Mimmo Jodice

The 29th Festival of Films on Art in Montreal also featured a film by Giampiero D’Angeli and Alice Maxia about the Italian photographer Mimmo Jodice. The film opens with Mimmo Jodice strolling the Mediterranean coast during a beautiful morning light, he speaks about the infinity of the sea while the audience is treated to his photographs of the sea.

The film is an inspiring conversation with the photographer. Jodice describes his journey into photography from the beginning, which was for him in the late 1950s. The next decade was particularly inspiring for him as he had the opportunity to meet artists such as Lucio Amelio, Warhol, Rauschemberg, Beuys, Kounellis, Burri, Pistoletto. He became a teacher of photography at the Naples Academy during a time when such posts were quite unusual for photography. Mimmo Jodice’s photography includes experimental works that explore the relationship of photography to reality and memory. He has continued to photograph the urban environment of Naples, its inhabitants, architecture and sculpture.

The film follows the photographer from the studio to the streets of Naples as he takes photographs with his medium-format film camera. I particularly enjoyed the sequences in the darkroom, where we get a rare glimpse into his darkroom techniques. The film is part of a series titled “Fotografia Italiana”, available on DVD from giart.tv. The other four documentaries in the series are dedicated to: Gabrielle Basilico, Gianni Berengo Gardin, Franco Fontana, and Ferdinando Scianna.

Mimmo Jodice quotes the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa:

…but what was I thinking about before I got lost in seeing? This phrase seems as though it were written for me and describes my recurring behaviour quite well: I lost myself in seeing, imagining, and following visions outside reality

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Apr 05, 2011 ]

Tadeusz Konwicki

One of the first books that I read in Polish which was not a required reading for school was a novel by Tadeusz Konwicki – “Mała apokalipsa” – A Minor Apocalypse. This story, narrated in the first person, is captivating from the very first scene in which Konwicki wakes up in a state reminiscient of Charles Bukowski, to have drink; and he is soon being asked by some old friends to set himself on fire that evening in front of the party headquarters in Warsaw as an act of protest. Reluctantly he accepts, the rest of the book follows his adventures of the fateful day. A Minor Apocalypse is a hilarious look at the absurdity around us from a first-person perspective.


DS: A British poet, Philip Larkin, said once that he quit writing novels because novels are about other people whereas poetry is about oneself. If we go with this distinction, can we call your books poetic?

TK: Technically, yes. I write about myself because I came to the conclusion that I am most competent in this sphere. Even if I create various characters, make a plot, some chain of events, everything is saturated with me. I am present all the time, to formulate, mold, remind the reader that it’s me. I staked my writing on that. I think that, in the terrible chaos we have now, objective, transparent prose has to perish because it will be replaced by more perfect forms, like film or television. Only a person can arouse other people’s interest in societal relations. Some people are fascinating, others are old bores. We want to be with some, and we run away from others. So I charm the reader all the time and satiate him with myself, and in this way I use poetic technique. And that’s the only thing worth doing, as opposed to describing the world that we get every day from millions of TV programs, journalists, photographs, newspaper reports. We know this world inside out. We have enough dead bodies in Yugoslavia, Georgia, Palestine, or anywhere else. Finally we are haunted by a thirst to find some universal sense in all that happens. And that’s what poetry likes.

source: An Interview with Tadeusz Konwicki By Dorota Sobieska


Konwicki is also a film director and screenwriter.

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from May 20, 2006 ]



Chce się żyć[ Life Feels Good] by Maciej Pieprzyca


I only saw a couple of films during this year’s World Film Festival in Montreal so it is great to learn that the film I did see won the Grand prix des Americas and the Ecumenical Prize. Chce się żyć [Life Feels Good] by Maciej Pieprzyca is such a beautiful film and well deserving of the grand prize from the festival. The title means, literally, “Wanting to Live”, but as it is an idiom of a joy for life in Polish, the translators chose the closest equivalent in English, “Life Feels Good”. “Chce Się Żyć” is an expression and philosophy that the main character shares with his father.

