Posts Tagged 'film'

Now, lets talk about football

Martijn van Berkum, Rotterdam — To stand in the middle of the arena and let the cheers and buzz of the crowd run through you; to feel the grass, control your breathing, know where your teammates are, blindly, at any time; to experience the game as if it were in slow motion, seeing every action before it happens. That’s when you truly inhabit the game; that is Zinedine Zidane in his best days.

When I was contemplating on an article that would discuss all those great art works dealing with football as subject, the one underneath, ‘Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait’, stuck to me. It is a feature film by the artists Philip Parreno and Douglas Gordon. In 2005 they filmed football player Zinedine Zidane during the match Real Madrid – Villa Real with seventeen film camera’s, real-time, 90 minutes long.

It stands out from other ‘football art’ because, rather than turning the sport into a metaphor, it examines the essential quality of the game: a highly concentrated site where performance, narrative, sound and movement interplay with each other. The video, in relation to that, is a symphony and dramatization of these settings. It filters out all disturbing elements and focuses on Zidane moving, breathing, scanning the game and playing the ball.
In complete… control.

Fragment from ‘Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait’ by Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno

Those few occasions when I really excelled in my work, I remember having that feeling of complete control over all the circumstances. I’d reckon that in a football match, in order to succeed and win, you would need that feeling all the time. Therefore, a field, or a stadium, isn’t just the stage for a match as such, it also functions as a setting that meets all the conditions required for gaining that complete control and filters out everything that frustrates it. That’s the setting of Parreno and Gordon’s film about Zidane.

“I can hear someone shift around in their chair… I can hear someone coughing… I can hear someone whisper in the ear of the person next to them… I can imagine that I can hear the ticking of a watch”
– Zinedine Zidane

Examining these circumstances reminds me of some of the great works by the early conceptualists and performance artists in the sixties. They too focused on the characteristics of their environment: Bruce Naumann measured his studio, Douglas Huebler photographed the sky over different cities and Dan Graham described his audience in one of his performances. ‘Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait’ fascinates me because it captures all those conditions in one work and celebrates Zidane as one of the best football players ever, for being able to master and control all those circumstances and excel.

Yes, the Dutch do great at the current European Championship and I am absolutely thrilled! But this first tournament without Zidane… I guess I still have to get used to that…

Please find more fragments from ‘Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait’ here, here and his most gorgeous action of the match here.

Invisible cities

Describing Endora is like dancing without music
– Gilbert Grape

Martijn van Berkum, Rotterdam — Yesterday evening I dusted off the video case of What’s eating Gilbert Grape. In the opening sequence the protagonist, the young man Gilbert Grape, tries to describe the small town he is living in: ‘a place where nothing much ever happens’. Despite the absence of music, the quote above could have a very positive reading: Endora as fine place to dance, slowly and in silence.

Today I’m in the train to Venlo, a small town where my parents live. On the way I pass a little village, Deurne. The train stops at a non-existing station consisting of one concrete platform, a ticket machine and an abandoned gas station – the ‘S’ fell off the sign: ES O – and I realise that I may be in love with Endora.

Venlo, for sure, is one of the reason for that. Or rather, the surrounding villages, the town itself is just a little bit too big and actually does have music: the Splinter, my old hang-out where, during my teenage years, I would head bang my long hair on angry music of Nirvana, Pearl Jam and other grunge noise (barely ‘dancing’ now I come to think of it). No, in Venlo I miss one essential quality of the small town: the ability to look through the in between spaces of houses and see crop lands, fields or forest.

That is a particular quality you could find in Ganzedijk, a tiny small town in the north of the Netherlands which was saved last week from being wiped off the map, or, as politicians rhetorically labeled it, ‘returned to nature’. In an interview one of the 15o inhabitants describes how over time facilities gradually disappeared: the public phone booth, the mailbox and the rain shelter at the bus stop. Semi-public companies had slowly turned down the volume until the music had disappeared altogether. Ganzedijk had slipped into non-existence from the eyes of the ever-expanding urban centres.

The Swedish artist Jonas Dahlberg discussed this process of dissapearance in his project ‘Invisible cities’ which consists, among other works, out of a beautiful series of photographs of houses in which Dahlberg took out all windows and doors. His invisible cities are numb, deaf, anonymous and generic. They beautifully describe how such towns can become exchangeable.

