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Visual treat on video

Susanne Jaschko, who was involved in the Transmediale International Festival, Berlin, was in Chennai, recently. She presented the videos, which had been selected for the festival and spoke about the special features of Media Art.

SUSANNE JASCHKO, one of the key persons from the Transmediale Festival, Berlin was in Chennai, recently. She presented the videos, which had been selected for the Transmediale Festival in 2002 and 2003 and spoke about the special features of what is known as Media Art. The function was held under the auspices of the Max Mueller Bhavan, Chennai.

Transmediale is an international festival for electronic media art and culture.

Started in 1988, the festival has been an annual meeting point for young and creative video filmmakers as well as audiences with an interest in art and culture. This year's theme was "Play global" and showcased the latest works and trends from the video-Internet and interactive art. It also opened up forums of discussion on the theme "Artistic Strategies for Global Game".

Some of the outstanding videos from the festival competition were shown. It was clear from the word go that they were the experimental works of innovative and daring filmmakers. Ms. Jaschko emphasised later, during the discussions, that these efforts were not funded by any institution but by the filmmakers themselves.

She also pointed out that the videos were not meant to be exhibited in the regular entertainment circuit. They were shown to special audiences and selected for exhibitions such as the Transmediale. The filmmakers would never recover the funds expended for the production of the videos.

The filmmakers do not have to cater for any specific audience interest; on the other hand, the audience is called upon to look at the videos and visual experiences, and take an interest in the experimental aspect rather than the narrative or the visual aspect. It is the novel form in which film is used that is arresting as well as the new ways of working with images, colour and technique. The images are often surreal. The videos are not from film genres; nor do they try to reinvent film or quote from film tradition. They do not aim at a linear narrative or other cinematically appealing elements. When asked why the videos are called contemporary, Ms. Jaschko answered that the content referred to today's society, and was a critical reflection of society. At the same time it was close to technology.

Most of the videos shown were not based on regular written scripts. Accidents are welcomed as important tools for production as chance locations and stray objects found in these locations. Matt Hulse, a filmmaker from the U.K., described the process succinctly, "Why impose the tired old three-act narrative structure on yourself? Fill a car with cameras, friends, good music and just start driving. You have to let the film in, give it space and time. Let it sing."

There are three interesting films on the subject of skating, by Laurent Vincente of France. They do not show a skateboard but only the movements of skating through action as well as sounds made by a skateboard. These could be considered as attempts to demonstrate the power of sub-cultural processes, which penetrate culture. By decontextualistion of skateboarding, a penetration of culture through a subculture is shown.

In "4 Vertigo" by Les LeVelque of the U.S., Alfred Hitchcock's 128-minute film has been condensed into nine minutes. The process of the film has been described thus. "The condensed film was then duplicated four times, shifting the horizontal or vertical orientation of the frame with each duplication. The four films were then reassembled frame by frame, generating a stuttering kaleidoscopic montage." The final effect is not all pleasing or comforting to the eye; on the contrary it taxes the eye with the overlapping and constantly stuttering images.

Another very interesting film was "Sound effects of death and disaster" by Robert Hardy and John Rowley of the U.K. There is a dancer who is performing various movements, but the sounds that accompany his dance are a series of violence related sound effects. It could be called a death dance and the effect is created by movements accompanied by sounds of disaster and death.

These films reveal that Media Art is an entirely different genre from feature films or documentary films. They are closer to videos, TV musicals and Internet. They require a different kind of understanding and appreciation too.


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