Interviews

Dedicated to his Art

Two installations hang facing each other: one showing three parallel films which at first glance seem to have little to do with one another; the other tucked between room separators, showing a man reading from papers.

By Young Film Critc Rowan el Shimi

As part of the two-floor Spaces Within exhibition, the last (unfinished) work of the late Swiss director Peter Liechti (1951-2014), Dedications, takes up an entire floor within the space. Dedications is part of IFFR’s Deep Focus section, curated by writer and researcher Edwin Carels, who tells that the installation came to him through Liechti’s widow, Jolanda Gsponer, who was searching for an appropriate event to show it. "Liechti had had a retrospective at IFFR in 2009, which was very well received, and he was very happy about it," Carels recounts. "So it was a natural reflex. We happily agreed, even though the work wasn’t finished at that point – it was in an unfinished phase of an unfinished work."

Liechti is one of the most unconventional filmmakers

With dozens of films under his belt, Liechti was also an author, screenwriter and cinematographer. He worked extensively with notable visual artists and musicians and is known for his experimental, cutting-edge, daring projects. "For Switzerland, he’s one of the very rare very original filmmakers who are not into a genre, and also one of the most unconventional filmmakers," Carels says.
Dedications is Liechti’s final work (meant as a film), which he started when he became ill. It was inspired by writer Robert Walser, Vincent van Gogh and an anonymous Dinka chieftain. Gsponer picked up the initiative for this ambitious project and, along with a team, oversaw the creation of three ‘dedications’ in the form of artworks: the installation, a filmed reading and a book.

The installation was designed by visual artist Yves Netzhammer, whose work is very different from Liechti’s, although he became a personal friend after they met at IFFR in 2009. It comprises three adjacent screens which can be viewed front and back, showing footage which is seemingly random, but is held together by Liechti’s interests. Shots from the hospital are placed next to banal shots from his studio, along with footage of Namibian music and wild animals. Viewers are free to weave their own narratives or observe the footage as standalone pieces. "It’s neither symmetrical nor beautifully composed," Carels says. "It becomes very personal; you need to associate things together. You have to help edit the material again."

In Hospital Diaries we see the compilation of videos Liechti shot of himself reading his own diaries, which runs for 50 minutes. In it, the artist visits notions of death, his observations on life and narrates his feelings towards his illness. "He’s a very independent, very autonymous filmmaker," Carels concludes. "For us at IFFR, this is the kind of work we really like, so it was natural at a certain moment to bring him into focus in 2009, and back again this year."