The film is based on a true story of a man with cerebral palsy, his family and the various people in his life. Everything in this film from the acting to the music is outstanding. It all comes together within the context of a difficult personal life story on the canvas of 1980s-2000s Poland. There are heartbreaking moments throughout, where people and the system behave with creulty and indifference. However, the film’s hope comes from the many good hearted people in Mateusz’ life.

The screening at the World Film Festival in Montreal was a premiere, in the presence of the director, Maciej Pieprzyca. The long standing ovation following the film confirmed that I was not the only one on whom the film made a great impression. I am convinced it will continue to do so in the months and years to come.

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Sep 03, 2013  ]

‘Opałka, One Life, One Oeuvre’ at the International Festival of Films on Art in Montreal

The 30th International Festival of Films on Art (FIFA) is an opportunity for Montreal audiences to see some great documentary films. The film about the famous photographer/sculptor/architect Ai Weiwei (Without Fear or Favour) focuses on the story of his life, his difficulties with the Chinese authorities, and the 2010 exhibition consisting of 100 million hand-made porcelain sunflower seeds spread out on the floor of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in London. Since I am particularly interested in photography, it is unsurprising that I enjoyed the revealing look at the controversial pioneer of photography in The Weird World of Eadweard Muybridge. What did surprise me is the extent to which I found the film on Roman Opałka to be thought provoking.

More than half a dozen documentaries featured Opałka in the 1990s. This 2010 film by Andrzej Sapija, Opałka, jedno życie, jedno dzieło [Opałka, One Life, One Oeuvre], is the most recent documentary on Opałka, produced just one year before the artist’s death. Opałka has been using his skills in lithography and painting by manifesting the passing of time through counting up from 1 to infinity using a brush no.1 and white paint since 1965. His work is evidence of the extraordinary dedication to an idea that he had while waiting for someone in a cafe more than 45 years ago. At that time, he was already an accomplished lithographer, but since then, he has worked almost exclusively on the “Opałka 1965 1 – ∞” project. He calls the many paintings that he has produced as a part of this project ‘details’, each continues on from where the last one ended. The numbers painted on the canvas seem to fade since he uses a single brush dip into paint to complete each number; his first work was painted white on a black canvas, following some experimentation with red, he decided to go from dark grey to white, increasing the lightness of the grey background in each successive “Detail”. “Life as an hourglass, that was the idea”, says Opałka, “I was convinced that [art] history needs such an example”.

Sapija’s opening sequence stitches together beautiful cinematography that seems to echo Opałka’s aesthetic, falling raindrops and a figure walking along a path of rolling hills punctuated by rows of fence posts. Opałka began recording himself reciting the numbers in Polish as he paints them, and this forms the audio background to much of the film. Sapija’s film includes fascinating interviews with the artist who generously tells the story of his life, work and philosophy while the film also shows archival photographs of the people and places from his past.

Sapija’s film includes detailed scenes showing Opałka’s work and installation: the setup includes the painting, tape recorder and a camera used to take a self-portrait after every session.

“This program, the calculating or counting of steps”, says Opalka “is a visualization of time.” “When I paint I don’t think about numbers, as one doesn’t think about steps, I think about everything and nothing at the same time…it is only an area for the meeting of interesting questions, it is finding oneself in a state such that the questions arrive by themselves…I have the unique luxury or comfort of the situation such that I can ask myself questions so free as in no other profession or situation… I remember being often told that this is no longer painting, and I would respond, this is painting at last…it is meditation.” Towards the end of the film, Opałka speaks about his dedication to the idea and his existential doubts, “Why do we exist? Why something rather than nothing? Why I? What am I here for? In that,there is of course the drama of existence, there is almost rebellion[…]existence is a misunderstanding[…]can anyone answer me, what is life?”

