Paper Clip is a weekly compilation of online articles, artifacts and other—old, new, and sometimes BOMB-related.
Filipino filmmaker John Torres discusses his embrace of being an outsider, the fight for an audience, and how a mishearing became his latest feature film Lukas the Strange.
While the advent of digital video changed the face of cinema the world over, for the Philippines it represented a veritable deliverance. Stretching back over a century, the Philippines possess one of the oldest and richest cinematic histories in South East Asia. However, following the so-called “Second Golden Age of Philippine Cinema,” which featured figures such as Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal and ended along with the dissolution of martial law in 1981, the country’s film industry plunged into a commercial black hole, gradually expunging all artistic merit from its output.
The increasing availability of cheap digital film equipment at the beginning of the millennium reopened the floodgates, however, and within a few years hundreds of independent features and countless more shorts were shot on digital. The rising popularity of indie cinema back home and the success of directors like Lav Diaz and Brillante Mendoza on the international festival circuit paved the way for a young generation of filmmakers that would otherwise never have been allowed—or, rather, would never have agreed—to practice within the studio system.
This was the case with John Torres. His original intention had been to move to the US after university and work in IT, but playing around with his father’s digital camera and editing software opened his eyes to the potential of the filmmaking process. Shooting feverishly and on impulse, he recorded random segments of his everyday life and later edited them together into abstract shorts, seeking to capture the essence of his present state of mind. The success of his shorts at local indie festivals led to his first feature in 2006, Todo Todo Teros, which was showered with acclaim and accolades at festivals abroad and established him, along with the likes of Khavn De La Cruz and Raya Martin, as one of the key members of this new generation of independent Filipino filmmakers.
Kate Zambreno and S. D. Chrostowska discuss Permission, the vagaries of readership and publicity, rag-bags, and the transgressive novel as essay, commodity, and monster.
Kate Zambreno Your novel Permission follows Fearn Wren, a pseudonymous narrator who has embarked upon an experiment—to write a series of “notes” over email to an unnamed artist. These notes consist of meditations and interrogations on writing, memory, atrocity, and solitude, among other concerns. Wren sets out the terms of this experiment quite strictly at its origin: the notes (not letters, Wren insists, not journal entries) will comprise a book, of which this chosen recipient will be the first reader and whose begged-for silence will operate as tacit permission. I was struck by how contemporary these concerns are while nonetheless engaged with the slow, weird birth of the novel as Henry James’ “baggy monster.” It’s a history Wren is quite aware of, with sources in both the bourgeois epistolary novel and nineteenth-century adventures in serial publication. (I’m twinning this in my mind as I Love Dickens. Forgive me for the pun—I just taught Chris Kraus’ I Love Dick, a work that Permission reminds me of formally, in the idea of a one-sided correspondence with a famous thinker that allows the narrator to essay, to attempt, to come into being as a writer, and also in just how radically discursive both works are: novels daring to be philosophy and how this is, in a way, not permitted in our contemporary landscape.) Which brings me to the reader, this reader we as novelists are supposed to be always hyperaware of—what the reader wants, what the reader likes, what the reader needs. I love this concept that I see in Permission of the writer-narrator taking an ideal reader somewhat hostage.
Documentarian Trine Laier and Producer Lise Saxtrup talk about turning family history into a whole new medium.
There is no shortage of documentary films that deal with a filmmaker’s family secrets and the decision to expose them. Danish animator and filmmaker, Trine Laier, is no different and has an exceedingly interesting story to tell. However, in investigating the intense confidentiality and secrecy behind her mother’s and father’s work for the Danish Intelligence during the Cold War, Laier has decided to wade into the brave new world of cross-media to tell their story in the format of a game application with dossiers and documents, animation and voiceover. The content will be distributed to users via personal tablets and the web.
These Cold Warriors were clandestine operatives of the secret service arm of the Danish Army, fighting the “Red Menace” in a fantastic reality of double identities, top secret documents and coded signals, keeping their real identities hidden, even from their own daughter. Trine was 39 years old before she stumbled upon the truth, and decided to start her own counter-espionage project by searching for the hidden truth in her family’s history.
In addition to the interactive story of personal intrigue and family secrets that plays like a good old-fashioned soap opera, a companion supplementary application filled with historical research about the Cold War, with interviews of various participants, including Trine’s father, will also be created as part of the game’s platform. The project is supported by public funding and by The Danish Film Institute to develop a script along with further development of the prototype, examining game mechanics and controls whilst staying loyal to the authentic narrative. The prototype is Trine’s critically acclaimed graduation project from the Danish Film School.
Made with producer Lise Saxtrup of Klassefilm, who has an extensive background in traditional documentary production, and a software composer who has never made a documentary project before, Cosmic Top Secret Experience was one of the projects to participate in the pilot year of Scandinavian World of Innovative Media, known as SWIM— a trans-media development workshop launched at last year’s CPH:DOX. CTSE is one of the initiative’s “guinea pigs” and Saxtrup and Laier pitched the project at the cross-media forum at this year’s festival, as well as pitching it at the roundtable pitches at the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam, Europe’s largest documentary pitch forum.
I met Saxtrup and Laier at the recent edition of DOK Leipzig in Germany at the beginning of November. They were participants in a panel discussion I hosted there, one of the Animadoc Case Studies talks called “Refresh Your Mind.” Intrigued by the project and impressed with their presentation, I took them to lunch to talk more about the challenges of producing a project in this wide-open new field.
Selections from In Search of the Truth: The Truth Booth by artists and members of Cause Collective: Hank Willis Thomas, Jim Ricks and Ryan Alexiev.
