Esma Moukhtar

Lost & Found // Geopshere Part 2

an impression written by Esma Moukhtar

Tonight’s evening is like the former part of Geosphere, compiled together with Misha de Ridder. The images we are looking at before the program starts, are mixed by Marius Lundgård, who also designed the invitation: it seems that it has been folded into a wad, like a paper globe, then smoothed again and neatly sent to your mailbox.


flyer L&F Marius Lundgård front - Julia van Mourik

We are now looking at a stream of news announcements from various television broadcasts, from CBS news, to Channel 5 and RTL, all over the world. They all use the iconic globe as their logo. It is funny how many ‘different’ of the same ‘world news logo’s’ pass by.
Julia van Mourik tells us about (not) smoking, drinking, telephones and the emergency exit, in Dutch, and then asks us if there is anyone in the audience who doesn’t speak Dutch. A few hands are raised. A guy on the front row says that he more or less got everything already. To which Julia, dryly replies: “You can either put your fingers in your ears, or listen to me again, because I’m going to repeat it right now”. The time will come that everyone is perfectly able to find the emergency exit.

The first presentation consists of two works of Laurel Nakadate, born in America in the seventies, currently living in New York, and a rising video art star. Recently her second feature premiered at the Los Angeles film festival. In Oops we see her dance in a living room, together with a big old guy. She does her thing, inspired by girl’s dance video clips like the one accompanying the Britney Spears song: a fast and virtuous choreography while the man is slowly hopping and bouncing next to her, trying to follow her moves.
A next guy, in another recording, stands still, face frozen, like a statue, while Laurel circles around him. A third man is imitating what she does in slow motion.
In a skype interview that Julia had with Laurel when she was in LA, she tells how she met all these men. Anywhere, on the street, in shops, bars. She invited these strangers to join her in this video dance.
Was it like dating? Julia asked her.
“No, it was a fictional marriage for a video, making an artwork with a stranger. These little videos were perfect to make a connection. And if it didn’t feel comfortable I didn’t do it, so no safety rules and no troubles.”
For her next project she will work with adult actresses, and she’s working on a new feature as well.
After hearing the goodbyes of the small audience, sitting in the Amsterdam living room where this skype conversation had taken place, we look at another of her videos with strangers: Beg for your life.
The men in this video are forced by a girl with a gun to beg for their life: Please don’t shoot me! Please don’t kill me. Some don’t, some laugh. With another men she plays a game of the photographer and his almost naked model, and with yet another she sits at a table with two bottles of coke that she’s able to let ejaculate by adding sugar, while this man is not even blinking with his eyes. We also see her lying in a young girls bed, surrounded by rabbits of which some start fucking around. There’s romantic music in the background: I’m never gonna make it without you… It is kind of strange what strangers can do to you once you’ve let them in.

Another framing of meeting strangers in public space is developed by Wouter Veldhuis. He’s a landscape architect and is working on the concept of Slow City. His idea, based on lots of research, is that within a hundred years things will be the way he thinks about it now: very slow and without many rules. He was inspired by a Dutch man called Mondeman, who already decades ago predicted that the amount of rules we develop would make us end up in the trouble we’re now in. He suggested we should get rid of rules and go back to spontaneous social relations.
There was a time that people thought that with the rise of the computer, globalization and traffic would take place more and more over the digital net. But to the contrary: traffic did not shrink down, it is still growing. Veldhuis asked himself what would be the design assignment for highways on a long term. He though that if traffic jams are expanding, the only solution would be to slow down and to think of a ‘slow speed city’.
He shows some examples: picnics alongside the highway, street dance at gasoline stations, and we see pictures of people walking in between cars, without stress. If the maximum speed is 50 instead of 120, there would be no jam, so it would offer us time-guaranty, because you accept you can’t go faster or hurry up. And since cars at that time would make less noise and cause less pollution, the climate on the road could be so much more convenient! It is hard to imagine, but who knows…
The A10, the ring around Amsterdam would change into a friendly, relaxing boulevard to hang out on. Slow driving would make us happy, and able to communicate with other people on the road. It would de-capsulate us and make us socially capable again. Being on the road is not just traveling from A to B in the fastest way, but a way of being interactive. He shows another image, of the green heart of Holland, lying in between the main infrastructural network: this would function as a central park. He closes with a short video: (p)laying on the highway. We see a man laying on a highway and crossing it.
Julia asks him who decides about our roads. “The city does, but the super boss is the state.” He tells us that he organized a big traffic jam debate and that they were pretty amazed by these ideas about the future and the options for developing. But it is difficult for Rijkswaterstaat to start changing things. Veldhuis thinks it will take another 50 years before the future will look a bit like the future city he just presented to us.

