At the Center of Mitteleuropa, A Conversation with Peter Forgács

Peter Forgács.Peter Forgács has a long-standing reputation as Hungary’s most innovative documentary film-maker. His latest film, A dunai exodus (The Danube Exodus, 1998), was a highlight of the 30th Hungarian Film Week and shared the Grand Jury prize for best documentary. Using amateur film taken by a ship’s captain, Forgács relates two stories which took place during the war: the exodus of Central European Jews to Palestine and the exodus of ethnic Germans from Bessarabia to “the fatherland.”

Sven Spieker: The first question I’d like to ask you has to do with the notion of “Mitteleuropa.” The question is whether this term has any relevance for you.

Peter Forgács: The physical division of Europe ended 12 years ago, but the spiritual did not. So there is still a place for the notion of Mitteleuropa. It means that we are not united. I think that for certain historic and cultural reasons Mitteleuropa includes Austria and Germany. Are we then talking about Mitteleuropa as a vast land between Minsk (or Kiev) and Cologne? Can we view it as a geographic zone? Or the phenomena and the distinctive conflicts in reality—the social, cultural, and historical problems—are still to find and should be there.

What caused the difference between the basic attitudes of the western Europeans and “Mitteleuropeans”? Its a relevant historic fact that Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, Austria, and of course large parts of Russia and all the Balkan countries in the last 80 years faced quite radical, tragic, and different social, political, and economic experiences. If there is anything truly common in Mitteleuropa that distinguishes the region from others it is not geographical, it is the almost-constant identity crisis that makes the difference.

I think the definition of Mitteleuropa is more one of cultures in constant crisis. Of course it had its illusory golden times at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Later the different histories and the aspect variations of democracies versus totalitarian regimes, i.e. nationalism versus communism, had a completely different tectonic effect on the life of individuals and histories of communities. I think this could be a frame for our discourse.

I began my found-footage research in Budapest, in 1982 and 1983, to establish the Private Photo and Film Archive. First with snapshots—home photographs—and by ’83 the collection of films

At that time I had a part-time job at the Cultural Research Institute as a research fellow and had quite a free hand to develop the archive because my director regularly renewed my three-month contract and, outside the research community, nobody really cared what I was up to.

The director, Mr. Vitányi, was a good guy and covered several interesting “subversive,” or at least honest, verifiable research projects. More than that, he offered fair work conditions and constantly bargained with the Communist authorities for the relative freedom of several nonconformist intellectuals and groups. Today he is a socialist member of the parliament. He is a wise man, and we find this kind of reformist “commies” in all these Middle European countries like Poland and Hungary. That distinguishes the latter communist systems of Romania or Czechoslovakia from others.

Why is this interesting at all? They let me work and I didn’t bother them too much. The reason why I was up to collect home movies was the distorted, censored, and destroyed past and the inconsistent continuity of traditions and history. Let’s say it was more a psychohistorical imprint I was looking for than regular observation of the past, or a sentimental journey. My terrain is the unofficial visual imprint of my culture, and I soon realized this image collection might represent something new and fill some of the gaps of the vast, destroyed, and lost past.

The past was destroyed and rewritten in an Orwellian way . The past is an always rewritten history: this is a common identity crisis in East Europe or, in other words, in Mitteleuropa.

The midwar Hungarian and German history in the 20th century is full of lost wars and revolutions. The frustration of the Germans empowered Hitler to crush the Weimar democracy, and the world. The same frustration motive repeatedly happenedin an operetta style in Hungary before WW2, and following Soviet escalation, it lasted until 1989.

The vast part of the common history, memory, and culture was completely terrorized, sank, suppressed, rewritten; shortly: destroyed. Some of those memories where preserved by the midwar home movie imprints, and for me those sparkle, flash out from the past (lets say in a Jungian way), and as a result, my work speaks truly a different language from regular fiction films or newsreels of the same period.

The Mitteleuropean civil society—civil traditions—are weaker than the Western ones, yet still stronger than in the Balkans or in the Russian Empire. This narrow Mitteleuropa path—well represented in the banal home movies—in the light of wars and radical social and cultural changes make a difference in representations. As for example in Soviet Russia the civil society and privacy was crushed—to the ground (no home movies, for example, until mid 1960—in Khrushchev’s time).

I started to collect home movies (transferring the films to video) and interviewing the families as a time archeologist. Meanwhile, I was and still am involved in video installations. For six years, the film and photo collecting was just a kind of archivist mania: the archeology of the vanishing past. (In Hungary, as I mentioned before, eleven different political rules existed between 1918 and 1989, (including three revolutions and two counterrevolutions) and two world wars ruined us.

The demonic Nazi influence crashed Europe, and until the fall of the Berlin wall and the Soviet Empire, we where never really free. As a consequence, any family home-movie collection that covers more than ten—or, for God’s sake, more than 30—years will show the unique sign of times, even images made from the most naive focus, from a private history perspective of the citoyen [citizen].

Why is the middle class, citizen self-representation is interesting for us? Because the filming and snapshots until the post World War Two era—of the affluent, consuming society—continued the habit of the middle classes being expensive. It was not a cheap stuff like today: the throwaway cameras, or a video camera for a few hundred dollars.

The home movie culture, which revealed itself through the amateur films, is definitely the phenomenon of the pretelevision chapter of humanity. This period lasted from the first Pathé-baby 9.5mm film camera (in 1922) to the decline of the Super-8mm film culture.

So the Private Photo And Film Archive collection focuses to the unknown Hungarian history registered on films from 1920 to circa 1980. This archive is the basis of my work. I’ve learned a lot meeting these families and the making interviews. I’ve been doing it for years, without with intention to make a film with them.

This is really an archive, providing a kind of discovery of hidden (sank, forbidden, etc.) cultural history through the home movies and the interviews. The families told us, by commenting on the films: “who is who,” “what is what” and “where about” in the home-movie films. There is a kind of interesting juxtaposition of the narrative of the home movies and the metanarrative of the interview.(The narrative is connected to the evaporating memory of the self, the natural loss of memory, the individual ways to remember, the inner censorship, and the distance between remembering and the facts (events, cases, moods, situations) in the film.)

