GFF 2012 - 85A presents: Jan Svankmajer
Judd Brucke of 85A discusses the art collective's tribute to the Czech filmmaker
‘One of our comrades was approached by the GFF to do something with the festival,’ says Judd Brucke, a member of the collective of Glasgow-based multi-disciplinary artists that stage weird and wonderful live events under the banner 85A. That something was to contribute to Crossing the Line, the Glasgow Film Festival’s newest strand, which aims to blur the boundaries between film and visual art. ‘We’re all pretty well-versed in film,’ Brucke says, ‘so we were delighted. We thought: what could we work with that would allow us to provide a really heightened cinema experience? We knocked heads together and my colleague Jack Wrigley said: “The strange world of the creative genius of Jan Svankmajer.”’
The result of that initial head-banging season is 85A presents: Jan Svankmajer. As conceived by Brucke and his colleagues, the event is a multimedia (re)presentation of Svankmajer’s films at the Glue Factory in Glasgow. If you’re not familiar with Svankmajer, this event should be a great place to start. If you’re already a fan, it’ll be an opportunity to see the films in a way you’ve never experienced them before.
For those not in the know, the internationally celebrated Czech filmmaker creates beautifully bizarre animated films (26 shorts plus the feature length Alice, Faust, Conspirators of Pleasure, Little Otik, Lunacy and, most recently, Surviving Life) which have won him prizes at festivals including Cannes and Berlin. His work has inspired and influenced many fellow filmmaker fantasists, from Terry Gilliam to Tim Burton. Svankmajer’s visions also prompted his homeland’s old communist regime to ban them back in the 1970s.
These highly idiosyncratic films employ stop-motion animation, clay-mation and fast-motion techniques as well as exaggerated sound effects to animate puppets, all kinds of (usually) inanimate objects and even human actors (effectively transforming live action into animation or people into objects) to create surrealist nightmares that, while dark and disturbing, are also often very funny. Not for nothing has Svankmajer been compared to another famous son of Prague, Franz Kafka, an artist whose warped visions also got him into trouble with the authorities.
In many ways, Svankmajer appears to be the perfect choice for 85A. The avowedly non-conformist collective (which is currently in production on a film of its own, Chernozem) stages events in what it describes as ‘disused buildings’ and ‘forgotten spaces’, which seems all very Kafka/Svankmajer-esque. In fact, 85A previously engaged with communist block cinema when it screened the Polish film Orzel with a remixed soundtrack in the set of a mocked up submarine, an event that could be interpreted as a precursor to their take on Svankmajer.
So, what we can expect from it? ‘We’ll be screening the best of Svankmajer’s short films over two nights in various halls and chambers and on balconies throughout the post-industrial old Glue Factory,’ says Brucke. ‘The short short films will be screening concurrently on loops, some to be discovered as part of installations, some introduced by costumed performers, while the longer shorts will be screened consecutively in the Factory’s larger spaces. There’ll be a bar. Visitors will be encouraged to imbibe. And it culminates with a disco. It’ll be a carnival atmosphere. We’re planning to blow the films open, hitting all the senses. We hope,’ Brucke says, ‘to present the films in a way that would do the man himself proud.’
85A presents: Jan Svankmajer, The Glue Factory, Glasgow, Thu 23 Feb, 4–7pm, £4 & Fri 24 Feb, 9–11pm, £8 (£6).