Art Cinema OFFoff celebrates its 20th anniversary with a special edition of the Night of Experimental Film. The choreography of animal and human bodies and natural phenomena in their most sublime and sensual manifestations will pervade and resonate into the darkest corners of the Centrale. It will be a dazzling birthday party, a cinematographic evening stroll, a musical travelogue, and above all, an audiovisual spectacle that embraces and celebrates the encounter between avant-garde films and radically contemporary musical experiments. As always, the Night will feature timeless classics and contemporary masterpieces from the rich repertoire of experimental cinema with brand new live scores.
This year’s lineup, composed by curator Sofie Verdoodt and Ghent-based record label B.A.A.D.M., looks particularly impressive. From the mysterious worlds of Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon to the hypnotic fog of Larry Gottheim’s Fog Line and the poetic journey of Philippe Cote’s Des nuages aux fêlures de la terre: with the scores of Aleksandra Słyż, Continuity and Giulio Aldinucci as sonic companions, these films branch out into strange dreams, blooming tapestries of sound and sensuous visual poems.
The live performance by BR Laser (a.k.a. Bernhard Rasinger) takes the gigantic Turbine Hall to a climax. With modular synths and state-of-the-art laser technology he creates unique and impressive sound sculptures – what you see is what you hear. After the film projections and original sound creations, we’ll head into the night with Johan Loones’ (aka dj Platenkwekerij Knotwilg) equally rare and sumptuous record collection and Tine Guns’ iconic cine-compositions that will make you imagine you’re in the Garden of Eden for a brief moment when the sun rises again.
Musicians & performers:
- Continuity is an ongoing musical project of Stockholm-based Martin Herterich, Continuity is an ever- evolving ambient audio diary searching for the core of contemporary electronic music. Active with the project Sand Circles since 2012, Herterich’s solo work is usually associated with the Swedish experimental underground, with musical projects ranging from off-kilter soundscaping to crude industrial tape works. Continuity is a further exploration of those same themes; the ecstasy of memory and nostalgia, a story arc set in a fictional space, depicted through processed field recordings, stretched harmonies and faded club music.
- Aleksandra Słyż is a Polish composer, sound artist and sound engineer. Throughout her recent live performances, Słyż has been exploring connections between acoustic instruments and modular synthesizers, creating rich and diverse drone structures which highlight the power of microtonality’s resonances and tensions. Interactive sonification systems are another large part of her artistic practice. Between 2017 and 2022 Słyż conducted artistic research, in which she investigated movement sonification techniques and different types of interaction.
- Giulio Aldinucci was born in Siena (Italy) in 1981. He has been active for years as a composer in the field of experimental electroacoustic music and in the research on soundscape.
- BR Laser (Bernhard Rasinger) performs on a system that combines a modular synthesizer and state-of-the-art laser technology to create a lucidly hypnotic audiovisual experience. He is an engineer, visual sound artist and co-founder of the art association New Jörg Vienna. He is a regular guest at international experimental music festivals, music fairs and soldering workshops.
- Tine Guns explores visual perception, memory and the fragmented notion of time in human experience through photography, film, photo books and installations. She wonders about the role photography plays in a society that seems obsessed with speed and instant gratification. Entertainment, consumption and even protest happen while quickly scrolling and swiping through photos and videos. As such, the moving and still image are getting intertwined, to the point where they almost become interchangeable. Guns exhibited at Cinematek/BOZAR Brussels, Netwerk Aalst and Casino Luxemburg, among others. Her films have been shown at festivals such as the Jean Rouch Festival in Paris and biennials such as Ostrale in Dresden. Her photographs were selected for Voies Off in Arles and Antwerp Photo.
Larry Gottheim’s Fog Line is a minimalist short film described by Jonas Mekas as “a small but perfect film.” Throughout a static shot of a landscape with a few lone trees and prominent power lines, real and cinematic duration become entangled. As the fog slowly lifts along the sloping horizon line, the viewer is invited to pay attention to subtle changes and details that would otherwise go unnoticed. Gottheim reflects on how we read, perceive and cultivate nature, and how film thereby directs our viewing experience, navigating between the abstract and the concrete, the apprehensible and the mysterious, the analytical and the synthetic, the still and the kinetic. His film is situated within 1970s structural cinema, an avant-garde movement that focused on the fundamental building stones of cinema, such as time, space and the material nature of the medium. Each frame in Fog Line is the same and yet different from the previous one, allowing the natural elements of the landscape — the vegetation, the sky, the horizon line – to establish new relationships with the tonality, grain and composition of the film image as an artificial construct, resulting in a fluid reality that can be characterized both as slightly ridiculous and as heavily sublime.