From 1988 (with “The Bartos Family”) until today, I created more than 20 video films based on found footage. Thirteen of those are essentially about Hungary, and the rest are either video essays or stories from other countries (Holland or Greece) or are video installations.

The second source of my work, which I haven’t talked about yet, is performing art. Luckily I was a member of a minimal music ensemble as narrator, recitativo: the “Group 180,” active between ’78 and ’87 . In this Group 180, I met Tibor Szemzo, my composer friend. It was a fruitful cooperation, as I never had a chance before to understand what music is about.

Those years rehearsing and performing the pieces of Reich, Glass, or Rzewski—the contemporary US and Hungarian composers, not forgetting the composition by the members Group 180—were a permanent revelation. This was a powerful period with the group: I learned how music structures time and what is time-based art is. More importantly, I think, in these same years I started staging performances and happenings in Budapest, mostly in art clubs and smaller private art spaces, and later performed with Tibor in Western Europe.

In the arts scene, where I had had performances, from time to time I started to collaborate with Tibor Szemzo. He performed the music, (one may hear it in my films, as well) and I screened some of the home-movie found footage on stage with improvised text.

In our laboratory performance series we worked out a new aspect of interaction between music and moving image. Questions popped up at work among other choice: which route or path is important or redundant? What kind of music is meditative? What kind of image works with this or that kind of music? We had lot of experiments.

For the first time in 1988, I was commissioned for a film, and the image-versus-music experimental language was almost ready after a four-year-long experience on stage. And of course I didn’t have any intention making an orthodox documentary film as I had my “music school” in Group 180. About ten years of underground art and private studies in psychology were the other sources.

S. S.: My question is quite closely related to what you are talking about. One could make up such an opposition in looking at your films that would say, on the one hand there is an aspect to what you do that has to do with recovery, which is to say that you salvage these films that have not been shown in a long time, and you bring them back to light, you salvage them, you recover them for posterity.

Maybe it is with this in this type of paradigm that one would say you locate the kind of “meditative” elements in your filmmaking (if that is the right word). It may not be the right word, but the sort of elegiac kind of elements. But there is also a very different part to what you do that has to with something that I would call construction.

You put together these films. You edit them. You are a very active kind of worker at the cutting table. I wonder that this tension between these two elements—if it is indeed a tension—seems to kind of structure your work. That is to say, on the one hand an emphasis on a certain continuity that stresses the possibility of maybe bridging again the gaps with that which has been lost or which has been forgotten, yet which can somehow be recovered on the one hand.

On the other hand, I notice a very different attitude towards the past, which says that the past is something that in a sense I make out of the bits and pieces, that I construct, that I at the cutting table give you and it is for you to decide you know what this construct that I give you is.

But it seems to me that it is very important to keep either side of these things in mind when one watches your films. If you just concentrate on the construction side I think you don’t do your work justice, but if you concentrate only on, let’s say, that side that emphasizes the sort of healing rifts, that recovery, the salvation or the salvaging would be a better word, then I think that would also be rather one-sided.

P. F.: Your question raises the dichotomy of my work. The elegiac float is for the viewers’ perception, because that is primarily offered by the films. In certain works it’s sometimes melancholic or it’s just poetic, but it’s always there. The structuring serves the elegiac texture, for deeper perception, to perceive the message from these time capsules. It is really the structure that provides the message it for the viewer’s eye.

Filmmaking since Griffith, and the Russian avant-garde film is different. It does not want to cheat and tell you that film time is continuous. The simplest montage in film, like the counterpoint Eisenstein used, fills up the gaps of traditional storytelling. From that moment of the early ’20s, we can see and sense through film the imaginary time paradigm.

In my films it is emphasized, because they are made from fragments, bits, and pieces. My films are not results of a script, but the recomposition of film acts, reshaping the hidden intention of the amateur filmmaker. The home-movie maker, attributes a personal dramaturgy to those bits and pieces, collected on bobbins and rolls. They are just cutouts (slices) from the continuum of the personal, local time and certain life periods.

For example, my hero Mr. Bartos bought his camera in 1928 and then filmed for 30 years. This film collection is more than five hours. All the things that are important to them, to the maker, are concentrated in five hours, but those are the selected, and mostly happy moments.

Now, how can we reread these things, events, moments, acts? That is the question. Here comes a big watershed. Most of the filmmakers use archive material and home-movie stuff, use these images for illustrating an idea, a problem, a sociological or historical fact for their film. For me it’s the opposite: it’s the message of the film fragments that is important and my challenge is to put together a new story.

The home moviemakers creating these a naive film self-anthropology films, proving for themselves and for later times that they exist. Their film approach—perception—is completely different than that of a “professional,” and from mine. I want to compose something that could be called a private history in front of the curtain of the public history. This dynamic relation between the elegy (of private saga) and the structure (of a historic perspective) with Hitchcockian melody is my message.

Most of the time we have do suppress our “death instinct”—as Freud put it—in the death-and-life-instinct conflict. We are aware of it, though not on the surface: when we make snapshots or home movies we strive for eternity. Eternity in this context means the memory of happy moments. Just like the happy-moment mementos of the Etruscan tomb frescoes and terracotta or life resentations of the sixteenth and seventeenth century Dutch paintings, and of course the snapshots of the 20th century.

The bits and pieces of the old home movies are more like parts of a dreamwork. My, recontextualizing construction is more a kind of restructuring of the dreamwork and not an illustration with/by their lives. My aim is more to open up the secret vaults of a personal, private history memory archive of those lives.

Now, a question of attitude arouses viewing of my films. It’s true some of them are melancholic. A Polish film critic told me once that my films have a kind of Mitteleuropäische spleen. He felt the same mood as in an István Szabó film. So, there must be a specific resemblance, nothing like an ironic Czech film. This kind of combination of spleen and the loss is not sentimental and not ironic.

When we are talking about elegiac form of memory we are not sentimental, because sentiment is truly against the deep remembering. I think your question is relevant is because this dreamworkediting bridges the discontinuity of the fragmented film recordings. The home-movie perspective of life, or time, is very personal in each case, and it is always private history.

When I am editing—back to your question—I always have in mind the whole stock what he (the maker) has. Drawing on the history versus storyline dichotomy, I know ahead of time what will happen later with my heroes in their filmic life, but you, the viewer, should be surprised and should have to wait for them. You, the viewer, have an acknowledged—a learned—history in mind.

