With a selection of over 200 short films not everyone is able to attend IFFR. To include them as much as possible we welcome filmmakers through pre-screening Q&A's about their selected work.
Beatrice Gibson was part of the Tiger Awards Competition for Short Film Jury in 2015. She is twice winner of a Tiger Award, in 2009 for A Necessary Musicin (2008) and more recently in 2013 for The Tiger’s Mind (2012). As Gibson will not be able to attend the screenings, we asked her to join us for a short pre-festival Q&A.
In Crippled Symmetries you make the interesting connection between Fluxus music and the abstract world of finance, inspired by William Gaddis’ novel JR. How did you come to this link between the two and how does it relate to the book?
In some way that connection came out of previous film I made back in 2012 called The Tigers' Mind. Experimental music has been a big influence on my work for a while now, functioning both as subject matter but also as way to think about making and producing films. The Tiger's Mind was the first film I made that looked at some of the tropes of experimental music or modernist composition in a less utopian manner than I had previously. The Tigers' Mind is essentially a portrait of its own making in the form of a fictional or abstract crime thriller. The film deals with collective playing or collective production and or its failure (which is why its framed as a crime thriller and why its characters all croak it!). It was the difficult experience I had making this film that led me to start thinking more critically perhaps about an area I'd always had quite a utopian take on. I started thinking about how experimental musical tropes from the 50's and 60's, ideas like collective production, abstraction, indeterminacy, well what they had become, their legacy or trajectories. Adam Curtis' type thinking about how certain utopian left wing or avant garde currents in the 60's around freedom, the individual or whatever, had in fact become the central tenants of neo liberal thinking and so on. I wondered if you could trace a parallel between John Cage’s experiments in downtown New York and what was happening in finance in the 50's. If they might have in fact been having the same ideas, exploring the same forms, in entirely different worlds. Gadddis’ book was definitely a key connecting factor. Aside from having a great comic conceit, - it’s an absurd satire of the American dream turned inside out, a story about a child capitalist wreaking havoc in the stock markets with the unwitting help of his schools resident, ailing modernist composer - it's ultimately a book about abstraction or indeterminacy as the central or defining trope of the 20th century and it explores that both as its subject and on a formal level.
The world of finance is depicted as abstract chaos, in a negative way perhaps, but the form of the book is in itself also abstract and chaotic, in a more positive way - its 800 odd pages or sort of unattributed dialogue. The experience of reading it is like swimming in a sea of voices, or being lost in the cacophony of a crowd. Ultimately it’s up to the reader to make sense of things, so it has this positive experimental dimension that calls upon the reader’s agency or active participation. I thought the ambiguity of that was fascinating. Crippled Symmetries follows that ambiguous logic in a way. It looks at abstraction or indeterminacy as a subject, negatively or critically perhaps - the perils of abstract finance - but on the flip side it also deploys chaos or indeterminacy as a method in its own making. I set up production parameters, characters, etc, and then tend to let them unfold on their own terms. They are autonomous, allowed to do their thing. At least until the edit that is! The lead character, the boy, for example was 'cast' from experimental music workshop that we set up in a playground. He sort of declared himself the protagonist. The composer and the banker, whose conversation structures the film editorially, are cast as themselves, (the composer led the workshop in the playground). For that scene I simply asked them to have a conversation about abstraction in their respective fields based on a chapter in the Gaddis novel in which a fictional composer and a fictional banker discuss music and finance. The rest was left to chance. So they discuss chance in the markets whilst their interaction is in some ways also the result of chance.
The film is the third part of a series: F for Fibonacci (shown at IFFR) and Solo for a Rich Man. How do they relate to each other and how can we see this new film as the next step in the story?
F for Fiboancci was initially made for a show at Laura Bartlett gallery, London. I had to make a smaller work in terms of scale of production and I wanted to test out some of the ideas I had for a larger film. In a way it’s a prologue. More of an essay or rather anti essay, that tests out some of the ideas or thinking behind the larger film: it’s a collage, using material from the world of experimental music: a number of experimental graphic scores as well as the writings of a John Paynter, a radical experimental music teacher based in Britain in the 60's, who took Karl Heinz Sstockhausen into primary schools and was notorious for believing 8 year olds could deal with 'difficult' music. This material features alongside a text from the Journal of finance, entitled Noise, by the economist Fisher Black about the role of randomness and chaos in the financial markets. All of this is then parsed through Gaddis's fictional 11 year old. Except that I worked with a real 11 year old, a boy called Cclay, Chodkzo, who I commissioned to build an office in Minecraft for a fictional character he had already created himself called Mr Money. Mr Money was later animated and also features in the film.
The film's title was a reference to Orsen Welles' F for Fake, in that, in some way the character in the film, the little boy, was just a ruse, an alibi for me to collage together two worlds that seemingly have nothing to do with each other; music and finance. Like F for Fake, F for Fibonacci is also in some ways a film essay, but a nonlinear, nonsensical, nondidactic one, an anti essay that takes places in the mind of a fictional character, or rather uses character as an excuse to put this material in the same frame and see if there's any relationship between it. Solo for Rich Man is a further character study, let's say, of the character of the boy and uses a lot of material from the experimental music workshop in the playground that we set up, as part of the production process of Crippled Symmetries (that I mentioned above). It was material that was meant to be integrated into the final film, all be it much less structured, chaotic material - it's mostly shot on 3 old school dv cameras and really just documents the total chaos of the workshop as it unfolded rather than setting up scenes - but I ended up making it as a separate piece for Art Basel.
Crippled Symmetries is part of the combined programme Beyond Sight and will be screened two times:
- Sunday 31 Jan 12:15 LV 3
- Monday 1 Feb 16:45 LV 2