Opałka died on August 6, 2011, a picture of the final number that he painted, 5607249, can be seen on his web site. Opałka’s works form a part of the permanent collection of many galleries, such as Centre Pompidou in Paris and New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Galleries that represent him feature images of his works online: Galeria Boss in Lódz, Galerie Yvon Lambert in Paris, and Galleria Melesi in Lecco.

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Mar 20, 2012 ]

“Poet on the Stone” at the 29th International Festival of Films on Art

Another festival of films on art (FIFA) starts this week and goes on until March 27th in Montreal, with screenings throughout the city, including the CCA, Cinémathèque québécoise, Geothe Institute, Grande Bibliothèque, Contemporary and Fine Arts Museums, Place des Arts and Concordia University.

Still from “Poet on the Stone”, a film directed by Kenji Hayashi, playing at FIFA

I was looking forward to seeing the only entry at the festival from Japan, Kenji Hayashi’s “Poet on the Stone”, about the natural stone sculptor, son of four generations of stone masons, Masatoshi Izumi. He worked closely with his mentor, Isamu Noguchi, succeeding his unfinished projects and creating his own masterpieces.

The film is beautifully shot, and the sounds of nature are soothing as well, as the camera follows the sculptor’s quests for finding stones to use in his public art pieces from the natural environment. Masatoshi Izumi has been commissioned to produce work for places such as Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, Kyoto Concert Hall, Garden of Great Fall at Kyoto State Guest House and the roof garden of the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo. He remarks at one point in the film, that the clouds always look so interesting when he finds himself on location. In addition to showing much of his work, the film features the story of the commission for the National Palace Museum in Taipei, including picking out the stones and a glimpse into the technique of cutting.

Still from “Poet on the Stone”, showing Masatoshi Izumi at work

Masatoshi Izumi speaks with humility and knowledge. He is motivated by the desire to continue to improve his understanding of nature through the stonework. He often speaks of clouds and the sky reflected in the stones. The clouds reflected in his stone sculpture in the film are calm and beautiful, which is such a contrast to the scenes in the media of the recent natural disaster in Japan.

I was able to get in touch with the director, Kenji Hayashi, over email, and asked him if the sculptor could comment on the recent earthquake and tsunami in his country. As a philosopher and an artist who works so closely with nature, I thought that it is likely that he could share some insight that we are unlikely to get in the mainstream media. The thoughtful response from Masatoshi Izumi seems to reflect the beauty of nature, like the clouds are reflected in his sculptures:


Within the time and cycles of nature and space, this unprecedented catastrophe is a small matter.

Stones and water are the beginning of creatures and cannot be controlled by the human power. The men of today were forced to realize the terror of it. We must be humble about living.

When Japan was in the middle of the most shameful disaster of the war, my mentor, Isamu Noguchi encouraged people who were devastated, by designing bridges and domes with abstract forms, and lamps of traditional Japanese folk handicraft.

What I think now is that the nature is a beautiful thing. Stones, water and trees, all resonate and are beautiful. They do not begin to compare with artificial things for beauty.

What is beauty that supports spirit?

Mountains and rivers are eternal and forever young. When you turn around from the devastation and look over, there you can see mountains clad in deep greenery and rivers, too.


Still from “Poet on the Stone”

I saw the film last Friday, at the Musée d’art contemporain. There is another screening on Sunday, March 27 at 18h30, at Place des Arts – Cinquième Salle.

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Mar 20, 2011 ]

from open source to RiP! A Remix Manifesto

Brett Gaylor’s RiP! A remix manifesto touches on many themes: corporate control of cultural heritage and media, copyright law, artistic creativity, remixing music. I attended the screening and discussion at RVCQ, and if I had to pick one conclusion from the many that can be made it would be that society is forever re-creating and re-interpreting its culture, media and information.

