Barcelona Short Film Festival 2022
A YouTube-video, which is supposed to help the viewer against anxiety by focusing on his/her breathing rhythm, served as the source material, which was graphically altered, filled with words and this way interpreted as a fleeting diagram of breath.
Hi Lilian, it’s great to be able to talk with you about your film Breath. You have already screened it at a few global film festivals already, what has it meant to you to know that your film has been so warmly received?
Initially, I showed my filmic work exclusively in the context and frame of exhibitions. Film and video festivals are a pleasant new opportunity for me to show my work in a larger radius and to address a different kind of audience.
What does it mean to you to be able to bring this film to Barcelona Short Film Festival this year?
I am very happy that my video was selected. The trailers and short descriptions of the selected films look very promising. I definitely wish I could be present in person.
How important a role do festivals like BSFF play in providing a platform for filmmakers and short films?
I am still trying to figure that out for myself. As a visual artist who studied sculpture, I am used to always including spatiality into the filmic presentation and controlling all the elements of the space: I consider how the technological elements, the projection surface, the dimming, the volume of sound, the installation interventions as well as the seats could form an entity and support the respective filmic work. In the past, for example, I have built tilting benches, hung a screen from the ceiling in a metal hoist construction or projected onto a bookshelf that was converted into a screen. All these aspects are lost in a festival by default for you have no influence on how your film will be shown. But it is quite interesting how much your sentiments towards your own work change, when seeing it amidst a series of other films: in exhibitions my films usually run in a loop and thus occupy their own space. In the last two years I have been able to present my work at film and video festivals in Tokyo, New York, Marseille, Athens, London, Mexico City and São Paulo, among others. My works would not have travelled that far merely through exhibitions. However, unfortunately, there is often no feedback if you have not been there in person. You then do end up wondering: did the screening really take place? That is indeed a strange feeling and the lack of feedback and resonance leaves a slightly unsatisfied feeling.
Can you tell me a little bit about how Breath came about, what was the inspiration behind this film?
I produced the work for a conference in Weimar last autumn. Scientists, writers and artists were invited by Ulrike Steierwald, who is Professor for German Literatur at Leuphana University in Lueneburg, to work on a linguistic imaginary of the four elements – on perspectives of the solid, the liquid, the plasmatic and the volatile. In a long conversation in my studio we then came to “breath“ as a subcategory of the element air. In my artistic research I’ve always been interested in making the invisible visible so this was an intriguing subject for me. And of course it was in the midst of Corona, where the concept of breath all of sudden gained a remarkable amount of presence for everyone. I usually work with long voice-overs in my videos. The format of the spoken language is my favourite material. Following the ontogeny of the voice, the breath is its beginning. I deeply enjoyed researching the fundamentals of my medium through investigating breath.
What was the message you wanted to convey with this film?
Generally speaking, a video work for me is the result of working on a question that arises for me in terms of content, formally or overall in my artistic work. That doesn't necessarily have to be obvious to people from the outside. But perhaps as kind of a basic statement one could say that my video shows the entanglement of thinking, speaking and breathing. And I liked the thought I remixed from Rilke, which goes that a breath is an exchange of a piece of the world with a piece of oneself....
"Preserving and holding these relationships in some state of tension can create intensities in a way that perhaps only the medium of film can."
As well as your short film Breath is also a performance piece, was it always your intention to create two creative platforms to showcase this unique piece of work?
I developed the performative variation – “Breath for Two Voices” – for the concrete format and the concrete location of the Weimar conference and realised it with my artist friend Judith Neunhäuserer. I liked the idea of a minimalistic performance that intensifies the video and ties the theme of breathing back to the human body. We brought the video to sound through loud breath while we were in contact through holding the screen as well as keeping eye contact.
Will this be something you continue to do with future projects?
Currently I think of the film more as something standing on its own, as a starting point of a video series that, in addition to “breath“, examines and explores “gaze“, “voice“ and “walking“ in a similarly diagrammatic-linguistic way. Instead of placing the bodies of the performers alongside the physical processes that are being investigated, I’d like to present the series on massive screens in 5:4 format, which give the video itself a kind of corporeality, so to speak. I have just received a grant for the video series: not a film or visual arts grant, but one for literature. I also see the work as a literary one, but one that can only exist in the form of this video, in the interaction both with moving image and sound.
What was the first steps you took in preparation for making Breath and what would you say have been the most important lessons you have taken from this whole experience?
That you neither need money nor a team to make a film. And I realised that against expectation it is not easier to make a shorter film: exact timing and placement actually matter even more.
Where did your passion for art and filmmaking come from?
Film actually has always been my favourite medium. Again and again I succumb to the pulling effect of the interplay of voice and image. Before studying fine arts, I studied art history and focused on film studies within the discipline. During my time at the art academy, I was part of a performance duo and also did sculptural objects. However, I could always identify most with my filmic and cinematic work.
Has your approach to your film and art projects changed much since you started out?
What definitely runs through my work is the emphasis on the linguistic realm. Filmmaking for me is a practice that also encompasses continuous reading, writing and collecting. Through the relationship between things new meanings emerge, enabling a transgression of the thing itself. Preserving and holding these relationships in some state of tension can create intensities in a way that perhaps only the medium of film can. Wether it then ends up in animated form, or drawn or filmed, wether it then is more abstract-cold or humanly warm in its visual language… that’ll change from work to work. What has perhaps changed is including a potentially international audience into the process: I either think the film in English directly or have an English version in addition to the German version ready, as in “Atem“ / “Breath“. That depends on how much the filmic work is also a work on language itself. In the latter case, I can do that better in my mother tongue.
Finally, do you have any advice, tips or suggestions you would offer an emerging filmmaker?
I would answer that in the words of Stanley Kubrick: “If it can be written, or thought, it can be filmed.“