27 August 2004

Writing

Le Monde has published an amazing interview of Jacques Derrida (in French).
The philosopher exposes thoughts on death and the notion of "surviving" or the "unconditional assertion of life" where unhappy moments are to be loved, like happy moments, except that the thought of happy moments includes the idea of death for they are ended when thought about. Also, he explains why he doesn't want to compromise with the complexity of language and with the elaborate formulation of idea. To some extent, it is strongly related to the process of writing and communicating a thought: I talked about it later with Arianna. How does one write about complexity in a language that looks at ease with words without compromising with simplification? I have always struggled with assembling words, now more than ever because I express myself in a language that is not my mother tongue. In that sense, the regular exercise of the blog is beneficial - but expanding my vocabulary in English is a long term process. And it doesn't ease my relationship with French. I can hardly communicate about work in French anymore, with Céline for instance. All those terms that are so English! How does one translate "mediated" or "empowered"? I find it hard to present "RAW" to a French crowd. Yet, I feel lucky. Because I have many ways to express myself, two languages for many different feelings, thoughts, observations.

--Joëlle.

25 August 2004

My Top 14 of the ISEA 2004 experience:

~Tallin
The old town looks like an Italian sunny city where time stops by.

~Hanging around with the girls, Arianna and Valentina
It was nice to spend some quality time with them, away from the lab: we had a lot of fun!

~A discussion with Janique Laudouar
It made me think of many things: the importance of awareness of media art history, the link of the RAW project with the notion of authorship empowerment, etc. She asked very interesting questions about my work and made me talk a lot!

~The French Rendez-vous on the boat
I already mentioned it: it was nice to catch up with the French media art community. It made me homesick... It was a great initiative of Anne Roquiny. I enjoyed meeting her. She has this beautiful smile.

~The cruise
A 700 people huis-clos: only interesting things can happen.

~Erkki Huhtamo's keynote
So close to my research (at least while I was doing my DEA) but yes, I want to write again about it. He inspires me.

~A dinner at the Stringberg restaurant, Helsinki with Stefan
The food was amazing, the service impeccable and it was just a nice evening altogether.

~The piña colada at Kappeli, Helsinki
What to say about it, except that we probably went to Kappeli every evening that we had available in Helsinki just to get that cocktail over and over again. Just a tip: one of their piña colada is enough for the evening. Two is really too much. The best thing to follow it with is a Mojito!

~Meeting Atau tanaka and seeing his performance with Cécile Babiole at Club BonBon, Tallin
I enjoyed meeting Atau, he has done many many great things but he's very humble about it - this was rather refreshing.

~The scent installation at Kiasma, Helsinki
This installation was not part of the curated ISEA show but it was the best on display anyway. A series fof 30 jars of different sizes and colors were displayed on a diagonal. They were each covered with a carboard paper, and as you would lift it up, you could smell the content of each jar. I traveled 30 times around the world, in the past and the present back and forth, within 15 minutes.

~The "Who owns our (software) culture" talk
Miller Puckette (Pure Data) and Casey Reas (Processing) were both talking and made interesting points in a very very different style. But the audience was very involved in the talk as well and it was just great to be there and take part in a subject that felt at the heart of our work.

~The Wearable workshop of Jonah and Katherine
I never got into wearable technology before - this was a great opportunity to broaden my horizon. I thought of many ideas. I worked that day with a woman named Petra. It was a lot of fun. We worked on a dress that your partner whispers to as he/she unzips it...

~The food market by the port, Helsinki
Amazing blueberries and cherries. And deliciously fresh salmon cooked on the spot.

~The Grilli Radio experience, Helsinki
An evening tour was organized that would take you from one "grilli" to the other and the whole experience was broadcasted on the radio (with other food experiences in the world, happening more or less at the same time). Oh yes, the "grilli" is a traditional Finnish street food stand serving heavy greasy food, at night only, for people who need to set their stomach after drinking too much...

I decided not to write about my down list which is very small after all. Only one word maybe to temper my enthusiasm: Kafka.
It was a lot of joy, laughs and food for thought!

