Compost and Height
Tonight some thoughts on a film I have seen screened a couple of times, once as a looping installation at the Audiograft Festival in Oxford back in February, and once just last weekend at a semi private screening of the film, alongside another one, projected nicely onto a wall at Angharad Davies and Tim Parkinson’s home in London. The film is by Kostis Kilymis, who I consider to be a good friend (note for caveat purposes) and is also available to download or stream for free from the Compost and Height site here. It is named I stayed in this room for a year [inconclusive results 2010-2011] and is the first of a short series of similar works. In London last weekend we saw it alongside the second in the series, but given that only the one is publicly available to view for now I will comment only on that one. If I can. Writing about film is very difficult for me.
Kilymis’ film is shot in Greece, in either Thessaloniki or Athens, I am not certain of which, but it doesn’t really matter. The film lasts fifteen minutes, and across its duration we see five static shots taken from the same room in which Kilymis stayed for a year between 2010 and 2011. Although the camera does not move for each of these shots, the images are not stills, though a casual viewer perhaps might not be blamed for thinking that they could be. Alongside the film we have a soundtrack, which consists of recordings made from the room’s window on the same day, though not necessarily at precisely the same time, into which we also hear occasional thin, whispery strands of feedback, generated by Kostis and filtered into the recordings in real time. The film is not divided into five equal parts, and the five shots are of unequal lengths, with the cuts between them being sudden. The sound elements also seem to consist of more than one recording, with a few obvious cuts between sections, though the stop and start of different audio parts do not correspond with the cuts on film. So we see a few shots of crowded skylines, some of industrial building rooftops, and hazy, aerial infested cityscapes, and one of the graffiti covered wall of a neighbouring army barracks. You can of course however, see all of this for yourself.
When I viewed the film in Oxford back in February, I struggle dot take very much front he experience at all. The film ran in a tiny room within which people came and went all the time. I enjoyed the experience of entering this space, being aware of the static shot on a screen, and enjoying the sounds around me, but such an environment, stood up, scrunched to one side so I wasn’t hit by the door the next time it opened left me just about incapable of registering any solid thoughts on the work. I struggle to listen to music and watch film at the same time under any circumstances, irrationally I know, but still, I struggle to do this, and the installation situation in oxford did anything but make the task easier for me. In London last week, one of just a small handful of people, relaxing on a comfy sofa, drinking wine and eating an amazing chocolate cake was a different story. I had not slept well the night before, thanks to a bad back in a strange hotel bed, and so here, relaxed in good company and with a hint of alcohol I struggled to stay awake while the film ran, which is by no means any form of criticism of the film itself, rather that it induced an atmosphere of calmness for me, of feeling at home, of sitting quietly, as I do most evenings, listening to music alongside the sounds of my immediate environment, while looking out of the window at a mostly unchanging scene. However, what happens at home, more often than not, is that I close my eyes, and so that is what ended up happening last Sunday. I really enjoyed listening to the soundtrack to the film, but I didn’t really watch it that carefully, choosing instead to open and close my eyes when the shot changed, which I was able to do with the help of Julie, who took to nudging me in the ribs each time the camera angle moved.
My reaction to Kostis’ films (the other one he showed was a similar work using images and sound made at his current Oxford home) was I think a natural, built in response I have developed through years of sitting in a similar environment at home listening to music. When I sit here and listen it is always without any visual stimulus. I do not connect what I see outside to the music I hear, though I do allow the sounds of my environment to impact on me. Its not that I am not a visually minded person. I consider myself a better visual artist/designer/photographer than I am a writer about music- I just struggle to allow visual elements to combine with my concentrated listening. This evening i have been discussing a concert I will attend with Julie tomorrow afternoon. Its a four hour long performance in which we are invited to move around a very large space, coming and going as we choose. Julie asked what I plan to do during the concert. I suspect, though maybe the concert specifics will not allow this, that I will stay in one place and just listen. This is what I usually end up doing when I am invited to wander. The same natural processes apply here. If I am listening, I like to stay still, shut off other sensual stimuli and just listen. If I am out and about and hear something that catches my attention, I invariably stop, stand still, and close my eyes, as if removing other sensual distractions helps me focus my listening more closely. Kostis Kilymis’ film not only causes me to do this, as most films with interesting soundtracks do, but he also manages to recreate a scenario similar to what I experience when I sit and listen here in the evening, albeit with Greece out of the window rather than South Oxfordshire suburbia. I found it impossible to watch this film rather than listen to it, and then tonight as I have run it through on my computer a few time I have found myself watching it rather than listening to it through the dodgy digital to analogue converters built into my laptop. So I have sort of combined an aural experience last weekend with a visual one tonight to be able to write about this film.
This is then, a really interesting work for me, causing me to consider and work myself through various scenarios personal to me, yet thrown up through my interaction with this film. Its a simple, minimal, and yet effective work that signals an intriguing new direction that Kostis may take, and I look forward to engaging, if only in part, to the next steps he will progress along.