Duet for voice and film

In my search for a more positive approach towards the big ecological challenges that seem to lie ahead of us, the notion of the posthuman started to catch my attention. As in many cases, when discovering something new and attractive, it won’t go away anymore. But what is posthuman? The term could refer to humans becoming cyborgs, implanting computer chips into their bodies, or an even more unpredictable future of genetic manipulations on humans and other animals. I prefer a more simple explanation: a future that is less focussed on the human, or to strengthen this: an end to human exceptionalism. A new window opens if we look at the world keeping that idea in our minds. Suddenly the situation is less desperate, maybe it does not matter at all if we disappear. There are many other creatures living on this planet that are as ingenious, beautiful and full of potential as we are. Even matter itself has properties that lead to endless change and productive reorganization. Our claim that we are the only conscious entities on the globe (or even in the universe) seems less and less likely to be true.

Taking this as a theoretical starting point, I have gone back to my practice as an artist and filmmaker. In a bid to collaborate with natural processes and micro-organisms I have set up a series of experiments with analogue film, exposing it to a variety of organic materials and minerals. The 35mm film I used was many years out of date, rendering it useless for ‘normal’ photographic use, but as such becoming more receptive to the processes that I was using. Yeast grew, salt crystalized, chlorophyl was absorbed, and the acidity in rotting leaves destroyed the emulsion. I also experimented with so called organic developers made with coffee granules and fresh mint leaves, and 19th century recipes for toners based on more ‘aggressive’ chemistry. Now an interesting contradiction presented itself, are these images abstract, or are they true reflections of nature?

In a next step I organised my results through an editing process, looking at the shapes, colours and rhythms. Something that I could not control now entered my realm, after my initial role as an observer I now found myself in the role of translator. Some of the images produced are clearly an expression of a certain event and easily translate into a specific emotion, others are much more ephemeral or mysterious. The slippage of meaning into chaos seems actually a very productive way to communicate my initial idea. In order to amplify that I wrote a score, consisting of sounds, some english words plus snippets of other, presumably foreign, languages.

The final work is presented as a performance, projecting the moving images while performing the score with the use of my voice. Duet for Voice and Film is as such a work that exists in the space between nature, process, language and the active perception of the audience.



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