10.11.2018, 16.30, Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur, Foyer Theater Winterthur

Shorts and Shortage
Podium with Mike Hoolboom, Alexandra Gelis and Alia Syed

moderated by Laura Walde

This year’s «Person in Focus», Mike Hoolboom, and film artists Alia Syed and Alexandra Gelis discuss the notion of shortage in their own artistic and curatorial practice. The term will be examined from a variety of perspectives: as an aesthetic strategy, a form of production, and a theoretical concept for addressing the creation of value in various exhibition contexts.

Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur, Podium Shorts and Shortage, 2018

Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur, Podium Shorts and Shortage, 2018

Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur, Screenings Person in Focus, 2018

Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur, Screenings Person in Focus, 2018

Mike Hoolboom, Scrapbook, 2015, film still © Mike Hoolboom

Mike Hoolboom, Ghost, 2017, film still © Mike Hoolboom

Mike Hoolboom, 3 Dreams of Horses, 2018, film still © Mike Hoolboom

Alexandra Gelis, The Island, 2018, film still © Alexandra Gelis

09.11.2018, 14.00-18.00, Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur, Alte Kaserne

Shorts and Shortage
Workshop with Mike Hoolboom

hosted by Fabienne Liptay, Laura Walde and Carla Gabriela Engler

The interdisciplinary workshop on the topic of shortage is organized by the SNSF project «Exhibiting Film: Challenges of Format» (Film Studies, University of Zurich), in collaboration with Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur and HEAD Geneva. With lower production costs, an affinity for the experimental, and alternative distribution and exhibition patterns in various institutional contexts, shorts films are closely linked to the notion of «fringe films» (Mike Hoolboom). In 15-minute presentations, the participants discuss shortage as an aesthetic strategy, a form of production, and a theoretical concept for addressing the creation of value in various exhibition contexts.

The first known record of the term «shortage» as a synonym for lack, want, or scarcity stems from the 1860s. It is conceivable that the coinage was as a response to the interrupted export of raw cotton, harvested by slaves, from the Confederate States, due to the blockage of the southern ports during the American Civil War. This affected the British textile industry – which heralded the Industrial Revolution and the establishment of the working class – to such a degree that mass unemployment and severe poverty led to a crisis in world economy. It is this economic crisis from which Marx developed his thoughts on surplus value within capitalist production. For the workshop, we want to depart from the concept of «shortage» and its grounding in political economy and theory in order to discuss its prevalence with regard to the production, distribution, and exhibition of films.

As an expression of the scarcity of resources, resulting from their sustained lack or their deliberate renunciation, shortage can become a powerful means for challenging or countering the hegemonic norms of the film industry. In the case of the short film, its lower production costs and technological standards, its close affinity to the experimental or amateur mode, its alternative channels of dispersion and its circulation in different institutional contexts as well as its peripheral status within film culture forge close ties to essayistic and alternative, but also activist and political filmmaking. In this context, shortage can also be understood as a theoretical concept that allows for an investigation into the economic and political conditions that affect and regulate the value of films as commodity and currency within the global trade. We would like to approach the notion of shortage from different, but converging perspectives: (1) as an aesthetic strategy, (2) as a mode of production and distribution, (3) as a concept related to theories of value formation in accordance with the economic logics and logistics of films’ different exhibition contexts.

We invite film scholars, filmmakers and representatives of the festival industry to discuss notions of «shortage» in a workshop during the 22nd edition of Switzerland’s biggest short film festival in Winterthur in November 2018. The workshop will be held in English.

Workshop programme:

Mike Hoolboom, Footnotes
Mike Hoolboom, From the Archive: Nine Thoughts on Short Films (1995)
Fabienne Liptay, Responsibility and Hesitation
Laura Walde, Introductory Thoughts on Shorts and Shortage
Tom Kalin, You Must Remember This (in 3 Short Acts)
Johannes Binotto, How to Do Less: Scarcity in/as Film Production Mode
María Palacios Cruz. «Shorts on shortage»: notes for a talk
Maike Mia Höhne, A Definition of «shortage»—or who tells me what state of I am living in
Malte Hagener, Shortage: An Ecological Perspective
Carla Gabriela Engler, Patterns of the Conquerors. Shortage of Time and Space in John Forbes Watson’s Textile Sample Books


Mike Hoolboom
Footnotes

I have no memory of giving this talk, and it seems that words are spontaneously coming out of my mouth, which seems unlikely, this doesn’t happen even in casual conversations which are invariably scripted and rehearsed.

