ponedjeljak, 21. siječnja 2013.

Siobhan Davies & David Hinton - All This Can Happen (2012)

'All This Can Happen' Siobhan Davies & David Hinton.Film from BFI National Archive

Film napravljen od arhivskih isječaka ranih filmova i fotografija čiji niz slijedi meditativnu naraciju priče Šetnja Roberta Walsera iz 1917.
Koreografija svakodnevice. Jukstapozicije pokreta.



“The man who walks must study and observe, with the utmost love and attention, every smallest living thing. The highest and the lowest, the most serious and the most hilarious things are to him equally beloved and valuable.”
Robert Walser, The Walk (1917)

All This Can Happen is a new film by award-winning artists Siobhan Davies and David Hinton. They have drawn on the work of two turn of the century figures: French scientist Étienne-Jules Marey (1830-1904) and his chronophotographic studies of movement, and Swiss writer Robert Walser (1878-1956) whose novella The Walk provides a meditative narrative to the film.

“What interests us most of all is counterpoint: creating different rhythms and meanings through the juxtaposition of one thread of imagery against another. We want to show how observation and fantasy, memory and speculation can all co-exist in the same mind at the same time, so that we create a ‘psychological 3D’ or ‘cubist’ portrait of a mind.” David Hinton

The film is a constellation of brief film clips, each showing bursts of movement from the ordinary and the everyday. The choreography lies in orchestrating the relationships between these clips to create a clear and constantly evolving structure of actions.
The specially commissioned sound design by Chu-Li Shewring adds further counterpoint through a juxtaposition of narration, the use of old songs, found and manipulated sounds. The soundtrack comfortably exists with the archive footage so as to be believable but sometimes moves into the more hyper-real realms that the walker experiences.

