Images from the Imagined Reality: Mapping an utopia
Este texto foi escrito para a edição em português e inglês do livro comemorativo dos 10 anos do Ciclo de Fotografia e Cinema Documental Imagens do Real Imaginário (IRI). Publicado em 2013 pelo Instituto Politécnico do Porto, o livro tem excelentes contribuições de colegas e um design espectacular de Vitor Quelhas. Sendo pouco habitual encontrar um trabalho desta envergadura no contexto escolar, teve grande impacto e esgotou rapidamente. Esta é a versão inglesa do texto no qual faço um resumo da primeira década do Ciclo. As fotografias são de estudantes dos cursos de Cinema e Fotografia, designadamente, Marta Ferreira, Luís Kasprzykowski, Pedro Nuno Pacheco e Tiago Santos. Algumas das edições do IRI estão amplamente documentadas no segmento Programação de narrativasdoreal. Publicarei a versão portuguesa assim que a consiga recuperar.
Looking back at 10 years of this cycle of Photography and Documentary Film, which received, via Chris Marker, the name of Images of the Imagined Real (IRI), I realized, not without surprise, the amplitude of the path, at times unimaginable, that brought us here. It is true, as one might say, that necessity is the mother of invention. But that was not all that happened. It was also the perception of a fast changing world, whose representations, resulting from technologies that magnify the possibilities of meaning, value the specificity of each art, while, at the same time, postulate the interconnection between them. It was also, and above all, the need for artistic higher education to follow the signs of time and, thus, dare to discover and follow new paths in a continuous process of making, questioning, undo and redo, pursuing the idea of adding knowledge to the knowledge through creative imagination, improving, thereby, our relationship with the world.
10 years ago, when the first steps were given towards this adventure, we defined as priorities: to strengthen the connection of the school to the community and the professional environment; establish partnerships; foster internationalization; create a platform able to support and promote the necessary critical mass that would be the base for the appearance of new courses, including a Masters Degree in Audiovisual Communication, meant for a professional context and focusing on the theory and practice of Photography and Film. All this was achieved. However, it was not enough. For a simple reason: the more you do, the more and better you want and can do. Yes, it embraces that utopia described by Eduardo Galeano:
"Me acerco dos pasos, ella se aleja dos pasos. Camino diez pasos y el horizonte se corre diez pasos más allá. Por mucho que yo camine, nunca la alcanzaré. Para que sirve la utopia? Para eso sirve: para caminar.”
We have followed our path. We walked with the sense of belonging to a school that embraces the world without leaving its city. And we walk in good company. Along the way both artists, cultural agents and partner schools were always present in the Cycle, carrying their utopias to our own utopia. In fact we grew together, we looked at each other’s thoughts, resisted together and weaved thus a network of complicities without which the IIR would not have been possible or, having been, would be substantially different from what it is: a forum for reflection - for revelation - that assumes the real as the starting point to challenge the world of all images. From Cinema, Photography, Digital Arts.
It became, therefore, a tool to annotate, update, decode and recreate the signs of time, often recovering the memory of other paths, sometimes daring new ways, always attentive to centrality and to image’s variable semantic in a world that needs be read: imagined. It was a long way. What follows is a short trip along the successive editions of the IIR that retrieves fragments of texts of some programs and gives an idea of how the cycle has been built.
10 years ago, in 2004, the first edition of the IIR was called Another way to show the world. Among other participants, Margarida Ledo Andión came to debut her film Santa Liberdade, a documentary about a famous episode of the antifascist struggle in Portugal, the hijack of the liner Santa Maria by a group of the Portuguese resistance under the command of Captain Henrique Galvão. Apropos of this film, and some others, the dialogs were mainly about narratives, namely about the documentary as opposed to the logic of television discourse:
“(...) Ideologically dominant in relation to other media, television proclaims journalistic criteria of objectivity, which match pre-determined representation systems. The news agenda - through which a certain construction of reality is induced - is, therefore, an instrument at the service of a pre-existing vision of the world. The documentary acts differently. It is not intended to be objective nor does it claim any truth, except for that of the author. On the contrary, it is built upon difference which consists in the recognition of a singular point of view (...).