Stranger still the speaker doesn’t even resemble me. How delicious. It seems I have a twin, a dreamed double, who is able to speak without rehearsals. I hope one day we’ll meet.

In this gathering the twin offers some thoughts on points raised by the luminous speakers who came before him. The remarks are footnotes, no more no less. What are they about?

1. The Door Chooses You
I remember when a friend of mine decided to leave the shabby world of media art (festival refusals, petty feuds, chronic underexposure) and enter the glamorous world of art (exhibition refusals, petty feuds, chronic underexposure) aka the art world. Is it really a world? Oh yes. How do you step into that door? I couldn’t help but ask. He said: the door chooses you.

2. Just Say Yes
Why this is the best of all possible times to make media art. Why the good old days weren’t so good. We need to reinvent our cinema so we can reinvent our lives.

3. Not Writing
The short film that feels like the longest movie ever made. How viewers make movies. Does that make every movie the site of possible collaboration? Two case studies: Karl Ove Knaussgaard and Rachel Cusk. For these two juggernauts not-writing is as important as writing. Equal. Let’s start a school of writing where no one writes, not even shopping lists.

Mike Hoolboom, Instructions for Robots, 2019, film still © Mike Hoolboom

Mike Hoolboom, Instructions for Robots, 2019, film still © Mike Hoolboom

Mike Hoolboom, Instructions for Robots, 2019, film still © Mike Hoolboom

Mike Hoolboom, Instructions for Robots, 2019, film still © Mike Hoolboom

Mike Hoolboom, Instructions for Robots, 2019, film still © Mike Hoolboom

Mike Hoolboom, Instructions for Robots, 2019, film still © Mike Hoolboom

Mike Hoolboom, Instructions for Robots, 2019

Mike Hoolboom
began making movies in 1980. Making as practice, a daily application. Ongoing remixology. Since 2000 there has been a steady drip of found footage bio docs. The animating question of community: how can I help you? Interviews with media artists for 3 decades. Monographs, books, written, edited, co-edited. Local ecologies. Volunteerism. Opening the door.


Mike Hoolboom
From the Archive: Nine Thoughts on Short Films (1995)

1. All of my dreams are short films. Feature filmmakers, novelists, the heads of multi-national corporations are different. When they lie asleep they have a single dream lasting the whole night. There is continuity and order, a sense that the house they build asleep is large enough to hold all of their experience, grant each moment of their desire a setting joined somehow to everything else. Their dream is what we learned to call, as schoolchildren, the big picture. The world we live in.
My dreams are different. Lasting just a few seconds they arrive in waves of conflicting advice, storm clouds of pictures raining down on a helpless population unable to sort them before they leach back into earth. My dreams are not the world we live in, as I look out my window, the streetcars running on time, people dressing for work. Each morning I give thanks that my dreams are not the world we live in.

Last night I dreamt celebrities require a second body to absorb a lifetime of cameras and media exposure. They get one illegally through the university. My friend works there and cooks one up for me. But when I arrive I’m surprised to see it doesn’t look like me at all, or even have a shape I can discern. It’s an amorphous blob, a black stain. I think “Oh, the unconscious.”

2. Our dreams did not always resemble films, though we had dreamt the cinema long before it appeared. It was 1895 in a small coffee shop in the wrong end of Paris when they first started showing films in public. The film they showed that night, the one that came before all the rest, seemed to contain all of the short films that would come after because every medium, like the people who go to live there for a time, carries its inventory in a mark or sign, like a fingerprint that traces DNA lines around the contours of the thumb. It was the same with this, the first film ever shown. It seemed to us when we finally saw it, like an act of writing, as if we were reading the writing on the wall of all that was to come.

Already in this first writing of light there is a concern with the autograph, the signature and destiny of the name. Lumiére in French means light, and it’s as if they could only complete the sentence that began with their own naming by beginning a medium which does little more than vary the play of light against a wall, a wall which they call in French la mur, the wall, l’amour, the wall of love. And all of the filmmakers that would succeed them, who would try to make a name for themselves in this light reading would marry their Christian names with those of the Lumiére brothers, the twins of light, whose pictures always double their subject and whose image or imagination would soon make doubles of us all.

