I see, that I see

Ieva Pitruka

Published in the monthly film magazine Masks (Maskas), Riga, Latvia, August 1993

It is an October evening at a park in Venice. Moments after sunset shapes start to disappear in the wake of approaching night. A silhouette of phone both barely discernible against the skyline. A woman enters it and dials a number. Her conversation merges with laughter of young people passing by. Ship sirens to be heard faraway in the sea, a dog barks shortly, when running by. A man lights a match in the darkness and lights his cigarette. Night falls. The picture slowly disappears leaving us in a world of the sounds of night, and it seems that we hear the familiar noises for the first time in our life. It is an awkward feeling between being awake and dozing, a strange, but very familiar world surrounds us. Our inner feelings unite with reality and there comes liberation that brings uncertainty within and readiness to perceive the unexpected up to the threshold of pain. The border between reality and imaginary has disappeared.

This little evening sketch is The Park of Memories (Parco della Rimembranze), a 14 minute short film made by Austrian film director Michael Pilz. While watching the film the feeling of being present “here and now” comes up, as if the only static shot of the film were my own experience, and it is me who looks at the solitary phone booth listening to the noises of night. Michael Pilz has an idea to invite several  filmmakers to shoot the same landscape or object in a static frame. It would prove that reality is not objective, and only the subjective point of view opens up the true nature of the world. ”To make a film one has to understand three important things – what you see, what you are, who sees it, and where to place the camera,” that is Pilz’s directing credo in short. Michael Pilz’s film Feldberg was shown in Riga at International Film Forum Arsenals in the autumn of 1992. It generated great critical interest and contradictory response from audience. There are three main characters in the film – a man, a woman and nature. There are no conversations, words or text in the film, we follow relations only by people’s movements and speechless dialogue of eyes.
Surroundings come alive – fire going out, sounds of glass breaking, squeaking of a solitary house door, steps across fallen autumn leaves. They enter viewers’ subconsciousness giving a strange feeling that once it all has happened to you.

Lengthy and patient observation with camera, immersion that liberates feelings and thoughts – that is Pilz’s working method. His film Heaven and Earth (1979-1982) is based on observation of mountain peasant’s life for several years, some critics have recognized it as the best documentary made after WW2. “Culture is not bound to time and space, you can’t foresee and classify it. Every single person, whoever he is and whatever he does, is capable of that search intuitively. Let us stop to ignore ourselves. Looking from mankind’s point of view only subjectivity is true,” it is basic understanding that Pilz has come to after a long and patient spiritual work with himself. He is an active generator of ideas, usually for Pilz, he is gathering artists from different fields to find new means of expression. I was lucky to be in Austria this summer, when Michael Pilz in cooperation with founders of Vienna City theatre Anna Mertin and Fred Buehel, choreographer Sebastian Prantl, musician Cecily Lee and eight members of free body movements group realized an unusual project in the middle of Vienna, where once stood Keiser’s stables. First to comprehend the essence of the project we have to go back to a conference that happened in Delphi (Greece) in 1988. It was organized by European Audiovisual Federation headed by the eminent Italian film director Ettore Scola. Directors, actors, musicians, writers – people of culture from Europe gathered at Delphi, because at the time of crises of audiovisual culture they felt a necessity to address governments of European countries and people with a special appeal. [..] Every person has the right to see film and television works that represent their social and cultural interests. [..] European governments are directly responsible for mass media actively implementing pessimism, violence and passivity on the younger generations.

Michael Pilz’s video installation was part of Vienna Art Festival, it directly told about Delphi Declaration. On the left side of room all in white there were white sheets of paper hanged; these were thoughts, quotes and proposals in the process of making by participants of Delphi Conference. In the middle of the room, in a cell one could see a video filmed by Michael Pilz during the conference. With his characteristic sense of non-intrusion director does not record the outer activity, but the spiritual impulses at Delphi. None of shots in the hour long film feature participants sitting around the table in a brainy discussion with a pen in their hands. Even, if camera is fixed on a seaside grass, one can feel creative energy and spiritual tension. Project was on display from May 15 to June 20, during the time Michael Pilz together with people from Vienna theatre and group of free movements looked for a way how different forms of art can co-exist in one and the same space. Exiting the video room you were to find yourself in a yard, where dancers listening to a quit music trying to find their self-expression in movement. Idea of the project is closely linked with works and philosophy of American composer John Cage who died 1992. Michael Pilz: “We wanted different art forms to interact. We tried to follow our intuition. A definite “product” is not the goal of this project; it’s more like a workshop, where the path itself is important.” Taking in account that Eastern philosophy has a big influence on Pilz’s creative work this idea finds expression in old Chinese saying by Zhuangzi: “Enter birdcage without making the bird break a sound” or better with Pilz’s favorite aphorism by old Greek philosopher Heraclitus: “I see, that I see.”

Translation from Latvian into English by Martins Slisans.
© Ieva Pitruka