Heimischer Zirkus Kino
written by Joseph Feltus, poroposing HZ-Kino to Tobias, Caroline, and Elizabeth
August 17, 2008
If I were to describe the Heimischer Zirkus photographs, I would explain them as a series of captured images of a group of rather unusual characters. Usually photographed individually, these subjects embody a somewhat stereotyped character, from a certain environment and time, but who nonetheless reveal fragments of their own, underlying, personal identity.
What is interesting is the contrast between these figures' outer image, and their own personal identity, which belongs only to themselves, as opposed to the exterior image that is tailored for a public spectacle.
I wanted to create a short film that could be presented alongside the photographs in the gallery space. To a dealer I would refer to this as "video art". But none of us like this term, and we probably all agree that Film, Cinema, is one of the strongest forms of art. It makes use of many art forms and moulds them into one.
I think there is no need to investigate our thoughts on why we choose to photograph ourselves and each other, rather than use models. People will ask this question, and the answer is usually something attempting to clearly state that, yes, we are the most readily available. But I think the greater reason is also quite simple, and it is that Art is Autobiographical. I believe that every painter, or at least every good painter, whatever the subject of the painting, figurative or abstract, is always painting himself.
In Heimischer Zirkus we embodied various characters. And sometimes tried to reach for characters quite distant from ourselves. Tobias' Dwarf Girl, for example. It has been interesting to be quite shameless, and disguise oneself in what could seem quite ridiculous, but then find the real within it, which comes from that fragment of individuality in the character, which is undeniably real.
In a very extended manner I am trying to present the idea of creating a short film that portrays these figures as true characters, the way they are in the photographs. And the artist, FeltusFeltusKrauseBliemel, shrunken into the voice of one artist, one man.
A mixture, therefore, between a "behind the scenes" and the actual "eye of the artist", the film will be shot through the viewfinder of an old medium format camera, including its grid, its dust and scratches, and the grainy texture of the glass. The viewer will see only the subject the camera is pointing at: the bulls-eye painted on the wall, and the figure placed before it; And the camera will be fixed to the tripod in the same point, shifting only in focus. Perhaps sometimes it will capture just the wall during a change of figure.
The lighting will be minimal. Enough to detect the bulls-eye, and carefully playing with the shadows in the figure's face and clothing. The photographer, hence, will be working in rather dark conditions, using a flash bulb which will fire off at intervals throughout the film.
The intention of the film is to try to carry the photographs a touch further. A supporting act, and the tricky thing is to keep it from interfering with the still images. It will be us witnessing the artist actually working with these strange subjects, and, where the photographs are frozen instances of those characters, the film will show their behavior a few moments before the flash and shutter of the camera, and a few moments after. Simply that.
The Strong Man helplessly and incessantly weeping, or rather, sobbing. The Target Woman standing with the apple at her chest, quietly and perfectly still, and at the photographer's FLASH, jumping with a fright. The Knife Thrower, posing in a strong stance, and after the FLASH, waiting a moment, seeing that there might be a long enough pause between takes to quickly pull the love letter from his breast and find the point in reading where he had been forced to interrupt. The Contortionist, positioned in some uncomfortable looking pose (framed to look so), quietly singing to herself, in her own inward world. She will then automatically cease and go quiet, another FLASH, and then, after a couple of moments, return to her inwardly and melancholic singing... The Strong Woman, sitting uneasily and unwilling, as the Artist's assistants try to convince her to wear a dress, or something more feminine. The Magician, sitting, devoured within by a feeling of deep shame, as the assistants finish propping up his "magic" rope to the ceiling.... Monkey Boy quiet, and then suddenly his attention grabbed by the voice of a young woman saying something to the Professor (the Artist).. His gaze lost in her, completely in love.... The Dwarf Girl needn't do much but just pose... She will slowly find the confidence to place the shoe on her head and stand in a proud profile.
The Artist, or Professor, will only be present with his voice. He will be the manifestation of FeltusFeltus into one, old and tired man. His speech will go from monotonous technical issues, exposure, etc, to frustrations, somewhat the way Giacometti had in his trying to paint a head, and on to little outbursts of wisdom, followed by others of utter nonsense.
His voice will be soothing, with a strong accent.
His speech will sometimes be directly related to what we are seeing, and other times as if he is actually talking to someone in the room other than the subject, the documentary maker for example. And in these moments when he is addressing the visitor, the subjects in the viewfinder find space to be in their own world.
There was an amazing black and white documentary, shot probably in the 50s, if not the 30s, that Tobias and I saw at the opening of the Krakow Film Festival. It was an extraordinary film, following circus performers from the inside of their moving caravans, to the moments of putting makeup on and just before entering into the ring in the middle of the tent. I think I'm looking for that kind of feel, which is not at all distant from Fellini's La Strada.
If the four of us could come up with the elements of the character of each subject, what they will be doing (I have just put down my fist ideas, but I think it should be everyone's. The only one I feel strongly about are the singing contortionist, and perhaps the magician's shame). And if we could also enjoy coming up with the character of the Professor, and his moments of wisdom and of folly....
I imagine the sound being very calm and comforting. The man's voice would be possibly supported by a very faint musical composition, perhaps on the cello. Something soothing, as we all know one of the most important things about a film to be played on a loop in a gallery space is to keep it as unintrusive and pleasantly moving as possible.
The only foreign sound I imagine apart from the voice and possible subtle effects whilst the assistants (who will only be partially seen) set up the "magic" rope, etc., would be the POOF of the flash and the clunk of the shutter. And, as I said, possible music.
© Joseph Feltus, 2008
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