“Weltweit sind ‘Nationalstaaten’, insbesondere die ehemaligen Kolonien in der Dritten Welt, nach eurozentrischem Vorbild organisiert. Diese Dominanz gründet in der jahrhundertelangen kolonialen Ausbeutung und der Unterwerfung nichtwestlicher Kulturen durch eurozentrische rassische Strukturen und Ideologien, die ebendiese Ideologie als Merkmal für Kultur postulieren. Durch die Praktiken der Kreditvergabe von IWF und Weltbank wird diese Dominanz weiter aufrecht erhalten, genauso wie durch die ungerechten Handelsbedingungen der WTO, weltweite Einflussnahme durch Konzerne, unterbewertete Währungen sowie Wirtschaftssanktionen, wie die gegen den Irak, wodurch dieser drastisch geschwächt wurde, und aktuell gegen den Iran, angeblich um dessen Atomprogramm zu stoppen, tatsächlich aber um die Wirtschaft des Landes zu lähmen, und genozidale Kriege, wie jüngst in Libyen und Afghanistan, aktuell in Syrien, die dem Westen direkten Zugang zur Formulierung der Wirtschaftspolitik und zu politischer Kontrolle in diesen Ländern geben. Die letzten 500 Jahre der Weltgeschichte sind eine Geschichte von Ausbeutung, Plünderungen und Massakern an nicht-westlichen Kulturen und deren Unterwerfung unter die Herrschaft der Weissen, wodurch das soziokulturelle und ökonomische Gefüge dieser Kulturen zerstört und sie dazu gezwungen wurden, sich westliche Entwicklungsparadigmen anzueignen. Zugenommen haben dabei lediglich Umweltzerstörung, Verschuldung, Armut und wachsende Abhängigkeit von westlichen Technologien. Vor diesem Hintergrund ist wesentlich wichtiger, was das Kino im unabhängigen Indien dazu beigetagen hat, das Universum der westlichen Vorstellungskraft zu dekonstruieren und unsere Diversität – Menschen, Land und Lebensgrundlage, Sprache, Kultur und Ethnizität – wiederzubeleben, anstatt ein Datzum zu bestimmen, um die nationalen Errungenschaften im Bereich Kino aufzuwerten.”
Auszug aus einem Editorial von Georgekutty A L in Deep Focus Cinema, Volume I, Issue IV, 2013
Das Editorial, aus dem dieser Auszug stammt, steht unter der Überschrift “One hundred years of Indian Cinema and the construct of nation and history”. Georgekutty A L stört sich also in dem Text vor allem daran, dass mit 1913/2013 aus einer Reihe von möglichen ein einziges, willkürlich gewähltes historisches Datum als die Initialzündung des indischen Kinos gefeiert wird – und nicht all das, was in der gesamten Kino-Geschichte seit Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts auf dem indischen Subkontinent vor und (insbesondere) nach der Unabhängigkeit und Teilung tatsächlich passiert ist und erreicht wurde.
Weiter vorne im Text stellt er fest: “So konstruiert eben eine ‘Nation’ [Anm.: Indien: vor 100 Jahren eine Kolonie Großbritanniens, heute zumindest 3 eigenständige Staaten] ihre Geschichte im Rückblick auf selektive Weise, wobei im Prozess der Selektion andere Teile der Geschichte, Kulturen und Erinnerungen marginalisiert und ausgelöscht werden.”
Der Text hat mich deshalb sehr berührt, weil er vor dem Hintergrund des konkreten Themas darstellt, wie sich die Altlast Kolonialismus immer noch auf die Betroffenen – seien es ‘Nationen’ oder Individuen – auswirkt. Heute war es mir ein Bedürfnis, aus vielerlei gegebenen Anlässen, zB. dem hier, ihn mit euch zu teilen.
Die Ausgabe von Deep Focus Cinema habe ich im Januar in Bangalore bekommen. Dort habe ich Georgekutty A L – Geschäftsführer der Bangalore Film Society und Direktor des Filmfestivals Voices from the Waters – auch kurz kennen gelernt, allerdings bevor ich den Text gelesen hatte. Anfang Februar habe ich beim Verlag angefragt, ob ich Auszüge übersetzen und veröffentlichen darf, finde aber erst jetzt die geeignete Gelegenheit, ihn hier zu posten.
Übersetzung: moi, Auszeichnungen innerhalb der Zitate im Original.
Veröffentlichung der Auszüge auf diesem Blog mit freundlicher Genehmigung des Verlags.
