Jean-Luc Godard’s “Weekend” (1967)

Week 6 – Screening and discussion of Jean-Luc Godard’s 1967 black comedy, “Weekend”

We started by considering how to analyse a film.

We must consider:

  • form and content, the script, the genre, the acting, the soundtrack,
  • the narrative, the voice, the perspective, the structure
  • meta-text and meta-narrative – is the text or story part of something bigger? does it relate to other films/ stories?
  • interpretation – how can we interpret it? what school of criticism do we use to do so? Freudian? feminist? queer theory? marxist?
  • context – what was going on at the time of the film that would influence a) how the film was written and b) how the first audiences would interpret it
  • technique: the lighting, composition, sets, performance, editing, camera movement, external information.

Film is a visual, time-based medium so we must keep an eye on what camera position and composition are trying to tell us.

French film magazine “Du Cinéma” was founded in 1951, and it reset the basic tenets of film criticism and theory. Writers included Truffaut and Godard himself; the magazine was centred on analysis. Truffaut wrote the ‘les politiques des Autuer’ manifesto in 1954, resulting in the re-evaluation of Hollywood films and directors, including Hawks, Ray, Aldrich, Hitchcock, Lang. By centring on mise-en-scene, directors could be compared and contrasted thus film dialogue develops. The magazine was essential to creation of Nouvelle Vague.

Jean-Luc Godard:

He had 3 films in the top 50 BFI list: 13 – Breathless (1960), 21 – Le Mepris (1963), 42 Pierrot Le fou (1965).

He revolutionised socialism in cinema, played with form and genre, and was quoted as saying “all you need for a movie is a gun and a girl.”

“Weekend”:

Director: Jean-Luc Godard. Cinematographer: Raoul Coutard. Edit: Agnès Guillemot. Music: Antoine Duhamel. Sound: René Levert.

Multiple cross-cultural references, remarkable camera work (camera movement as meaning), highly influential, ‘apocalyptic’, satire, anarchy, cinema, hollywood, revolution, location, socialism, style, ‘narrative’, polemic, Brecht’s theory of alienation

The film itself struck me immediately as extremely clever. One of the main things that struck me was the constant occurrence of terrible things, so frequent they become normal, which is reflected in the characters’ apathetic reactions to them.

The focus on the two main characters throughout gave an interesting perspective on the many weird and wonderful characters they meet on their journey, including the clan of anarchic hippies they both join at the end of the film.

Use of camera technique is extremely important. A scene where this is particularly important is one where we hear the cultural backgrounds/struggles of two working class young men. We hear their stories in one at a time, and each time the camera focuses on the first while the second recites the first’s story. Another is the scene where the pair reach the mother, hoping to secure her inheritance – there is a close-up of a rabbit carcass with the mother’s blood being spilled on it, accompanied by a monologue; extremely jarring to see.

 

 

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Frank Wasser

Artist Talk 15.11.17

Frank Wasser was born in Dublin in 1988.

He studied Fine Art at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, Ireland and graduated with an MFA in 2012.

Wasser has exhibited and lectured internationally, recently at the Venice Biennale where he debuted his performative lecture ‘Tendencies in Contemporary Art: A history of fabricated history’ for the European Cultural Academy (August 2017).

Lately, Wasser has supported his own practice by working with artists such as Tino Sehgal and Dan Graham and working as a educator, art historian and researcher across multiple institutions, including Tate, London.

Wasser’s practice includes work with writing, performance, conversations and rumours.

Many of the visual attributes of the practice are deployed strategically to act as decoys that can unravel, scrutinise and dismiss established forms of representation.

Wasser is currently working on an exhibition that will take the form of a book (published by Ma Bibliotheque an imprint of Dr.Sharon Kivland). The book will take as it’s starting point Irelands failed relationship with Modernism through an interweaving of metafictional autobiographical fragments and collected contemporary fables. Wasser will next show work at hmm no. 11 at Somerset House, November 27th, curated and selected by Anne Tallentire and Chris Fite-Wassilak.

