“GIVE ME A BODY THEN” Towards live film performance

“At the outset of the Master, I stated that the Master should be a cure and not a therapy. It did succeed for it has brought me more chaos and new potentialities.

The act of filming
I first focused my attention on the camera-person by asking myself: what is the act of filming? What if this act of filming becomes a physiological experience for the filmmaker – both physical and sensorial? What if the camera becomes the continuation of the body of the maker, a human camera? For painters it always seems that the image is a continuation of their bodies, they are not conveying a message but rather evoking a statement or initiating a dialogue with the canvas each dab is a trace of a force. How can one translate this physicality and spontaneity to film?

The act or filming
What forces grasp the body? How do they influence the way the body leads the camera before the mind begins to analyze. By experimenting with the human camera, I wanted to explore a personal approach to this process but I felt somehow that the camera became a handicapped to push my exploration further on. These thoughts encourage me to reformulate my research. Indeed the human camera is liberating for a camera person but it still separated me from the direct sensation I wanted to experience with my surroundings. Thus my next step was to separate the body from the camera and to position myself in front of the camera to explore the act rather than the filming.

The actor filming
This means literally to enter the frame just as painters at some point also entered the canvas. The frame becomes an arena in which the body becomes an extra sensitive surface that receives and reflects into a web of flux. In a series of short films, Studio Visits, I tried to feel this direct tension of being inside the network of potentialities created by objects. One step ahead of any explanatory or illustrative purpose, to remain in the ‘unthought’, where, as Gilles Deleuze says in ‘The Time Image’, "the body is no longer an obstacle that separates thought from itself, that which it has to overcome to reach thinking”. This was the vulnerability of my being that I wanted to uncover; A moment of complete nakedness - literally and figuratively speaking - the skin becomes a crude surface that refines any gesture. The actor in his/her animality and complexity stripped bare by the lens of the camera.

The act of screening
How to present such a work to an audience? How not to explain but to make them feel? This has been the question that I have had to struggle with during the second part of my research process. I found a new direction for my current practice when I discovered a long tradition of expanded cinema that has attempted to open up the space of the film theatre to real time and real life. Inspired by their ethos, I established another form of relation within the film theater between the screen, the projector, the audience and the camera. I performed a lecture without words, inspired by Stan Brakhage's Mothlight. To do so I re-arranged the cinema apparatus inside the film theater. My naked body became the screen while an assistant was covering me with plastic foil to create a cocoon symbolizing the rebirth of another image. At the same time a second assistant filmed the public from the screen view point, making them visible and offering them a new space of potentialities. Through this new arrangement the act of filming and the act of screening became then a whole that could be seen from multiple perspectives.

The act of seeing
By bringing together the act of filming and the act of screening during an experimental evening in March at EYE, I have developed what I called a “live film performance”. For this first attempt I chose to program an evening about blindness and cinema. To do so I invited blind and visual impaired persons to watch, participate and debate about films with blindness as their main subject. The audience was positioned in two groups facing one another with the screen placed in between them. Together they established a new network of perception between bodies within the film theater, a new arrangement, a different understanding of the act of seeing.

By this event I challenged the expectation of a social group during a live event. This was very rewarding for me. I discovered an inner need for the live presence of bodies, in other words, evidence of presence. I found a better understanding and acceptance of rituals, in particular the performative ritual. I believe that a live encounter with an audience is a necessity.

The act screen off
My research process has been an inductive process, in which I have been working by elimination, in order to reach the very core of my concern. The live engagement through a local intervention in the film theater (the “live film performance”) has become the core of my recent research process. It finds its origin in the necessity for me to bring back the missing bodies of the screen into the film theater. It brings back the possibility of an encounter with an audience through both a physical and spiritual act, a step towards the very essence of cinema, its animality and its emptiness.

Interview: Jan-Ewout Ruiter, March 2015

Olivier Delebecque