TLDR: We did, as planned, three presentations (in Bangalore, Baroda, Jodhphur), all of them very different one from each other, cooperated with one independent art space and two universities – and hope to find an opportunity in Mumbai next week.
After all, we haven’t come to India for holiday, but for work.
Deborah brought along three reels with five 16mm films and a couple of slide collages, and I worked out a talk about the history of 16 mm film in general, in India, its usage in art and Deborah’s analogue approach.
In Bangalore, we were able to give the presentation as planned at 1 Shanthi Road Studio Gallery: a 16 mm projector was available thanks to Shai Heredia from Experimenta Film Festival and Shreyasi, the projectionist, and a slide projector showed up, too. For my talk, no special equipment was necessary – netbook and voice did the job.
Gallery space ready for presentation
Some 25 people came to the event in the early evening on Jan 7. Among them many artists, students, and – as a big surprise and great pleasure – Mr. Georgekutty of the Voices from the Waters film festival. Everything went fine, and we experienced our first presentation with an audience interested in experimental projected art not to be much different from any presentation in a similar context back home. However, Q&A and discussions were not a too big issue that evening. Special feature: Deborah’s silent Herman(n) film on Neukoelln’s Hermannstraße, to which the ever present noise of Bangalore traffic blended in as if the original soundtrack.
In Baroda, at MS University Fine Arts, the setting was different. A 16 mm projector was not available (or rather: was available, but one part missing), so Deborah accepted to show one of her films in a digital version. Normally, she would not allow this to be done, but as she had spent five months in the city and cooperated with the university in 1996/97, shooting “Santoor” – so that film just had to be shown there. A slide projector was available, too, thus at least her delicate transparent collages could be shown in their original format.
Technical set up, analogue and digital
In Bangalore, people were able to see the films as pieces of original art – not much to explain in technical terms. In Baroda, on the contrary, the digital screening required much explanation. Deborah talked a lot about why it is often so difficult to digitize analogue experimental artists’ films: because of the smaller colour range in the digital, resulting in a loss of colour depth and textures, and things often going worse when beamed. However, this setting turned out to be very helpful for her promoting her “analogue jihad” (see my talk to learn more about that).
The room at MSU filling up with students
The digital screening, in addition to the audience consisting of more than 40 art students, gave the event quite a different focus. It turned out to be less of a presentation or screening, but more a very vivid performance by Deborah. A big deal in the intense discussion part was explaining to the students that the films, as well as the slide collages, were fully produced in analogue, no computers involved. Eventually they got it, and we had the impression that some of them were even interested in giving this seemingly deprecated technique a try, sooner or later.
Finally, the Jodhpur presentation was really special. When we arrived in that city, we had no contact, no appointment, no idea. We searched the internet and found a private university with a fine arts department. We did’t hesitate – and took a rickshaw to the university’s new campus, a few kilometres away from the city centre – more or less in the desert.
Behind the fine arts department building
We were lucky to find Dr. Renu Sharma, head of Fine Arts, at her desk. And got the chance to talk to her about our presentation. During the conversation it turned out that the students there – mainly young women – had “collage” on the curriculum. So we agreed to give a presentation focussing on Deborah’s slide collages.
The presence of one student, Monica, an ayurvedic doctor in her forties, who took to studying art some two years ago, was very helpful, especially for translating the conversation between English and Hindi. (She even invited us to her home, where we also met her husband, son and daughter, and spent a very entertaining and interesting afternoon and dinner in ever so friendly company.)
Before giving the presentation, we all went to the Instrumentation Centre, where a slide projector was available. Another very special situation …
Slide projector setup
I had worked over my talk, leaving out all the 16 mm stuff, and focusing on the last passage on Deborah’s way of working analogue with transparent media, in order to give the students a chance to get at least some idea what they were confronted with.
The audience, later there were even more students attending
And there we went.We had some 20 girls in the first session, after which we learned that there should be a second one, as one teacher and a couple of students were coming from the old campus to profit from the opportunity, too. Of course, we agreed and started over again.
Dr. Renu Sharma, Head of Fine Arts, introducing our presentation
We had the impression, that our presentation was very inspiring to the girls. They were ever so happy to have the opportunity to get in touch with artists from abroad and enlarge their knowledge and understanding of art and being an artist. (While, it needs to be said, fine arts at that -paying- universitiy is rather about learning how to draw, paint or apply other techniques, and less about art as we generally think of it.)
Now, about to leave Jodhpur for chilly Jaipur tomorrow, we are curious if we can sort out “something” there or if we will have a chance in Mumbai, where we might be moving to in the beginning of next week.