On the screen, you see private story and juxtapose their local-time events with historic landmarks: the years 1938, 1945, 1956, or whatever. Today we have our own, local-event history, the time of present history. The time lapse between today—the viewing time—and the past—the film-event time (historic time)—this distance is full of tension. The bridging of two dates (today versus time chapters) is a strong effect, because we know at today’s screening what will happen with them in their own film time by the future story.

The suspense is a Hitchcockian tension: we know their forthcoming drama and the twists, as we are aware of the would-be victims’ future, but not able to communicate our knowledge. The tension between our present and their past is a hidden motor and the whole film works that way. I am not saying all my works are like that, but in most of the works that cross the watershed of the Second World War work with that dynamism of two different time perspectives.

Where is the focus point of the elegiac form and the structure? Where the musical and historical structure meets: what I would say is possible in the viewers’ mind. Not only the viewer have to fill the gaps between different historical dates, (today it is Monday, but in the film it is Saturday). You know things happen between Monday and Saturday, or between 1932 and 1938, or the time laps as somebody’s coming in and leaving.

We bridge the gaps of time and events. Not only of those banal things, but also we evaluate constantly what we see on the screen. What we see on my screen is mostly banality everyday. When we see “the smoking everyman” banally walking into the history [Second World War], one has a feeling that there is something bad that is going to happen to him. That is the suspense point when the elegy and the structure meet.

They—those on the screen—do not know what we know: their future, i.e. our past. There is a very challenging thesis: the distance between us here and them on the screen. Sometimes you are very near to the narrative screen and sometimes you are maybe very far away. That rhythm or oscillation, between the structure and the elegiac form is a key motive.

The variation of banality is also important to emphasize, because as in “Meanwhile Somewhere,” part of the Unknown War series, I compose together more than ten different countries’ home movies. I made one episode in 1993. It does not follow one family saga, but several European families. I used Hungarian, Czech, Polish, German, Belgian, Dutch, Greek, and French home movies of the war period.

One can see “Meanwhile Somewhere,” in keeping with the implications of the title, as almost banal, as Greeks arekilled in the Second World War in Athens, and at the same time in Belgium some others are having fun and drinking. Meaning that the dreamwork of parallel history also recalls different memories of the same event called World War Two.

Memory can be positively sentimental, while negative memory consists of focusing on the loss of those beautiful days. The loss or the gain of what we have colors, alters, the memory. It can be historical memory or memory of memory (remember the remembering) or even anthropological memory. But of course the memory is a trace of the past.

As an archaeologist puts together a vase of certain discovered elements, he tries to figure out how the vase looked originally; his work is like the trace of the memory, in the archive. What is the archive in this sense? The archive (a film archive in our case) is also the archive of memory bits and pieces connected to films and home movies. The question is how we are reading the signs, the trace to past?

Who is reading what? My reading of these amateur films is quite different than of the original makers. It does not mean that they would necessary disagree with the result. But of course they do put it together and present it together through direct meaning.

Lets have an example: For them a certain woman in the home movie is the specific and only Aunt Vera, just as home is for the aunt her house. For us, the viewer, it is not just “the specific” aunt Vera, but she is representing women living in that certain space and time.

We all have family members and memories, so when we see these home movie bazaars, we are touched by our own archive memories. We are looking through a kind of kaleidoscope of the past of ourselves, a kind of emotional projection for us. This is one of the reasons why inevitably Szemze’s music has a very strong role in these films.

I am also playing with the banalities, such as everybody has had a mother and father, so everybody has some family memories. In a way these, films are collective-memory fiction (I wouldn’t dare say that that’s the reality). I try to suggest with my films: I suppose that’s how it happened; I presume it happened that way. I think the heroes’ fate in my films create a novelistic form, or a kind of archeological image still under construction.

We can put together certain aspects, allusions, moods, and such, but we will never be able to describe what was really the life at that time. We can imagine Madame Bovary of Flaubert’s novel, but we will never know who was the real Madame Bovary. On the other hand to turn reverse this story, I would say—following Flaubert’s identification with his heroine—“I am Madame Bovary, I am Mr. Peto.” Flaubert, writing his famous suicide episode of Madame Bovary novel, writes to his diary something like, “When I wrote this part, I fainted today from the arsenic poison.” Of course it is Flaubert’s hypersensitive neurosis, as he felt exactly the same vomiting.

S. S.: I was struck by your mention of avant-garde filmmaking, specifically Eisensteinian montage, and how it might or might not relate to what you do. I wonder if you could maybe clarify the relationship a little bit more specifically with regard to time. Now, the way I understand avant-garde montage—and I certainly am often reminded of montage when I watch your movies—is that it has something to do with what in fact you said is very important for your own work and that is the interruption of the flow, which is both an allusion to narrative but also it is constant interruption.

Montage appears to be about bringing about a certain moments of crisis with the help of the medium of film: making things clash, interrupting the elegiac flow, bringing you to reflect upon what you see, rather than letting you immerse your self in a certain mood, I would insist in ways that you actually did not. It seems that you were much more interested in this mood-creation aspect of what you do. Are your films at all interested in interrupting that mood, in getting people out of their preconceptions about the historical process?

P. F.: Absolutely!

S. S.: Avant-garde filmmaking, it seems to me, montage specifically, is about kind of getting people away from the idea that films are there to confirm their ideas about history, and about the medium itself, I might add. Are there such moments in your films where you really do want to kind of jolt people out of the mood, out of the elegy, and out of this kind of very powerful sense that this is about what Barthes said about photography? When you look at a photograph you know the person you’re looking at is already dead. It is a very powerful way of talking about your films. Is it the only way?

P. F.: No, no, no. Your question draws our attention to the several layers of this problematic genre. First of all, an avant-garde filmmaker, like Maya Darren for example, does not want to tell me anything else that she wants to say. On the other edge of the film genre, we have the educative “BBC”-type documentary that is explaining with tautology: “This is the blue sky above us; what you see is the green grass which grows up.”