In the 2005 edition of Labirintos do Olhar (The Sight Mazes) - as in the ones that followed - the narrative problem as known new declinations; in particular in terms of teaching because a first Encounter of Cinema Schools was held, supported by the Consulat Géneral de France and with the participation of the École Supérieur d’Audiovisuel de l’Université de Toulouse, among others. In addition, this edition followed another initiative by the Audiovisual Communication Technology Course, at the time still not integrated in ESMAE. This initiative, named "Pensar a Imagem" (To think the Image) was attended, among others, by the film-maker José Luís Guérin who is a reference author in a filed that could be identified as pure cinema.
Later, in 2006, the World brought crossed glances on images from various points of the globe. Mercedes Alvarez presented her multi-awarded film El Cielo Gira; the Indian film-maker Rahul Roy discussed his documentary The City Beautiful; Gustav Deutsch, film maker and multimedia artist, showed his work World Mirror Cinema; and Mark Durden theorized on the problem of documentary photography in the work of Paul Seawright and Luc Delahaye. In the programme introduction, one could read:
"More than providing answers, the Images from the Imagined Reality' intends to motivate the challenge, to raise doubts and, by means of surprise, to seduce and even generate bewilderment: is that not the most stimulating process to induce the will to seek knowledge, going along the maze that goes through the pleasure of the text?"
That pleasure of the text, associated to Photography, to cinema, and now also to an idea of transversality, was once again the object of attention in the 2007 edition Glances on the Cities. As suggested by the title, it was a journey through the representation of experiences in different places Fernando Lopes, taking Belarmino as a reference. talked about Lisbon. Helmut Farber also referred to Lisbon, but starting from the Lisbon Story by Wim Wenders. And he also talked about Berlin, die Sinfonie der Grosstadt by Ruttman and Berlin, Im Lichtbild der Grosstadt by Manfred Wilhelms. Manoel de Oliveira took the floor to talk about Porto and Paris. He commented on his Douro Faina Fluvial and Petit à Petit de Jean Rouch. Gérard Collas, Abi Feijó and Jean-Luc Antonucci addressed cinema issues. On photography, we had the contributions by Georges Dussaud, Olívia da Silva, Cláudia Fischer, Virgílio Ferreira and Maria do Carmo Serém, among others. In a more experimental tone we had Mike Hoolboom. In all of them, a thing in common: image.
"( ... )image is polysemic by nature. And speech, as being an expressive practice of language targeted at the social production and circulation of sense, has a plurality that is equivalent to the one of who produces it. Therefore, as meaning the creation of an imaginary universe based on places, events, and characters, narrative does the refraction of gaze in varied ways because it results from speech.
In this edition, IRI's identity matrix was defined: to provide students with the chance to contact with authors and fundamental works; rigour in the subjects' approaches; quality of the participants; valuation of creative partnerships; continuation of a strategy for the creation of new audiences associated to the possibility of alternative circuits that, in time, might reflect in the emergence of new creators. To do so, is necessary to place the combination possibilities of multiple representations programmed within a framework of game as unexpected as possible. For example:
“Baudrillard says America is a cinematographic country. The American city seems to have come out of a cinema, alive. "That is why, in order to learn the secret one must not go from the city to the screen, but from the screen to the city." Therefore, secret is the keyword of cinema. It is impossible to remain indifferent to this word, because we expect ir contains in itself its opposite: revelation. The same happens with photography. As the restless traveller Cartier-Bresson would say, photography is that argument on the world with brush strokes of light inviting for travel that puts the eye an the heart in the same line of sight."