I have seen a future for dance film and its name is All This Can Happen.
Siobhan Davies and David Hinton’s new 50-minute film premiered at Dance Umbrella recently and was revealed as thrilling and touching and bracingly intelligent and beautiful. Now you need to know as you read this that David Hinton is a friend and that I have worked on several of his projects, including both Children of the Revolution (which won a BAFTA for Best Arts Programme) and a short film Snow, which has connections with All This Can Happen. In addition, the very first programme that Illuminations made for Channel 4, long ago and far away in 1982, was a dance film with Siobhan Davies. Plus, I’m proud to say that several Illumiantions ‘alumni’ worked on it, including editor Danny McGuire as well as Matthew Killip who contributed additional editing. All of which knowledge may or may not inflect the way you take my enthusiasm.
All This Can Happen is a complex montage of archival film (together with some stills) set to a reading by John Heffernan of a story-essay by Robert Walser and accompanied by a dazzlingly detailed sound mix by Chu-Li Shewring (another former colleague). The archival film is mostly monochrome and is drawn from a wide range of sources, the majority of which are from the first half of the twentieth century. There are shots of city streets, children’s games, an owl and a bookshop, fragments from early cinema, photographs by Étienne-Jules Marey, film featuring war, and women, a very tall man in a top hat and much more. Nothing is identified, and nothing explained.
Unfolding in counterpoint to the text, the film images might at times be understood as illustrating the text (and just rarely doing so over-literally), on occasions commenting on it and quite often developing simply with a pictoral logic. The frames are montaged and multiplied, dissected and détourned, analysed and repeated and treated and transformed – through the rhythms of the editing and the visual patterning – into a kind of dance. Not literally dance, but an imaginative analogue of such on the screen (and in the mind of the spectator).
As such, All This Can Happen is an extension of the ideas about dance film that David has been exploring since Birds (2000) and Snow (2003), both of which conjure up film dance from archival elements alone. (He and I worked on developing these ideas in a major television project, but for all kinds of complex and still painful reasons, it never saw the light of day in anything close to the form we had imagined.)
Both Birds and Snow were collaborations with choreographers – with  Yolanda Snaith and Rosemary Lee respectively – and in this new, far more ambitious film Siobhan Davies brings her sensibility to the ways in which bodies and movement and objects and echoes are assembled and around which variations are woven.
David Hinton explains something of their shared concerns:
What interests us most of all is counterpoint; creating different rhythms and meanings through the juxtaposition of one thread of imagery against another. We want to show how observation and fantasy, memory and specualtion can all co-exist in the same mind at the same time, so that we create a ‘psychological 3D’ or ‘cubist’ portrait of a mind.
Both Birds and Snow worked with musical soundtracks, whereas here there is a third person in the partnership, the Swiss modernist writer Robert Walser who died in 1956. Walser was found dead on Christmas Day that year in the snow in a field near the asylum in which he was a patient.
Plagued by mental instability throughout his life, Walser was fond of taking long perambulations through the countryside. His 1917 tale The Walk – which forms the basis of the text of All This Can Happen – was the only writing of his to be translated into English during his lifetime (by Christopher Middleton in 1955). (If you want to know more about Walser and his work, a good place to start is J.M. Coetzee’s essay from 2000 for The New York Review of Books, The genius of Robert Walser.)
In The Walk the narrator leaves his writing desk, puts on his hat and ventures out into the world. He delights in the play of children, rails against automobiles, talks to a dog, visits a hat shop and a book shop and encounters the giant Tomzack. He enters a pine forest:
I stood and listened, and suddenly there came upon me an inexpressible feeling for the world, and, together with it, a feeling of gratitude, which broke powerfully out of my soul.
He has lunch with a lady friend, drops in on his tailor and goes to the tax office where he pleads as a man of letters to be taxed at a low rate. The bureaucrat responds by saying that he is always out walking, an activity that our hero then defends with passion.
“Do you think it quite impossible that on a gentle walk I should meet giants, do business with booksellers, dine at noon with intelligent ladies, stroll through woods, dispatch dangerous letters, and come to wild blows with spiteful, ironic master tailors? All this can happen, and I believe it actually did happen.”
Walser’s poetic, elliptical prose is both banal and deeply mysterious, and the film responds to both of these qualities. Strangest of all, as the narrator watches a trainload of soldiers passing by, he experiences an epiphany of the extraordinariness of the everyday.
The wonderful image of the humble present became a feeling which overpowered all others. The future paled, and the past dissolved…  I had become an inward being, and I walked as in an inward world; everything outside me became a dream.
Drawing attention to the unnoticed, the transitory, the at-the-edge of perception and the fleetingness of reality as it was caught by accident and by agency on film, All This Can Happen conjures up from the past just such a ‘wonderful image of the humble present’. While you watch, the film is a world that is sufficient unto itself, and everything outside, before and after, might just be that dream.
Responding so appropriately and with such originality to Walser’s words David and Siobhan have created a glorious fantasy of the modern world, a dream of modernist sensibility that engages with the mind and machines and madness, sexuality and shopping, poetry and photography and (obliquely) politics, city and country, culture and nature, ways of moving and ways of seeing. -