From the “tautology”-types film on the one edge and Maya Darren–type film on the other, I feel myself to be somewhere more in the sphere of Maya Darren part, but with an effort to compose the story by not losing the other segments, allusions, and dimensions of the historical, cultural, or just psychological context completely. Now, this contextual sensitivity is really important, not only the editing—the montage technique makes a big difference—it is just a general example how the moving-image perception changed since Meliés and Eisenstein. Also, I would say that this is a completely different type of storytelling because it is neither Darren or BBC. My works are somewhere in between.

Whenever there is this loose historic sphere in which you live your own private life— and that it could happen anywhere in Europe—lets say in a certain year. I really mark it and expose it: this is 1938. Now you can connect with your historic knowledge what 1938 is. You know it is one year prior to 1939, you know that the Anschluss has already happened, and you know that Czechoslovakia has already broken up.

One sign of a year is enough for us to come out from the banal flow of the private history. On the other hand, there are other elements that we might able to separate now. Apart from the collage and montage techniques, we have the music that is a very strong part. Since, of course, silent home movies basically cry for sound. There is no narration as we do expect and have heard before in normal and entertaining or discursive films.

The slow-motion technique and manipulation of the film time, the movement and the rhythm, give an opposite dynamic or an opposite possibility than in the example of the photo explained in Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes. The frozen photographic second of the Barthes thesis is a good example why the photo is a tombstone, whereas moving image is not.

Each photograph is a tombstone. If we made right now a black-and-white photograph of ourselves, we could observe the event as already-past time: history. Not like color images. But, while we have the moving images of the past, we always have the fluxes of life, the contrapuntal notion between Barthes’s photo thesis and the movement (= life) on film, which proves forever that we’re alive.

So my viewers—and you—know that they (the amateur film actors, my heroes) are physically dead, but they are still moving. They are reanimated again and again by the film. Not like Barthes’s frozen second personal image example: his mother as a thirteen-year-old young girl looking into the camera from the little bridge of a winter garden. Barthes is somehow asking himself (of the never published photo), “Is this the best representation of my mothers self, or not?”

The question is relevant; it is the sole true one photograph in itself—for Barthes—of her persona. With moving image, at least I can try to create whatis maybe missing from a photograph—let’s say, from most photographs—that is: time. The problem of time-based art: we start somewhere and we end up somewhere. Like in one of my films Dusi and Jeno You see a beautiful young woman . . .

From the “tautology”-types film on the one edge and Maya Darren–type film on the other, I feel myself to be somewhere more in the sphere of Maya Darren part, but with an effort to compose the story by not losing the other segments, allusions, and dimensions of the historical, cultural, or just psychological context completely. Now, this contextual sensitivity is really important, not only the editing—the montage technique makes a big difference—it is just a general example how the moving-image perception changed since Meliés and Eisenstein. Also, I would say that this is a completely different type of storytelling because it is neither Darren or BBC. My works are somewhere in between.

Whenever there is this loose historic sphere in which you live your own private life— and that it could happen anywhere in Europe—lets say in a certain year. I really mark it and expose it: this is 1938. Now you can connect with your historic knowledge what 1938 is. You know it is one year prior to 1939, you know that the Anschluss has already happened, and you know that Czechoslovakia has already broken up.

One sign of a year is enough for us to come out from the banal flow of the private history. On the other hand, there are other elements that we might able to separate now. Apart from the collage and montage techniques, we have the music that is a very strong part. Since, of course, silent home movies basically cry for sound. There is no narration as we do expect and have heard before in normal and entertaining or discursive films.

The slow-motion technique and manipulation of the film time, the movement and the rhythm, give an opposite dynamic or an opposite possibility than in the example of the photo explained in Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes. The frozen photographic second of the Barthes thesis is a good example why the photo is a tombstone, whereas moving image is not.

Each photograph is a tombstone. If we made right now a black-and-white photograph of ourselves, we could observe the event as already-past time: history. Not like color images. But, while we have the moving images of the past, we always have the fluxes of life, the contrapuntal notion between Barthes’s photo thesis and the movement (= life) on film, which proves forever that we’re alive.

So my viewers—and you—know that they (the amateur film actors, my heroes) are physically dead, but they are still moving. They are reanimated again and again by the film. Not like Barthes’s frozen second personal image example: his mother as a thirteen-year-old young girl looking into the camera from the little bridge of a winter garden. Barthes is somehow asking himself (of the never published photo), “Is this the best representation of my mothers self, or not?”

The question is relevant; it is the sole true one photograph in itself—for Barthes—of her persona. With moving image, at least I can try to create what is maybe missing from a photograph—let’s say, from most photographs—that is: time. The problem of time-based art: we start somewhere and we end up somewhere. Like in one of my films Dusi and Jeno You see a beautiful young woman . . .

S. S.: What’s the English title?

P. F.: Dusi and Jenn.(Distributed in the US by EAI, New York.) You see in the film a beautiful woman—Dusi—first in 1938, and then we see her around 1956, when she looks very old. The elapsed time, gives a different aspect to the whole life. Seeing her at the end of her life on screen, one presumes she might pass away soon—in film time—or maybe she is dead already in reality; I marked on screen she died in 1967.

The difference between photography and film is not simply that one is moving and one is not moving, but that our basic death perception and conception is different. When you see Dusi in the film you may experience the same ambivalent feelings—some which are hard to give voice to, but most of the time one is hooked on the film’s time handing—and we all know its about death. The viewer knows what we see is past time, still as the viewing time is also a sort of present time and her time, because they’re still moving, acting for as long as this film lasts.

The other level, the set of my film language, is tinting, coloring, and also the specific layer of narration. In the case of “Free Fall” the viewer hears the sung Jewish laws. This draws our attention to a structural question. There is always a kind of conflict, as you said in the material, which is moving. It is not always the same conflict driving each film, and in each film you may even have different conflicts or collisions, Hegelian collisions, dialectical collisions.

As in “Maelstrom”, I have two sets of banalities: the Seys-Inquart family home movie and the Peereboom family home movie. Both the Austrian Catholic and the Dutch Jewish home movies feature families that have little babies or grandbabies, and both of them have fun, joy, pastimes etc., etc. But the hidden conflict is embedded in the history. Seys-Inquart is the butcher of the Dutch and the Dutch Jews. In “Free Fall” the conflict is with the banal, happy everyday life, and the Hungarian Jewish laws. Meanwhile, you think the repressions are terrible, yet they have happy times under the unbearable pressure.