 

 

Wasser’s artist talk began like many others, with what seemed like a powerpoint presentation on his practice, a few biographical details, and how he was inspired. Early on in his hour-long presentation we became aware he was not in fact showing us a powerpoint but a video, which was odd but we just thought this was a way to automatically change the slides for him. Later on in the video, a bright blue image of Theresa May popped up for merely a split-second, accompanied by a cough played extremely loudly through the speakers. This surprised us quite a bit but Wasser ignored it and carried on so we thought nothing of it. This then happened a few more times, punctuating what was otherwise a very normal artist talk. Each time it happened it scared the life out of us and created an overwhelming sense of tension, as though it was building up to something. That something manifested during the last ten minutes of the artist talk when his powerpoint once again turned into footage of Theresa May, this time constant footage rather than just a split-second, accompanied again by her coughing. This carried on for about a minute, in which time we realised Wasser was now completely doubled over, arms dangling listlessly, where before he had been standing up normally. He remained in this zombie-like position as his video changed to footage of himself in various white rooms, in a blood-red filter, accompanied with emphatic, harsh, deafening white noise. The video continued for ten minutes and then finished, at which point Wasser returned to standing upright and thanked us for watching.

This work was a bizarre and quite terrifying thing to watch. To me it seemed as if him and the powerpoint were connected, and when the video, like a virus, took over everything, he too ceased to live. The work was inherently political because of Theresa May appearing. It was interesting that he should focus on her coughing – what does this say about what Wasser thinks of her? Maybe it discusses how we see politicians in general – the focus on her performance of a normal bodily function draws attention to her role as someone who is expected to be extremely composed all the time; perhaps the coughing is an attempt to humanise her. Despite this, the association of her with such a deliberately horrific film challenges this interpretation – surely the intent cannot be to praise her when she is presented in such a loud, gaudy manner.

I do not want to suggest that I did not enjoy this performance; on the contrary; I found it extremely creative. I love subversion of the norm, and his subversion of the archetypal artist talk was fascinating and thought-provoking. The aesthetic of his film, both visually and audibly, resonated with me because of its unstoppable sensory impact.

This has, later in the term, been a great source of inspiration for my film work; the sheer depth of the visuals and sound affected me greatly and gave me ideas to incorporate in my practice.

 

 

Rackstraw Downes

Rackstraw Downes is an English painter, who is often described as a realist painter but has an aversion to this description – he has some very particular and fascinating ideas about painting.

He has studied what he calls the “endlessness” of the deserts of Texas. He studied an area which he happened upon full of sparse, straw-coloured plains with pinkish mountains in the background. He notes these structures made of corrugated metal for shade, and realised the area was a racetrack. His work here seems to be centred around the idea of flatness.

He has also deliberately painted mountains that he deems “not magnificent” – it is interesting that he explores the opposite of the artistic norm; choosing to study something mediocre as opposed to something amazing perhaps gives it a new sense of excitement.

Instead of seeing a landscape as something in front of him, he thinks of it as his “surroundings.” When painting a small mountain range, for example, he likes to paint from within the mountains and see how the light changes the landscape as the day progresses.

Although he is evidently passionate about painting and landscape, he likes to keep emotion out of it, believing that to make his painting emotional would take away from his respect for the landscape.

He talked about his shameless possessiveness over the landscape. He seems to want the landscape to himself and doesn’t want any other artists going the places he does, showing his deep connection with these places.

Capturing the character of every aspect of a view is imperative to him, and he states he could work on a painting indefinitely.

One key result of these specific thought processes is that curves that we do not ordinarily see are clearly visible in the painting, much like when you take a panorama picture on an iPhone, because you don’t see a landscape all at once.

Perhaps paradoxically, although perspective is a key part of his work, he does not let the rules of perspective (including one-point, two-point, etc. perspective) sway him, because he feels they are untrue to his eyes. He says the transferring of 3-D to 2-D is always the creation of metaphor; there is no standardised way of depicting it. Any rules that are followed by painters distract from the very thing that drew you to the landscape in the first place.

