On April 9th 2009, maverick video-maker and self-professed ‘outsider’ Arkhip Ippolitov failed in his bid to commit suicide. The investigation that followed revealed a man on the fringes of sanity who had all but erased his identity in favour of living out his life as a fictional character; a character doomed from the outset. Most curious however is that the process of his breakdown was documented and released in the form of the award-winning motion picture ‘Goliadkin’.
This documentary, produced in association with The Institute of Film and Video Studies, Copenhagen, attempts to discern fact from myth and make sensible the question: ‘Who is Arkhip Ippolitov?’
“It is ironic that he [Ippolitov] chose to appropriate the character of Dostoevsky’s Goliadkin as his own, for this is a character driven to desperation by the strange and sudden appearance of his Doppelganger. It is doubly curious when we consider the circumstances of his suicide, his towering resentment toward the success of his movie and the tragic codicil he sought to execute against himself. But what is by far most uncanny is that this movie is a record of his self-destruction and that we, the audience, are capable of taking pleasure in the spectacle.”
“Whatever is perfect suffers no witnesses...”
Copenhagen, St George’s Day 2008. The Institute of Film and Video Studies produced a documentary about a mysterious case of arson somehow connected to the coincidental encounter of three individuals at the famous landmark of Longbridge. The documentary presents original footage from the only surviving piece of evidence-a video tape recorded by the arsonist who was compiling a video archive spanning years of private surveillance of the citizens of Copenhagen.
“We were brought in to interpret the video created by Madam Sørensen because she was apparently resisting efforts by the police to extract a motive for her crime. Having studied the tapes of her deposition she explained at length how she started the fire, but at no point did she say why she did it. She was also very frank in explaining her activities with the video camera; how she forged identity papers, signatures, and letters; how she used disguises to follow people about - even seducing a number of people to secure footage, but when asked ‘why’ she did it, again there was no answer. I can’t help thinking that this absence of motive was in some way of greater significance to her than it was to the police.”*
Royal Male or Coppola’s Spyglass’ is an experimental narrative about a woman in search of her image, her body and her expression. As she encounters the male in the language that pins down her gender, her image begins to decay into archaic stereotypes of the feminine that are rooted in fear and horror, and the language she is subjected to becomes one of violence. In an attempt to experiment with the possibility of a feminine language the video emphasises the value of the interruption; in sex, in language and in image, and introduces ETA Hoffmann’s character of the Sandman as the deliverer of dreams to the sleeping, and of nightmares to the awakened.
J-P Sartre once stated that the only free man is the man in chains. Stemming from an attempt to develop this idea, the film ‘Delivery’ wrests its suspense structure from two cases of men seeking meaningful performances within confined parameters; the now infamous chess game between Garry Kasparov and IBM computer ‘Deep Blue’, and the case of Anthony Blunt; art historian and KGB double-agent. Central to this attempt is the production of a synthetic universe in which contrived scenarios, filmic devices, edits and sound loops constantly refer back to the process of ‘reality production’ and the parameters by which individuals engage in producing images. ‘Delivery’ consists in a deconstructed journey of the image of free choice and the absurd quest for a meaningful existential performance both in front of the camera and behind it.
Starting with ‘Delivery’, ‘Blackmail’ is the second part of a collaborative project which documents an ongoing quest for attaining personal/existential freedom by exploring the idea of ‘inexchangeable inwardness’ through the example of the architectural uncanny and how the concept of action within the constructed reality of the video can be manifested. In this pursuit for subjectivity in existence, the concept of ‘outside and inside’ is explored suggesting that inner reality can only be perceived by the subject and inferred by those perceiving it as only a possibility.
The persona of the ‘blackmailer’ was conceived to articulate the inner critique that restricts the process of attaining creative and existential freedom. Through a variety of visual symbols and metaphors, references, suspense genre devices and philosophical suggestions, the central character of the film is pressed into a journey in order to recover the meaning of these occurrences only to discover the infinite fluctuations and dimensional reversals of an all-too tenuous reality. Therefore her aspiration for a freedom from such inner trappings leads to ever greater restrictions, implying the impossibility for resolution within the vicious circle of their recurring manifestations.
