VOLKSBÜHNE
Berlin
Arab Fund for Arts & Culture und VariaVision präsentiert: Un-spoken
08.02

Film

With: Khaled Abdelwahed and Rasha Salti

Using excerpts from Khaled Abdelwahed’s film and video works, Jellyfish and Backyard, the conversation will meditate questions of image-making, authorship and subjectivity in times of violent armed conflict, and in the context of the radical transformations that digital media and internet platforms have brought forward, specifically with the Syrian war.

Khaled Abdulwahed was born in Homs (Syria) in 1975, he is a visual artist, photographer and filmmaker. He has directed several short films, including Bullet (2012), Tuj (2013) and Slot in Memory (2013) that were screened worldwide. As a filmmaker and artist, Abdelwahed has been interested in the practice and mindset of Syrian photographers and the changing role of photography and representation.

Un-Spoken is a series of conversations, presentations and performances with Arab artists and filmmakers, based in Germany and Europe, that proposes to explore practice, process, language based on the artist or filmmaker's on-going works-in-progress project. Inverting the conventional artist or filmmaker talk, the encounter offers a roundabout approach looking at un-making, un-veiling and un-speaking. It is co-presented by the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture- AFAC (in the framework of the Arab European Creative Platform) and Volksbühne (in the framework of VariaVision series), and co-curated by Rasha Salti and Giulio Bursi.


VariaVision
From its origins to the recent history, the art of film has inhabited the Volksbühne in various forms, always beyond the boundaries of the screen, beyond the stage, always “expanded”. VariaVision wants to explore these territories, creating innovative exchanges between Berlin-based and international film-communities.

Founded by the Volksbühne curator Giulio Bursi, VariaVision is a collaborative curatorial platform with the ambition to present innovative moving image works and performances realized by filmmakers and artists who aim to move beyond the frame of the canonical formats of filmmaking and film presentations.

Cast

Co-Curator: Rasha Salti, Giulio Bursi

Past Activities

23.05: An Image of Complicity. Films by Helena Wittmann and Luise Donschen

In collaboration with Acropolis Cinema

Program:
Luise Donschen, Unedited Excerpts from Casanovagen, HD, Colour, 12’, 2018
Helena Wittmann, Drift, 2K, Colour, 95’, 2017
Helena Wittmann and Luise Donschen in conversation with Jordan Cronk and Giulio Bursi

All films are in German and English with English Subtitles

> Interview with Luise Donschen about Casanovagen, mubi.com, 22.05.2018
> Interview with Helene Wittmann about Drift, mubi.com, 22.05.2018

Born just months apart and less than 600 kilometers from one another, Germany’s Helena Wittmann and Luise Donschen have recently emerged as two of the most exciting young filmmakers of their generation. Friends and frequent collaborators, Wittmann and Donschen are guided by a similar cinematic philosophy, one predicated on the image and its capacity for revealing experiential truths. Their debut features, Casanovagen and Drift – official selections of the Berlin and Ven ice film festivals, respectively – represent the fullest expression of their complementary yet distinct methodologies to date.

In this second of two evenings with the filmmakers, the program will be opened by an unedited scene from Donschen’s first feature Casanovagen and featuring John Malkovich, followed by Drift, the astonishing Wittmann’s debut of 2017 never presented in Berlin.

After the projection, a Q&A with Helena Wittmann, Luise Donschen, film critic Jordan Cronk and Volksbühne Film Curator Giulio Bursi.