In “Meanwhile Somewhere” I acquired varied footage representing different countries, scenes, social and political situations. All through “Meanwhile Somewhere” I’ve broken up into nine episodes some footage of a racist punishment shaving event, in which a young German man and a Polish girl are punished for having a love affair. In the Nazi amateur film, the miscegenation is taking place in a village of Opole/Oppeln county in Southern Silesia, a mixed populated region of Germans and Poles,just after the German occupation of Poland. One can see the obscene punishment as their hair is publicly shaved off and burned. This event structures the whole film, like a rondo time to time, and as it progresses you see the different phases of the shaving.

The same ritual shavings followed the Wehrmacht being wiped out from occupied Europe. Those French or Belgian women have been shaved who had affairs with Germans, as all over in Europe at that time. That is another historic and personal counterpoint in my structure. That’s what I called dialectical thread previously. What you see is a family and the “Kontrapunkt” has it’s varied paradigm: another family /Maelstrom or the law /Free Fall sneaks in until the very end of the piece, like in music. You follow a symphony and suddenly at the very end you understand why in the beginning it was composed this or that way or how deeply the piece is constructed.

I think the avant-garde collage technique of filmmaking is just one part of this language. On the other hand, there is the psycho-historical dynamics or the counterpointing of the themes, and chapters; in many cases, the music of Szemzo is “playing against” or mediating the image; parallel stories are played so that they are weaved together or against each other in this method. I would say that this is a larger vocabulary used by a limited palette.

S. S.: Maybe, to use an analogy from information theory, one could say that what you are interested in is the historical processes if you will, in the background noise of history. That is to say, the banality of history, in some sense, is that which is in the background which qualifies or might qualify as noise for most people is nothing but noise to the extent that somebody watches these home movies who has no idea who the people represented are, where the places are, when these things happen, where they happen, so that then it really is a kind of background noise that allows you perhaps to filter out certain elements that will then be perceived as information. So you’re really playing with this difference between noise and perceivable signals, it seems to me.

P. F.: I like it.

S. S.: That’s one thing. The other thing is, we talked about the historical avant-garde, and I would like to jump maybe to the more contemporary avant-garde or the post avant-garde if you will, to minimalist filmmaking. And of course there are many postwar filmmakers or artists who also made films that are interested in banality; take Andy Warhol, for example, in whose films of course the banal plays a very important role.

But there seems to be a big difference, and I am interested in this difference and I wonder if this spleen that you mentioned before, the spleen of East or Central European artist and filmmakers, is really this idea that history is banal, where it seems, for someone like Warhol, history itself appears to really be a matter of a camera held up to a building for eight hours.

I wonder if you can comment a little bit on this sort of differences; I mean banality seems to be an obsession with many, many contemporary artists, and specifically with regard to the attitude to history. But there does seem to be a certain confidence in what you do that in the noise there are signals, as it where hidden that need to be filtered that can be filtered out only if we take the right approach—a confidence that it seems to me is largely lost or completely lost in many of your contemporaries perhaps outside Central Europe. I don’t know if I am putting this lucidly enough for you to be able to understand it.

P. F.: Is there anymore of that French artist, who was quoted at the conference he organized, who is also working with memory— a very good French artist?

S. S.: Boltanski.

P. F.: Yes, yes. So it’s not only East European stuff.

S. S.: Boltanski, of course, his family comes from Central Europe. [Laughing]

P. F.: Yes, but he is a French artist, without . . .

S. S.: I know, I know.

P. F.: . . .without the French context, cinema nouveaux and without Lacan, without the French avant-garde film, without Pierre Bourdieu. I mean it’s a total culture that is providing for an individual artist what to select. You just pointed out, the first of all enormous differences between /whole/ Europe and the United States. The United States does not have the blood of historic—the last brutal history on US soil was the Civil War one hundred forty years ago. They haven’t seen war in this country since that time.(Prior September 11, 2001.) So what distinguishes Europe and United States is that history has a somewhat different notion here.

S. S.: Maybe, this is why Americans understand really well that history is banal?

P. F.: Yes, yes. For Andy Warhol the event repetitiveness is, and that represents Andy Warhol’s new perception, like 15 years prior to that when La Monte Young’s avant-garde music had it. The post war West Coast minimalismhad its philosophical influence on the arts and poetry. We have plenty of good examples of North American artists whether the noise has, contains, transmits, or expresses the signal or does not, or if it is just pure noise.

That’s a great difference between Joseph Beyus and Andy Warhol, although both of them are fluxus artists: Beyus is historic, it happens with him, but Andy Warhol is indifferent – others play for him, though he is exclusively secretive at the same time. In a Beyus work I have, feel, get, acquire always the context. We have the surrounding noise, and the tangible distance, the tension of the sacred/banal. The banality of the rabbit Beyus, the banality of grease Beyus, the banality of his self-mythology, and it is always placed, composed, embedded, or grounded very well in to the context.

So I think (and maybe I’m wrong) that this is a quasi-European tradition. Following this methodological track, it’s hard of course to classify myself as a Euro or American learner, because I would say Bob Ashley’s video opera or Bob Wilson’s works at the same time had influence on me.

Certainly my own work has something in common with the works of Boltanski as well. The cultural context of his memory is more a kind of the memory and lack and fulfillment of the loss. The irrational recovery when he, Boltanski, is recovering a young German’s fictious bio photographs. It’s a fiction in one sense, and it’s documentation/fictional documentation. I might say that this is one of the same concepts I am playing out, experimenting with in my own works.

What Boltanski is doing—it is easier to talk about Boltanski for a second than of my own work— it’s a call. It’s a call like a Rorschach test image—you start to project your own emotions on that screen. It’s a little bit the same with me. Whether we are looking at the noise of the channel or we are saying that this and this have a separable signal and this has a meaning. However we work it there is still an attribution of meaning. These attributions can be multiple at the same time.

