Blogs Crosscuts Jesikah Ruehle

+Loves being an intern in Film/Video at the Walker

+Graduated last year from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a BFA in Fiber and Material Studies and Film/Video

+Loves to ride her bike and experiment in the kitchen

+Is a hairstylist at FIVETWOSIX salon in St. Paul

+Some of her favorite filmmakers are Chris Marker, Shirin Neshat, Doug Aitken, and Stan Brakhage

+Is an escapist and consequently spends a lot of her free time looking up places to travel to

Eija-Liisa Ahtila: Where is where is where…

“I’m very much a visual artist in the way I work. Just that my medium is moving images instead of—let’s say—paints or pencil. I try to find the ways of expression with my medium that will tell the things I want. I do not aim at making a film of a certain length for certain […]

where_is_where_11_PP

“I’m very much a visual artist in the way I work. Just that my medium is moving images instead of—let’s say—paints or pencil. I try to find the ways of expression with my medium that will tell the things I want. I do not aim at making a film of a certain length for certain audiences. I don’t have to try to make profit for the production company nor does the script need to be of a certain kind, (but certainly the expenses have to be covered and the wages paid).  I’m allowed to experiment with the medium for a certain extent—meaning that I probably wouldn’t get the money which is earmarked for the real features because my work is too experimental for the larger audiences—or at least that would be the excuse. I don’t think my works are especially painterly—no. What probably comes from the art side is that I trust the audience’s ability to see, hear and think.”

—Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Kopenhagen.dk Interviews

We live in a time characterized by the defining, re-defining, deconstructing, restructuring, blurring, and eliminating of borders, boundaries, and definitions. The Art World is not exempt from this trend, and although we are familiar with the fluidity of its self-described boundaries, it is interesting to note this in relation to the moving image. The shifts between the cinema, the gallery, the television, the internet, and other arenas for time-based work open up many interesting conversations about viewership, spectatorship, sponsorship, and participation. There are many contemporary artists exploring the structure of filmmaking as a way to expand a conceptual framework—Julian Schnabel, Steve McQueen, Shirin Neshat, and Eija-Liisa Ahtila, to name a few, have recently (and some not so recently) stepped into the arena of feature-length filmmaking.

Although ‘film’ and ‘video-art’ have traditionally been separated into two distinct, canonical histories, there have been many crossover projects. We have experienced this at the Walker, with many artists and exhibitions straddling both the Visual Art and Film/Video departments.  With this in mind, Finnish artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila’s upcoming screening of Where is Where? (Missä on missä?), which explores the way children are uniquely situated to absorb and interpret the complexities and absurdities of war, nationalism, and cultural identity, is of great interest. Below is an interview in which she discusses her relationship to the moving image.

Chris Darke: How do you feel as an artist making films for the gallery? Do you have any general thoughts about the way this particular practice has been evolving over the last ten years?

Eija-Liisa Ahtila: I think it’s really obvious what’s going on. The moving image is the medium through which people see what’s happening around them and how they get information about society. It’s the most common way of interpreting our society. It’s no wonder that artists want to make work with moving images. In fact, I’d rather talk about ‘moving images’ than video or film because it’s difficult to talk about ‘video-art’ nowadays.

Is that partly because ‘video-art’ now seems like an historical term that relates to the 1960s and the 1970s and that the digital moment ended ‘video-art’?

Not really, because one way of defining video art has to do with technical things but, on the other hand, there’s a lot of moving image work that really has its roots in ‘video-art’. When I talk about ‘video-art’ I more or less think about the tradition linked to performance and using the camera to record performances. I went to see the Sam Taylor-Wood show (Hayward Gallery, London Spring 2002) and she’s a good example. I could easily link her work to that kind of tradition.

Is there an active relationship between the film and art worlds in Finland?

The film world is pretty conservative. It’s very difficult to convince them that visual artists have anything to contribute. They’re still quite separate.

Why do you think that separation exists?

It has to do with money. It’s a small country and the amount of money that film gets from the state is small. A lot of people want to make films so there’s a lot of competition. What’s really lacking is a forum where these issues can be talked about. Most of the film magazines are really conservative. I hope that’s changing because there are some new festivals now that younger people have started, like Avanto (the Helsinki-based Media Arts Festival).

Do you yourself have references that derive from film-making?

It’s difficult to say. During the 1980s I saw almost all of Fassbinder’s films. Antonioni’s early films also really interest me, particularly his way of using space and architecture, that’s very important for me. Then Bergman and the human dramas, the dialogue and maybe even the characters.