Helena Wittmann, Drift, DCP 2K on HD, Colour, 95’, 2017 - Berlin premiere
“Written with Theresa George, fastens together an assemblage of moving still lives about the sea, moving pictures matched in mood and motivation by Nika Breithaupt’s transfixing sound design and music. These are still lives about two people called to travel across the ocean — to family, to uncertain futures, to, by detours, one another. These are still lives, too, about the sea and our senses of it: about the ocean’s coastal clamor, about the mythic murmur and rumble of the maritime, about the rise and fall of waves unfurling at frequencies long and short. In Drift, people, water, and waves all emerge as diffracting patterns.” (Stefan Helmreich)

Two women spend a weekend together at the North Sea. Walks on the beach, fish buns at a snack stand, mobile weather forecasts. Sky, horizon, water. One of them will soon return to her family in Argentina, whereas the other one will try to come a step closer to the ocean. She travels to the Caribbean and the unknown makes her vulnerable. Then, the land gets out of sight. On a sailing vessel she crosses the Atlantic Ocean. One wave follows the other, they never resemble. Thoughts go astray, time leaves the beaten track and the swell lulls to deep sleep. The sea takes over the narration. And when she reappears, the wind is still in her hair while the ground beneath her feet is solid. She returns and the other one could ask: „Have you changed?“

With Drift I have tried to translate our own motivations and experiences into a cinematic form. We actually have lived the stories we are telling. It was painful to watch Josefina pack her belongings while the camera was rolling. We were aware that she would leave soon after, while the sounds and images would remain. Today, the Atlantic Ocean lies between us. We lived this film with everything we have. It is about states of being, spaces, emotions and movements. But all of these are complex subjects in themselves. Trying to approach these subjects by choosing to face an abstract entity like the sea, seems actually pretty delirious. In the best sense of the word. For sure, the sublime of the ocean cannot be denied. Something will always stay beyond our means of understanding and grasping in whole. I think that is quiet reassuring.

Trailer Drift

Luise Donschen was born in Berlin in 1982. She studied Anthropology, German Philology and Film in Hamburg and Belgrade. She graduated in 2012 from the University of Fine Arts in Hamburg. Her graduation film GIVE ME BACK MY OWN PICTURE PERFECT MEMORY! was screened at film festivals internationally. CASANOVA GENE is her debut film.

Helena Wittmann was born on 5th of October in 1982 in Neuss, Germany. Originally studying Spanish and Media Studies in Erlangen and Hamburg, she went on to attend Te Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg (HFBK), where she graduated in 2014. Her works, including the short flms WILDNIS (2013) and 21,3°C (2014), were shown internationally in exhibitions and flm festivals. For her frst feature flm DRIFT, she collaborated closely with anthropologist Teresa George and musician Nika Breithaupt.

Jordan Cronk is a film critic and programmer based in Los Angeles. He founded Acropolis Cinema, a screening series for experimental, international, and undistributed films, in January 2016, and is co-director of the Locarno in Los Angeles film festival, now in its second edition. He’s a regular contributor to Cinema Scope, Film Comment, and Sight & Sound, and writes a monthly column on Los Angeles repertory cinema for the Hollywood Reporter. His writing has also been published by Frieze, BOMB, the Village Voice, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. In addition to his work with Acropolis and Locarno in Los Angeles, Jordan does freelance programming for the American Cinematheque in Hollywood. He served on the inaugural Signs of Life jury at the 70th Locarno Festival.

06.05: An Image of Complicity. Films by Luise Donschen and Helena Wittmann

In collaboration with Acropolis Cinema

Born just months apart and less than 600 kilometers from one another, Germany’s Luise Donschen and Helena Wittmann have recently emerged as two of the most exciting young filmmakers of their generation. Friends and frequent collaborators, Donschen and Wittmann are guided by a similar cinematic philosophy, one predicated on the image and its capacity for revealing experiential truths. Their debut features, Casanovagen and Drift–– official selections of the Berlin and Venice film festivals, respectively – represent the fullest expression of their complementary yet distinct methodologies to date.

