|alytus biennial 1|
International festival of experimental art
The landscapes of Granturismo , a film by Günther and Loredana Selichar
Press PLAY . For a brief moment the picture stands still. Before us lies a straight road surrounded by fields, trees along the wayside. At the same time a motor is heard, revving up quickly. Then we take off, always looking straight ahead into the depths of the image that races by left and right. Our gaze through the windshield is the center, and it seeks a single goal that secures its position: the other center, the vanishing point on the horizon. The world of the image is stretched between these two centers, but also a certain image of the world, which has been passed on in bourgeois society since the renaissance. The development of the central perspective has been long-lasting; despite all the objections of modernity, it has remained the dominant form of representing the world – in order to symbolically conquer and colonize it, to make it negotiable.
This kind of representation and world view is retained virtually in its pure form in video or computer games that send the viewer-player-actor on a race track, ski piste or airway through a world full of (surmountable) obstacles. Granturismo begins like a naturalistic version of such a game.
The passenger . This is a song from the seventies; from a time when experiencing the world through the car and observing it through the windshield became finally established as a mass phenomenon. The connection was frequently reflected upon in pop music and films, particularly in the genre of Road movies – from Wild Angels (1966), Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) and Kings of the Road (1976) to Christian Schocher's Swiss production Traveling Warrior (1981) and beyond.
In this song from the seventies, the pleasure of driving merges with the original motif of the central perspective – taking possession of the world through viewing: "I am the passenger, and I ride and I ride ... // o the passenger, he rides and he rides, he looks through his window, what does he see ... / all of it was made for you and me ... / so let's take a ride and see what's mine ... // o the passenger, he rides and he rides, he sees things from under glass, he sees the things he knows are his" (Iggy Pop, 1977). A certain irritation remains here: who is the driving seer, the hero of this narrative - "I", "he", "you and me"?
In Granturismo , however, the invisible driver coincides with the viewer – and the windshield with the film screen. A prominent predecessor of this type of image can be found in the air combat scenes of Star Wars , for instance, where the cockpit screen becomes identical with that of the cinema. Historically speaking, the space and subjectivity battles in late seventies and early eighties American cinema have triumphantly overwritten the irritated, skeptical gaze inherent in most Road movies.
World for Windows . In more recent media history, the pseudo-transparency of the virtual conquering gaze is no longer sufficient. The desire for the real – or, in media terms, the desire for "unclean", "soiled" or "dangerous" images – has radically increased. This is manifested not only in "reality fiction" (e.g. Dogma-type cinema) or in realitainment ("Big Brother" et al.), but also in documentary sports television. The "helmet camera" used during Formula One and Downhill races conveys the pure frenzy of subjectivity and simultaneously promises (as a possibility) real death – or at least taking part in an accident, in the violence of the speed machine.
Here, Granturismo picks up with a second movement of reflection and irony. Nature, which tends to congeal into a spectacle when seen through the car window (and the pseudo-window of the media), hits back in kamikaze-like fashion. Disturbance signals barge into the transparent picture of the road and the landscape we traverse: mosquitos, flies and other insects crash into the windshield and leave their dirty traces behind. Soon much of the picture surface is covered by colorfully glittering streaks of flesh and blood. This is real death , but to such an extent that the “window to reality” actually becomes an impenetrable "screen", screening out the impositions of the world – and at the same storing or “remembering” them in frozen pictorial form, like a war memorial does. It's a “reality memorial”: the signals which disturb our seemingly realistic moving picture generate another (now static and seemingly unrealistic) picture, a painful, perhaps ominous representation, in which other, older media surfaces resonate. Material film ( Mothlight ). Action painting
(Pollock). Battle scene canvas.
Screening the screen, hot . Günther Selichar's large format photographs entitled Screens, cold (1998/2000) show screens that are "parked"; not in operation but in a mode of “expectation”. Granturismo is their counterpart – the revved up, heated up screen of a "drive-in” cinema suddenly filled with life and semantics. Both formats (like Selichar's earlier work) pursue the question of how a meaningful "image" may be actuated from the undifferentiated, endlessly looping "audiovisual" of the media. For the French critic Serge Daney, who has convincingly described this dichotomy, a certain need for distance is linked with the "image" (in cinema), so that an "other" can appear, instead of always "the same" (as in television).