-- Joëlle



18 August 2004

Love boat

My first cruise ever just took place on the Baltic sea between Finland, Sweden and Estonia. The weather wasn’t quite like the tropical feeling you imagine from the idea of a cruise but the confinement in one location of hundreds of people gathering for the same purpose is rather a playful concept. A bit like a music festival where by the second day you feel you know everybody already.
So was the ISEA cruise.
Arianna, Valentina, Stefan and I went on this little crazy adventure where in between cocktails and hot tubs we were talking about work and of course, like it is expected of all of us to do, networking. As it turned out, the women sauna was probably one of the most interesting place to meet people.
I went to few talk sessions, like “African network” that I happen to discover by chance. The speakers came mostly from Zimbabwe and talked about interesting initiatives of teaching new media and promoting African artists. I found some echoes to my research with RAW and went to chat with one of the speaker about it at the end of the presentations.
But for me, the most interesting event, as a personal experience, was an afternoon session called the “French Rendez-vous” where, on the initiative of Anne Roquiny, most of the French artists and personalities on board were gathered. I came by curiosity and ended up participating. Each person was to introduce herself for few minutes. I was given this opportunity at the very end and talked briefly about my forthcoming presentation of RAW in Helsinki. But I wanted to mention something about how I was happy to be working abroad like I did in Vienna and like I do now in Dublin but that I felt some resentment that there were no research lab as such in France and that money was missing to back up the development of media art projects. I wasn’t sure it was the right place to talk about that but with some relief, many people came to see me afterwards to reflect on that problem.
Later on, I participated to two other initiatives that had in common the objective of making people meet and converse. The first one happened at cocktail time, by the open deck, when Sara Diamond mixed the concept of drinking martinis with giving advices to people and matchmaking them for possible collaborations. With my kalhua martini in hand, I came to see her and asked “Who do you think I should meet?”. After a following short conversation to get better acquainted, she introduced me to four different persons. I thought that her idea was really great, as in those events, networking isn’t an easy task and we lack unusual opportunities to approach people.
The second initiative was a dinner conversation to which you had to sign-up and it took place in a separate area of the restaurant. It felt like a society dinner where you have to demonstrate your talent to entertain the guests at the table with any kind of assigned subjects. Our host suggested we talk about food. I can’t remember exactly how, but the conversation resolved quickly around talking about the diet of the place where we were living, as being a drastic change with the place we were coming from. All the guests at the table had a story to tell about that: giving a hint that “media art people” travel a lot?
In that day, I also took part in the most surreal bus tour when the boat stopped at Marienham, some Swedish town on the way, that looked too quiet to be true. Arianna was reminded of the movie “The Truman Show” so you get an idea about it.
A late music set from Scanner showed very nice visuals with which I ended up my day and started my night awarded with good sleep and sweet dreams.

-- Joëlle

12 August 2004

Peripheral vision

Apparently, the center of the world is not the right question.
Cati pointed me to a text [in French] where the author addresses the question of the center of the world and its treatment by Guy Debord.
He opposes the vision of Georges Bataille who argues that thinking the center of the world as a unique element goes against the immensity that he imagines and that is open: "the world looks like [...] what happens from one to the other, when we're laughing, when we're loving". When there is freedom of communication, as such the center should not be thought: "where there is a center (and a periphery), the center should be fought".
This last sentence reflects very much on the idea of majority/minorities. Peripheries hold most often the energy to invent and create, to be open and receptive... until they become centers, exclusive and selective?

-- Joëlle
The center of the world

What is the center of the world for you? Where everything happens? Where the action takes place? Where you want to be part of? What city? What country?
It is the permanent quest of the traveller, the one who decides that the place of birth is the first one of many places of living.
It is my quest. A quest that aims for the dream place, the one where one finally decides to settle in. It is of course never the city where one lives at the moment. It is always a fantasy.

Where should I go next? What for? To accomplish what?

Where is the center of the world?