Stay tuned :)
TLDR: Travelling by train in India is excellent.
First of all, as a woman, you can feel safe on an Indian train. Most of the time, trains are fully booked, so it is quite hard to imagine that really dangerous situations might occur unseen by others. However, be sensible with fellow travellers. I know what I am speaking of, but don’t worry. Nothing more than a slightly weird situation occured, and I was in good company to protect me, in case thngs would have gone really bad.
See a woman smoke is one thing that may offend Indians. It is forbidden anyway to smoke on Indian trains as well as in stations, both of which are, like most of India, strictly nonsmoking. But there’s always a hack. For instance, you can get off the train in small stations, but not on the platform side, but the other side. Or when the train stops on open track to wait for another train to pass.
Don’t worry that you might miss the train: it first toot-toots clearly, and then starts rolling very slowly, so that you can jump on. Just watch what the others are doing. Jumping-on is really easy, even I could do that. To be cautious, just stand next to the entrance and hold on to the bars.
You can also try standing or sitting in the open door when the train is running. Just respect, in case other passengers complain …
Speaking of train doors: A list with passenger names, gender, age, and ID (or, in our case, visa) number is attached to every waggon and stays there for the whole journey, or until it falls of by itself.
This is very helpful to make sure that you are booked on the train you are about to enter … And privacy is deprecated, anyway, isn’t it?
Streetdogs, though, are experts in privacy. First of all, it is very hard to tell one from another, they all seem to belong to one big family, all over India. And secondly, they simply don’t care about the world around them. This one, for example, was fast asleep beneath this desk at Vadodara Station, where we were going to fill in the train ticket application form.
And so I did, stepped up to the desk, the filling-in taking about ten minutes, stepped back from the desk again and went “Oh, yes, the dog …”. It had stayed there without moving an inch, only a few centimetres away from my legs.
This was our home for 37 hours on the ride from Bengaluru to Vadodara.
We had the lower berths and thus the window seats. The windows in indian trains are barred, so if you are rather the paranoid kind of person, try to get your seats in an emergency window compartment, where the bars can be removed And don’t make a fool of yourself by collecting rubbish in a plastic bag in order to put it in some bin later. Everything is being thrown out of the window by everyone, anytime, and people will encourage you to do so, too. We gave in on the second train ride from Vadodara to Jodphur …
What you will get for free on an Indian train are marvellous views of impressive landscapes, colourful sunsets and sunrises, slow passages through villages and cities, many friendly fellow travellers – and most likely plenty to eat, such as homecooked food by someone’s grandma. And tthere are chai and food vendors walking up and downd the aisles at all times, and in stations you can get something from the stalls on the platform. When jumping back on the starting train, though, make sure to stay away from persons with cups of steaming hot tea in their hands. Others might jump on behind and push them, and you might have tea all over. You can get burned badly, I can tell you …
On some trains, you will find a plug to charge your mobile right between the windows next to your seats. Will also work perfectly for camera batteries.
On other trains, the chargers are located at both ends of a waggon.
And then there are these excellent crocheted bottle holders, and equally crocheted bigger pouches, maybee for books and magazines, next to each berth, and also a more solid pocket we thought might be indended for sandals. But what do we know … probably they are simply fits-all-sizes mobile pouches, too.
At night, I slept surprisingly well. The berths are long and flat and comfortable, and the sounds – the wheels clicketing along the tracks, the frequent hoot-hoot, and, in stations, the choir of the chai and food wallahs, reminded me of a mix of The Orb and Phillip Glass. Ambient at its best. However, you should’t bee too sensitive … in case you are, bring enough sheets or go AC First Class. We chose the “simply ignore” option and felt ever so comfortable, so well fed and well entertained on the two Indian trains we took so far. Looking very much forward to the third one, taking us from Jodhpur to Jaipur. Sadly, this one only will only take 5 hours.
Today, we went to Cubbon Park in central Bangalore. Our Shanthi Road host and two friends of his, they go out nearly every morning at 7 o’clock for an ca. one hour walk – and today, on our last Bangalore day, we joined them. The chosen park for today was Cubbon Park, and we got there by scooter. Definitively an exciting experience, even if Bangalore traffic is not so mad at that early morning time and the drivers went ever so carefully … thanks!
The scooters got parked behind Sowdeswari Amman Temple, dedicated to the Green Parrot God.