Rackstraw Downes on Art21

Tate Modern 31.10.17

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Maria Helena Viera da Silva, 1908-1992, born Portugal, worked France – The Tiled Room, 1935, Oil paint on canvas

Hans Bellmer, 1902-1975, born Poland, worked Poland, Germany, France – Peg-Top, c.1937-52, Oil paint on canvas

Wilfredo Lam, 1902-1982, born Cuba, worked Spain, France, Cuba – Ibaye, 1950, Oil paint on canvas

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Jack Whitten, 1939, born and works USA – Epsilon Group II, 1977, Oil paint on canvas

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Jesus Rafael Soto 1923-2005, born Venezuela, worked Venezuela, France – Cardinal, 1965, wood on chipboard, metal rods and nylon threads

György Kepes 1906-2001, born Hungary, worked Hungary, Germany, Britain, USA

Gauze and Funnel Photogram, c.1939, photograph, gelatin silver print on paper

Blobs and Circles, c.1939-40, photograph, gelatin silver print on paper

György Kepes, 1906-2001, born Hungary, worked Hungary, Germany, Britain, USA

Black and White Stripes, c.1939-40, photograph, gelatin silver print on paper

Circles and Dots, c.1939-40, photograph, gelatin silver print on paper

Feathery Light, c.1939-40, photograph, gelatin silver print on paper

Propeller, c.1939-40, photograph, gelatin silver print on paper

Spiral, c.1939-40, photograph, gelatin silver print on paper

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Colin Self 1941, born and works Britain – Leopardskin Nuclear Bomber No.2, 1963, wood, aluminium, steel and fabric

Nam June Paik, 1932-2006, born South Korea, worked South Korea, Japan, Germany, USA

Nixon, 1965-2002, video, 2 monitors, black and white and colour, sound and magnetic coils

Nam June Paik, 1932-2006, born South Korea, worked South Korea, Japan, Germany, USA

Three Eggs, 1975-1982, video, video camera, 2 colour television receivers, 2 eggs

Also see: Hito Steyerl, 1966, born and works Germany – How Not to Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File, 2013, video, running time: 14 min

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Above and below:

Sheela Gowda, Behold, 2009, steel car bumpers, knotted human hair

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Lenore Tawney, 1907-2007, born and Worked USA – ink on paper, 1964-5

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Gustav Metzger, 1926-2017, born Germany, worked Britain – Liquid Crystal Environment, automated version 2005, original performance 1965-6, 5 glass slides, liquid crystals, polarising gel, 5 slide projectors, 5 custom-built controls, software, rotating polarising filter

Running time: 22 min, looped

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Julie Mehretu, 1970, born Ethiopia, works USA – Mogamma, A Painting in Four Parts: Part 3, 2012, ink and acrylic paint on canvas

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Above and below:

Monika Sosnowska, 1972, born and works Poland – Pavilion, 2016, painted steel

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Bruce Nauman, 1941, born and works USA – No, 1981, lithograph on paper

Bruce Nauman, 1941, born and works USA – Run From Fear, Fun From Rear, 1972, neon signs

 


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​Carlos Cruz-Diez, 1923, born Venezuela, works Venezuela, France – Physichromie No.113, 1963, reconstructed 1976, painted aluminium and stainless steel

 

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​​Bruce Nauman, 1941, born and works USA

 

 

 

Heinz Mack, 1931, born Germany, works Germany, USA – Light Dynamo, 1963, aluminium, glass, wood and motor

 

​ Yayoi Kusuma, 1929, born Japan, works Japan, USA – The Passing Winter, 2005, mirror and glass

Ann Hamilton

Ann Hamilton is a visual artist internationally recognized for the sensory surrounds of her large-scale multi-media installations. Using time as process and material, her methods of making serve as an invocation of place, of collective voice, of communities past and of labor present. Noted for a dense accumulation of materials, her ephemeral environments create immersive experiences that poetically respond to the architectural presence and social history of their sites. Whether inhabiting a building four stories high or confined to the surface of a thimble, the genesis of Hamilton’s art extends outwards from the primary projections of the hand and mouth. Her attention to the uttering of a sound or the shaping of a word with the hand places language and text at the tactile and metaphoric center of her installations. To enter their liminality is to be drawn equally into the sensory and linguistic capacities of comprehension that construct our faculties of memory, reason and imagination.