3. When I hear the words short film I wonder short of what? There’s a kind of despondency to the term, a defeated air that hangs around it that smells distinctly Canadian somehow. It’s a kind of confirmation of inadequacy, not so much a statement as a shrug. Movies are short only in relation to other movies which ain’t. The ‘short film’ implies something else, something longer, something that isn’t just ‘short.’ And you want to know, we all want to know, where the rest of it is, because this is just a short form, an abbreviation, an acronym. When we watch it, the short film, we give ourselves over to the fragment, the gesture, and can’t help wondering where the rest is.

4. The first film ever made was a short one: short and simple. It showed a train arriving at a station, while folks who worked in the factory of the Lumiéres poured out of the factory gate, waiting for a ride home. When we look at this first film of the Lumiéres we feel that something is missing, something has been left out. Where are the gestures of work, of the factory? We look into the image for evidence of its passing, and realize that the brothers of light have left nothing out after all, that in order to show us the terrible effects of their machines we need only witness the workers themselves. They bear the writing of the machine not simply in its hours of operation, but in their moments of leisure, in their unthinking stroll between factory and home. The Lumiére’s turn an unerring attention to the habits of the body, and find that everything is written there, every remark made in anger, every slight of childhood, every happiness and criminal intent. If only we knew how to read them. As the heads of the proletariat turn to the revolution of turbines and dynamos we understand that their walk is nothing less than a march of progress, inscribed for the benefit of future generations. Here are the hieroglyphs of industrial culture, written now not in the stones of the pyramids but in flesh and bone. This is the first great project of the twins: to undertake a public study of the human body by projecting its parts as large as possible in dark houses of learning across the world, repeating the same gestures time and again, until we could unravel the fathomless mystery of our own flesh.

5. The night before Christmas all my dreams are about food. In the first, two men sit at a table, looking down at dinner, not moving at first.
“What do you think?”
“Well I could easily see me ending up like the mash potatoes.”
“Because of misdeeds?”
“Self assertion.”

6. In the beginning there were only short movies, the camera wouldn’t fit anymore, and the length of a film relied on the projectionist’s patience—in the old days movies were wound by hand, and if the projectionist was bored, or drunk or had seen the print too many times, even a very long film could be turned quickly through the projector. In the early days of the movies, length was in the hands of the beholder.

7. Introducing yourself as a maker of short films—isn’t this the same as admitting that you didn’t make it or go all the way? The odds were too great so you fell short. Came up short. Was it because we were short sighted, or short of the vision that would have made of our masterpiece a real movie, the kind of movie that wouldn’t have to be prefaced with a shrug. It’s short. It’s a bit like saying I’m sorry, it’s a bit like one of those things you apologize for to strangers. Well, after all, you made the short list, or we’ll get to you shortly, and if this keeps up you wonder whether you’ll always end up on the short end.

8. Many books have been written about how to make movies, but few have been written about how to watch them. Fifty years ago a couple of surrealists devised a radical new moviegoing method, so radical that it’s taken nearly fifty years to catch on. Their means were simple—walk into a movie theatre ensuring that the film is somewhere in the middle, stay until the plot begins to make sense, then rush into the next available theatre and begin all over again. Today this celebration of fragments has become a way of life. Today we call it channel surfing.

9. When I hear the words short film I wonder short for who? For all those people I keep reading about who have short attention spans—who can’t be responding to these reports because they’re post-literary. For these channel zappers all the world’s a short film, that never seems short enough. Twenty years ago you couldn’t get enough of a good thing, but now you can’t get little enough. The short film already implies too much commitment, it’s still too much like getting married. What surfing channels makes possible is a glorious series of one night stands where the present is the only form of life, and the bodies never stop changing. Is this what Oppenheimer feared when he split the atom, that we would grow increasingly microscopic, learn to live in smaller and smaller niches of time? That our nuclear arsenals signaled our inability to mourn because they implied that their would be no one left, no one left to turn the reels of the movie that would show everyone as they once were, bending in blue dresses to touch something, watching over the small movies of our lives, the small people we’ve become, huddled together in our private moments. Our movies mark the passage of time, they are time machines, machines built for mourning, and in some moments they are much of what stands between us and our need to obliterate everything. Our need to begin again, to wipe the slate clean. There are two kinds of terror here, the terror of annihilation and the terror of remembering. Which will we find more painful? Or more seductive?