The film’s central protagonist is Girl Talk (aka Gregg Gillis), a biomedical engineer by day and a remix musician by night. There are some parallel themes to open access publishing explored in the film through Gregg Gillis’ day job. Among the many interesting people in the film are Lawrence Lessig (founder of Creative Commons) and Gilberto Gil (Brazil’s Minister of Culture). There are compelling stories too, like that of the Mouse Liberation Front, or Jammie Thomas and other unfortunate civilian targets of lawsuits by the copyright industry.

The film begins with a discussion of the birth and growth of the Internet, technology that is a foundation for much of the creative dilemmas that are presented – it is this enabling technology that makes digital remix culture possible. The ideas of openness and copyright are certainly not as new as the Internet, Phillip Davis’ recent article (How the Media Frames “Open Access”) points out that the general meaning of “unrestricted admission or access” is documented in Oxford English Dictionary as far back as 1602. However, the Internet is the enabling technology to dramatically increase access to all kinds of cultural objects, from scientific publications, to music and cinema.

Considering the importance of the Internet to the theme, open source software seems like a relevant starting point. I would have liked to see a more thorough coverage of this in the film. Open source software, with its collaborative development model and its General Public License that aims to protect the work from copyright restrictions seems deserving of special mention. The fact that the open source Apache web server, for example, is the most popular web server on the Internet since 1996 is a significant proof of concept of the power of this collaborative model. Some of the media corporations that are mentioned in the film are likely using Apache web servers, and other open source applications such as Berkeley Internet Name Domain (BIND). However, since Brett takes this collaborative concept seriously through hosting public contributions to RiP! a remix manifesto at opensourcecinema.org, I can always submit a remix that includes what I think is missing from the film!

Overall, I think this is an excellent film, and I also appreciate Brett’s ability to explain his point of view in person. He questions the need and implications of having to ask for explicit permission from copyright holders to re-use or remix. The act of pleading for permission implies that the public only has permission to be consumers of media by default. Do publishers ask for permission from the public to post their media all over the city, in the newspapers, on television and the Internet? We are in search of a balance, a path that would allow artists to benefit commercially from their work while at the same time keeping culture and media accessible to more than just consumption – keeping it open to creative reuse.

In my personal opinion, the idea of finding a global and permanent “middle road” solution is seductive, but making anything permanent and compulsory in art could be self-defeating. The discussions over artistic creativity and the objects of culture will continue indefinitely, in my opinion. In the meantime, Brett Gaylor has contributed a remix of a thought provoking manifesto:

1. Culture always builds on the past
2. The past always tries to control the future
3. Our future is becoming less free
4. To build free societies we need to limit the control of the past

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Mar 05, 2009]

No More Smoke Signals


The CANADIAN PREMIERE SCREENING of No More Smoke Signals is co-presented by RIDM, Montreal’s International Documentary Film Festival and Barriere Lake Solidarity.


Concordia University (Montreal)
Monday November 17, 2008
Screening begins 19h30
Venue: Room H-110, 1455 de maisonneuve
Fanny Bräuning / Switzerland / 2008 / 90 minA lone radio station on a small hill in South Dakota, founded in the 1970s by activists of the North American Indian resistance movement: KILI RADIO – “Voice of the Lakota Nation”. A forgotten place between struggle and hope, between Indian legends and everyday life on the poorest reservation in the USA. But there is Roxanne Two Bulls, who wants to begin a new life on the land of her ancestors, and the young DJ, Derrick, who discovers his talent for music at KILI. There is also Bruce, Caucasian, an attorney who has attempted to get an Indian activist released from prison for the past 30 years. And a sudden appearance by the former AIM activist John Trudell, who launched a career as a musician in Hollywood. Everything converges at KILI RADIO, and instead of sending smoke signals KILI transmits its signals throughout the vast and magnificent landscape, with a delightful combination of humour and melancholy. Native hip hop and broken windshields: pride has been restored – it really is OK to be Lakota.