Photographer Andy Freeberg on capturing the comical ironies of art fairs, the fashion choices of the female guards in Russian museums, and the heads of white cube receptionists in Chelsea.
The images came first and there was something uncanny about what I was seeing: female Russian museum guards, who looked oddly like the work they were protecting. Was it a set up? Was it some kind of ironic play on art and life? No, better yet—it began accidentally as artist Andy Freeberg wandered the Hermitage, lamenting a loftier photographic project that didn’t work out. Freeberg printed the first set of images from what became known as Guardians and took them to Houston’s FotoFest where Evgeny Berezner of the Russian Federation’s State Center for Museums saw the images and invited Freeberg back to Moscow, this time with official access. He returned to Russia, noticing that while, “summer has better light, winter has better outfits.”
There is a richness to Freeberg’s prints, a kind of simple beauty—they are artful and resonant without seeming contrived—and they have the freshness of the accidental, the thing happened upon. He sees us as we are, catching us off guard, delivering us back to ourselves with unexpected irony and a sense of exposure. I called Freeberg in San Francisco where he lives because I wanted to know more.
A.M. Homes: Who is Andy Freeberg? And where did he come from?
Andy Freeberg Well, I was born in New York and grew up in New Rochelle. I had started doing photography in high school, and when I went to the University of Michigan I decided to join the student-run daily newspaper there. I had photographed a lot of jazz musicians and another student photographer talked our way into being the official photographers at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. So at age 20 we’re over there and we got to photograph some great musicians like Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, and B.B. King. I also got to photograph authors and scientists, all of which was so much more interesting than sitting in a classroom and reading about it.
A revival of Leos Carax’s 1986 film showcases the director’s wholly original vision.
In 2012, no other movie even vaguely resembled French director Leos Carax’s Holy Motors. In 1986, his second feature Mauvais Sang stood equally alone in the cinematic landscape. Paradoxically, Carax makes highly referential films (for Mauvais Sang, it was Godard, Chaplin, silent film in general, and the repressed tradition of poetic French cinema) that turn out unique to the point of being beyond classification. Though Carax may be against the times he lives in—denying reality in Mauvais Sang by shooting on studio sets with a highly restricted color palette (it’s nearly a black and white movie in color, with a splash of red here and there)—he is not disconnected from them. Who else in 1986 shot a sex scene by showing a young woman (the incandescent Julie Delpy) slide a condom out of her box of Tampax, peel the packaging, and kneel to place it on her lover? The film world his characters live and die in revolves around the most salient, terrible fact of the period: AIDS. Mauvais Sang (literally: Bad Blood) is a love story and a heist film in which the central metaphor is a virus that attacks those who make love without emotion. Carax is a romantic, an artist who can turn the worst tragedy into a desperate call for true love. Thus he is also a tortured soul, whose contradictions mean that love in Mauvais Sang is impossible and that the heist—the object of which is a sample of the virus that could lead to a vaccine—is so easy that he omits the breaking and entering.
In his most recently translated novel, Sergio Chejfec continues to craft a style and world all his own.
Much of the response to Sergio Chejfec’s English-language debut, My Two Worlds, published in 2011 by Open Letter, placed him squarely in a Sebaldian camp. The narrator is on a walk, reminiscing both on his past and the historical past of the landscape around him, and it is a novel of a consciousness, of the interior of a single “I.” Although a grounding comparison for that novel, it does a reader little kindness for his most recent book, The Dark. As I read, I did think of Sebald and other authors, other types of novels, and tried to find that grounding—a language, a basic reading to build off. Each comparison got me lost. Any attempt to use them puts us on a stray path. The text demands we abandon those comparisons and learn how to read this specific novel. That alone is a rarity and, for me, a reading experience worth the effort.
Paper Clip is a weekly compilation of online articles, artifacts and other—old, new, and sometimes BOMB-related.
Tim Heidecker discusses his second soft-rock album with Heidecker and Wood, his online beefs, and blurring the lines between his various public personae.
“Will someone say something that is funny or interesting?”
An exasperated Tim Heidecker, in a rare stand-up comedy performance last week, was climbing through rows of seats at the front of Bowery Ballroom, begging the audience for a bone. Part of the appeal of Heidecker is his myriad of characters, whether he’s playing a pathetic film critic in the online series On Cinema, a pathetic television cooking host, or in this case, a pathetic stand-up comedian, who’s homage to bad standup falls somewhere between Andrew Dice Clay, Andy Kaufman’s Tony Clifton, and Tim Allen. Last week, his set revolved around catchphrases like “Gravy Baby!”, the differences between people who choose Pepsi and those who like Coke, and riffing on audience member’s names. (“Rich? Well, you gotta be ‘rich’ to live in New York City these days!”)
Heidecker & Wood features Tim—and frequent collaborator Davin Wood—playing a character once again, this time a ’70s singer-songwriter. This might be the reason that the project is so incredibly misunderstood. Heidecker & Wood has confounded critics and fans of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job alike, and though their music is a homage to soft-rock FM radio heyday of the ’70s, the project is not a parody at all, but rather a songwriting project, a fact that has proven to be very confusing to some. I spoke with Tim recently about the process of making a second album, the context of this second Heidecker and Wood release, and his various online beefs.
Gary Canino You’ve mentioned before that your first album, Starting From Nowhere, wasn’t really connected from song to song. Some Things Never Stay the Same sounds more like a thematic piece.
Tim Heidecker Oh, that’s nice to hear. I think that might have to do with the songs being written more closely together in time. I was thinking of a certain kind of sound, and we had gone into it thinking it was going to be a heavier record, and didn’t want to get labeled as a soft rock parody band again.