directors lounge monthly screening series at z-bar
times, songs and material
16mm films and video
Thursday, 24 March 2011
"Never very good technical quality", "no sharp image", "no tripod", "everything kind of shaky", "mainly things that are not interesting", "no story", "no one idea" — when reading these quotes from Seppo Renvall on his own films, one could think he is practising some kind of anti-aesthetic, and on a superficial glimpse on his work, currently on show in an exhibition at Suomesta Galeria in Berlin, some people could even find proof to this idea. However, on closer look, his work does not fit any anti-aesthetic position, as Seppo Renvall does not want to cause offence or a scandal. Rather, his "negativity" is set against the grand gestures that predominate media, and the superlatives "most", "best" and "highest" required by the art scene. Theodor Adorno uses the term "negativity" in conjunction with resistance and connected with a countenance that does not allow reconciliation with the power, or the "wrong" social situation. Since then, times have changed and this society may not any more require a "life in alert" (Walter Benjamin) but now urges a life in agitation. Seppo's negativity seems to be more gentle, and seems to function more as a shield or as subversion against that constant state of arousal the media and the art world expect from the arts and the artists.
"If something interesting is happening, I possibly decide to shoot in the opposite direction", and often he finds something more subtle, more telling than the spectacle ahead. His sympathy goes to the little things in life, or maybe I should say: empathy. His films thus carry his empathy to the small situations in daily life. As a consequence, part of his work is made of home movies showing scenes with friends, family life, children and travel, shot and shown on 16mm.
The themes of his other films are quite divers but still connected with daily life, even if they seem to embrace the spectacle, like "Nonstoppampam". In this (in original) 3-channel work, an array of gunshots is fired in rapid succession. We possibly need to know the fact that these people shoot with a real gun for the first time in their life in order to see, what S. Renvall was mainly interested in: the awes, the hesitation, the threat and the surprise on the recoil forces reflected on their faces and in the gestures of people who enact "for real" something that is constantly happening on the TV-screen by protagonists we sympathise with. In the film "Iris and Nalle" (world premiere), a couple on a stage prepares for a S/M show, but "nothing happens". Seppo lets his audience linger in a state of expectation, while the gestures between man and woman are possibly more telling about their relation and the situation of being on stage than when watching the "real act".
Even when using found footage, or photographs from a book like in "The Price of Our Liberty", Seppo is interested in ordinary people. Giving a 1/25 of a second for each portrait of soldiers killed in action during the winter war 1939-40 (Finland against the Sowjet Union), depicted in a book of war heroes, thus making them superimpose on each other while each of them still remains visible, may newly rise the question of the price of such event. (The war is considered to have been a unifier after a time when Finland was divided between "white" and "red" factions.) More contemporary, "Drum Zymphony" shows architecture models, both virtual and 3-D, all of which represent built urban environment in Helsinki in the past decade, while playing on the sound track a composition made from live street recordings in Helsinki. The film, which makes the architecture models appear almost alive, still speaks about the discrepancy between the urban developments of the fastest growing city in Western Europe and the marginalised culture of street musicians, left outside in the cold. "Exotique" and "Yötähteni" talk about spaces of in-between, between light and shadow, night and day, unconscious and waking. Combined with the music of Aslak Christianson and others, many of these films, mostly edited on video, become songs, rhapsodies of life and a strong subversion of the mirror, which the TV screen seems to be for us.
Curated by Klaus W. Eisenlohr
With support from Suomesta Galerie, Berlin
Home Movies part 4 1996 2:00
Home Movies parts 1-3 1996 7:00
Private Area 1996 3:49
The Price Of Our Liberty 1990 08:09
Warm Front 2002 5:24
Iris And Nalle 1996 2:53
Planet Earth Encyclopedia 1995 6:13
Dancing Shortly 1993 1:13
Exotique 2009 09:57
Dancing Shortly II 1994 2:45
Drum Zymphony 2004 21:15
Nonstop PamPam 1992 4:20
Yötähteni 2002 2:30
Seppo Renvall at FixC
Z-Bar - http://www.z-bar.de/
Directors Lounge Magazine