Once inside Cubbon Park, we walked along in the fresh morning air, and besides a couple of dogs, and the constant sound of birds – and a lot less of the traffic, for once – we came to the bat’s spot, where in two trees, hundreds of pretty big bats – vegetarians, by the way – were sleeping.
Further on, at the far end of the park, near the High Court and opposite the Karnataka Parliament Building (and a huge construction site for the Underground in between them), we again encountered street dogs, many of them, and it seemed that they were there on time waiting for someone to feed them. (Sorry. no photo.)
Eventually, after a nearly one and a half hour walk, we reached the Snake Temple within the park, with the most astounding sight of this morning next to it: The Tree of Abandoned Gods.
Here, people frequently deposit statues of gods, as well as icons, pictures, and similar framed items, which they don’t need anymore.
I didn’t dare searching in detail, but one of our companies said, that every now and then, he would take a nice and well kept piece along and that he even had found proper antique items there before.
When we rejoined the others in a place to eat next to the temple, outside the park, we found that one of them actually had taken along a few items from the tree. I somehow regretted that I hadn’t …
We then had a delicious hot and spicy breakfast, some bath (a sort of wheat dumpling) with fresh coconut chutney, and headed off home on our scooter. Weirdest moment of the ride: The front wheel of a motor rickshaw maybe 10 cm away from my knee in the middle of the crossing nearby our location. But, don’t worry, nothing happened.
TLDR 16 mil has been in use all over the world for nearly 100 years; offers far better image quality than digital; continues to be in use, mainly by artists. As an artistic medium in it’s own right, 16 mil will continue to be available in the future.
16mm film was introduced in 1923 by Eastman Kodak as a less expensive alternative to 35mm, primarily intended for amateurs. The Kodascope library, where people could buy or rent films, and many labs available, further added to its popularity.
As material, acetate was used from the very beginning, a safer material than flammable nitrate, which, for 35 mm films, was only discontinued in 1952. Since around 1970, the nearly indestructable polyester has been in use.
3-tone Kodachrome colour film, a milestone in the history of photography, was introduced in the mid 1930s, even before it became available for photo material. Optical sound was available on 16mm since around 1930, after it was developped by RCA for any film material of that time.
From the early 1930s onwards, 16mm was used for educational purposes, most likely everywhere in the world. Myself, I remember well that in school films were screened regularly, for instance on history, geography, and in language courses. You may have experienced the same, I guess, and despite digitalization, educational 16mm film is still in use today.
Also in rural and remote regions of India For instance, the Majira Wildlife Sancutary in Andhra Pradesh have daily screenings of 16mm films on birds and animals.
During World War 2 and after, 16 mm was used more extensively, by governments, media, business. With the introduction of television in the 1950s, 16 mm experienced a surge in popularity. The lightweight format provided convenience and easy filming on location.
16 mm has always been used for feature films and, later, TV programmes, and still is today, the material nowadays usually being digitalised before editing. Many feature films of the last decades shot on 16 mm material were later blown up onto 35 mm. This was also the case with the first Indian Kodachrome colour film, Ajit, in 1948.
16 mm footage makes it possible to work with a smaller budget or make more of a given budget, for instance by using more than one camera to shoot from various angles simultaneously.
16 mm in India
Film as such has a very long tradition in India. The first film ever by the Lumiere Brothers was screened in Bombay in 1896. Indian film makers and companies started working around 1898. The first Indian feature film was shot in 1912. The first Indian colour feature film is said to be Sairandhiri, which was shot on German bitrack 2tone material and processed in Germany in 1933.
16 mm was used here shortly after its introduction, for feature films, documen-taries, educational and business films. Unfortunately, only a limited number of Indian feature film copies dating from before around 1970 do still exist today in Indian archives. Before that, it was not considered necessary to archive the movies. However, the majority of Indian productions, which were screened in the former Sovjet Union, can still be found in archives there. On the other hand, copies of more recent 16 mm feature films can be found on Ebay and similar platforms.
The National Film Archive in Poona holds a considerable selection of Indian 16mm films from all parts of the country, and also international films, such as a copy of the 1930 German classic The Blue Angel by Josef von Sternberg.
16 mm has always been an excellent medium for Indian and foreign film makers alike to document their exploration of the vast Indian culture all over the country and its unique wildlife.
And not that long ago, some 10 years only, Horilal Vishwakarma, a carpenter from Uttar Pradesh, received funding from the National Innovation Foundation-India for the further development of a light-weight combined 16 and 35 mm projector.
This so-called Petromax projector can be used with a storm lamp, thus making it independent from electricity.