You studied at the London College of Printing and at UCLA in the States.

I was in the UCLA extension programme, an evening school. It was a really important time. My art before that was traditionally conceptually-oriented and I felt that it was extremely important for me to have the possibility to go deeper and study ways of expression in the medium, like cinematography and editing. In LA I studied with a cinematographer and he showed examples of solutions that other cinematographers have had in certain situations and how to create meaning with the medium. What was very important for me was to learn how to tell a story using sound and images, how to break up the story and use a structure that had something to do with the subject matter.

When you watch films or TV now you must notice the increasing use of screens within screens, the fact that the surface is fragmented simply because it’s technically possible. Does this phenomenon interest you?

Personally, I don’t think split-screen works on TV. It’s a gimmick. For me, the split-screen is always a physical experience. If you have it in an installation it has to do with physical presence, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to start to work with the moving image. It is very interesting to work with the medium in such a way that the information is in the sounds, the rhythm and the story and the viewer uses their senses to make the meaning out of these corresponding things.

—Chris Drake, Vertigo Vol 2 Issue 3, Summer 2002

Where is Where? (Missä on missä?) screens Saturday, January 23 and Wednesday, January 27 at 7:30 pm.

8-Ball With Ben Russell

To kick off  Expanding the Frame, we’ve invited Chicago-based photographer, curator, and experimental filmmaker Ben Russell to present some of his key works. His works explore the psychedelic, the transcendent and the purely physical, and have been screened in a variety of surprising and unexpected places. In anticipation of his January 21 performance/screening of TRYPPS and The Black and […]

To kick off  Expanding the Frame, we’ve invited Chicago-based photographer, curator, and experimental filmmaker Ben Russell to present some of his key works. His works explore the psychedelic, the transcendent and the purely physical, and have been screened in a variety of surprising and unexpected places. In anticipation of his January 21 performance/screening of TRYPPS and The Black and White Gods, we’ve asked him to participate in our Q &A series 8-Ball. Here are his  insightful answers:

1. What was your greatest visual experience?

It’s a three-way tie between hiking the Staircase at the Olympic National Forest on LSD, waking up 1/3rd of the way through Ken Jacobs’ NERVOUS MAGIC LANTERN performance, and watching Bruce Conner’s CROSSROADS for the first time.

2. Given your extensive travel as a filmmaker, where is your favorite, or most inspiring, place?

Easter Island, hands down—you can stand on the shore and see the curve of the Earth, or you can turn around and stand terror/awe-struck in the face of the sublime.

3. If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?

Werner Herzog or Buster Keaton—it’s a 50/50 split.

4. Who is your alter ego?

Sadie, my small Italian Greyhound who peed on my bed 2x a day for the first three years after I adopted her.

5. What are the last three films you’ve seen?

THE FANTASTIC MR.FOX (terrible), WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE (fantastic—that dog!), and THE GLEANERS AND I (Agnes Varda, OMG)

6. What have you been listening to lately?

I’ve been going back and forth between ZZ POT and Lil Wayne’s NO CEILINGS mixtape—his Lady Gaga remix (Poke Her Face) is on repeat.

7.  Which artist turned your world upside-down as a teenager?

David Lynch—TWIN PEAKS on TV totally blew my mind.

8.  Fill in the blank: What the world needs now is a 2-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

60 Years of China on Film

As attested by the remarkably choreographed festivities at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Chinese know how to party—and nothing was spared for the recent celebration of the People’s Republic of China 60th Anniversary party on October 1, with special attention paid to showcasing military strength. This momentous occasion marks the longest Communist party rule in […]

Still from Good Cats, 2008

Still from Good Cats (Hao Mao), 2008

As attested by the remarkably choreographed festivities at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Chinese know how to party—and nothing was spared for the recent celebration of the People’s Republic of China 60th Anniversary party on October 1, with special attention paid to showcasing military strength. This momentous occasion marks the longest Communist party rule in history, and although the last 60 years have been met with much criticism and unease, and marked by intense economic, political, and cultural growing pains, China’s unique blend of communism and capitalism is undeniably large and here to stay. Chinese filmmakers (those both inside and outside of the border) are in a unique position to process and reflect their current cultural moment. Many different Chinese film programs around the world are running this fall to celebrate and recognize these filmmakers and this unique and important time in history, including our own film series, The People’s Republic of Cinema which runs November 4-23.

