When cracks first started to appear in the Berlin Wall, they let in new possibilities for growth, unity, and change. Suddenly, everybody was watching. But for media artists, Berlin has always been a place to watch. Filmmakers and videomakers in Berlin get money, exposure, and respect. It's probably one of the few places in the world where they can make their living without having to clean houses or wait tables. Berlin is an invigorating, exciting place for an artist to work.
Buffalo audiences can see some of the results of this freedom tonight, Friday, and Saturday in the Faktor Film series at Hallwalls. Ellen Fisher performed with Hearn Gadbois Wednesday night; Magita Haberland and Harmut Jahn will appear tonight; work by Jahn, Hanno Baethe, Monika Funke-Stern will be screened Friday and Jo Andres with Cynthia Meyers will complete the program on Saturday. Although not all the multi-media artists in the series are German, they have all worked in Berlin, and share an adventurous outlook on the boundaries between performance, video, and film, as well as an appreciation for the creative possibilities Germany offers.
Jurgen Bruning, Hallwalls film curator, is very interested in the reemergence of film/video/performance work, which was first popular in the 1960s. He explains, "I selected these artists for the show because there is a lot of stupid work being done in the field of multi-media -- people jumping around in front of film projectors, or using other silly gimmicks. The artists in this program have done research on thoughtfully incorporating different art forms as interconnective elements in their work. Everybody here is creating something."
Indeed they are, although it takes some detective work to find the creative heart of so much activity.
For example, tonight Magita Haberland and Harmut Jahn will be presenting a "color-space-sound production" which emotionally addresses the music/color theories of Rimsky-Korsakoff and Scriabin and the threatened eradication of Eastern German culture using live camera projection, taped large screen video footage, a violin performance, a spoken performance, and a light show. Whew!
But it's not as complicated as it sounds, and everything won't be happening at once. Jahn's video footage will act as interludes between Haberland's violin-playing and story-telling, and both these central elements will focus on the socio-political aspect of East-West unification. The color-sound theory will be expressed through Jahn's use of a series of intense colors in his lighting scheme. According to Rimsky-Korsakoff and Scriabin, chords like F major corresponded to specific colors -- in this case, green, and then to specific emotions, but these ideas were never scientifically tested. As Jahn dryly comments, "You can't say that these theories are precise."
Jahn's and Haberland's political beliefs are more articulated. Both feel that the unification process will have culturally problematic effects on both sides of the eradicated Wall. Haberland states, "They're losing their history. You can't switch just like that. It's a disaster on a psychological level." On a more down-to-earth note, one of the changes Jahn reported was that East Germans are finding it difficult to buy their favorite beer brands, which were cheaper and had the kind of idiosyncratic followings regional beers have here. Now the more powerful West German beer companies are buying them out.
Jahn founded a Berlin media group, Confu Baja Video Studio, which produces experimental documentaries, abstract films, and short narratives. He will be showing his work and work by the other members of the group during Friday night's program. One of the films, Hanno Baethe's "A Yearning For Sodom," is a personal documentary about Rainer Fassbinder's companion and collaborator, Kurt Raab, who died of AIDS two years ago.
Both of the American components in Faktor Film, New York artists Ellen Fisher and Jo Andres, share an interest in combining dance with media. Fisher's program Wednesday night proved, amazingly enough, that she is an equally talented dancer and filmmaker, who successfully combines humor and passion in both art forms. Yes, sometimes, she did "jump around" in front of the screen, but it was effective and that's all that counts. It was easy to see why Fisher's work makes the crossover from New York to Berlin and back again so easily. Not a word was spoken during the entire show.
Faktor Film continues at Hallwalls, 700 Main St., today, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.
Faktor Film Series
Program 1: "Prevailing Conditions" and "Coincidental."
Film, dance and music, with performers Ellen Fisher and Hearn Gadbois.
Programs 2, 3 and 4 continue at 8 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday, respectively, in Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, 710 Main St.