Ana Torfs
Approximations/Contradictions 2004 [project 1] net music Web-Project
Zyklus von Kleinigkeiten [Cycle of Trifles] 1998 [project 2] film Filmhaus Babylon 10.7. 20:00
Approximations/Contradictions 2004, screen shot
For Approximations/Contradictions, Belgian artist Ana Torfs focused on the Hollywood Songbook, a collection of very brief, powerful songs written by the German-Austrian composer Hanns Eisler in 1942 and 1943, while he was in exile in California. She elicited powerful performances from a group of very talented, diverse people singing the songs, and weaves them together into something entertaining and beautiful, yet deeply disturbing and compelling.
Torfs researched Eisler’s work extensively, formulating an idea of how he would have intended this material, both dark and witty (Contradictions), to be performed. Her assumptions were confirmed by Irmgard Arnold (born 1919), a German soprano Torfs befriended, who worked intensively with Eisler in the 1950s. Torfs searched for twenty other character performers, primarily actors and singers of multiple nationalities living in Belgium, most of whom are not classically trained.
Interested in responding to the setting in which people typically view the web, Torfs offers a kind of intimate cinema. Twenty-one performers were filmed in three different ways, turning us into witnesses of their transformation from »person« to »character/figure«. Playing off the convention of cast credits at the end of films, three versions of each song are offered from the project's main page, with song titles in the position of the role. The first version (linked to each performer's name) shows each one mentally singing the song while listening to the piano. During the rehearsals for the project, Torfs discovered that every singer very quickly »acted« the song in a very specific way. For the second version, (accessible by clicking the line connecting the name to song title) Torfs asked the singer to be conscious of this and to repeat it. This version also presents Piet Kuijken, the young pianist whose face tells as much as his interpretation of the music. For the third version (linked to each song title), Torfs asked the performers to gaze directly into the camera, and asked them to wear something they felt was appropriate to the subject of their song, as if they were being filmed for a musical. Contrary to the first version where everyone is dressed in a neutral white, in this final one, the women wore makeup and their hair-styles often varied dramatically.
Torfs filmed the performers in close-up, framing them in a style consistent with a portrait: a bust with a little headroom, cropped mid-chest, with a white background. Yet these three different renditions (Approximations) have extremely varied impacts. Watching the first, devoid of language as in a silent movie, one can sense the performer's concentration, singing even while mute. English translations of the original German lyrics accompany the second and third versions. The second version feels, as the first did, slightly voyeuristic, watching the performers sing in a very personal style. And in the third version, with the singer gazing directly at the camera, the viewer is intensely engaged by the performer's metamorphosis into a »role.«
Zyklus von Kleinigkeiten After 1815 Beethoven's health degenerated rapidly and his hearing worsened so much that he was no longer able to understand all conversations, so visitors had to make themselves intelligible by writing in notebooks Beethoven always carried with him, until his death in 1827. In Zyklus von Kleinigkeiten (Cycle of Trifles) Torfs looks at Van Beethoven's life through the unique records left in these conversation books. They contain the words that were literally addressed to the deaf composer during some of the most important phases of his last years: they conserve as it were, what happened all around him. Zyklus von Kleinigkeiten provides an insight, albeit literally one-sided, into his everyday life and creates a unique picture of Beethoven in his daily life through very stylised and timeless black-and-white scenes.