This leads any self-reflexive or experimental film back to questions of craftsmanship: How can a screen be represented on a screen, so that it becomes a true image?
The need for distance also lies at the heart of Granturismo . What was to be shown could not be shown without taking such distance. The picture that was sought would not have emerged "by itself" on the actual (windshield) screen. Therefore, a second screen made of glass had to be set up for the sharp image of the dead creatures to appear. The actual "projection" process that generated this image was in need of an auxiliary apparatus, too. As viewers of Granturismo we have the impression that the moving car is “shooting at” living creatures (in America, riding in the front passenger seat is called "riding shotgun"). But it's the other way round: in fact, the insects – like images in the cinema – were being thrown or shot at the static glass screen: pro-jected.
Rules of the road . Tourism was one of the forms through which 19th century bourgeois society practiced the mobile, virtual and colonial gaze. In the title Granturismo (which cites the car type "GT"), this reference is strongly present. Through the course of the film, the ironic question is raised as to what this gaze looks like from the other direction; what it might feel like to be the one seen, hit, lighted, "shot" by the touristic gaze. In this respect, the complementary film to Granturismo would be a scene from Gary Larson's Tales From the Far Side (1994), an animated film that is mostly set in the animal world. The scene begins in the interior of an airplane. The charming passengers are all insects. They are chatting and joking, their peaceful journey undisturbed, when suddenly the plane is jolted by violent movements. At this point, the film switches perspectives: a car filled with humans races straight at the insect airplane. It smashes against the windshield, and all the insects are dead. As it is customary in "real life", the car people take no note of this incident. The brutality inherent in this change of perspectives occasions laughter, but it also indicates the actual power relations in the field of universal tourism.
Philosophy of history . That is a different story. Yet in some mad way, the film seems to play with it, at least in my unfinished impression. Granturismo is a piece of insect theater, an animal allegory, a black comedy about the uninterrupted forward motion and standstills that characterize our machines and intellectual apparatuses. This comedy plays in a small world populated by mosquitoes and traveling warriors, in which the larger world holds its rehearsal:
"The true picture of the past flits by. The past can be seized only as an image which flashes up at the instant when it can be recognized and is never seen again. (...) To articulate the past historically does not mean to recognize it ‘the way it really was'. It means to seize hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger. Historical materialism wishes to retain that image of the past which unexpectedly appears to man singled out by history at a moment of danger." (Walter Benjamin) This is followed several pages later by the beautiful image of the "angel of history": "Where we percieve a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. (...) This storm is what we call progress." In Granturismo , the surface of vision intended to screen us from the storm is an actual windshield. It reveals an image of what the warrior wrecked and the storm swept away: fields of corpses.
Born in Vienna, 1964. Film critic and curator. Director of the VIENNALE - Vienna International Film Festival from 1992 to 1996. Consultant for international film festivals; curator of exhibitions and film series; essays on cinema and the arts, director of the Austrian Film Museum since 2002. Lives in Vienna.
Publications include: Der Siebente Kontinent. Michael Haneke und seine Filme (1991, enlarged Italian edition, co-edited with Giovanni Spagnoletti, 1999), Cool - Pop. Politik. Hollywood 1960-68 (1994), Avantgardefilm. Österreich. 1950 bis heute (1995, co-edited with Lisl Ponger, Gottfried Schlemmer), The Last Great American Picture Show (1995; enlarged english edition, co-edited with Noel Field, 2001).
“GT Granturismo ” Digital Video 5´10, 16:9
Directed by Günther+Loredana Selichar
Photography Martin Putz
Special Effects Martin Reinhart+Martin Putz+Wolfgang Hemmer
Scientific Advice Wofgang Hemmer
Computer Animation Ronald Anzenberger
Music Wolfgang Mitterer+Günther Selichar
Grafic Design Christian Hochmeister
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