Born in Lima, Ohio, in 1956, Ann Hamilton received a BFA in textile design from the University of Kansas in 1979 and an MFA in sculpture from the Yale School of Art in 1985. From 1985 to 1991, she taught on the faculty of the University of California at Santa Barbara. Hamilton has served on the faculty of The Ohio State University since 2001, where she is a Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Art.

Ann Hamilton – Films

Most relevant to my practice are Hamilton’s films. They have an extremely eerie and uncomfortable quality, which informed my performance of “Ode to Autocorrect” a great deal. The one that perhaps informed my performance the most was “The Picture is Still” (2001). The video begins with just a few almost indiscernible grey shapes, and we wonder what is being shown. As the camera moves, we realise it is looking extremely closely at a black-and-white photograph. The simplicity and ‘graininess’ of the footage was a big inspiration for my electronic soundtrack; even though it is a soundtrack rather than a video, it almost ‘sounds’ greyscale to me.

 

Cedar Lewisohn

Artist Talk 18.10.17

Cedar Lewisohn is an artist, writer and curator. He has worked on many museum projects for institutions such as Tate Britain, Tate Modern and The British Council. He is interested in various forms of exhibition platform, as well as experimental forms of writing. He is currently curator of a three year project called “Outside The Cube” for HangarBicocca foundation in Milan. He writes regularly about the cross over between art and gastronomy, and has recently edited a publication for the Taste International food festival.

CEDAR LEWISOHN – LONDON-BASED CURATOR, EXPERT AND RESEARCHER ON STREET ART – REVEALS WHY HE LIKES STREET ART FROM THE POST-COMMUNIST COUNTRIES,’ Contemporary Lynx, 2013

It was fascinating to hear from an artist with such a varied practice; he is an artist, curator, and writer. It was also fascinating to hear from someone who is a curator of street art; we never tend to think of street art as curated because it is an art form where the artist responds to the available surroundings. Lewisohn has the potential to be on both sides of art criticism, i.e. the artist as well as the critic. He has found difficulties with working in multiple institutions; he has found that particularly in the UK, the art world is somewhat closed less open to multi-disciplinary work.

http://www.cedarlewisohn.com

 

In art school, Lewisohn “wanted to be Jeff Koons” and had a profound interest in art magazines. These were very powerful before the internet; they were the main vehicle for putting one’s art out there.

For his degree show, he put an image of his mother with the caption “isn’t my mum the greatest?” in a magazine advert. Although he describes it as a “dumb statement”, he says this is an acknowledgement that black women were rarely seen in these magazines.

He began writing for “Flash Art” magazine, and began to want to write in a  different and subversive way. He started to put fiction into his articles; for example he wrote an article about an artist and said he had a fight with the artist during the interview.

A turning point in his career was being asked to write a catalogue text by Tate Liverpool, where he soon wrote a fictional interview with Puff Daddy (as he was known as then).

“if you write about 5 similar artists you’ve curated an exhibition already”

In 2005, he was living in Glasgow and got accepted into a course in curatorial training at the Tate Modern – another huge turning point in his career. There, he proposed a graffiti project in Turbine Hall.

At the end of curatorial training, in 2008, he held a street art exhibition at the Tate Modern, and decided it would be better to exhibit the work it on the outside of the building than inside. He faced opposition to this because people in the art world are seemingly opposed to street art; perhaps there is a prejudice there.

 

 

Caspar Heinemann

Caspar Heinemann is an artist, poet and twinky butch anarcho-communist mystic based in Berlin. Their interests include critical occultism, gay biosemiotics, and countercultural mythology. Recent events include readings at the Baltic Triennial, Serpentine Miracle Marathon, Basis voor Actuele Kunst, Utrecht, and the ICA, London. They have recently exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, David Roberts Art Foundation, London, and Outpost Gallery, Norwich.

http://angstravaganza.tumblr.com

 

 

http://www.norwichoutpost.org/calendar/caspar-heinemann