-- Joëlle

06 August 2004

Why I wish Zapatero would be the government leader in France too

I rented Mona Lisa Smile yesterday, because I was curious. The trailer I’d seen in the theatre showed me actresses I appreciate, like Kirsten Dunst or Maggie Gyllenhaal. But I had read many bad reviews and I gave up. But yesterday was the right time again because I needed an unconsequential movie. And while this movie lacks some qualities, it is actually very consequential. The first major surprise is the painting that the lead character (an art teacher) chooses to challenge her students’ assumptions and make them doubt about their knowledge of art: a Soutine. A beef’s carcass Soutine. How about that? When was the last time you saw a Soutine shown in a mainstream movie or actually any movie? I have never. This sequence is of great pleasure.
Now, the core interest: the movie is set in 1953-54 but of course, it is meant to resonate very much in 2004. Like Pleasantville or Far From Heaven that have similar themes and motives.
In this story, the women are educated to be good housewives. And she who does not aim to get married is a failure to society. Is it any different now?
Even if singles are more and more numerous, they are looked as pathetic. Honestly. Being single is only just a phase until one reaches the goal of settling down and starting a family. Being single cannot be an end in itself.
I even feel that sometimes. Especially at the movie theatre. Especially when I watch a romantic comedy. Except when - thank god! - it’s a movie with Julia Roberts who again in this movie ends it single and proud. Just like in My Best Friend’s Wedding when she made me feel like I would end up my life with my gay friends. Would she become some sort of cult feminist icon like Mae West?
But it is true. I am sensitive to the social pressure of the-wedding-as-the-goal-of-life. Because I was educated to think that. Because I'd like to think that my happiness is constrained to the Prince Charming showing up at the last five minutes, at the last page of the fairy tale that we all submit an application to. My life would be so much easier.

Last time I went to Israel, I expected and I got the question: “why are you still not married?” I was surprised though that the question would mainly come from 9, 10, 12 years-old girls. At their age, I knew already I would not be trapped. Obviously, they think differently. They were not happy of the way I answered: what for? Or why would I want to? Is it THAT important?

I know I have a Cinderella hidden inside of me, and somehow it’s OK, I don’t really mind. But she’s not convincing anymore. Like with Santa Claus, we got to stop believing in Cinderella at some point. I know it’s hard. And it gets harder, the more you grow-up. But as much as I don’t believe that the Messiah is about to come to show me the way, I don’t believe that the Prince Charming is gonna come and give my life the meaning it longs for.

In another sequence of the movie, the art teacher shows a series of advertising picturing women in various occupations, always at home, with the last amazing vacuum-cleaner or the perfect washing-machine. I could not help but think that the graphics might be different but the content is still the same. It is still about the representation of the ideal woman (and the ideal technology!). In Vogue, Elle or Cosmopolitan, the women are still shown in a caricatural way, as stereotypes. Those magazines have their qualities in promoting a certain kind of feminism but they give it, at the end, to caricature, like the rest of them. And that’s very unfortunate. They are best at depicting frivolity and superficiality. But they don’t do it well enough, not enough in a positive sense.

And at the end, it comes down to making the stereotypical choice between careers and love. Because we don’t deserve both. We are still losers, whatever we choose. We remain clichés behind the lens of a camera, still or in motion.

This is my 3rd blog about a movie. Maybe it’s a way for me to realize that it is my sole passion, what truly inspires me. Well actually it’s not so true. There are books and also pop songs. But again, they all tell stories. That get me out of the reality.What a vicious circle.

-- Joëlle

04 August 2004

The End of Summer

I just saw The End of Summer by Yasujiro Ozu.
It was filmed like a series of pictures, where each frame counts (really each frame). In several occasions, I told myself I wished I had taken such pictures. Yet, it was a movie. A new reference for my project RAW LOVE that should be shot in pictures and sound.
In that respect, the resemblance with In The Mood For Love is startling: the way the camera pauses on each frame, the importance of the detail, a certain perceptible strange strength of the characters, and surely the over use of clothing that makes the movie. Wong Kar Wai saw this movie probably many times but didn't let his characters to be as "daring" in some way, giving them other kind of obstacles on their way to love.
Ozu made The End of Summer in 1961. Its modernity is striking.

-- Joëlle.

03 August 2004

Would you have seen the movie "l'Age des possibles" [Pascale Ferran] by any chance? You might have not if you were not living in France in 1996. It was first commissioned by the TV channel Arte and then released as a movie.
Ten young men and women, friends and lovers, living in Strasbourg at an age (in their late twenties), when everything is possible. When you know that in front of you is an infinite space of choice, expectation and possibilities.
I saw it when I was 21 and heartbroken. The story gradually takes shape in the depiction of the banal everyday lives of people like you and me. The high moment in the movie, almost at the end, is just a song, at a house party, when two female friends sing over the best piece of the "Peau d'Ane" soundtrack (another movie to watch, by the way).
I felt very much happy afterwards because I saw how life was actually very exciting. I was aware though I wasn't at that age yet, the age of possibles (mainly because of the constraints of my studies).
Years later, as I arrived to Dublin, I knew I was there at last. At a time in my life when I felt that everything was open to happen. And hopefully, I know that this feeling is still there, even more because it is mixed with doubts and sadness, with fear and melancholy.

-- Joëlle.