In this first of two evenings with the filmmakers, the program will feature a new sound piece created by the artists especially for this event, followed first by Wittmann’s 2014 short 21,3° C, a clever and beautiful meditation (starring Donschen) on the moving image’s ability to capture and reformulate time, and continuing with Donschen’s feature-length hybrid Casanovagen, a playful investigation of desire (shot on seductively textured 16mm by Wittmann) that articulates the essential inscrutability of its subject through everyday absurdities related to sexuality, ornithology, religion, and the art of representation itself, embodied in an unknowing cameo by the actor John Malkovich. Formally daring and thought provoking, the films of Donschen and Wittman propose a new way of approaching and considering the image that’s as intuitive as it is deliberate.

Q&A with Luise Donschen, film critic Jordan Cronk and Volksbühne Film Curator Giulio Bursi to follow the screening.

Program:
Luise Donschen and Helena Wittman, OFF, sound performance
Helena Wittman, 21,3° C, 16mm, colour, 16’, 2014
Luise Donschen, Casanovagen, HD, colour, 67’, 2018

All films are in German and English with English subtitles

Luise Donschen and Helena Wittman, OFF, sound performance
The OFF is the space of the invisible. It is a promise. On its border with the concrete of the image, tension or great disappointment can arise. It can be understood as an invitation to the viewer. The picture foreshadows it and the sound is its ambassador.

Helena Wittman, 21,3° C, 16mm, colour, 16’, 2014
A window.
An opposite window facade.
A room. Flowers.
Luise and a phone call.
An action scene.
A construction site.
A musician.
The room temperature is 21,3°C.
The image of a room, its appearance changing with the shades of light. A window front, seen through the window. Changing flower arrangements on a side table. Sounds, entering the room from outside the frame. A construction site hints at changes in the exterior. Rehearsals. Are the sound waves of the piano reaching us from downstairs or from next door? In 21.3°C Helena Wittmann reduces the filmic elements to the essentials: light, shadow, sound, direction. Out of this minimum, stories emerge that linger, atmospheres that resonate. Little by little the viewer is thrown back upon herself/himself. Through the facing window front someone seems to look back at us. Only the temperature remains the same.

Luise Donschen, Casanovagen, HD, colour, 67’, 2018
A person enters the frame dressed up as a bird. In a dressing room, John Malkovich sheds the costume of Casanova. A young woman's skirt is just as orange as the beak of a zebra finch singing in a cage. White lilies stand at the foot of a statue of the Virgin Mary, red roses in front of the window of an SM studio. There the quiet game of submission in exchange for money, in a museum an embrace, a poem whispered in the ear. Children playing in a forest in autumn. A forest in summer, framed by light. An orgasm and a dance. CASANOVA GENE is a film about desire.

Luise Donschen was born in Berlin in 1982. She studied Anthropology, German Philology and Film in Hamburg and Belgrade. She graduated in 2012 from the University of Fine Arts in Hamburg. Her graduation film GIVE ME BACK MY OWN PICTURE PERFECT MEMORY! was screened at film festivals internationally. CASANOVA GENE is her debut film.

Helena Wittmann was born on 5th of October in 1982 in Neuss, Germany. Originally studying Spanish and Media Studies in Erlangen and Hamburg, she went on to attend Te Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg (HFBK), where she graduated in 2014. Her works, including the short flms WILDNIS (2013) and 21,3°C (2014), were shown internationally in exhibitions and flm festivals. For her frst feature flm DRIFT, she collaborated closely with anthropologist Teresa George and musician Nika Breithaupt.

Jordan Cronk is a film critic and programmer based in Los Angeles. He founded Acropolis Cinema, a screening series for experimental, international, and undistributed films, in January 2016, and is co-director of the Locarno in Los Angeles film festival, now in its second edition. He’s a regular contributor to Cinema Scope, Film Comment, and Sight & Sound, and writes a monthly column on Los Angeles repertory cinema for the Hollywood Reporter. His writing has also been published by Frieze, BOMB, the Village Voice, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. In addition to his work with Acropolis and Locarno in Los Angeles, Jordan does freelance programming for the American Cinematheque in Hollywood. He served on the inaugural Signs of Life jury at the 70th Locarno Festival.