'Blue is the Band’ is a short film that depends upon the chance encounter for its flavour, each scene documenting a single journey around the capital which captures a sort of ‘expected unexpectedness’ about human experience, hinting at the disingenuousness at the core of being. The film initially sets out to purposefully record what can neither be planned nor expected, but it is from the complications and contradictions inherent in this ‘expected unexpectedness’ that the film derives its dialogue, (which tips its hat ironically to Sartre’s ‘La Nausee’;) the protagonist describes how this malaise has begun, the way in which it has ‘come to be’, and also where he and ‘it’ are going. The destination proves ultimately beyond individuality, a place that cannot be ‘chanced upon’ and which cannot be envisioned itself until individuality has been achieved and overstepped. The Nausea of existence is heightened by the snare of his ‘expected unexpectedness’, about the impossibility of an authentic life for himself, and he seeks an exit through the Nausea.
This film presents a conjunction between two different records inspired by the prospect of a short stay in Rome. The first record was borne out of the question ‘How does one take an original photograph in this most photographed of cities?’ and the second comes from a letter written by a philosopher to his own future self which is to be read in ‘The Eternal City’. By combining these two separate enquiries we see a parallel emerge between the concepts of historical time and psychological time; an individual man’s future is defined amidst the ruins of Man’s past whilst, simultaneously, an individual man’s past leaps forward to seize upon and ruin the prospects of Man’s future. Therein we see footage of tourists taking their customary ‘I was there!’ photographs, unaware that the record of their ‘being-there’ has become ensnared in this complex ontological dispute concerning whether a man can ‘be-there’ in his own present, or whether he is forever pulled toward the ruins of regret or the ideals of anticipation. And due to this complication, we must also identify the ‘unheimlich’ within these images of Rome; for not only do they portray the ruins of past civilisation, but the future ruination of all civilisations.
Symposium is a documentary charting the disappearance of the videomakers Marianna Magurudumova and Danila Antonov in January 2009. Comprised of interviews with a friend, a critic and a nameless actor, the documentary seeks to recover a motive for the disappearance by analysing their final two videos 'Delivery' and 'Blackmail'
The original concept of the short film ‘A/B’ comes from the 1954 book ‘The Counterfeit of the Uncanny’ by Buccafusca Stornelli, a chapter of which is dedicated to ‘The Tale of Two Poussins’, in which is described the convoluted history of a painting by the French history painter Nicolas Poussin. In that the question of the identity of an original work of art is the point of interest in this case, and also that this event occurs simultaneously with the rise to dominance of French Rationalist philosophy in the 17th Century, (with its emphasis upon the distinctness of self-identity and the essence of knowledge,) we discover that the contradictions in Enlightenment thought, later vociferously put to task by thinkers such as Kierkegaard and Nietzsche at the dissolution of that movement, were in fact present at its outset. By dissecting the painting in question into uniform sections according to a simple mathematical pattern and then by setting the images against the [abridged] text by Stornelli, we have attempted to conceptualise the idea that one can never entirely see ‘the whole picture’; a problem purportedly resolved by Enlightenment thinkers with the development of logic. Thus can be encapsulated the notion that the development of any system of thought automatically necessitates the contradiction of that system.
'Electrolyse' is the first part of a diary of dreams recorded on video so as to attempt to access the deeper symbolic meaning of unconscious imagery; re-enacting and restaging them in a conscious state with the help of everyday objects, surroundings and people. In an attempt to imbue the everyday and the now with a level of understanding that balances the two parts of the human psyche, the unconscious and the conscious intellect, Electrolyse explores the images of this particular psychic structure and develops the imagery according to the initial form.
Capturing the atmosphere of one evening, Ehamine explores the themes that run alongside and within a human life. Every participant in the video is exploring creativity through a chosen art form or vocation, therefore one evening’s creative output accounts for the normally ‘lost’ hours, illuminating the moment and bringing it back on itself in a video recorded way, creating an artistic filter where the viewer participates in that moment in time.