Originally published in: Take One, Fall 1995 and Plague Years: a life in underground movies (Toronto: YYZ Press, 1998)

Mike Hoolboom’s Website

Louis Lumière, Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory, 1895


Fabienne Liptay
Responsibility and Hesitation

Mike Hoolboom has reedited and reworked many of his films, he has withdrawn them from circulation and thrown them away, shortening and shrinking his body of work while at the same time making ever-new films. Relating the withdrawal of one’s work from circulation to the idea of too-muchness means accepting that, within the capitalist system, shortage is always already determined by overabundance. Yet, it is something completely different than the production of limited editions within the logics of the art market. It is much closer to a living archive in which images exist and cease to exist in an ever-changing flux. It is here that the idea of the filmmaker not as a distributor but as a curator of his work can be brought into play—on the condition that we understand «curating» not as an expression for the art market’s appropriation of experimental film, but in the word’s original sense meaning «to care».

Mike Hoolboom, We Make Couples, 2016, film still © Mike Hoolboom

Mike Hoolboom, We Make Couples, 2016, film still © Mike Hoolboom

Mike Hoolboom, We Make Couples, 2016, film still © Mike Hoolboom

Mike Hoolboom, We Make Couples, 2016, film still © Mike Hoolboom

Mike Hoolboom, We Make Couples, 2016, film still © Mike Hoolboom

Mike Hoolboom, We Make Couples, 2016

Fabienne Liptay
is Professor of Film Studies at the University of Zurich and head of the research project «Exhibiting Film: Challenges of Format», funded by SNSF. In her teaching and research she focuses on the imagery of film, the interrelations between the visual arts and media, the processes of aesthetic production, and the exhibition contexts of films.


Laura Walde
Introductory Thoughts on Shorts and Shortage

Thinking with Mike Hoolboom’s «Nine Thoughts on Short Films» (1995) and Ben Lerner’s short book on his contempt for – and his defense of – poetry (The Hatred of Poetry, 2016), I argue that there exists a close link between poetry and short experimental film. They share the fate of «falling short»: They are a record of deficiency, but they are not a failure in themselves. Disliking poetry or short film for falling short of something that is impossible to attain might be a paradoxical way of holding on to a utopian idea of the ideal expression – a vocation no less essential for being impossible.

Marianne Moore, Poetry, 1967

Laura Walde has been working as a freelance curator/programmer for Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur since 2012. In October 2017, she started pursuing a PhD as part of the research project «Exhibiting Film: Challenges of Format» at the University of Zurich.


Tom Kalin
You Must Remember This (in 3 Short Acts)

I began making shorts in 1983, during the Reagan era. Before viral videos or social media, before widespread access to technology, film and video were imposing, expensive mediums. Events like the 1991 beating of Rodney King captured on amateur video or the agitprop work around the AIDS crisis exploded my understanding of public and private.

While I’ve made commercial feature films, I’ve never abandoned the short form, creating dozens of lyrical, music-based projects and activist works. I often work on the uncertain margin of copyright known as «fair use». It’s now common to find «fan made music videos» of every shape and size. I was surprised and delighted to discover there were dozens of these short videos derived from my features Swoon and Savage Grace. In my talk, I’ll consider the various dichotomies in my work, between shorts and features, excess and minimalism and between political critique and unconscious exploration.

Swoon, Collapsing Stars, 1992, dir. Tom Kalin
Swoon, Rabid, 1992, dir. Tom Kalin
Swoon, Disenchanted, 1992, dir. Tom Kalin
Savage Grace, Goodnight, Tavel Well, 2007, dir. Tom Kalin
Savage Grace, Lullaby for Tony by Dawn Landes, 2007, dir. Tom Kalin

Tom Kalin's work traverses diverse forms and genres, from narrative features to mixed media installation to activism. His feature film, Swoon, was awarded prizes in Berlin, Stockholm and Sundance; Savage Grace, starring Julianne Moore and Eddie Redmayne, premiered in Cannes. With frequent collaborator Doveman (Thomas Bartlett) he exhibited at NYC’s Participant Gallery and Dublin’s National Concert Hall for Blood and the Moon, an evening of music, film and performance celebrating the work of Yeats. He was a founding member of the AIDS activist collective Gran Fury, which exhibited in the Venice Biennale and is in collection of the Whitney and Smithsonian.


Johannes Binotto
How to Do Less: Scarcity in/as Film Production Mode

If resources are scarce they become more valuable. A scarcity of tools however is never seen as an advantage, even though in art—and in film in particular—the lesser tools can produce more interesting results. Picking up on Samuel Beckett’s practices of reduction my presentation asks about forms of film-making which deliberately abstain from high production value in aim instead for an aesthetics of scarcity.