Nevertheless, the works lack one quality which makes small towns such wonderful, peaceful places to be at: his invisible cities are lifeless, they lack dancing without music.

From Be Kind Rewind in Soho, to Sweding online.

A very nice thing about living temporary somewhere is that you have time. Time to stand in line for example, and enjoy it. As a Swede this is extra nice, since we don´t stand in lines very much in our country. We more often have the alternative of the cue number machines, which make it possible to neatly spread out so we don´t need to encounter each other.

Today I went to the opening of the show Be Kind Rewind by Michel Gondry at the Deitch Projects located in Soho, New York. About the same time the opening opened, I turned around the corner of Wooster Street, and walked down the block a little embarresed since I imagined I would be one of the first people to enter (and that is, as we all know, never pleasant). As I got closer I started to realize the scale of the surprize I was about to get. From the entrance down the whole block, all the way to – and round the corner on Canal street, there was a line of hundreds of people waiting to get in – to the same opening as me. It was like going to a concert! It took me almost a minute to get to the end of the “worm” of people, where I positioned myself and prepared for a long wait.

In the line everybody around me comments on “how crazy this is”, and happily continue to wait. A police car passes slowly and the driver turns the window down and ask us what is going on. When he finds out he laughs and turn on the lights at the roof top, as a little cheering performane. The atmosphere is very high with lots of conversations and laughs. A girl approaches a man beside me and asks:
– Is it only open tonight?
– No, it´s on untill march!
– Then why is everybody standing in the line?
– Well, it´s the opening night! She shakes her head and leave.

After almost an hour I am inside. Someone hands me a flyer with the headline: MAKE YOUR OWN MOVIE. The whole scenario in the gallery is like a film setting with different settings like a forest, a car with a moving landscape behind, a livingroom, a street, an escalator etc. They are all from the film Be Kind Rewind which will be out soon. The concept at Deitch is that one can request for a suitable time to come and use any of the settings, or all of them and shoot your own film. In the press release Gondry states, “I don’t intend nor have the pretension to teach how to make films. Quite the contrary. I intend to prove that people can enjoy their time without being part of the commercial system and serving it. Ultimately, I am hoping to create a network of creativity and communication that is guaranteed to be free and independent from any commercial institution.”
At the very crowded opening people are acting and playing around like crazy in the different settings with full outfit and in different role plays. It´s like a gigantic rehersal with included audience. I leave Deitch with a happy face.

Back at home I enter to watch trailers. I will not say too much about it cause I don´t want to spoil the pleasure of entering the site…I highly recommend a visit! Both online and in the gallery world of Be Kind Rewind. I look forward to the final ”level”, the film! And one thing is certain, I realize a Swede like myself has her lucky day today; Michel Gondry made it official – the verb Sweding – thanks Michel!

Director Ingmar Bergman and Sweden

Trial and Error, Stockholm – Ingmar Bergman died July 30, 2007, 89 years old (on the same day that director Michelangelo Antonioni passed away). I’d like to mention his influence on the image of Sweden, and the Swedish view on Bergman.

Bergman’s way of portraying his country in his films had a massive impact in the 1950s and 1960s. Around the world the people of Sweden was regarded as brooding, depressed and consumed by guilt. And Sweden itself was, according to the American Associated Press: ”the claustrophobic gloom of unending winter nights, its glowing summer evenings”.

Then, in the 1970s, Bergman involuntary changed the international view on Sweden again. It was in 1976 that the Swedish tax administration began a witch hunt on the director, who was brought from the theater by uniformed police. This was later recognized as the work of power hungry administrators and he was freed from all charges, but he was mentally broken. Around the world, the view of Sweden as a Soviet in miniature was cabled out.

This made not only Bergman aware that ”anyone in this country can be attacked and humiliated by a special kind of bureaucracy that is growing like a raving cancer”. At the same time, Swedish author Astrid Lindgren (writer of ”Pippi Longstocking”) was supposed to pay 102% in marginal taxes. Stories like these did not only change the view of Sweden, it also had its consequences within the country and the social democratic party lost the next election after 44 years in power.

Sweden doesn’t have that many inernational celebrities, but we are very focused on formulating our country, inwards and outwards. Ingmar Bergman is therefore important to us in more ways than first meet the eye. Our icons are getting too old (like the botanist Carl von Linné and the mysticist Emanuel Swedenborg) or to well used (like the pop group ABBA or tennisplayer Björn Borg). What we want is someone to represent Sweden NOW, and rather not just anyone internationally important (like Hans Blix), but someone who put our country on the map. Or, to be frank, someone who indulge us by devoting time on the Swedes.

