Eleni Kamma

In 2011, I was an artist-in residence in three different European institutions and cities for a period of two to four months; I lived and worked in IASPIS, Stockholm, Villa Romana, Florence, DUENDE, Rotterdam. I decided to develop a one-year project that would respect the framework of my new living conditions. The project would investigate possibilities of alternative readings of the city, in an attempt to understand what the notion of common place might mean today.

The starting point for this body of work was a visit to the museum of natural history in Florence in 2010. The museum is called La Specola (means The Observatory). This word reminded me that although there is an etymological proximity between spectacle, and speculation, the act of looking (specere ‘to look.’) has evolved in two discreet ways. It also made me wonder whether one can read a city by looking at the way speculation, the spectacle, and labour intersect.

I started my research by conducting a series of interviews in Florence, Stockholm and Rotterdam. My focus was on individuals that work in music and architecture industries respectively. I transcribed their experiences and opinions concerning the relation of acoustics to space, more specifically to resonance in common space. In each city I was looking for specific sites and locations and methods to film as well as anonymous or old literary ethnographic sources that deal with the specific cultural and natural landscape and issues of economy and value.

Being an artist-in-residence in these three cities turned out to be an intense and stimulating experience. I became completely absorbed and fascinated by the different set of conditions highlighting the notion of commonplace in each geographic location and language. The issues of language and translatability took on much more space and importance in my project than I had initially anticipated. Being a foreigner, I had the advantage of being a good observer and the disadvantage of not being able to fully grasp the situation. My response was to take the position of one who holds the mirror, a vehicle for the local voices to be heard, enhancing the dialogue first in a local and then in a global context.

If the idea of folding and unfolding depends on the structure and expectations a city arouses or suppresses, what images can be produced by the coexistence of sound and space, the space between lived experience and a simultaneous reflection of it?

The recorded and collected material is now transformed into four short films that investigate possible and manifested contemporary European notions of common place created at the crossroads of music and architectural practices.
In these films, the notion of spectacle is examined through the gesture of folding or unfolding in space, especially in spaces of production: the Lijnbaankwartier, the back stages of Architecture Museum in Stockholm, or public spaces like the piazalle Michelangelo in Florence —emblematic places for the production of spectacle. The narrative of each of the four filmic collages attempts to reflect the inherent characteristics of the fold; physical and formal but also immaterial and elusive, oscillating between abstraction and specificity. They lead the spectator to a space in which the human subjects are present only through their voices. The viewer’s physical presence is in contrast to the others’ absences, intensifying the awkwardness of a space that is not yet defined. The films take the form of an unfinished musical score that the viewer is asked to complete by being present.

P like Politics, P like Parrots.
17 min 42 sec, HD video, colour, stereo, English and Swedish spoken.
Synopsis: The amateur choir of the parish of Bräcke in Jämtland, Sweden was asked to participate in a collaborative reading experiment of a two-page text. The composition of the text, P like Politics, shifts between the famous hand game, Paper-Rock-Scissors, and P-words chosen randomly from a 2003 speech by George Bush. The viewer observes rehearsal spaces in Bräcke’s community house while listening to the choir in action, pushing the borders between individual and collective, working together towards a satisfactory team result.

Malin and Tor: Two architects in conversation.
33 min16 sec, HD video, color, stereo sound, 16:9, English spoken
Synopsis: In March 2011 a discussion was conducted between Malin Zimm and Tor Lindstrand, during Arkitekturemuseet Live at Architekturmuseet Stockholm. The discussion unfolds in two parts: Part I: On spectacle, speculation and other spec-words. Part II: On clothes, choirs and hidden desires. The physical location where the discussion took place was filmed ten days later, during the preparation works for the staging of the next exhibition at Architekturmuseet.

Both P like Politics, P like Parrots and Malin and Tor: Two architects in conversation, invite the viewer to take a close, almost voyeuristic look at the possible intersections between spectacle and speculation, paid or unpaid labour, amateurs and professionals. Inspired by the social phenomenon of choirs in Scandinavia, the two videos are interrelated, though not explicitly. In both works, I visit and closely observe two spaces that take on meaning precisely through their extended and careful observation. The moving images serve as a pleasure to the eye, but also as a decoy, a trap that directs the viewer towards the audio information. In the space between these two films, speech varies from the intelligible to the imperceptible. Language ranges from a rational tool for understanding and communicating to a tool for expression and entertainment; creating music, enjoying, having fun.

27 min 50 sec, HD video, color, stereo sound, 16:9, Italian spoken.
Synopsis: The geographic location of Tuscany is characterized by a complex set of relations between spectacle, economy and landscape, from the age of the Medici’s, to the period of Enlightened Despotism and until our days. Throughout GEORGOFILI, an assemblage of different in time voices of Italy takes place. The old genre of Tuscan Contrasto verbal duels in which the performers- poets of the street use their arguing skills to debate the politics and morality of contemporary Italy, calling attention to contradictions, meets historical educational dialogues from the age of Enlightened despotism, performed and commented by young Italian actors today. GEORGOFILI explores the notion of history as a loop that keeps on restarting, although each next repetition can never be fully identical to the previous one.

The Tuner’s Monologue
13 min 09 sec, HD video, B&W, stereo sound, 16:9, English spoken.
Synopsis: A voiceover in the form of a monologue, in which a tuner of musical instruments describes aspects of the profession, is superimposed to B&W film footage of architectural facades of buildings under construction in the “new heart” of Rotterdam. Both text and footage have been subjected to an increased degree of abstraction.

[Eleni Kamma, Maastricht 16/02/12]