Samuel Beckett, Quadrat II, Süddeutscher Rundfunk, 1981, screenshot

Samuel Beckett, sketch for Quadrat I and II, from the booklet: Samuel Beckett, Filme für den SDR, DVD filmedition Suhrkamp, 2008, p. 51

Phillip Barker, I Am Always Connected, 1984, film still

Johannes Binotto is researcher and senior lecturer for literature, cultural and media studies at the Lucerne School of Art and Design and at the English Department of the University of Zurich where he obtained his PhD with a study on the spaces of the uncanny in art, literature and film. His research focuses on the intersections between media theory, psychoanalysis and philosophy of technology. His latest publications include the edited volume Film/Architektur. Perspektiven des Kinos auf den Raum.


María Palacios Cruz
«Shorts on shortage»: notes for a talk

Playing with the relationship implied by the linguistic proximity between «shorts» and «shortage», this talk uses one of the shortest works in the LUX collection, Peter Gidal’s Assumption (1997, 1 min) in order to address «shortage» as an aesthetic and ideological strategy for artists’ film in the context of the London Film-Makers Co-operative of the 1970s through to the 1990s.

María Palacios Cruz is a film curator based in London and the co-founder of The Visible Press. Since 2015 she is deputy director at LUX, the UK agency for artists' moving image. She's also course director for Film Curating Studies at the newly launched Elias Querejeta Zine Eskola in San Sebastián, Spain, and a programmer for the Punto de Vista and Courtisane festivals.


Maike Mia Höhne
A Definition of «shortage»—or who tells me what state of I am living in

In order to understand shortage, one has to understand what it means to call one film short and the other one long. The emphasis lies on thinking beyond measures of size. One also has to understand that empowerment goes further. Rethinking the framing and stereotypes of storytelling means to reengage with the moment. Rearranging definitions of «shortage» means to ask: What do I need, what do I want? Who creates this want and how much am I a part of the creation? All this said with respect to the fact that shorts are, nevertheless, the well of all inspiration.

Maike Mia Höhne is the artistic director of Internationale KurzFilmFestival Hamburg (IKFF) and has been curating Berlinale Shorts since summer 2007. Since 2001, she has been working as a freelance writer, curator, producer, photographer and director in various contexts. Her films are distributed by arsenal experimental and Kurzfilmagentur. She has also been active for many years as a lecturer and moderator at film events. She lives in Hamburg and Berlin.


Malte Hagener
Shortage: An Ecological Perspective

The short—and consequently shortage as a concept—can be approached from a variety of different angles: it can be conceptualised as a specific aesthetic form in which concentration and conciseness play a major role, as a relevant category in the economy when the circulation and consumption of something short proposes specific affordances and values, whereas in the technological realm, the short likewise entails in its own dimensions in terms of transmission and circulation. I would propose to see the short—and shortage—within an ecological perspective: the short is relational in so far as shortage can only be measured in relation to other durations or lengths. A broad media ecology would combine aesthetic attention with an interest in economic, political and medial aspects of the short.

Malte Hagener is Professor of Media Studies at Philipps-Universität Marburg. His research focuses on film theory and film aesthetics, German and international film history, cinephilia and post-cinema, as well as media archeology and media literacy.


Carla Gabriela Engler
Patterns of the Conquerors. Shortage of Time and Space in John Forbes Watson’s Textile Sample Books

In 1866, John Forbes Watson published 20 sets of a textile sample book titled Collection of Specimens and Illustrations of the Textile Manufactures of India. Because each set consisted of 18 volumes with 700 textile specimens in the size of 35 by 20 cm, up to 16'000 textile samples circulated between England and India. In 2017, Austrian filmmaker Sascha Regina Reichstein investigated the history of these textile samples by making a short film – a film that not only questions the socio cultural impact and the possibilities and restrictions of Watson’s textile books but also of the medium of film itself.

Sascha Regina Reichstein, Patterns of the Conquerors, 2017, film still © Sascha Regina Reichstein

Sascha Regina Reichstein, Patterns of the Conquerors, 2017, film still © Sascha Regina Reichstein

John Forbes Watson, The Imperial Museum for India and the Colonies, 1876 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Carla Gabriela Engler is a doctoral student at the Department of Film Studies of the University of Zurich and a member of the research project «Exhibiting Film: Challenges of Format». In her dissertation titled «Fabricated Standards», she examines contemporary artistic positions at the intersection of the media of film and textiles that deal with formatting processes.