Irreversible process

with Sami van Ingen

The experimental film by Sami van Ingen “Just One Kiss – The Fall of Ned Kelly” had its another world wide screening on the first Tbilisi Triennial accompanied by the live music from Dima Dadiani. The work follows the set tradition of the famous first Australian feature length narrative film “The Story of the Kelly Gang”, by John and Nevin Taits, which tells the story of the last Australian bushranger with the classical dramatic narrative adapted from the theatre where the Taits previously worked. Brothers were adding the footage after every show, filming the whole new scenes and linking them to the screening print for provoking the audience watching not just one time. Despite the great financial success after the certain time film disappeared and was considered to be lost until 1981, when several shots were found in Melbourne. In 2009 on the basis of a survived synopsis text, Sami Van Ingen, started attempt “to invoke our interpretive faculties to construct this ‘meta’ story out of unrelated found footage images”.

CaucasusArtMag:  How would you describe your art practice?

Sami van Ingen: It’s a big question. Mostly, I work on experimental film, but I also do other things. I work much on low-fi i.e. I carry out the whole process myself; I’m a one man band and I intentionally do everything as cheap as possible; it’s the way which demands lots of handy craft and deep knowledge of the technology. If to compare to the digital media the analog film is differently related to handy craft. I mean you have to know how to make optical printing and develop hands. It needs touch, tactility and it seduces me very much, because I like the way of working which requires much effort. It’s a bit like sculpture compared to the pure graphic. It’s an irreversible process. You can’t press delete and return back. You have what you did and you should compromise all the time.

CAMBecause of the mistakes…

S. I.: Yes and the mistakes will show the way. They are inevitable. And also, because it’s mechanical, there are quite a lot chance elements, chemical and optical elements but not digital. So every time you do something worthy it gives the possibility of wider interpretation.  I have the equipment from 1920’s its really old, museum apparatus. But it still works perfectly. Theoretically the film is quite old medium in this way. You are somehow touching history and you have the great relation to the history of the medium, in the medium. I enjoy working with the film history and the history of mechanical things. That’s what appeals me, but I also do the hi-tech work…

CAM: Do you work on archives as well?

S. I.: More on found footage. As I’ve already mentioned there is a big difference between the archive and the footage. For me it’s also very crucial to make difference between archival and found footage. As the found footage starts to come across coincidently and the chance element of your finding is a huge part of the appeal. You have to contextualize it in a different way comparing to the case of working on archive when you know the context beforehand and go to find something intended.  Of course, some archive materials can also be found unintended but the usual way of archive functioning is to ask the assistant what you need and s/he will find it for you. I’m fond of other way of working. The interesting thing in the media for me is to use the chance and coincidence of found footage, to re-contextualize the finding in a new context of contemporary art or just in the time we come from. This tactility of the medium and how it relates to the history – all these seems very appealing, motivating and challenging because they become too difficult in many ways.

CAM: Can you remember how many times and at what places your film – “Just one kiss”, presented on triennial – has been screened?  As it was told on the presentation you always use various kind of music In addition to this theme and it’s always different. Do you discuss it as the type of perceptual anthropology in the sense of historical or culturological dialogue? What was done in 1906, I mean the root of “Just one kiss” – The story of the Kelly Gang, and the contemporary perceptual ways of other musicians, or authors who are working with you in a certain moment from different countries. Because they make it in absolutely different ways, I guess.

S. I.: Yes, well… There were eleven screenings I think. I showed it in Canada, Netherlands, England, Sweden, Finland, Wales and etc… When I’m collaborating with the musicians, it can be said they are collaborating with the film project and not really working with me. They have the collaboration with the concept… I never choose them. I can read myself out of it. I just provide them with the basic formula and then they realize it in the very different ways. Some people compose music, some use other ways of doing it. And it overwhelms all kind of local music. And the local audience relates to the local music differently. It may be folk music or some singing voices, it may be anything. I’m leaving the door and behavior open. And even in the case of failure it comes out ok, because the concept itself works perfectly and I like it… You hear the original archive text of the film when watching it, only textual material of the film is from that 1906 done version. I use that text and put these pictures from the found footage between; it also plays on perception how you read the text and how you read the cinema. And my intention is to have that music as a bridge for the locality.

CAM: What about your attitudes towards the work?

S. I.: In a way use to be quite cruel, but I keep the system because it makes things interesting, especially if the audience somehow relates to it. That’s why I’m talking about archeological project where we are dealing with the different versions of the flash. It looks strange but nobody knows how it looked before, so any way it doesn’t matter. It feels true. It’s the same true as any other ways of researching this monster, the cinema which is original bones they all filmed and then flash all cinema, all the meta-story really. And that’s my whole idea. Even the name of the film “Just one kiss” – the follow of Ned Kelly tells the whole story of the original film. The policeman kissed Kelly’s sister and after they killed Kelly. It’s an original story about Kelly Gang. And actually the original name of my work is the meta-story of the cinema, of all narratives in the cinema.

CAM: Have you collected the collaboration music and sound yourself? And have you ever thought to suggest different people (may be even from the same countries) to collaborate in the context of Kelly Gang but to provide them with the perceptual sound derived from the influence of particular musician or asked to create a new film like the new image?

S. I.: The question you’ve put is very possible. You are the first person asking that and that could be one, when this version, the first stage of the construction will become impossible. I have all sounds and music; after every screening I add more footage that makes the film longer than the previous version. At one point it will become too long and difficult to watch. That’s how it’s slowly getting more and more confusing and more difficult and…

CAM: Won’t you reach 24 hours?

S. I.: I’m not at that, but when it becomes incomprehensible than it dies. This part of construction is dead.  Your question can be interesting as a next step… But I have to leave open this door, because I wonder to get this part done first… This can be very interesting project. I have spent three years on working on it, Very, very complicating.

CAMYou’ve just got a film material…

S. I.:  Yes, it’s a real found footage. Somebody (Wato Tsereteli) just dropped a kind of film on the table, Georgian film about tea that may be I’ll use for my next project. This is a real found footage, not a selection, this is a chance, coincidence and what’s better.