"Open End" is the fourth exhibition in an ongoing series of presentations of film and video works from the Goetz Collection in Haus der Kunst
. Featuring the work of 14 renowned international artists, the cinematic works in this exhibition explore the idea of the open narrative with regard to the visual aspect and the use of language. As in the modern and contemporary novel, which constitutes one of the most overt aspects of the literary narrative, freer, open, narrative forms take the place of conventional, linear action towards an end point. Likewise, all the films in this exhibition share the trait of being open ended, thus pointing to affinities between the narrative techniques of the novel and visual structuring of contemporary film installations.
In "House with Pool" (Teresa Hubbard/Alexander Birchler, 2004), several plot lines are consistently pursued in parallel without them ever touching. It is not just the story's finish that is open ended here, but its beginning as well. Furthermore, anything that allows the viewer to infer a chronological sequence remains mere conjecture. A woman waiting in a tidy house; a girl who flees from the same house only to return; and the gardener who retrieves a dead deer out of the pool: each of these forms an individual storyline.
Sebastian Diaz Morales joins together six, very similar episodes ("The Man with the Bag", 2004). In all of these, a man runs through the barren and desolate landscape of Patagonia. His efforts to move forward are hindered by the sack he is carrying. In each episode, he stumbles, losing the bag's contents - sometimes bones, sometimes stones - and he even leaves the sack by the wayside, only to continue his journey later from the same spot. A Canto Ostinato for two pianos and sounds of the wind comprise the soundtrack. The burden the man carries and never rids himself of makes him seem like a modern day Sisyphus, one condemned to the eternal repetition of a futile activity.
In "Journey into Fear" (2001), Stan Douglas mixes the boxed narrative with the elements of a thriller. The film is set on a container ship. The female pilot wants to get the cargo to the destination port on time. Because of commodity future transaction, which is only profitable in the case of a late arrival, the cargo inspector uses flattery, bribery, and even death threats to put the pilot under pressure. The film's script consists of several variations of a dialogue, each of which is again divided into sub-sections; a computer randomly selects and combines these elements, resulting in a total of several hundred different variants. Individual parts of the action are continually repeated and slightly modified at the same time. Rather than pursuing one main narrative and using the myriad variations instead, the director examines how many sections and repetitions an action can be dissected into and still be perceived as a story.
Repetition is also an important stylistic device in "The Warriors of Beauty" (Pierre Coulibeuf, 2002/06). The 2-channel installation shows a main image in a loop: A naked man with outstretched arms jumps toward a ceiling and falls every time. Shown on the second screen is a sequence of figures who appear repeatedly, as if on a turntable. Once again, the actions are without a beginning or end. This time, however, they are abstruse and even surreal because neither objective nor motive can be identified: A man in a suit of armor wears himself out fighting against an unseen enemy; a bride, looking about, hurries through the aisles of a monastery; beetles crawl out of the mouth of a young woman, etc. Everyone seems possessed by a demon that dictates their movements. The setting in which the action unfolds is choreographed and reminiscent of theater. However, the bustle of the tortured souls has its roots in painting and literature, dating back to the visions of hell in the work of Dante Alighieri or Hieronymus Bosch. It is no coincidence that the set location is similar to that of a medieval monastery.
In literature, a text can have a subtext that transports the "real" message between the lines. "The Interview" illustrates the relationship between text and subtext using cinematic means. The 'text' tells a story about Helen, a single mother. Although she is preparing for a job interview, Helen allows an unknown woman, Shirley - who rang at her door and has no fixed abode - to spend the night. The camera follows their conversation, Shirley waking up at dawn, and Helen on her way to the interview. The film ends with a frontal view of Helen's stern face. The subtext goes deeper than the external events, revealing the spirituality hidden in everyday activities, like making tea, and exposes the inner emotions of the characters: their restlessness, their desire for respect and their ability to empathize. The main stylistic device here is the timing of color: When moving within their private spheres, the protagonists are given only a hint of color, whereas when engaged with their social environment, the colors intensify. The meditative camera work also helps to reveal and depict the people's emotional state.
Laurent Montaron and Clement Page also explore what is difficult to express in words. Clement Page's work focuses on the trance states of a small boy, who is evolving a childish phobia of white wolves, like those he has seen in children's books. The film is based on Sigmund Freud's case study, "The Wolf Man". With Montaron, the failure of language is already expressed in the film's title, "Balbvtio", which means "stuttering" in Latin. A boy shoots pigeons in an old church and rips off the piece of paper wrapped around one of these pigeons' legs. He translates the text on the paper using a dictionary; the meaning is as clear - or obscure - as concrete poetry. In all of these, the sequence of the events is as loose, and with as many breaks, as a dream.
The contributions of Isaac Julien and Emmanuelle Antille can be understood as dream diaries. Together, this selection of works demonstrates that the film director has as many possibilities at his disposal as does the author of a novel with regard to artistic media and narrative techniques. These include the open end, as well as the mix of genres, the framed and episode story, the whole range of narrative perspectives (from the character perspective to the omniscient author, and all hybrids of these), the stream of consciousness as technique, and the variation on a basic theme; and, just as novelists tell their readers about the process of writing, the film director can also elevate the narrative itself to the subject on a superordinate level.
"Open End" is the fourth presentation of works from the Goetz Collection in Haus der Kunst. The exhibition is curated by Ingvild Goetz.