Edition of 2008, O Poder das Imagens (The Power of Images). Manoel de Oliveira was, once again, the reference guest. He had the company of photographer, film-makers, and essayists. The group of qualified guests included names such as: Val Williamas, Christian Milovanoff, Ray Müller, Hulrich Hagele, José Manuel Costa, Fátima Lambert, António Pedro Vasconcelos and Fréderic Sabouraud. The diversified program included short films by Oliveira, photography and cinema from the Third Reich, the theme of Portuguese documentary post April's revolution, thus confronting past memories with testimonies of the present. Naturally, at the centre of the debate we had the power of images:
"Specific and not general as in the linguistic term, image communicates a all set of emotions and meanings as if forcing to instantly capture an undivided sensory whole. Then how to deal with it now, in a world of silent propagandas and censoring machines? Making its narratives a invitation to reflection, or collapsing (perhaps with delight) to the fascination of hypnosis)”.
This edition consolidated IRI's concept. A concept that is dynamic in its creation, aware of the need to change according to the essential update and growth of the taught courses. IRI began to integrate not only the curricula of the Arts and Image Department, but, as school programme, it became a prime showcase of students' work in a space that is app for the development of pedagogical experiences within an artistic essay that is more and more related to the community:
"(...) it is a work of perseverance, whose results are already noticeable, particularly in the national and international awards our students have been receiving. The results can also be noted in the recognition coming from the invitations to participate in numerous activities. But this work is made also thinking on the general audience. It would not make sense to have Manoel de Oliveira, Fernando Lopes, José Luís Grin, Mark Durden, Mercedes Alvarez, Mike Hoolboom, Helmut Farber, Rahul Roy, Gérard Collas, Georges Dussaud, and so many other guests from previous editions and lock them in a purely academic conclave. Moreover, there is no school if there is no openness to life and no space for imagination."
In the following year, 2009, Rosto Transversal (Transversal Face) The objective of creating a Masters Degree in Audiovisual Communication was achieved with two specializations: one in Photography and Documentary Cinema, an another in Audiovisual Production and Direction. In the programme: all the short films by curtas de Agnés Varda, focus on films by Werner Herzog and Pedro Sena Nunes; a set of first plan participants, in particular John Gotto, Floréal Pelota, Regina Guimarâes, and Mark Durden. Then, in 2010, Open Documentary: a retrospective of Alain Resnais and a selection of last generation German animation films, which was especially interesting for the students of the Multimedia Communication Technology Course; it had the participation of Sarah Pink, Susana Sousa Dias, André Eckert, Adriana Baptista and Margarida Ledo Andión, among others. A year later, in 2011 O Cinema e as Artes Cinema and the Arts): The presentation of the entire work by Jacques Démy's, the film-maker who got hold of all the arts; it had the presence of uís Filipe Rocha, Mark Durden, José Ribeiro, and Miguel Anxoprado, one of the great masters of comic strips.
"Since a long time, cinema has learned to live with other arts. (...) This has always been a dynamic and contradictory relationship. However, today it acquires a renewed interest, because it seems to be based on the uninterrupted process of discovery of a cartography resulting from the mutual ownership of different arts connected to the idea of crisis."
2012. Precisely, “Krisis – The Prism Greece 2011”. We had an intervention via Skype to the Auditorium of the Library Almeida Garrett by Nina Paschalidou from Pyramid TV in Greece and pictures of alternate narratives of independent authorship about the situation in that country. In addition: Mark Durden A Crisis in Photography - Joachim Schmid’s Rogue Aesthetics; Olívia da Silva – Do invisível ao visível (From the invisible to the visible); Adriano Miranda – 12/12/12; Nigel Orillard – Americana: Writing with Actors. Methods for connecting the narration of Political Crisis to Personal Crisis in the development of a Political Thriller; Cristina Susigan - A Apropriação da Arte como resposta à Crise Narrativa (The Appropriation of Art as a response to the Narrative Crisis); José Azevedo – Interactive documentary: innovations and recycling: Fátima Lambert – “Arquitectura da Destruição” (Architecture of Destruction): when the dictator wanted to be a curator; Dimitris Andrikopoulos – Experiment the music, heckle the picture; José Miguel Ribeiro – The journey that brought me here.