A wonderful image of the humble present

All This Can Happen, shown as part of Dance Umbrella 2012, in the Platform Theatre, University of the Arts, is a collaboration between choreographer Siobhan Davies and film maker David Hinton and encapsulates the eclectic curiosity of both artists. Their subjects of fascination include the detail of movement, its wider implications and early experiments with the moving image, dating as far back as the 1870s. Inspiration behind the making of All This Can Happen is derived from the creations of two early 20th century men, French scientist Étienne-Jules Marey and Swiss writer Robert Walser: the former, because of his photographic studies of every day actions such as walking, running and jumping, the latter for his novella, The Walk (1927), which is a reflection of the world as seen by the writer as he takes a walk one day.
Hinton and Davies have organised grainy, flickering, black and white found footage and photographs into a riveting continuously moving photo montage, which accompanies and indeed flavours the narration of extracts from The Walk. Read by John Heffernan, the narrative consists of intellectual musings on the author’s insightful and often emotionally charged observations while strolling through city and countryside. The walker’s mood continually changes as he witnesses urban riots, children playing or nature blossoming; he is angered by a negative encounter with his incompetent tailor, jangled by the sexually teasing maître de at his restaurant and delighted by ripening fruit and bucolic landscapes. Both the great and the humble deserve equal attention in his eyes.
What is astonishing about the film is both the quantity and diversity of the footage as well as the pace that it is played. Stuttering, glimmering threads of imagery spill onto the screen in hectic juxtapositions, often displayed on a split screen or even three. Imagery is edited at different speeds, freeze framed, enlarged, repeated, slowed down or speeded up which draws our attention to what we might have otherwise missed, such as a man washing his face, birds flying, a child skipping. How the material is arranged is complex choreographically in terms of rhythm and dynamics, but such love and attention given to even the most ordinary action matches the author’s passion for the diversity of life.
While the visual information is at times too much to digest, the narrative provides a stable, meditative counterpoint, a reassuring voice of calm amidst the frantic activity on screen, and the often disturbing impact it makes. A naked man writhing on the ground frequently struggles to stand, a hauntingly giant man glares out in defiance at the camera, two men fight like dogs and a child is whipped. The damaged quality of the footage, its stains and erosion distorts the imagery further, making it all the more raw and theatrical. With the pastoral scenes, the tone of the film shifts, then again in the scientific objectivity of Marey’s early studies of a man walking, as the minutiae of every action is recorded. We mustn’t forget that this film is really about the importance of motion and the desire to capture it, but in the highly textured, fragmented process All This Can Happen also celebrates fantasy, scientific fact, joy and horror in one mind-blowing counterpoint.- Josephine Leask

'All This Can Happen', by Siobhan Davies & David Hinton.  Image courtesy Étienne-Jules Marey, Collège de France,  Archive

There is something about bodies from the past. Something subtly but recognisably different in the posture, in the proportions, the muscle tone maybe. Bodies marked by the historical, the political. The gaze of the camera can record a human being in all sorts of detail, whilst rendering the person entirely open to being looked at, noticed, seen in a way that would be considered rude were the person there in front of you, in the flesh. The bodies we are invited to look at are male bodies in all their athletic glory, clothed female bodies responding to the changing values and fashions, ill bodies and vulnerable bodies. The bodies of people who no longer exist, and whose image is caught in the limbo of film.
All This Can Happen is a film created from archive footage and stills from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The images flicker slightly with the rhythm of old film being played on new machinery and the rhythm of this extra movement, alongside the pace of the films being cut together creates something lovely, pleasing to watch. The images are often nostalgically recognisable and evocative of a particularly European, collective image of The Past. We see Marey's movement studies of people running and jumping, and footage of people in enormous swimming costumes playing on pebble beaches.
The viewer is guided through All This Can Happen by a voice-over, narrating for us The Walk (1917) by Swiss writer Robert Walser. The ponderous, meandering prose follows the rhythm and pace of a walk, and his thoughts are almost streams of consciousness, in a Joyce's Ulysses kind of way. We hear each passing thought in each passing moment.
Rhythm once more, the movement of the body, the movement of the mind, the movement of the camera, the machine. The film has a certain lightness of touch to it, a sense of curiosity in the gaze of the camera. Perhaps this is also part of the fascination with old footage, born of a time when the newness of recording devices presented a new frame through which to see life and the human. Serious, ponderous, but also curious and playful. Man in relation to metal and machine as pedestrians avoid being run over by comically jolting cars, the unexpected blossoming of flowers that look like female genitals. And a dog. Maybe that is also where my sense of nostalgia comes from: familiarity of the old combined with a desire to also be able look again with the curiosity of new eyes.
Alice MacKenzie

