue between you and the building. I had a very inspiring experience with the Czech artists Matěj Al Ali & Tomáš Moravec, who are creating a new piece for the Silos that explores the borders dividing intervention, screening, and sculpture.

Some buildings I already had in mind – I could immediately see them as a canvas or site for a specific artist and his or her technique. What is highly relevant here is a good production manager, someone who can immediately tell you what is possible and what isn't. These types of productions can easily become technically challenging, and expensive. If you only let the curator and the artist decide… it sometimes goes on endlessly.

The Screen City Festival is dedicated to presenting the moving image in public spaces, and to exploring the relationships among the moving image, sound, and architecture. Do you believe that with this festival, you could promote the use of public spaces in the presentation of art?

The Screen City Festival started as a series of interventions in a street called Pedersgata, a “bridge” between the city centre and the eastern side. Empty shop windows were activated by being turned into screen canvases, thereby creating light passages. Together with local video artists, urbanists and property owners, we kicked off this project…and received good feedback from the local community. What started out as an idea, in 2013 became a bona fide festival, aiming to create a new platform and venue for the art of the moving image in the public space.

For this year's edition, we continued our close dialogue with the urban waterfront – an urbanist organisation focusing on the development of the eastern side of the city. Together we scanned and researched which areas had an interesting story and which ones should be explored. Along the old industrial port of the city and among the historical factories, you will find apartment buildings. Recent living-condition reports had negative conclusions; the inhabitants of this area lack social centres, community spaces, and areas that connect them together. So, with grand support from the property owners, Norwegian Property and the urban waterfront team, we developed the outdoor cinema; it will be projected onto an old canning factory adjacent to a large parking lot and the port, and in amongst the housing area.

Farocki &Antje Ehmann. Labour in a Single Shot

We hope this can create a new social room – a permanent venue where people can meet and share an art experience in a public space.

Could you mention five highlights of the Festival's program?

It is difficult to choose; I see them all as dear parts of one big whole. But the following five projects describe different positions or perspectives on the topic, and they also give a good representation of the diversity of the program:

Harun Farocki: Workers Leaving the Factory, an outdoor cinema presentation on the facade of the canning factory, in the industrial port; and Farocki & Antje Ehmann's Labour in a Single Shot, in Pedersgata Street.

Dan Gregor & Michal Pustějovský: an audio-visual project for the concert hall's façade and interior.

The live cinema performance by Greg Pope, with Veronika Vlková and Kateřina Koutná.

Knut Åsdam Mobil Egress, a touring lorry; an architectural art/film/cinema installation with the film Egress screened inside the lorry's trailer. 

Artists: Harun Farocki (DE) / Antje Ehmann (DE) / Rosa Barba (IT) / Katharina Gruzei (AT) / Beathe C Rønning (NO) / Matěj Al- Ali (CZ) / Tomáš Moravec (CZ) / Dan Gregor (CZ) / Michal Pustějovský (CZ/UK) / Pjoni (SK) / Ján Šicko (SK) / Nils Henrik Asheim (NO) / Knut Åsdam (NO) / Martin Blažíček (CZ) / Greg Pope (UK) / Veronika Vlková (CZ) /Kateřina Koutná (CZ) / Ane Hjort Guttu (NO).

Curator: Daniela Arriado (CL/NO)