In the scheme of things, 60 years is a drop in the bucket for China’s immense history as one of the oldest civilizations on the planet, but the transformations the “New China” has undertaken are radical on a global scale. The process of modernizing an ancient culture coupled with an inflexible political climate, an environmental crisis, a growing consumerist culture, the tension between Eastern and Western values, a construction zone taking over every major city, and a new generation striving for individualism and creative freedom present enormous challenges.

I experienced this first hand in 2006 on a study trip through the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Spending time with Beijing and Shanghai art students, hip-hop artists, and filmmakers allowed a privileged glimpse into the tensions they experience and make work about. I met some boys in Shanghai who strongly identified with American hip-hop and had started a group that traveled throughout southern China and rapped in Mandarin, Japanese, and English. (Most of the music they knew about had come through Japan, as the Japanese have an easier time finding American music and have been interested in hip-hop culture and paraphernalia for quite some time now.) The 021Crew, as they call themselves, recognize the challenges referenced in hip-hop music (the struggle for self-expression, distrust of government transparency, freedom, individualism, social and class distinctions, and the tension between generations) as parallel to their own. A few of them had studied abroad in Toronto and London, and were presented with new visions of China then the ones they had grown up with. None of them knew about the Tiananmen Square incident in 1989 (it is impossible to find information about this when in China, as it is a restricted online search), nor did they feel comfortable discussing it in public. In fact, after learning about it, they said, “That’s not my China!” And although they felt extreme pride in their country, they longed to experience different freedoms they felt were denied them. Through hip-hop they are able to express themselves and their ideas in ways they couldn’t otherwise. To them, it is a platform of revolution, but the difference is the prescribed action. As language and the written word are the embodiments of knowledge and the foundation of Chinese culture (traditionally, at least), I wonder if in some strange way Chinese hip-hop is an attempt to be a contemporary equivalent.

My Chinese painting professor who led the trip had grown up in a much different China. In fact, as a young boy he had left school to become part of the Red Guard and march all over southern China with other boys his age. The changes he has seen in his lifetime, although subjective and unique, chart the transformations (I struggle to use the word progress) many have experienced on a large scale.

Here is a list of some other festivals celebrating and recognizing the “New China,” and although there probably won’t be fireworks or choreographed parades, I hope you can make it out.

The People’s Republic of Cinema

Walker Art Center

Minneapolis, MN

November 4-23, 2009

http://calendar.walkerart.org/canopy.wac?id=5308

China Independent Film Festival

RCM Museum of Modern Art

Nanjing, China

October 12-16, 2009

http://www.chinaiff.org/html/EN/

LENS ON CHINA

Portland Art Museum Northwest Film Center

Portland, Oregon

September 24-November 5, 2009

http://www.nwfilm.org/screenings/21/207/#1379

NYFF Masterworks: (Re)Inventing China
A New Cinema for a New Society, 1949 – 1966
Film Society of Lincoln Center

New York City

September 26 – October 6, 2009

http://filmlinc.com/nyff/china.html

China Classic Film Festival

Confucius Institute, University of Wales Lampeter

Wales

October 1-31, 2009

http://www.chinaclassicfestival.com/

2009 Tokyo China Film Festival

Tokyo International Film Festival

Tokyo

October 18-25, 2009

http://www.tiff-jp.net/en/lineup/title_24.html

New Zealand Chinese Film Festival

New Zealand’s Pacific Culture and Arts Exchange Center

New Zealand

October 15- November 8, 2009

http://www.nzcta.co.nz/events/

FILMING EAST FESTIVAL

British Academy of Film and Television Arts

UK

October 3-31, 2009

http://www.filmingeast.org/

www.bafta.org/whats-on/global-spotlight-china,828,BA.html

RAINDANCE FILM FESTIVAL

UK-China Film Association (UCFA)

London

October 3-10, 2009

http://www.raindance.co.uk/site/index.php?aid=3797

VISIBLE SECRETS: HONG KONG’S WOMEN FILMMAKERS

Cornerhouse

Manchester, England

October 9 -November 3, 2009

www.cornerhouse.org/visiblesecrets

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Jesikah Ruehle bio:

+Loves being an intern in Film/Video at the Walker

+Graduated last year from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a BFA in Fiber and Material Studies and Film/Video

+Loves to ride her bike and experiment in the kitchen

+Is a hairstylist at FIVETWOSIX salon in St. Paul

+Some of her favorite filmmakers are Chris Marker, Shirin Neshat, Doug Aitken, and Stan Brakhage

+Is an escapist and consequently spends a lot of her free time looking up places to travel to