Framed within the narrative of a walk, a time for self-reflection and observation, a sense of simultaneous movement and stillness, a wandering and a wondering about the small things in life that are really the same as the big things. Both fantastical and ordinary All These Things Can Happen was difficult to watch – was this because I was preparing myself for some kind of critical analysis? Or was this the actual experience that the film provoked for me? I don’t know.
A male voice spoke the text, guiding us through the images and, initially, this relationship between image and text surprised me. Read in a tone I found slightly condescending, smooth, even emotionless and pausing for narrative effect, the voice was calm and measured, removed. It is from this distance that I found myself asking questions, and the construction of the whole film only served to distance me further and further. Put together from archive footage with the eye of one (or two) observer(s) rather than doer(s), one (two) who is (are) fascinated rather than immersed. Most shots were arranged in variant split screen formations. I found the gaps between each screen just a little too large; I fell into their blackness and missed things.
All This Can Happen was so English. Utterly English. Never mind that it was made with narrative written by a Swiss guy and archive footage from France and Switzerland, I watched it feeling overpowered by a sense of Englishness. The values of England, the island life of England, the flatness of the landscape, the mildness of the weather, the etiquette, the eccentricity, the Empire.  The voice at one point said that he liked repose, thrift and moderation. All these things are only accessible with choice. Resting is not possible when you are incapable of going on. Can you call it thrift if you are simply poor? Is it possible to be moderate when forced into a corner? The eyes of the Empire.
I used to enjoy the cool witticisms of late 19th and early 20th century literature, astute observations packaged between one capital letter and one full stop. Now I question the distance the epigram requires, the role of artist as someone who shows who and how we really are. I crave intimacy, immediacy, urgency, I want things close and real and rough with dirt. Bukowski over Wilde. Black Sabbath over The Beatles. Rain over snow. Hug over kiss. Sex over courtship. Boots over shoes. Main course over starter. I think that this is just a matter of taste, and yes it is, but I also think that taste isn’t ‘just’, isn’t passive, it’s ideological.
Watching this film I wonder if I can help myself from rooting for the underdog.
I wonder about a lot of things: about this film, about dance, about art, about my work, about myself, about the world and the systems in which I live and the choices I make about where I place myself, with whom I place myself, when I have chosen this and when I have chosen this and not noticed my own choice.
It was the things I found most ambiguous that I liked best:
 The bird, caught by a thumb to its neck, now still and on its side in the open palm of a person, nudged, it springs to life and flies away.
The people (were they children? I don’t remember) in black coats walking around, into one screen out of the other and then back again. This looped and shifting footage denying me the knowledge of how many people had actually been in the shot, where this place was in which they were walking, to what end they were walking, leaving me only with motion of small faceless figures both militant and lost.
The moment when, seeing through the eyes of a giant who is experiencing the stares upwards from the surrounding crowd, suddenly the world turned from black and white into colour. This timing caught me and the colour was like a flood of pathos and vulnerability at this exposure – I was watching the giant and I was the giant and I was me and in all these things I was alone. This gentle anguish.
I don’t know if it was all along or all of a sudden but I felt horribly aware of the silvered heads of the people sat around me, the almost entirely Caucasian audience – what the hell was I doing there? I felt excluded and I did not know if that was because I was excluding myself, not wanting to participate or because I was an imposter, am an imposter in a world, a scene, that is not my own. The potential duplicity of my position began to undo me in the most exhausted and exhausting way; I am black and I am English. I desperately don’t want to talk about this here. It begins to feel like using my racial heritage as something that grants me distance, allowing me to be in a position of judgment whilst at the same time using my nationality to allow me to discuss something without the supposed objectivity of the outsider. My position fractures further and, in watching, in considering, I feel myself falling apart. In discussing and writing I feel myself frustrated and in considering this I experience conflict. Do I want to allow myself to be seduced? In being seduced what am I neglecting?
I suppose this film was beautiful. The idea of beautiful rather than an experience of beauty, somehow distant, somehow mild. Another exhausted and exhausting consideration: is that okay? Is beauty enough? What is beauty? Why make art that aspires to that? Does this aspire to that?
I feel like maybe I am picking a fight. In the face of this film I want dirt beneath my fingernails and blood encrusted on my shirt. I want to wrestle. I want to protest. My favourite shot was part of a scene in a pub. The protagonist had gone to some pubs after doubtfully perusing a miniature copy of Alice in Wonderland in a bookshop, after having his shoes shined. He told us how even men of virtue easily give this over once inebriated, and we saw men merry, vivid and alive with drink. Two, shot together, each with their head locked against the body of the other, attacking and supporting simultaneously. Conflicted.
Jamila Johnson-Small

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