Sometimes encounters with strangers and ‘social relations’ can take weird, even perverse shapes. In the June/July issue of the Dutch art magazine Metropolis M, an article was published about pleasure. Aaron Schuster analyzed how desire goes very well together with the postponement of satisfaction. And he describes how Ed Ruscha’s film Premium plays with this idea, by staging a man who creates absurd obstacles to finally enjoy the simple pleasure of eating crackers. In the perverse act, the pervert does not loose himself, but stays in control over his scenario, his body and his mind. It is a comical interpretation of theories that come from Freud, Sartre and Lacan, about which Schuster is writing his PhD.
The whole summer Julia has been searching for this movie by Ruscha. She found it via Gagosian gallery in Beverly Hills. We now have the chance to actually see what made us so curious while reading about it!
We see an attractive male American in typical sixties trousers and shirt, with a nice hairdo, going to a supermarket, doing grocery shopping, picking very precisely a wide range of vegetables and salads. He drives towards a building in which he rents a dodgy room, including a rat he doesn’t see. He puts the bags on the floor, and a huge can of oil on a chair that immediately falls apart. He puts it together with a second can and starts working out his plan. He takes away the blanket on the bed, and on the white sheet he spreads out leaves of salad and cut vegetables. Step by step, and very focused, he creates a ‘bed’ of greens. It looks like real piece of veggie art.
The next scene we see him in a cab with a woman. They stop at the apartment where he prepared the bed. He takes away the blanket and shows her his work. She doesn’t know what to say or think. It seems that she is trapped and she wants to leave. No chance, he is forcing her to lie down on top the veggies.
When she finally lies there, he shows up with the cans, and she is even able to choose which dressing she wants. He violently pours her body with the oil, and she starts laughing hysterically. “Wait!”, he suddenly says, “I forgot something! The crackers. Stay here, don’t go, I’ll be right back.” He leaves the apartment, steps into the cab that is still waiting there and drives him to a shop, where he buys crackers, Premium crackers, as we can see, laying in his lap. Cab drives him to another place, a very luxurious hotel room, where he finally steps into a comfortable bed, enjoying the pleasure of eating his Premiums, all by himself. All the rest was just foreplay, for him alone.
“We know Ruscha more as a painter, are there more films made by him?” Julia asks Aaron Schuster. He tells he has made Miracle, and a few sketches, little stories, connected to Smothers Brothers, American comedies from the seventies. At least he was experimenting with food quite a bit and ignoring the women. Maybe he had a salad obsession. Food for psycho-analysis, you would say.

Before the break we look at a Turf Dance video by YAK Films; RIP with Dancing in the Rain. It’s a miraculous piece of street dance in which a bunch of guys cross the streets as if they are floating. No gravity, no bodily limits… just moving like they want to move. They don’t care about traffic, or the heavy rain. It’s mesmerizing. You can find it on YouTube.

We see documentation on a Romanian artist, Mircea Tanacu on the decisive moment in relation to suicide. Inspired by a photograph he once saw in the newspapers, of a woman who had jumped off the roof, he started thinking about what he calls the border between life and death. His photographs consist of reconstructions made on the suicidal death of others, trying to get closer to the decisive moment of wanting to die and acting upon it. He wants to catch this delicate and sensitive moment in which you give up everything: Existing and ceasing to exist at the same time. He questions: “Sometimes I think I’m on the run. Suicide is not important because someone dies, but because of the freedom of choice and to decide which moment. It is staging reality. But I also wonder how much freedom we need or can bear.”
The artist never actually photographed a dead body. He uses himself as a stand in, which seems a bit morbid. We hear him talk, see him at work, but we also get to his father and mother to hear about what happened to their son. And what happened to Axel Moustache?
We in the audience are a bit puzzled about the identity of this artist. Is Axel Moustache an actor that we saw in the documentary? Was it a documentary? Did he die? And what is the relation between him and the photographer?
Winnie Terra is puzzled too: “Why did you do this, what was your aim?”
Alwin Lay and Sacha Hermann answer that they made up this character. Their aim was to construct an artist and his photographic work. Fair enough.

Robert Heineken radically expanded the range of the possibilities for photography as an autonomous art, beyond representation. He created his photographs solely in the dark room. He continued where others left off, so to say. No pictures taken with a camera, just the chemical process in the dark. He produced a large body of work turning his eye on representation in culture.
He is dead now, but some of his ashes are in a little saltshaker, hold by Jason Lazarus who we are talking to via skype. With Heineken’s ashes, Lazarus made a series called The Robert Heineken Series, inspired by his idea of creating photographic images without a camera. He took his ashes into the dark room and the rest is magic. We see a beautifully colored series of abstract and materialist ‘images’ that refer to nothing but image making itself. Heineken must be very happy to live on in these pictures.

The Lost & Found editors saw a video by Claire Hooper in Basel, who came over from London to present it to us. It is something in between a play, a clip, and a trip, suggesting a narrative about what can happen in the underground at night. People in a tube, or on the platform, stuck together, birds of paradise, surreal hallucinations, drugged perceptions, snaps of memories, animated parts and performances of girls, and a battlefield towards the end. What happened, why, how?
Hooper tells us that she had met some of the boys in Kreuzberg and that she was inspired by an incident in which a young middle-eastern guy was put off a train seemingly for no reason. She started to imagine things and decided to transform it into to this cinematographic trip and battle. “NYX/ is about what happens in the in between time”, she concludes.

Vicoria Fu was brushing her teeth often together with Katja Mater from Lost & Found for a while. They lived next to each other in a cabin in the woods of Maine, during a residency in Skowhegan. Fu lives in Brooklyn but is here to show her Self-portraits in Sweden. You can consider it as an ode to super 8mm-film, as we still know so well from these classic home movies, an old medium, hardly ever used. She constructed fictional portraits. Very short ‘documents’ of women posing, alone, or together, in a landscape or in front of a house. They suggest the homes and the people living in it, their lives of which we see a moving shadow in color film. Even though we know these self-portraits are ‘fake’, constructed, the qualities of the 8mm film, it’s texture, the sound of the projector, give us this authentic feeling; the strong impression of experiencing something old and pure, almost poetic. The portraits do maybe not represent the girls in the picture, but they manifest our personal, nostalgic longing and our relation to memory and loss.

Next Lost & Found will take place at SMART Project Place on 15 October.