Spanish artist Jordi Colomer creates video installations with actors in ‘situations’, using crudely made cardboard props or stage sets leaving the viewer without a doubt that the scenes are in fact unreal, to cast the reality of the subject matter in a fictionalized light.
These subjects revolve around the idea of creating situations between people, architecture and place that in turn explores the underlying notions of fiction and reality; the fictionalization of the real. The situations are staged to happen at a certain place and guided, but are largely unscripted.
In Anarchitekton (2004) a man runs around a building in a random pattern, holding a 3D model of the building he is running around on a pole. The ‘film’ is shot using stop-motion photography, with such a long lag time between each picture that it appears more like a slide show.
The film questions whether he is protesting, provoking or advertising something, and it also raises the question, if only for a brief moment before we in a huff, snap out of it, whether those buildings in the background are fake or not.
As he runs around with a fake building and the real buildings in the back become slightly, for a brief moment, fictionalized, the irony is that they don’t need to be fictionalized anymore because they already are. Blurred somewhere between illusion and reality by the proliferation of images in the media, we are fairly confident to have seen those buildings somewhere before. We must have. If we could just remember. The fictionalization of the real is complete. We are living in hyper-reality.
In Babelkamer (2007) 2 hearing impaired people sit in a container modified to look like a booth in a restaurant, communicating with each other while watching an old movie, using sign language, except that one person is Dutch and the other French. Does signing language differentiate between different mother tongues?
While this is going on translators are translating what is being signed, saying it out loud and typing it into the computer which shows up slightly delayed on screen.
At a certain point in the conversation, the translators seem to get confused as to which language they are translating to, with some sentences containing both French and Dutch words (sometimes English as well). At the same time, the signers also seem to get lost, as one seems to want to start talking about sailboats and the other keeps talking about trains, as they struggle to keep an eye on the film and watching the other’s hand gestures at the same time.
In the end it is clear something is lost in translation as one keeps talking about women who smoke, the other thinks something is said about state law. The illusion is that everyone appears to be chatting with each other but in reality is in fact talking to themselves.
X-Ville (2015) is a film about the relationship between cities, the people that govern it and its inhabitants, examining the current situation, the problems and the solution, which it calls a ‘utopia’.
Based on the theoretical proposals of architect and urban planner Yona Friedman in his book Utopies Realisables (2000), the film questions the fundamental function of what a city is supposed to do, and in turn, what it means to live. The basic requirements of what a person needs in order to live; to have air to breathe, food to eat, a sheltered place to sleep, clothes to wear, to be happy and finally to ‘have reasons to do so’ which I take to mean to have freedom of choice, are expounded upon.
It goes on to say that there are 2 types of cities; one for the employed and the other for the unemployed in which residents there still try to survive in villages outside the city, using their own means.
The film then depicts a series of situations which represent typical scenarios in present-day cities, using Colomer’s signature cardboard props; a young man carrying vegetables runs after a lorry trying to climb on (which doesn’t slow down for him), a mass of people at a Government office waiting or receiving some sort of service (simultaneously), people getting paid for sweeping the street and leaving (without finishing the job properly) and people buying things with the money they earned.
The city for the employed is depicted (rather beautifully) as an endless stream of people coming from all directions that somehow manages to avoid bumping into each other, appearing in and out of shadows, or buildings. The work they do, however, is somewhat inefficient with spillages or sloppy, improper work done, which is the fault of the system that employs them.
In these scenes of the city, the objects of the environment; the cash transacted, the partition walls, laptops and the buildings are all made of cardboard, while the people are always running around, going into view and out of view of the cardboard buildings and shadows in a fragmented sequence.
Life in the villages on the other hand is rather basic, but everyone is working for the same payout, growing food for his or her survival. The animals there, running freely, take on an a characteristic unseen in the city.
The problem with cities, which were originally based on a utopian vision, is that they have become too big to sustain everyone, resulting many social problems, such as inadequate commodities required for living and a break up of society between those who have and those who don’t.
If universal utopias are impossible, the key to utopias could be, on the contrary, coexistence in diversity. Yona Friedman
According to Friedman, there is an optimal size for any group of animals (‘critical group’) to most effectively exist or survive together, which includes human beings. This size is determined as a function of the number of people, things, links between them, the speed of communication and decision making, and whether the environment that contains them has a ‘defined structure’. Once the critical group exceeds the limit, the proper functioning of the city will be adversely impacted.
The solution he proposes is to have smaller, self-sustaining cities or villages, governed by their own members, each modeled according to their own tastes, creating a ‘diversity in culture’ for the whole.
Why there is a fire breathing performance at the end of the film is bit of a mystery. Breathing fire is an act that commemorates mythology, usually that of the one character that can traditionally do so; the dragon. Does it mean to say that only in the villages can one be able to dream again, and imagine what being a dragon is like?
Note: Images used non-commercially. Please contact me if anyone has an issue with this.