It is a beautiful film based around the story of KILI radio station that touches on the history of Pine Ridge, Leonard Peltier, Wounded Knee Massacre, the Black Hills. This screening was the North American premiere, with the director Fanny Bräuning, and one of the characters from the film, the lawyer, Bruce present for a post-screening discussion. The 1980 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Russell Means, and the Republic of Lakotah Declaration of Independence came up in the discussion. Fanny Bräuning said that she was inspired to make the film after reading Leonard Peltier’s book, Prison Writings: My Life is My Sun Dance.

Lakota declares its Sovereignty

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Nov 17, 2008]

Sügisball [Autumn Ball]

Sügisball [Autumn Ball] is the first feature film of Estonian filmmaker Veiko Õunpuu. He wrote the screenplay based on Mati Unt’s novel and directed the film. Autumn Ball has already won the Venice Horizons Award at the Venice Film Festival, and it is currently playing at the Warsaw International Film Fest as well as the Festival Nouveau Cinema, which is where I saw it.

The synopsis from the Warsaw International Film Fest web site goes like this:

Fragments of six lonely lives, stuck in the humdrum world of Soviet-era tower blocks.
How close can we get to other human beings? Is it possible to live a life completely devoid of love? The questions are painfully apparent and the answers much less so. On the other hand, the film offers a possibility of warmth, of laughter. A sparse commodity, true, but inherently present. A tale of human seclusion and the incapability to reach others. Director`s statement: “But you also find humour and the absurd, and the properly attuned viewer might even find themselves laughing out loud. If I were to define the film, I would say that `Autumn Ball` is a pitch-black comedy about loneliness, despair and hope”.

Sügisball is not a comedy about relationships, the drunken director of comedies about relationships is beaten up (maybe even killed) by Theo, the doorman, in Autumn Ball. Loneliness and despair is felt throughout the film, exaggerated to a point of humour; I am thinking of Mati getting caught looking into his rival’s apartment window and setting off a car alarm as he runs away. Veiko Õunpuu shows us a picture of hope and love within a world of loneliness, alienation and despair. The Soviet-era tower blocks are reminiscent of Kieslowski’s “Dekalog” and Robert Gliński’s “Cześć Tereska”.

Theo is seduced by an intellectual who idealizes him until the very moment she learns that he is not a humble genius writer or academic that only’ appears to be a regular person. Perhaps literary conferences are indeed contrived attempts at identity construction, and perhaps ‘the west’ is financing all kinds of nonsense out of an overfed guilt that is just a continuation of colonialism; but neither of these thoughts sounded quite so comical before I heard that academic intellectual use these lines to strike up a conversation with Theo at a literary conference that he was crashing. He really is a regular person, or is he? She quotes Fernando Pessoa,

“I made of myself, something beyond my knowledge
and what I could make of myself, I failed to do.”

The poem from where the line is taken is called Tabacaria [Tobacco-Shop] and once I read it I realized just how much of an inspiration Pessoa might have been for the film. The edition that I got my hands on actually has the original Portuguese side by side with the English translation.

Fiz de mim o que não soube,
E o que podia fazer de mim não o fiz.

and the translation reads,

“I became what I couldn’t,
And what I might have become, I didn’t”

There is no such thing as a perfect translation, but I did want to know if the word “knowledge” was in there or not, and I am told by my Portuguese speaking friend that it is, “’Soube’ is from ‘saber’ an irregular verb for ‘know’, conjugated at the first person of the conditional past (think: ‘that I hadn’t known’ or ‘that wasn’t known’).”

Some of the characters in Autumn Ball seem to be stuck in the type of existential void that is described in Pessoa’s Tobacco-Shop. Jaana leaves Mati in search of happiness, and when she does come back, he tells her that happiness is just what everyone else wants too. The sense of despair that can overwhelm us when we consider ourselves not as individuals, but as interchangeable units that form a more significant, statistical collection, is in focus. All the more so as the camera moves to pan across endless identical windows in the rows of a grey cement apartment block complex.

