Friday, 18 September 2009

A gallery, late Saturday afternoon. Some dusty courtyard, great corridors of triangular sunlight filtering between the buildings, oddly geometric light, must be the buildings. Low slung outbuildings, sheds almost, hidden behind a lurching great brick wall. A circle of wood, rain-beaten tables, something like an asphodel, something like that anyway, springing up from beneath the parting concrete, spring up into a triangle of sun making its way through the corridor of buildings, one old and one new. The new one is ring-fenced with cheap steel, hollow staircases visible through the gaping side of the building which is yet to be complete.

Inside the gallery, the second day of a series of theoretical talks on the relationship between sound and other media, relationships between non-figurative art and experimental music; why the former has captured the hearts and monies of a worldwide audience and why the latter has not. Also, a framework of the Berlin scene is posited, Berlin as a crucible, a melting pot of specific cultural and political circumstances that has produced a diversity that echoes out beyond its borders, current and past, built and fallen.

Geoff Stahl, via Montreal and New Zealand, came to relate the Berlin scene, not through the problematic methods of comparison and example but through broad sociological definitions of 'scene', through distancing it from subculture, through employing a discourse of spatial, temporal, social and semiotic investigations. Interesting were the notions raised of an excess of meaning, black-market sociality, elemental rituals and the blurred boundaries that exist between occupation and pleasure. Missing perhaps was some depth, something beyond an opening approach or a gentle delineation of things already apparent. Later, however, in a panel discussion Gudrun Gut and Ronald Lippok, scensters both, would come to relate anecdotes of East and West and mauerfall in such a way that filled the spaces proved in the opening piece.

Then Brandon LaBelle with his confessional fictions of his own youth, extracted to a third person, narrated slowly over static film shots of a satellite Los Angeles neighbourhood coastal town. Unfolding descriptions of garages, band practice, Iron Maiden covers, sanctuaries, fatherhood, suburban upbringing, police raids and finally an aspatial locking out of the universe, the drumkit as a space-defining tool, the catalyst for years of fascination with sound and structure.

Finally Boris Debackere with a lightening rod tour of the history of cinema in an oddly written presentation which only really became interesting when referring to the properties of digital cinema in relation to its predecessors. Supposedly generative rather than representational, digital means according to Debackere has opened a new way for cinema. The argument was less than convincing however and a DVD showing of Rotor did little to convince unfortunately. Cinema's hold comes through its representation, despite its retreat into commercialism and formulaic structures. Find me something generative like Manovich's Soft Cinema and we begin to get somewhere.

The light draws away early these days, heading into autumn certainly. Bicycle rides home are accompanied by a chill and dim dynamo-driven lamps that falter and squeak their way towards a sleep. So it was: to home, to sleep.

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