12.04: Arab Fund for Arts & Culture and VariaVision: Un-Spoken. Avo Kaprealian: The Last Announcement

Expanded theatre play

With: Dana Mikhail

Presented by the Syrian-Armenian director Avo Kaprealian and starring the Lebanese-German actress Dana Mikhail, The Last Announcement is a theatrical work in progress, based on Kaprealian’s philosophy of fragments. Conceived to be performed in a multi-media setting that mixes the artist’s video work with archival material from the wars in the middle-east, the piece evokes images of dark times, echoes of voices from the past like Martin Heidegger, Comte de Lautréamont and Charles Manson.

“So many stories and so many bad memories serve the past, and too many others drown in silence. When there is no hope to live and no need to die, the long journey starts. The question of change remains helpless and seems too pale, and the bell of catastrophe keeps ringing. The human nature keeps turning, and the smells of death spread everywhere in the shape of killing and consuming.” Avo Kaprealian

Avo Kaprealian was born in Aleppo in 1985. Educated in Theatrical studies and Dramaturgy in Institute of Dramatic Arts in Damascus, he directed of several theatrical plays in both Armenian and Arabic languages in Aleppo, Damascus and Beirut. He has worked as trainer and activist in the field of “interactive theatre” and “theatre of the oppressed” in Syria and Lebanon since 2009. His feature film Houses without Doors, premiered at Berlinale Forum in 2016, has been awarded best international documentary film at the 34th edition of Torino film festival in 2016.

Un-Spoken is a series of conversations, presentations and performances with Arab artists and filmmakers, based in Germany and Europe, that proposes to explore practice, process, language based on the artist or filmmaker's on-going projects. Inverting the conventional artist or filmmaker talk, the encounter offers a roundabout approach looking at un-making, un-veiling and un-speaking. It is co-presented by the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture- AFAC (in the framework of the Arab European Creative Platform) and Volksbühne (in the framework of VariaVision series), and co-curated by Rasha Salti and Giulio Bursi.

Photo: Ali Zreik

12.11: Country Grammar + Electro-Pythagorus

Luke Fowler, Country Grammar (with Sue Tompkins), UK, 2017, 16mm transferred to digital, 18’ (German Premiere)
Sue Tompkins, Country Grammar (2003-2017), live performance in conjunction with the film screening

Based on Sue Tompkins’s first and never repeated solo performance ‘Country Grammar’ (2003), this special collaboration between the two Glasgow based artists has produced a new film shot by Luke Fowler. The film is comprised of fleeting and spontaneous material shot in summer 2017 - at a recording studio, in public gardens, at home and around the streets where the artists' live. It introduces a new project by the British performer, which invites filmmakers and artists to respond with their own visual material to her historical performance pieces. The sound and image are combined through the editing, bringing new associations and meanings to the original performance text. Especially for VariaVision, Sue Tompkins will perform ‘Country Grammar’ live in front of the screening of the film.

Luke Fowler, Electro-Pythagorus: A Portrait of Martin Bartlett, UK/Can, 2017, 16mm transferred to HD, 45’

With his last film, Luke Fowler pays tribute to the work and musical ideas of Martin Bartlett, an experimental Canadian composer influenced by David Tudor and John Cage who during the 1970s and 1980s pioneered the use of the ‘microcomputer’. The life and work of the highly influential, yet little known, composer “is resurrected in this lovingly constructed biographical essay. Archival footage finds Bartlett at home, at work, and onstage, while voiceover readings of the proudly out artist’s reflections on his place in the era’s gay community convey a sense of intimate, holistic personal history.” (NY Film Festival). Bartlett, who died in 1993 of AIDS-related causes, made an important and original contribution to the development of live electronic music. Working both with theatrical and mixed media environments, he devised elegant and open interactions for instrumental performers and computer-controlled synthesizers.

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