The One Minutes

Voor Stichting The One Minutes schreef ik een (Engelstalige) column ter begeleiding van een nieuwe DVD vol met 1-minuten van jonge videomakers. Tijdens de DVD-presentatie op 6 februari in Kunsthal Kade in Amersfoort verzorgde ik een inleiding gebaseerd op mijn tekst.

On the unbearable lightness of seeing
Tessa Verheul

When the early twentieth-century Russian filmmaker Dziga Vertov described his camera, he imagined it to be a mechanical eye, which he called a ‘Kino-Eye’. Half physical and half mechanical, the kino-eye was a robotic extension that would improve human vision. Vertov celebrated the movie camera as a kind of microscope, revealing a world around us that is imperceptible with the human eye alone. Vertov’s descriptions express a comforting trust in the camera, as it was supposed to display a hidden truth that would make life comprehensible and create order out of chaos. In a way we can wonder if the film camera, even in his current omnipresent status, ever lost this connotation.

To many of the young and talented filmmakers selected by the Keep an Eye Foundation, the camera becomes an instrument to anthropologically study others. They register their subject in its natural habitat. Inge Mijer for instance, celebrates the timelessness on a Dutch campsite, where both man and pet retire during the summer holidays. They exercise, garden and most intensely of all, they tediously watch each other in front of their trailers. Also Katelijne Schrama and Sarah Bijlsma express a nostalgic desire to go “back to basic” in their short films. Schrama’s ‘The Thought of Something Else’ is a short portrait of a Dutch farmer who takes care of his cows in a barn, and Bijlsma created a one-minute about an elderly woman looking back on her life.

In contrast to these rather desolate scenes, Jasmin Peco and Agnese Cornelio investigate group dynamics. Peco filmed a scene on a schoolyard. A group of boys and girls are watching something that remains out of reach to the spectator due to the framing of the camera. We can only see what they’re watching through their reactions, but what are they laughing about? Cornelio’s ‘Within the Crowd’ presents a gathering of political demonstrators in a European city. People with protest signs swarm around, expressing a deep tension that leaves the spectator with suspension of what will happen next. The atmosphere in ‘Dollhouse’ by Silvia Martes is completely different; four women are locked in a pastel painted dollhouse. They don’t interact, they don’t speak but they passively wait for something to happen.

To other directors of the Keep an Eye selection, the camera becomes a tool to express introspection. By zooming in on others, a mirror is created to reflect on feelings and desires. A male adolescent gazes into the mirror in ‘The Real Charlie’ by Charlie T. Spears, while his reflection can’t restrain itself from striking back. Lilian Stolk transforms into Angelina Jolie, as she slowly moves into a life-sized projection of the American actress. Pablo Núñez Palma looks into the expected future as he filmed an unborn baby, moving almost invisibly through its mother’s belly. ‘Tussen dag en nacht’ by Margot Schaap is a poetic film about the insecurities of being in love.

While Vertov praised the camera for its quality to capture “life as it is”, he never presented the images without subjecting them to his striking montage. Leaving behind the plot logic of fiction films, it was in a certain abstraction that true life could be expressed. This idea can also be found in the work of a final group of filmmakers to whom the camera is a tool to challenge or even escape from every day life situations and objects. While Jeffrey Linker contests the resistance of a bowl of apples, Bas van Wieringen transforms his surroundings into a parkour. Johan Rijpma creates a new and fascinating world out of one single piece of paper. Maite Eunate Klis Guillen expresses this form of escapism most convincingly. ’60 seconds of freedom’ presents a doubled and mirrored view from a train window. She creates a rhythmic pattern out of bridges and buildings that becomes more and more abstract until it’s a flow of colourful shapes.