Hors Pistes @ Pompidou review – Part 2

, 4 February 2013

“Sound and the City” could easily be the title of Justin Bennett’s work, and it would describe it down to the tee. The English-born artist now living in Holland takes a look at the urban environment through sound mainly, adding some imagery only because as he puts it, ‘art audiences have more difficulty focusing on audio works’ and at the same time he gets to use his own passion for maps. The most impressive work presented at the Pompidou Centre during the festival has to be City of Progress. An animation that narrates the construction of a city and the destructive forces that can erase her from the map, so to speak. The voice over describes each and every step of the creation of the urban environment as the animation evolves onto the screen.

Heavily influenced by the theoretical work, and mainly by Paul Virilios Pure War, the artist questions the destructive forces of new technology implemented to the city, such as a nuclear reactor, and the take over of public space by private corporations. Combining it with the overall theme of  the festival –miniatures- one can’t help but wonder , after more than 250 years of the industrial revolution…. are we starting to feel the unbearable weight of our own creations and being reduced to ‘miniatures’ by the all so imposing shadows of a skyscrapers?

In Raw Materials and Sundial, the saying that the most connected sense to our memory is smell, is proven wrong. Bennett uses sound as a memory device and creates photographs of those cities he has visited but without images. Especially in Raw Materials the audience is confronted with a white letters on black screen accompanied by the city sounds pushing the viewer to experience Justin’s story through his audio memories. You could easily compare this feeling with what you experience when flipping through an old photo album.

Finally in Brunelleschi’s Mirror, Benett uses the pretext of a descendent of Brunelleschi (famous Italian architect and engineer from the renaissance best-known for discovering the perspective in painting) by going  around the city in a van and as he watches the posters hiding constructions sites, he flips the image and imagines the future ruins of those buildings.

Justin is using the Burnelleschi mirror here to reflect the negativity he feels which is very present in the contemporary urban environment. This work meshes the artist’s passion for architecture with his pessimistic view on contemporary urban life. As he stated… Fukushima was not just the end of that city, it was one of many ends. His future project will focus on military mock ups and audio guide pieces that present sound in high quality and guide people’s vision as if they were watching a film. We re looking forward to seeing, or more likely, hearing Justin Bennett’s new projects!

Yuri Ancarani’s work also revolves around modern technology; this time we have the opportunity to experience it from up close, very close. In Il Capo , machines and men dig in the mountains of Carrare for marble. Everyone obeys one person, Il Capo, who doesn’t even speak he just signals what he wants gesticulating, even his superiors call him Il Capo (the chief). It is part of the trilogy Yuri has been preparing for years which explores the beauty of human achievements through mechanic gestures.

Il Capo as well as Piattaforma Luna, which follows a diving squad in the ocean, examine people working in a natural environment under arduous circumstances and how the choreography they follow every day is essential for the completion of the task at hand as well as their own safety.

The Piattaforma Luna is shot like a science fiction movie, in fact it could be called 2001: Space Odyssey in reverse mode, since the film starts with people using modern technology and ends with one of them using the most primitive tool at our disposal, a hammer, surrounded only by sea water.

Finally in “DaVinci”, we’re presented with an extremely expensive medical tool which allows surgeons to operate only by using robotic hands. The whole film takes place in a ER during surgeries, but again … a sci-fi feeling takes control of the screen by adding a blue filter to all human veins, vessels and blood (the director admitted it was a mistake that we get to see in blue….but he thinks however, it was done for our own good). The musical score should also be mentioned as a major element which enables this “medical mini doc” transform into a sci-fi film.

DaVinci still
Still from Yuri Ancarani’s DaVinci

This year “Hors Pistes” explored smaller worlds within our world, miniatures becoming life-size stories with the use of modern technology and how cinematic pieces can move and capture our imagination if used in new ways.

After this 2-week festival one is left to wonder how big our self-built environment has grown, how imposing, how heavy and fascinating… but how small we are, smaller than ever before.