The context of it, of course is a quasi-historical context, and I feel this same theme in Ilya Kabakov’s artists’ rooms installation. He is creating a common, metaphoric place and the everyday level at the same time/space. It is a Moscow common housing project, where each room is a different person’s universe. They are fictions, but it has its very strong reality call, and behaves, again, as a Rorschach test plate. You project the person, project and almost see the person inside the space. Now, there is something similar in Boltanski and Kabakov and in my own work. In my installations and films work I try to offer the illusions that they are real (REAL) people, but still it plays in the imaginary space, where the noise of the channel is very strong. But you can still separate it with your antennas, with your “what is it about.” You don’t have to know too much about history. You have to know only that the war happened. It happened or Europe exists.

Andy Warhol’s films represent a cult of a subculture. It is concentrating on the individual, the marginal of that time of filming, but the marginal attitude is a much more general event and is of our time today. 40 years have passed since Andy Warhol made his unique films and he was not alone, inspired by Brakhage or Mekas, so that the whole N. Y. avant-garde is there in the background.

With Jonas Mekas films, one feels always quite strongly the context. Not with Andy Warhol, though, because he is a rather different character. Warhol is for fun and success, he was cult and medium of the art at the same time that his attitude ruled the N.Y. art scene since he had re-formed it. Warhol grew up inthe US, and Mekas came as a Lithuanian émigré in his 20s. Mekas’s historic knowledge is always present. If one compares Brakhage “nothing is happening”, or Bill Viola video “nothing is happening”, and the Mekas oeuvre, one shall find that he is constantly connected to his European background. As Europeans, our backbones are almost broken by the heavy traditions. What you see here (USA) is the no-tradition, in a way or the re-invented self. So I’m [happier] to go to a “European” city like New York, than being here in Los Angeles or sunny Santa Barbara.

S. S.: The more you speak, the more I’m persuaded that my analogy between Warhol’s movies and yours or some of Warhol’s movies and yours is a good one. When you look at Warhol’s movies, first of all there is a very strong suggestion that they are home movies. You hear the camera. You hear the projector. There are sounds that the machine that is doing the recording is making. There is this flickering of the light. It is a bad recording most of the time. The big difference, of course, is that time elapses so there is a certain history covered while the camera is recording the film. In fact, it is quite a long time. You are very aware of the elapse of time as you watch these movies.

The big difference is of course that you’re not shown anything. Nothing moves. So it’s a paradox. It seems to be time, time that elapses, time that goes by, a very long time, but that historical time shows you nothing. It is empty. It is empty of images. Whereas your approach—and it seems to me that perhaps that is a characteristic difference perhaps between Europeans and Americans—I am not sure how to contextualize it, between Central Europeans and other Europeans I am not sure. But there seems to be a sense where history for Europeans is, never mind how noise-like these images are, but history has to do something with images. There is something to recover from images. There is a sort of faith in however layered these images may be, however difficult it may be to reach through the noise, to whatever there may be hidden the signal whatever you want to call it. A faith that I think for Warhol simply isn’t there.

I wonder, since we were talking about Barthes, that when he talks about photography he talks a lot about the past and the melancholic feeling that photographs give him, but he also talks about this moment that he calls the punctum, which is that moment in a photograph where suddenly the representation, the image that you see, seems to have a point in it around which what you see is grouped, but which in itself is plain nothing. It is a point that touches you without you being able to say what it is that touches you. And that strikes me. I wonder if Andy Warhol’s films do not in some sense teach you a lesson precisely about this sort of, the emptiness of history. I wonder if this spleen of Central Europeans isn’t the spleen of people who think that there is something to be recovered from history. That, never mind how accidental it all is, how banal, how much banality there is still something there, something that we need to hang on to, something to salvage and to recover. This brings us back to the beginning of the conversation of course. I wonder if you find the analogy at all useful, if you could perhaps, maybe it inspires you?

P. F.: Well, I think this is a very inspiring analogy, the emptiness. Because with the notion of banality we are in the heart of emptiness, there is no feast. There is no catharsis in banality land. Banality, when we just throw out the sand of our shoes. Banality is when nothing happens and it is just there. It is just existence. The tension, of course, well in Warhol’s film there is history, the personal history of that moment of those persons. It’s a Beckettian scene, a Beckettian scenario.

S. S.: How did you experience the fall of communism?

P. F.: The Berlin wall preserved a symbolic sense of “otherness” or displacement that one lived with day-to-day. When the wall came down the distinction between “there” and “here” seemed to evaporate. János Sugár pointed out in a text about the coincidence of the collapse of communism and the development of techno-culture. Today, everything has mutated into a multinational techno culture. Like anywhere else, youth culture easily engaged with digital media technologies which has resulted in a major shift in power relations and information exchange. During my former visits, I was struck that due to the scarcity of materials under communism a segment of the population became quite theoretical. It’s no wonder that so much media art has come out of Eastern Europe. together?

S. S.: I should just clarify that the film I was thinking of most was the Empire State Building film [Warhol’s “Empire”]. But of course we could—I should have said that this was the one.

P. F.: Ah, ah, yeah. I was thinking.

S. S.: But we could apply it, I believe, to others, too. It so happened that I kept thinking of the Empire State film, but I don’t want to limit my point to that one. You know the one where he just pulls the camera.

P. F.: Yeah. I was thinking about “Trash” also, and “Chelsea”, because that’s also nothing, in a way. It is more interesting in this comparison when you have actors who play themselves in a Warhol film. It is obvious to compare it with the emptiness of found footage, amateur film. The emptiness of a genuine artist’s gesture where he chooses the sub cultures to cult and transforms it, projects it into the public scene of art; to the public arena, show of persons, situations which are and ought to be very private by the common sense until that very historic moment.

I mean it is real what is happening in front of his camera. He breaks the taboo once and forever in “Trash” etc. When we are talking about “The Empire” we have the notion that it is always the same, and it is never the same. It is seemingly the same Empire State Building, but we know that that time—I don’t know—is it eight hours long it happens. The happening of time is not visible, but we know because of the recording length of the time.

If taking this conceptual art as a good example, then he could really just take one photograph and shake it in front of a camera. It would give the same effect, but as we know, he was filming it for however long it is. So many things happen by that time elapse, but the emptiness is somewhere else. That is why I was quoting “Chelsea”, “Girls”, and “Trash”. Then, I can compare the two different kinds of banality.