The complete list of masterclasses of this edition refers to the fact that it clearly shows the way how, according to the IRI philosophy, the crisis’s theme was declined in order to comprehend a plurality of territories. These territories, going through music and cinema, authorized incursions into the web, music, animation, and in the multimedia universe:
(…) if the political rhetoric is a concern to us as narrative of the crisis, the truth is that we attempt to meet it in a deferred way, so to speak, given that getting there implicates the exploration of symbolic representations of the memory of other crises, from the past perceived as present that is already a future, from a here and now narrated with resource to tools and transversal languages in a register of which an experimentation and imagination are crucial elements of the interpellation and understanding of the world.”
This way of exhibiting, articulated with the commented projection of films, photography and installations, resulted in a diversity of glances that crossed the point of view of the creators with the ones from the specialists and the audience. Pedagogically, it was about - and it still is – an experience all the more interesting given that the students were given the possibility of introducing themselves as creators. Truthfully, if the previous editions had already counted with several school projects – just as well as with teachers’ -, in this 2012 edition not only were the Masters’ public examinations held in the scope of programming, but also the projects produced were exhibited before an audience that, year after year, has increased.
Another relevant fact: the growing collaboration between the undergraduate programs of ESMAE reflected, for example, in the elaboration and live interpreting of music into films. Also relevant are the consequences that arise from that fact, in terms of the musical composition students being able to participate in their colleagues’ projects from the Master program in Audiovisual Communication.
And so we reach 10 years. For some reason, we chose for the 2013 edition this theme/title: Utopia(s). And it is simple to understand why. If utopia is the path we do, then you have to walk. Keep walking. It is as simple as that.
Therefore, which other artist could better illustrate this purpose than Manoel de Oliveira, our greatest film-maker? Who does not know the path he travelled? He, who at the age of 23 produced a film that is today heritage of the imaginary of the city of Porto – Douro, Faina Fluvial – and that at the age of 104 proceeds in the adventure of making films with the boldness of spirit that makes him the youngest of Portuguese filmmakers? He is, therefore, for what he represents to the cinema and the city, the central figure of this cycle. And about him writes Mário Cláudio, another great master, from the Letters, in a text which he named as “Manoel de Oliveira, um chão comum” (Manoel de Oliveira, a common ground).
Then, there are other utopias (and dystopias) that go through the IRI of 2013. For example, the ones reported in the political and social films by Christian Rouaud, the film-maker who won the César award for best documentary in 2012, precisely for Tous au Larzac, which was included in the programme. There are also the utopias that encourage the Short Film Festival of Vila do Conde, the Cinanima and Porto's Cineclube, and that are translated in selected films. In addition we have the utopias of so many photographers, whose gazes give us back the signs of time. And also the project Utopia by the musician and composer Dimitris Andrikopoulos. And, finally, but not less important, the utopias of all other participants, particularly the students, whose future depends on the sense they are able to give to their path.
In conclusion. If we had certain objectives in the beginning, we now have numerous plans. That is it. We are well aware of the difficulties of the present and of the insane work that is necessary in order to keep artistic higher education within a reasonable frame of expectations. But even for this reason, and because it is essential to reinvent the present in order to guarantee the future, it is so important that the Cycle of Documentary Photography and Cinema Images from the Imagined Reality continues to deepen its founding purposes; and its also important that it is able to be rethought each year in order to allow the creation of new projects.
One of these projects is the creation of a Masters Degree in Digital Arts. Another one is to regularity promote the publication of articles, in order to achieve the international projection of ESMAE’s Arts and Image Department. Yet another project is to publish on-line the collection of IRI. In fact, the location is already created in order to build a database whose consultations can serve both the school's community and the general public. Finally, we also want to make IRI grow in order to make it an undeniable cultural space, not only for Porto but abroad. Why not make it a meeting point where the production of schools from all lusophony can have regular stage; and to do so, could we build, in the medium term, an interchange platform of approximation between peoples?
Utopia, one may say. Definitely That is why I take on Galeano once again:
“Somos lo que hacemos, y sobre todo lo que hacemos para cambiar lo que somos.”
Jorge Campos Ph.D
Curator for this Programme