We yearn for permanence in a constantly changing world. I recently read an interview with Godard, where he explains that film is the only art that deals with mortality directly, because to film actors is to film mortal creatures in the process of change.

JLD: […]
The cinema is the only art which, as Cocteau says (in Orpheus, I believe) “films death at work.” The person one films is growing older and will die. We film, therefore, a moment when death is working. Painting is immobile; the cinema is interesting because it seizes life and the mortal aspect of life.

source: “An Interview With Jean-Luc Godard.” First published in Cahiers du Cinema, December 1962. Found in: Jean-Luc Godard – A critical anthology. E.P. Dutton & Co., 1968

Mati concludes in an inspired state, after days of drinking following the painful parting with Jaana who has left him for another man,

“it’s not boredom that ends love, but impatience
impatience of bodies yearning to live, yet dying each day”

She comes back to tell him that she loves him, and in this there is hope. We know that Mati is happy, because he has dreamt of this happiness. He admits that he does not believe her when she tells him that she loves him, but his words are lost to the reality of their embrace.

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from 2007]

Krzysztof Zanussi

I saw Illumination by Krzysztof Zanussi recently. It is a film about science: its ethics, politics, successes and failures, and the ambitious young physicist who is trying to find his way. Anyone who is interested in science would enjoy this film, and what is interesting is that even though this is a film from 1974, the issues and scientific accomplishments it covers are particularly relevant and current.

The film opens with a videorecording of prof. Władysław Tatarkiewicz explaining the primacy of purity of heart in illumination of the mind allowing for the direct perception of truth.

Illumination is St Augustine’s theory that moments of clarity and understanding come about in a Platonic revelation of the real world that is more a result of a purity of heart than intellectual effort. It is described not as an ecstatic moment that is free of thought but an exponential expansion of thought.


Zbigniew Zapasiewicz and Piotr Garlicki

Barwy ochronne is the 1976 film by Krzysztof Zanussi that I can’t seem to find the official English translation of the title, I would translate it as “Protective hues” or wait, I found it, “Camouflage”. The film was awarded the grand prix for the best picture at the Gdańsk film festival in 1977, but it is also not out of date today, still relevant to human dilemma. What has changed, perhaps, is the environment. Perhaps today the young academics would be offered a squash racket instead of the tennis racket, and a membership to an expensive health club in the city instead of the tennis court in the forest. The linguistics conference would be taking place in a metropolitan setting instead of the little lakeside resort in 1970s Poland. Lastly, perhaps today the plot would have more of a corporate corruption of the academia angle to it, but the fishbowl that is academia and the conflict between truth and convenience is just as relevant today.

[Photomedia Forum posts by T.Neugebauer from Jan-Mar, 2007]

Bomb the system, with graffiti

Bomb the System is the title of a film that tells a story about graffiti artists in New York, and in doing so manages to show graffiti as a genuine and impermanent art form of the street. I have always wondered about the stories behind graffiti when I see them, but graffiti is also seen as vandalism by many, including the New York police squads that are in charge of ‘cleaning up’ the city. Thus, graffiti artists are also considered ‘vandals’ by the city, and their work removed as a part of the routine of ‘the system’, while the culture of graffiti recognizes itself as being inherently outside and in opposition to that system.

 Bomb the System is the first feature in over 20 years to delve into the world of graffiti art. The film, shot entirely on the streets of New York City, is the feature debut of 23-year-old writer/director Adam Bhala Lough.

[…] a cinematic poem dedicated to the art of graffiti, and to the city where it all began more than two decades ago […]

source: Bomb the System Official Website
see also: Art Crimes – The Writing on the Wall

I really liked the raw cinematography of New York, and I was genuinely touched by the story. El-P is the underground hip hop producer and rapper from New York that is responsible for the music in the film.

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Jul 21, 2015]