CINEMATIC MOMENTS #2:
1 MAY–6 JUNE, 2021
10 PREMIER HOUSE, WATERLOO TERRACE
LONDON, UK N1 1TG
+44 (0) 75 6130 8773
CINEMATIC MOMENTS is pleased to present CINEMATIC MOMENTS #2: RAPHAELA VOGEL. During the course of the exhibition, the gallery will digitally project the artist’s 2020 film The Atomtheorie ( 00:13:07 | color | sound | HD video ).
RAPHAELA VOGEL (b. 1988, Nuremberg, Germany) lives and works in Berlin. She studied at the Nuremberg Art Academy and at the Städelschule in Frankfurt. Recent solo exhibitions include Raphaela Vogel: Uterusland @ Neues Museum, Nuremberg; Bellend bin ich aufgewacht @ Kunsthaus Bregenz, Bregenz; A Woman’s Sports Car, Kapsel 09: Raphaela Vogel @ Haus der Kunst, Munich; Ultranackt @ Kunsthalle Basel, Basel; Hasi Hang @ Goethe Institut, Shanghai; and Il mondo in cui vivo @ Leopold-Hoesch-Museum, Düren, Germany. Recent participation in group exhibitions include Carnivalesca - Was Malerei Sein Könnte @ Kunstverein, Hamburg; Kunstpreis der Böttcherstrasse @ Kunsthalle Bremen; The Route is Being Recalculated @ De Pont Museum, Tilburg; Straying From The Line @ Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin; Performing Society: The Violence of Gender, curated by Susanne Pfeffer @ Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong; and Jeunes Artistes en Europe - Les Métamorphoses @ Fondation Cartier, Paris.
::The following is an interview with Raphaela Vogel about her film The Atomtheorie conducted via email by CINEMATIC MOMENTS director Michael Thibault in April 2021::
MICHAEL THIBAULT: ‘The Atomtheorie’ begins with a dancified rework of ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies’ from The Nutcracker. In that section, your physical movements (specifically your footsteps) match the rhythm of the music, thus creating a sort of reforged ballet/music video. A few moments later you begin reading from a text that is seemingly proposing an alternate understanding of molecular physics. Can you share a few words on the interplay of visual, music, and text in the first few minutes?
RAPHAELA VOGEL: I have this fascination for Kür-music for Grand Prix riding (dressage) shows. Kür is the free section of a dressage tournament, as they often adapt and change famous ballets (for example adding an entertaining beat) to a version that matches with the rhythm of a horse’s movement. The music I chose is from a kür with the famous horse Totilas (who just recently died.)
So, I actually repeat the kür of Totilas.
The Latin text which I am reading is an excerpt of the debate about the ancient atom theory by Lactans - it matches with the music: like the vocals for that kür.
Ancient forms of knowledge and their contemporary ritualistic or decontextualized usages in schools and universities share a lot with dressage. Learning the Latin language in school is some kind of equivalent of dressage for kids.
MT: Further into the video, there’s a section where you’re surrounded by hundreds of books - some on art history, art theory, psychology, and many others that I couldn’t identify. Given the confines of the physical space you were shooting and your use of the 360-degree video camera, there’s a very dense and claustrophobic feeling created that’s in stark contrast to the somewhat whimsical rolling mini-planet of the first section. The visuals from this section seemed to me to suggest a kind of extra-dimensionality, where you’re enveloped by warped matter. Thoughts?
RV: The shelves as a stream of consciousness/container of knowledge, a container of material corresponds to the scene with the train in the film. This scene is like a hinge between the two sides of the film, ritualized knowledge, and its practice and unregulated experience.
MT: The name of one of the books in that section is called ‘Lost in Cognition’. I’ve never read that particular text, but the title jumped out at me as a compelling turn of phrase in relation to that section’s visuals, and also to the 21st-century’s labyrinthian systems of disseminating an endless amount of media in general. How do you feel about this?
RV: I live in a flat together with 7000 books, but it is not my own bookshelf (it's by my boyfriend Diedrich Diederichsen). I've never read ‘Lost in Cognition’ but I was told that it's about how the biological/medical default knowledge of the late 19th century which was never central to psychoanalysis but somehow its background or starting point has changed under the regime of contemporary neurosciences and how they relate to contemporary psychoanalysis.
This bookshelf is an example of neither labyrinthian nor overwhelming organization of knowledge because everything seems to be organized along the lines of themes and subject matters. At the same time, any library develops the atmosphere of Borges Library of Babel, so there is always a tension between the sublime endlessness of knowledge and the seemingly strict organization of a bookshelf.
MT: In ‘The Atomtheorie’, and other videos that you’ve made, you’re often both on-camera and behind the camera via your use of remote-controlled drones and other non-traditional capture devices. Can you share some thoughts on performing while directing? I know it’s a rather dull question but your inclusion of yourself in your videos is unique and significant as the camera kind of acts as a semi-sentient witness more than just a simple capture device.
RV: The great trick is that if you are playing more than one role in this situation it's less acting and more actual doing something. This is great as I like the moment when it becomes unclear if the figure acts or is the figure.
I am interested in actors/performers/directors/”total filmmakers“ like Louis de Funes, Adriano Celentano, Rowan Atkinson, Jacques Tati, Charlie Chaplin, or Jerry Lewis. They are always the same person in all of their films, independent from the narrative, historical frame, drama, or comedy. They have defined something that is neither a role nor an act nor their self, and they fulfill all functions that are normally separated by the division of labour in the cultural industrial products. I try to literally step in their footsteps.
MT: You utilize digital video cameras to capture imagery and I can only assume that you edit your videos digitally as well, yet there’s a home-spun feeling to the work that almost recalls Georges Méliès’ 1902 film ‘A Trip to the Moon' via Jonathan Caouette’s 2003 documentary ‘Tarnation’. Do you find it important to retain a (for lack of a better term) handmade feel to your videos?
RV: Yes, very important. I want to show how easy it is to make a great film with no budget. But I don’t want to pretend to have a big budget.
MT: There’s a particular section in ‘The Atomtheorie’ where it appears that you’re in danger of physically falling down a rock formation. While you’re struggling to steady yourself, the drone that’s filming you begins to twitch and shake almost as if it’s panicking. I know this is a rather specific question but do you have any thoughts on why humans are so good at anthropomorphizing, and why anthropomorphization has been an essential element of storytelling for thousands of years?
RV: Like all storytellers, I like to do strange things with material that is not strange at all, neither to me
nor to my fellow humans. So I am happy when I detect something I know in something unknown. (Maybe this is also the reason why I mostly work on the things surrounding me.)
MT: Lastly, I recently got into rewatching Stan Brakhage films online, which is now a very different viewing experience because the original frame rate is significantly transmuted during the digitization and streaming process. Do you have any thoughts or feelings about your hand in creating abstraction within digital video and what that means in the context of today?
RV: In this work, I think very abstractly about filmmaking. This is also why I present the film [in a physical exhibition] actually within a flying Barbi airplane [pictured below] - as a viewer, you look at the insects watching a movie.
The shaking dog [towards the end] stands like some other scenes (ie. hinge scenes) for the elements of dramaturgy as such. It works like a piece of text in a silent movie or an establishing shot in a tv series. But different from those elements it has no narrative function, but functions to point at its formal role in storytelling. The point is: it is an abstraction of filmmaking and I think this way about film. At the same time, it is a real dog, my dog. And that is like having an actor with the name MacGuffin, a kind of joke.