What is in Warhol’s film is missing completely from the happy amateur home movies. Because one is the transgression of the body, sexuality, and existence. The other is always proving my home-movie source that it is delicate, proper, and happy. One is the frustration and the lack of happiness in the banal nothing land. Both of them are in a way Beckettian. But Warhol is more abstract, because he does not want to connect it to historical strings at all. I do want to put it into that frame. I want to provide for the viewer a rereading of that certain event, history or story. As if you were in a museum and you recontextiualize each time what you see. In Warhol’s film it is always what itis. It will be always what it is. It is New York. It is an avant-garde gesture ‘spitting’ into the face of the bourgeois — “L’ epater le bourgeois.” On the other hand I am talking about the bourgeoisie self-reflection. A citizen-burgher self-reflection sphere where the banality is the horror vacuum, to fill up always the empty bowl of time, we are somewhat embedded into the horror of every days.

S. S.: The vacuum of the horror?

P. F.: Yes. It is “horroristic vacuum.” First of all, it’s horroristic because the happy bourgeoisie is horroristic, secondly, it is a horror period of the times; and third, we know that certain rich cultures were destroyed, lost in and by the Second World War. I am not only talking about killing millions of people, destroying towns, cities alike, but also acknowledging that a specific kind of pre-war life has completely changed. The life facts changed or disappeared. If I am wondering in my museum of home movies – because all my films are a kind of exhibitions- I still perceive the pace of the messages and the exposition of floating image dreams. Though one have a kind of time-based eternal float where to fly with them, but still it is an exhibition, of banalities with a difference of the noise and the signal in front.

This difference is the recontextualizing of not necessarily the historical context and connotations, but simply of the decoding process of seeing things. Of course what we are attributing to the meanings of image is rich of historical context. I might not have to say or add anything to the image – and this is what I do, usually just enough to mark one date (1942) or one place, and you’ll associate to the aura of the image of those. I don’t give a history book lesson for the viewer in these films, but I try to activate, mobilize your knowledge. And I try to activate your complex perception.

S. S.: What is striking to me as you were speaking was that for me the home movies speak less about history as a large process of—I don’t know—a certain chronology of events. But they speak to the enormous fragmentation of people’s experience as a result of, or accompanied by, their use of the camera. I mean it really does seem to be a very particular vision of a very confined space and you’ve emphasized it yourself that what these people were doing was framing or conserving happy moments of their life. A very particular, a very narrow, a very specific, a very much confined view. It becomes then an almost ironic kind of procedure to put these things together and present them as mirrors of these large historical processes, events.

I wonder, I mean this kind of particularity of the vision, the narrowness of the vision the way in which these films speak to the incredible kind of confinement of these people’s private lives is something that I am very struck by. I do not know whether that makes them more or less suitable as historical documents or as documents that tell us something about history. It certainly makes me wonder to what extent we can really treat them as kind of entryways into history. They seem so utterly confined, so utterly narrow.

P. F.: One of the reasons I’d like to use the clear notion private history is to distinguish from the “Grande Histoire”, the notion of public history. It is really a parallel and individual history of life and event fragments. If you watch any of the original sources (the collection) of my films as the home-movie makers rolled it on, the fragmented life event recordings are visible and easy to find similarities or reminders to anyone’s family life. (The original length home movies most of the time are really boring to me.) I try to look what is behind the fragmented life collections.

I am not forcing you as viewer to look at it as a “Grande Histoire”, but more to say offer a new viewpoint, from this horizon of archeological exposition of time or event fragments. I put together something that has a new panorama of unexpected flow of time. Its more a mood and a rather new aspect of rearranging, recontextualizing the personal with the public, the concrete by the substantial. I hope its more than declaring “this is history,” or “one can learn what is history.” I was using history like you were using noise. It is not history writing.

For me it is very important to expose the individual banality, or banality of the personal. I am the messenger/mediator and I am transmitting/mediating a fractional memoir, the grasped memory ruins. Since I was sent from my country to an other, the message changed because the time and space context elapsed. I don’t want to say anything about truth, as I don’t know anything about the Truth. What I would like to say is something more like “look what I found.” “Please look at it”, or “What is this?”

In a way it’s a conceptual performance, meditation connected one way or another to Kabakov, Boltanski, or the postmodern cinema. My work is not forcing you or anybody to see this world this or that way. You are free with your choice like at my exhibition. I am not saying that this and that is the value of this and… What I am doing is hiding my own issues, my anthropological, political and historical notions. I am not evaluating, and that is a deep connection with Warhol.

For example, I made a film called “Angelos’ Film”, a Greek saga. The hero is a wealthy monarchist, who is filming in Athens under the Nazi occupation. Most of the intellectuals and filmmakers of today are more or less leftist in Greece. The history of the Second World War in Greece was completely altered/modified later by the civil war that followed. Therefore, anybody who is a monarchist—in the eyes of the left—is also a collaborationist. My hero is not a collaborationist. He is making a different shape of history by recording secretly the life in Athens 1940-1944, and the Nazis’ atrocities.

For today’s average Greek intellectual perception, this film is non-objective, because the hero cannot be seen through a biased eye as a monarch-fascist; to them he/Angelos cannot be a true “patriot.” To them true patriots are the communists. By presenting this film in a kind of intentional indifference, I was objective as author, though if I go to vote, I vote a different way (weltanschauung) than when I am making the films. If I vote, I would rather vote for the liberal side, but when I am making a film, then I am exhibiting it for you, by saying: you have to evaluate. I don’t express explicitly this is good or bad.

This is the sphere where I feel the connection to Warhol or his films. Or to Bob Wilson’s “slow motion theatre“ when he is transferring something to the minimum of the existence of that notion meaning. It is like an event under the microscope, like Warhol’s observation of the Empire State Building as a cell, under the microscope. The same slow motion observation of found footage comes up in my films, though it is contextualized more or less in a family story. But, still you are in the nowhere land of banality. It is always—at least for me the great challenge to keep this observational position.

