The Gaze 13′
Division of labour 7′
2 screens 190 x 105 cm
In a 9m2 room two short films are screened simultaneously. In one wall “The Gaze”, a fiction production that reflects on the predominance of the male point of view in audiovisuals, revealing a stereotypical love story between a woman and her lover. At another wall “Division of labour”, the result of the appropriation and manipulation of a couple of fragments of a classic experimental film, “Man with the movie camera”. This video collage is framed in a historical context to highlight the discrimination of women in the audiovisual industry since its inception. The two movies, which have different lengths, are not projected in sync with the intention of promoting the diversity of coincidences and the dialog among them, leaving the door open to free associations.
Division of labour
Recorded fragments from “Man with the movie camera”, Dziga Vertov, Elizaveta Svilova and Mikhail Kaufman, 1929.
During the summer of 2015 I spent some days reviewing some classic silent films. Among those was “Man with a movie camera” directed by Dziga Vertov (Denis Kaufman) in 1929 with a small team: his brother Mikhail Kaufman, his wife Elizaveta Svilova and himself. After the viewing I wanted to know more about the biography of the legendary film and its producers. I found out, for example, about the family relations among the crew. Also that Vertov died young while Svilova dedicated her life to direct documentaries during World War II, including one on the discovery of the extermination camp at Auschwitz by the Russian troops. I also learned that the shooting plan of “Man with a movie camera” was responding to a production hierarchy characteristic of early cinema. That is, the labor separated by gender. The two brothers were mostly dedicated to shoot with their cameras during long hours, mostly outdoors, while Svilova, Vertov’s wife, devoted her time to process, sort and edit the film material. At that time the craftwork edition of celluloid was copious and intense, so it needed a large workforce in which mostly women were engaged. It resembled a textile sector in which women and children, as nowadays in some countries, was the biggest labor source. So I found it interesting to know that Svilova and Vertov continued with the usual division of labor of their environment and time. It is definitely “Man with a movie camera”, even today, a milestone in the history of visual language. Dziga Vertov is also part of the myth of the pioneers of modern cinema. It is not so much so for his wife and editor of one of the movies that contributed the most with developments to the techniques of audiovisual editing, including the freezing of images, the slow motion and fast forward, the fade in and out, juxtaposition, nonlinear montage among many others. It is difficult to know for sure who promoted these formal experiments. Vertov is postulated in the credits as a global author of the work and Svilova only as an assistant editor. But we do not know if she is stated as this simply because at that time the editing was considered just an assistance work or if she really had no power of decision.
Meanwhile watching the film a second time one of its finest moments struck me, all of a sudden revealing a new meaning. It is when Svilova herself is filmed by the camera doing her job. If we slow down the frenetic editing and observe calmly we can see how those three minutes of footage are a tribute to the dedicated work of Svilova and in which other images of women and children overlap. As a homage to Svilova and her invisible and undervalued work I cut that part of the film and paste it right after the credits. I also made some minimal changes, manipulating a few of the moments with the same style of film editing, that it is freezing frames in which we can see briefly Svilova working. Then I stretched that observation, with the intention to appreciate her delicate concentration and devotion.
Actor: Joanna Dahlgren
This video-art has been designed with a cinematic language. It is starred by an actor which one I directed and I worked with in a process of narrative construction usual for this type of products. We start from the basis of a written script and work to build the character in a few preliminary rehearsals. The planning of the visual language was consistent with the structure of shots and reverse shots and / or sequence shots predetermined in advance. There are two characters, one is a woman who always perform in front of the camera. The other is the camera itself but one can never see it from the outside, nevertheless one can perceive it only and exclusively for the constant camera point of view and the interaction that the woman has with it. The story line follows the steps of the couple relationship with a romantic start, an intermediate in which life unfolds on a routine basis, a conflict in which the woman is overwhelmed by the possessive presence of the camera and a ending in which the woman has to make the decision to break apart from the toxic relationship.