29 de diciembre de 2017

Listening to the Space #02: Deborah S. Phillips

Slide collage (2017)

Listening to the Space is the title of a new series of collaborations with different filmmakers, concerning the ideas and practices around the sound of theirs films. The header of this section makes reference to a film by Robert Beavers named Listening to the Space in My Room (2003) where the sound recording is entirely relevant. The second post is written by Deborah S. Phillips.

The German artist and filmmaker Deborah S. Phillips has been working on celluloid since the early nineties. Her work includes a diversity of visual disciplines and media including collage, film slides, 35 and 16 mm film, drawing, handmade books, etc. She was a member of the artists collective Laboratorium between 1988 and 2001. In 2007 she co-founded the gallery Kunstverein Neukölln in Berlin, an art space where there have been, inoccasionaly film screenings and film performances for international artists. Her films are created mainly on 16 mm but in 2001 she finished a major work named Mosaïc filmed on  35 mm which has been screened widely. Among her greatest interests are the performances dealing with film and slide projectors as aesthetic tools. "I looked for films in which colors, textures, light ant time were more important than people and stories" has said this artist whose films have been presented on festivals like the Toronto International Film Festival and the Fajr International Festival in Teheran as well as film centers like the Anthology Film Archives in New York.

Some of her films can be rented through different distribution centers as Arsenal and Lightcone, based on Berlin and Paris respectively. To follow her slides and visual creations visit her website. There are preview digital files online to watch and hear the collage sounds of the films 71 (2005) and Capsicum (2008).

Untitled Colourmation (1992)

Deborah S. Phillips:

My approach to sound and film.

As a visual artist, a reason to work with film, besides the joy of the luminosity inherent in the material, is also to work with others (musicians, composers).

Film is only one of the media I work with, but it is one of the best ways to work with other people. Have been lucky to deal people who also make sounds, who relish reacting to pictures and improvising: this was the case in my first film, Untitled Colourmation (1992). I was part of a collective and a new guy moved in, the painter and musician Wolfgang in der Wiesche. When he saw the painted animation I'd made for my first film (after helping other members of the group on their 16 mm films for a couple of years), his enthusiasm for the images resulted in asking him to improvise music that would fit and we ended up collaborating on a number of films. I had imagined piano sounds going up and down like the images and he was able to make that happen.

When I work with people who make sounds, they are usually those who make visual works too. Suppose that's because I have specific ideas and make sounds and gestures to express what I mean and those people can develop on that.

Santoor (1997-98)

Having organised a program of Indian films for a film festival, I had the honor of working with a santoor player who accompanied a 1920s German-Indian silent co-production, Nandkishor Muley. We stayed in touch and he often asked if I would make a film about him. After a few years of deliberating whether I could, Santoor (1997-98) resulted, which became a musical collaboration between my two musical friends, Wolfgang and Nandu. The latter was also trained as a dancer and gestures as sounds make sense to him. Some of the santoor sounds were already recorded and Wolfgang re-worked/sampled some of them, while he also came up with passages between the chapters of the film.

A few years later, when I was working on Mosaïc (2001) and talking with Wolfgang about what work well with the images, he had the idea to work with a singer he'd heard but never met, Saadet Türköz. I selected sequences of almost finished film for her to view before retreating to record with Wolfgang, who then sampled other sounds and combined them with her singing to an effect that is thrilling each time I hear it.

Mosaïc (2001)

Sometimes, I make projects in which an idea is crucial not just the sum of pictures and I want that idea to reach audiences (this is not always the case for me) . To do this, sound/words to provide a context to or juxtapose with the image. The best example of this is how Geographie (2000) came about. After listening to Americans express their distaste for the German language, I decided to make a sound collage of three voices dealing with notions of Jewish identity: in German (me) Turkish and Russian (spoken by two friends), three languages with long and complicated histories. I then thought about different sorts of maps as a suitable kind of images for the sound. After speaking with a colleague about how he attained interesting textures through the use of mouldy quark (a soft German cheese, like fromage blanc) I put strips of leader in and let it eat away at the emulsion for just over a month (until it really really stunk) and then, multiple exposed maps copied on to transparencies together with these textures, creating both acoustical and visual imaginary geographies.

For my two films about colour research (into red and then green), Capsicum (2008) and then later Im Grünen Bereich (2015-17), sayings and associations with each colour were important on an idea-level. After having realized an installation with Ruth Wiesenfeld, who had been a neighbour for a while, who had made several musical compositions focussing on colours, it seemed logical to discuss the project with her. In the end, she realized musique concréte and word collages for each film, while Wolfgang came up with what can be perceived as being closer to music. Through sketches and discussions featuring a lot of gesturing, sound resulted that accompanies the images without being too close to what you see.

In Grünen Bereich (2015-17)

As someone who has, on and off over the years, realized performative works and then organizing live accompaniment of silent films, it was a long term idea to make a film that would have live, performative sound. So when I had printed using lead type on 35 mm leader, A Printed Film (1994), it seemed logical to perform live sounds for it myself.

Years later, following a discussion at a film festival about how people everywhere enjoying clinking glasses that led me to make Chin-Chin (2013-14), it was clear that that should also be the sound. At first, I was unsure about whether that should be recorded and used as a soundtrack or live: since I started having it as a performative piece involving the audience and breaking the ice, I see the potential for more works using live sound and involving those in the space, as I often do in performances, making them more film happenings in a way.

I print films, use the material for slide collages together with dried ink and paint and I am now thinking about how I could copy textures like that on to an optical soundtrack... The possibilities of combining materials with analogue media including film are very diverse and I hope to explore more of them in the future.

Capsicum (2008)

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