In India, one can still have 16 mm material processed and copies made, although probably not for any material. Students also have the opportunity to work with 16 mm: At the Film and Television Institute in Pune, and also at several art schools all over India, 16mm facilities are available. And still today, you can enter 16 mm films to the National Film Awards in India, as well as many other festivals all over the world.
16mm in art
Analogue film – in any format – is to be considered as an artistic medium in its own right, such as is painting, drawing, or sculpture. Before analogue and digital video techniques were introduced, 16mm was the film format of choice for artists, besides the cheap and basic 8mm and the more expensive and bulky 35mm formats.
Beyond shooting the film, processing and, sometimes, editing, there are a lot of other techniques and methods applied on film material by artists in order to bring moving images onto a screen. Some artists draw on, paint or scratch the material. Some manipulate the chemical process of developping by using, for example, coffee or wine instead of chemicals, with remarkable results in terms of colours and textures.
This artistic approach has a very long tradition, and also in India: In Calcutta, for example, artists made trick and experimental films in the early 1910s already. And there is a tradition of grassroots movements, in which artists work with these techniques with, for example, school children, prisoners or refugees in many countries worldwide.
And while the world is going digital, artists continue to work with analogue film. Some do so, because they prefer working with something tangible instead of manipulating a keyboard and a computer mouse. Or, more importantly, because of the quality: Analogue film can relay far more depth of colour and detail than any digital color space, and any digital projector, or screen. Often, the act of projecting an analogue film in a space is an artistic statement onto itself.
Many festivals worldwide, dedicated to feature, documentary or experimental films, still screen 16 mm. So does the Experimenta Festival for Moving Image Art in Bangalore. In 2013, the program comprised more than 20 mostly short 16 mm films by artists from India, Great Britain, Canada, the US and Japan, created between 1951 and 2013.
Since the introduction of video and digital photography, 16mm has seen several shifts in popularity and availability of material, laboratories, and screening facilities. Today, 16mm is still available from big companies such as Kodak or Agfa, which have also introduced new material and new emulsions. As for laboratories, there have been ups and downs during the last fourty years. Presently, there are probably more labs than in the 1980s, but less then some 15 years ago.
Screening in cinemas is becoming more and more difficult everywhere. In India, as well as in Europe and many other countries, most theatres have switched to digital projection, and abandoned their 16 mm projectors for reasons of space. On the other hand, museums, galleries and alternative spaces have aquired many of these projectors. Besides that, non-commercial networks are thriving world-wide, with new ones being constantly established, where artists cooperate and support each other in working with film material.
Why is Deborah Phillips persisting on screening her films on 16 mm
„Digitized versions of my 16 mm films are akin to photocopies of oil paintings,“ she says.
It would be much easier for her to transport her films on disk, drive or via ftp, screen them in a high quality digital format, or even stream them.
(By the way, she rather speaks of her 16 mm films as „material used for projections or in performances“, in order not to get them mixed up with feature or documentary films, to avoid confusing audiences, who might expect a plot with a beginning and an end.)
A couple of her films are available digitally, though. Mainly to give people an impression of what she’s doing at all, what her style and her technique is, and for festival and award applications. However, she strictly says No! to using digital copies for screenings at events such as the one you are attending today, at festivals or in her performances that include films.
Because a digital copy of a 16mm film, of any film, will never be the same as the original. Digitalising, that is scanning, always results in a reduction of the information originally available. In many cases, we will not notice or it will not matter. In feature films, for instance: Even if the colours seem a little bit strange, if delicate details are gone, there is still the plot, the actors, the music.
That would not be the case with Deborah’s films, and this probably also applies for many other artists. For when viewing one of Deborah’s films in a digital version, no matter how fine the scan was in the first place, no matter how good the resolution and the equipment: All the subtle shades and details, especially in the very dark and very light parts, would be lost, as they cannot be reproduced.
Deborah is, as she often says, on an „analogue djihad“. She insists, that digital technologies should complement, and never fully replace, analogue techniques. Besides quality issues, a further important aspect is the different approach regarding the quantity of material used in analogue and digital film making. When shooting in analogue, one cannot produce hours and hours of footage to select from later, as is often done in digital: A proper concept is essential. That is why she – like many others – thinks that young artists should work with analogue material at least once, and profit from that focussed approach in their digital work, too.
So, hopefully, 16 mil material, processing labs and projectors – such as the one we were using at 1, Shanti Road Studio Gallery in Bangalore, thanks to Shai Heredia – will continue to be available all over the world for present and future artists working with film, students, and film enthusiastic audiences like you.