Bouquets 21 – 30 by Rose Lowder celebrates the natural splendor of flowers. Her symphony of colors and shapes, created between 2001 and 2005, is a masterpiece of visual poetry that manages to capture the growth and blooming of flowers in a dynamic play of light, color and movement. By editing in-camera and re-exposing the same photogram over and over again, a cinematic layer is added to the images of nature that creates a rhythmic dance between the blooming flowers and the filmmaker’s technical interventions. The title “Bouquets 21 – 30″ indicates that the film is a collection, a bouquet of different floral motifs. Each bouquet seems to tell its own story, to represent a different choreography of colors that invites the viewer to delve deeper into the aesthetic and symbolic meanings of flowers. The film is not merely a recording of nature, but above all an ode to its endless diversity that leads the viewer, eye to eye with the beauty and poetry of the everyday, through the contemplation of a bouquet of flowers to the amazement over a cinematically orchestrated bouquet of images.
Teo Hernandez’s Corps Aboli is a cinematic poem in which the human body, by means of color filters, fragmented close-ups and dynamic camera movements, becomes a living canvas on which emotions and ideas can be projected. The result is a collage of visual impressions that present the body not only as a physical entity, but also as a poetic and symbolic expression of the human soul. The spectator is made part of an psychological expedition, a voyage into the hidden layers of our condition humaine. As Hernandez delves deep into the human anatomy, he creates an atmosphere that is both intimately erotic and mysteriously abstract. The naked body becomes a sculpture in an inky black space where time seems to freeze, thereby revealing something about the dark core of our being.
Meshes in the Afternoon is a mesmerizing masterpiece of experimental film in which Maya Deren and her then-husband Alexander Hammid explore the depths of the human psyche through a hypnotic trip of surreal dreamscapes. The viewer is immersed in the alienating reality of a woman, played by Maya Deren herself, struggling with hidden desires and inner demons. The film opens quietly with Deren wandering through a garden with a flower in her hand, but soon abrupt transitions and expressive camera angles give way to a world between reality and imagination in which keys open mysterious doors and a figure with a mirror as a face appears and reappears. This so-called “trance film” abandons a classical narrative to prioritize repetitiveness and symbolism, leading us to absorb the emotional intensity of the images and inviting us to embrace rather than seek to unravel the mystery of our subjective identities. Deren often resisted overly symbolic and Freudian readings that turned the bread knife or the telephone into something other than what they were to her, being “objects whose value and meaning is defined and confirmed by their actual function in the context of the film as a whole.”
Philippe Cote’s Des nuages aux fêlures de la terre begins as a dreamy symphony of clouds, with the camera following the dancing clouds as they take shape, gradually transform and dissolve again. As the film progresses, the focus shifts to the earth itself. Cote’s film explores the physical elements of nature, from majestic mountains to meandering rivers, capturing the unique textures and contours of the landscape with an almost painterly eye. Cote’s approach to the natural world is not merely documentary, but rather lyrical in its embrace of the earth’s physical beauty. By interweaving the primary elements of air and earth, the film is an ode to the complex fragility of our ecosystem. Itrenders the cinematic journey through the clouds and deep into cracks of the earth into a meditative experience that reminds us that nature, in all its apparent simplicity and inexplicable beauty, is a constant source of inspiration and wonder.
Jean Painlevé’s La Pieuvre has recently been restored making this cinematic dive into the depths of the ocean even more fresh, colorful and corporeal. The octopus, as an infinitely fascinating protagonist, becomes not only an object of study but also a source of admiration and wonder. The film opens with intriguing black-and-white images in which the octopus seems to dance like an alien in its natural habitat. The camera then captures its graceful movements, its sucking tentacles and its ability to change color, and all this with a meticulous eye for composition and framing. Painlevé not only catches the octopus’ unique appearance and behavior on pellicule, but also manages to evoke the spirit of early experimental film. To watch La Pieuvre is to rediscover an era when filmmakers explored the limits of technology and cinematic imagination and laid the groundwork for the cinematography of the future. The film is botha cinematic masterpiece and a historical document that reflects the evolution of film as an art form and testifies to the fascination with the unknown — both in terms of the mystery of the octopus and the infinite possibilities of the medium of film.