Ingmar Bergman did this. He has (reluctantly) become a natioal monument in Sweden, and now that he is dead we want to honor him. But how, where and by whom? The competition is on, and many voices are heard within a few days after his death.
How many Ingmar Bergman streets can we have in Stockholm, for example? If there is more than one there might be some confusion, so one enthusiastic politician reasoned ”one can change the name a little, call it ”Director Bergmans street” or something like that.” A lot of new books are being written, TV is finally showing his films again, and a few days after his death we learned that we will get a new stamp with Bergmans face on it. Further more, we already have one important Bergman monument since the massive Ingmar Bergman Archive has been inscribed in the UNESCO ”Memory of the World Register”.

I personally like Bergman a lot, I think there is nothing more natural than some form of memorial. But lets not get to whimsical – lets focus on what counts. Danish director Lars von Trier (”Dogville”) put his finger on it the other day:
”Bergman is by many charactarised as a genius. But there is only one way to celebrate the genius and that is by making his films accessible. He might be concidered as kind of a national monument in Sweden, but it is the films that is the monument. It is a scandal that they are not available for everyone to see!”
Lets start there, I say.

Some recommended reading: Ingmar Bergmans two fundamental books, ”The Magic Lantern” and ”Images: My life in film”; The official Ingmar Bergman website; Interview with Lars von Trier (Swe); The Daily Astorian on Bergman; and a Playboy-interview with Bergman from 1964

Rotterdam / Zidane: A 21st century portrait / Film festival Rotterdam

Zidane: A 21st century portrait is in fact an Ennio Morricone western: camera at eye-level and long close-ups of the protagonist. Zidane moves slowly, his face never reveals any emotion, sweat pours down his head. He patiently scans the game with eagle-eyes until he suddenly and fiercely strikes: the classic shoot-out.

Zidane: A 21st century portrait is a feature film by the artists Philip Parreno and Douglas Gordon. In 2005 they filmed football player Zined ine Zidane during the match Real Madrid – Villa Real with seventeen film camera’s. In the movie we follow in real-time Zidane, Zidane, Zidane and more … Zidane, scarcely alternated with fragments from a live report on Spanish television.
Zidane’s face reminds me of the legendary late Lee van Cleef, ‘the bad’ in ‘The good the bad and the ugly’. Zidane is as great an actor: maximum expression and emotion by doing absolutely nothing; Parreno and Gordon have managed to create a true film character.
On another level the artists create a tension between Hollywood-like stardom and artistic reflection. By enacting the same scrutinizing of stars as Hollywood tabloids, and by making an ultra realistic study of Zidane purely as football player. Exactly that contrast reminds me of Andy Warhol works, such as the annoyingly popular Marilyn Monroe prints and tedious, unbearable films such as Sleep, a six-hour film of a sleeping man.

And not to forget, the film has a spectacular ending (I won’t spoil it), a cliffhanger, truly like in a 21st century western.

Ps. for football fans only: the film perfectly reveals (unintentionally I guess) the reason for Madrids sportive failing that season, since Zidane doesn’t pick up defensive duties for a second… but hey, doesn’t he looks great on camera?!

Recent articles

“Veiling the unveiled truth”: the conceptual art of Silvio Berlusconi
Published August 3, 2008 by Antonio Scarponi

We all know that the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is a man of talents. First of all he is a man of spectacle, a perfect actor from the old school. He is able to dance, sing and his practical jokes are famous world wide [...] We all know these skills, but recently in two occasion he demonstrated also to have great talent as conceptual artist.
Made in Sweden
Published July 9, 2008 by Trial and error

On a recent journey we visited two well-known Asian landmarks: The Chinese Dragon Gate and the Royal Thai Pavilion, both located in remote places in Sweden.
From motorcycles to 3,5 million pieces of art
Published July 3, 2008, 2008 by Marja Salaspuro and Sergio Davila

Can classical conservative museum structure keep its historically layered architecture, rooms, collections and objects – and still attract the interest of the modern visitors, mainstream tourists and experience seeking travelers? A philosophical reconsideration around the purpose of museums in our era and the architect’s role as a curator.

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