»The strong white light every sequence fades into at the end, the static images of inconspicuous landscapes and of those relaxing actions accompanying the preparation of simple meals, the moments of silence between the text fragments, the apparently extraverted gaze of the characters: together they shape an inviting emptiness the spectator can ‘take delight’ in, an old-fashioned expression which adequetely conveys between contemplating and enjoying… Particularly, the actors introduced me into this strange universe of trifles from the every-day life of one of the most famous composers.«
[Marleen Baeten, etcetera, 1998]
»The images – in magnificent black-and-white – show the sedateness of the Empire Style. Fierce emotions are expressed in a tiny and derived manner – in a contrast between word and image, in displacements and disconnections. The overall colour is one of the dissonant – not of tautology, simultaneously the ultimate force and the enormous weakness of official film language.«
[Dirk Lauwaert, Muziek en Woord, 1998]
In Approximations/Contradictions Actors: Irmgard Arnold, Kobe Baeyens, Esmé Beysens, Esmé Bos, Marijs Boulogne, Vera Coomans, Kris Dane, Koen De Cauter, Viviane De Muynck, Jim Denley, Madiha Figuigui, Lucy Grauman, Claire Haenni, Filip Jordens, Cécilia Kankonda, Simonne Moesen, Dett Peyskens, Zahava Seewald, Olivier Thomas, Hilde Vanhove, Bruno Vanden Broecke. Piano: Piet Kuijken Music: Hanns Eisler Lyrics : Bertolt Brecht Photography: Jorge Leon Sound recording: Michel Huon Assistant to the director: Els Van Riel German speech consultant: Christine Gregor Web design: Jurgen Persijn und Ana Torfs Web mastering: Olivier Renard Neue New translations of German lyrics by Bertolt Brecht Vera Van Maelsaeke Translation of the biographies: Robin D’hooghe
Approximations/Contradictions was funded in part by the New York State Council on the Arts and Vlaams Audiovisueel Fonds [Flemish Audio-visual Fund, VAF, Belgium] with additional support from deSingel [Antwerp], and Koninklijk Conservatorium [Royal Conservatory, Brussels].
"Hollywooder Liederbuch"[Hollywood Songbook], music by Hanns Eisler, used by permission of Deutscher Verlag für Musik, Leipzig, Germany.
Zyklus von Kleinigkeiten (Cycle of Trifles) 1998 Feature film, Ana Torfs, 1998, 35 mm, 86‘, black & white, Dolby SR, German spoken with English subtitles. Directed by: Ana Torfs Music: Beethoven’s late string quartets by Quatuor Danel. Actors: Stanley Duchateau, Guy Dermul, Paul De Clerck, Johan Heestermans, Nicolas Houyoux, Catherine Lemeunier, Bart Meuleman, Erik Thys, Jean Torrent, George Van Dam, Bella Wajnberg u.o. Director of Photography: Jorge Leon Editing: Jurgen Persijn Production: Daniel De Valck, Cobra Films (Belgien) In Koproduktion mit Balthazar Film (Niederlande), Navigator Film (Österreich), Canvas (Belgien), VZW Storm (Belgien). Supported by: Fonds Film in Vlaanderen (Belgien), Stichting Nederlands Fonds voor de Film (Niederlande), KunstenFESTIVAL des Arts (Belgien) Avdienst K.U. Leuven (Belgien), Quatuor Danel (Belgien), Huis aan de Werf Utrecht (Niederlande), Kunstsektion des Bundeskanzleramtes Österreich. Zyklus von Kleinigkeiten was selected for filmfestivals in, among others, Rotterdam, Sao Paulo, Riga, Tourcoing, Geneva, Brussels, Ghent, Lissabon, Fribourg and Split, were it was awarded with the Grand Prix in 1999.
Ana Torfs born 1963, [B], lives in Brussels.
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Maria Blondeel
Reinhard Blum/Uwe Bressnik
Jens Brand
Candice Breitz
Building Transmissions & Douglas Park
Janet Cardiff/George Bures Miller
Nicolas Collins
Alvin Curran
Joanna Dudley
Ulrich Eller
David First
Nina Fischer/Maroan el Sani & Robert Lippok
Terry Fox
Bernhard Gál
Seppo Gründler
Gut & Rist aka Gutarist
Carl Michael von Hauswolff & freq_out orchestra
Susan Hiller
Robert Jacobsen
Rolf Julius
Georg Klein/Steffi Weismann
Katjia Kölle
Christina Kubisch
Hans Peter Kuhn
Tilman Küntzel
Kalle Laar
Donatella Landi
Bernhard Leitner
Aernout Mik
Robin Minard
Ricardo Miranda Zuñiga
Helen Mirra
Michael Muschner
Carsten Nicolai
Andreas Oldörp
Finnbogi Pétursson
Werner Reiterer
Robin Rimbaud aka scanner
Julian Rosefeldt
Klara Schilliger/Valerian Maly
society of algorithm [Guy van Belle/Akihiro Kubota]
Jan-Peter E.R. Sonntag
tamtam [Sam Auinger/Hannes Strobl]
Ana Torfs
Edwin van der Heide
Maurice van Tellingen
Stephen Vitiello
Kris Vleeschouwer
Heinz Weber
Achim Wollscheid
Miki Yui
Artur Zmijewski

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