In recent years, the notion of “artistic research” has gained a lot of currency in art schools and in the modernization of European research funding across the humanities. The three film programs on show here offer a somewhat tongue-in-cheek approach to the term, while proposing its re-evaluation via actual works of art – in this case, film. There is a widely acknowledged idea, of course, that avant-garde filmmakers regularly become researchers in the domain of their own medium, meaning the concepts, materials, and apparatus of film itself. But what happens if we go beyond that idea? What if we decide that filmmakers can conduct equally valid acts of research and produce equally valid results in other domains such as the natural sciences, ethnology, linguistics, or the study of religion?
For many observers, art and science – while being accepted as two dimensions of a common cultural space – still occupy very distinct “worlds” with little overlap. The past decades, however, have witnessed an increasing academic-scientific interest in artistic motivations, methods, and inspirations (and vice versa), blurring the boundaries between what might be seen as “specifically” scientific or artistic/poetic. There are always traces of research in art works – and something poetic always finds its way into scientific setups.
Our three film programs address these blurring boundaries from the point of view of art. Regarded as traditional acts of research, most of these films would surely fail. But they willingly, sometimes accidentally, incorporate scientific modes or concepts into their practice. (It would be lovely, of course, to complement this approach with its vis-a-vis: a public demonstration of scientific experiments, staged by “curators of science” and focusing on all the aspects of imaging, composition, and montage inherent in such experiments…).
In short, we would like to suggest a certain critical shift in perspective when watching these artifacts. From the stable procedures of ethnographic film towards a more daring and poetic recording and re-ordering of lives, rituals, habits. From the documentation of religious communities towards an investigation of the languages that any belief system is based on. From works that offer unconventional aesthetic experiences towards a cinema that joyfully plays with and paraphrases the setups of scientific research.
As for ourselves, we didn’t apply any in-depth research when making the selection; we tried to avoid both cinematic and scientific hierarchies and shunned the use of verifiable (or falsifiable) procedures; we gave ourselves over to the pleasures of film as an unstratified mode of creation. The majority of the films selected are from the collection of the Austrian Film Museum, Vienna.
Curated by Alejandro Bachmann & Alexander Horwath (Austrian Film Museum)
Supported by Österreichisches Kulturforum Brüssel