On the other hand, there is a minimum of the event noise that you have to separate significantly from the background noise in the transmissionchannel from other noises. Like there are turning points, or crisis, it happens the same way time to time in a Warhol film, suddenly, unexpectedly there is a crisis. In Warhol’s movie you don’t have to know the context. In my films one has to know a little bit about that terrain. To my great surprise, in the beginning of the 90s the films that I made in Hungary had greater reactions outside of Hungary. Others understood it and I was really, really surprised. It is not the Hungarian spleen, but it is something, maybe more universal, not bounded to the local Hungarian terrain, subtext, colloquial film.

S. S.: Maybe, in conclusion, this should not go on forever, but tell me something about the Budapest archives if you would, your film archives in Budapest. Could you tell me something about the history of the project and where it stands right now?

P. F.: As I have said it’s a small archive, The Private Photo and Film Foundation; since 1983 we collected approximately five hundred hours of home movies, transferring them to video. The main purpose was to somehow find the lost evidence, that there was another life before over there. As a parable we are returning to the original, your question of what is the lost “Mitteleuropäische”, which is – I’d define now – the lack of past. The Orwellian rewritten past was disturbing for me for many years. Hungary was in the middle of enormous lies. This archive is 500 hours of private history, with many interviews. It is a kind of—it’s hard to explain—a personal archeological channel.

My archeology-archive is like an excavation to the hidden and forgotten past. It’s not only my past; it’s a common East-European past, with this suppressed, substitute past. The substituted past, substituted with different idiotic emblematic psychopaths like Nazis or Communists; or just forgetting who you are and why you are there. My works are the findings of the past by a substituted wonderer self in THE ARCHIVE. On the other hand, it was an avant-gardism, a gesture to create this archive, which is completely different from any other archives in Hungary. It is not the official representation of the Hungarian films and not the official OK photographs, but it’s the bad photographs and the banal films.

This is a kind of different cultural anthropological aspect of that culture, the non-official culture, and the non-official re-written culture. Where the vacuum is, the white spot is, there is the avant-garde gesture, which is replacing the rewritten Orwellian East European history. Hungary and Poland had specifically a better situation for avant-gardes. The Polish artists could travel up and down in Europe. The Hungarian avant-garde was not deported at least, which is a great improvement if you compare it with any Russian or Romanian farce…

S. S.: Do you mean during the war?

P. F.: No, no, in the communist era! Communism is a brother in law of Fascism in a way. Entartete Kunst exists also in the Soviet realm, that’s why not individuals, but the Communist Party was writing the books, the Party was making the exhibitions. The Party was the Art, the Essence, the Philosophy and Everything. The Communist Party. It is not an accident that Ilya Kabakov started his work really, when Khrushchev came on power. Suddenly they—the Russian artists—could gather in homes without being arrested, as in Stalin’s times. The art history is very different in Hungary and in Poland than in Russia. But Hungarians and Poles could smell and feel what is contemporary art in Europe and produced marvelous events and art, mostly unknown to the West.

The archeologist – archivist is one side of my self and the other is penetrated with the postmodern art of banality. Now, I am planning to make an exhibition here in the Getty Research Institute together with the Annenberg Center for Communication team / the Labyrinth project /USC/ and C3 Lab /Budapest, about the Danube Exodus. It is a parallel story of a Jewish Exodus and a German Exodus 1939-40. The interactive essence is again a kind of “Kontrapunkt”— What is a refugee? What is national and ethnic cleansing? What if Jews, as refugee escapades, or victims of the war, and the Bessarabian Germans, as different victims of the war, were in one space? This memory is embedded into the past in a very deep way, is up to you—to the visitor—to decide what do you see really, what happens really in front of your eyes. It is not empty as a contemporary minimalist image should be, but it’s challenging and fragmented enough for meditation.

I have to mention something else and it’s about my composer Tibor Szemzo. I think it’s worth it to mention his work—as a great part of this oeuvre is the unique musical perspective. His different perception is an exquisite expression of music and sound-scapes provided to my works. The music has a very specific, and a strong new meaning; it’s not explaining, not dramatizing, not illustrating, but giving enough power to meditation and perception. Offering the pulsing distance between you and the film. It is not film music in any sense, it is much more.

We staged in San Francisco for the 2000 summer oratorio of the “Free Fall” and we’ll make the same from “The Maelstrom” production, I hope soon, for the Holland Festival.

S. S.: If it is true that in order to be able, well certainly this is some fundamental characteristic of every archive is that it be able to forget things in order for new things to be added. One could say quite generally that if one is not able to forget, then it is very hard to remember, because an overload will occur and you will in the end most likely not remember anything. I wonder if the music in your films is actually that moment since the music does not contain any mediate images, it is not visual in character. It is a kind of track of forgetting isn’t it in a sense? It plays precisely the role of counterbalancing the images to the extent that it is an element of forgetfulness, where it appears as if the images are constantly giving you the illusion of reminding you of something, of making you remember something, of giving you something visual that will suggest that things have been successfully archived.

The music seems to be a counterpoint to the extent that it is sort of respite, a kind of saving from that illusion of remembering. It is not an archival thing. The music is precisely what escapes the archive. It is much more difficult it seems to archive that and when you watch the films it appears as if the music is precisely what the images are not. It is non-visual; it is not a mechanism that reminds you of something what that makes you remember. But that it is something that makes you forget in some ways. Does that at all square with your ideas about the role the music plays in the films?

P. F.: It is very interesting, because when I think of the music of Tibor Szemzo, I feel that music sometimes the vocal of the main hero or the vocal, the sound of the channel. It provides a meditative distance from the object and then it is sometimes the motor of the emotional flow of our story. I never thought of it in the relation of forgetting and remembering. This dynamic is more complex than the work, because the musical image (sound-scape) is woven together with the filmic image in a fitting and contemplative way. The context is completely new in this music, because it is not the perception of the original idea of the maker at all. Itis bridging somehow this fragmented world of remembering with us.

You are right when you say that the problem of archive is remembering. Derrida’s evocative question—what is archive?—helps us to rethink the archive. What happens when you pick out something from the archive and expose it? Do you understand the context or are you recontextualizing and then you suppress/alter the content? Now, that’s why I insist to express that the dream structure and the re-reading of a dream is more near to this genre than of a simple archival re-representation.

Reading a dream means that you offer a reading, which might or could have been replaced by a different reading, which is–or could be—as true, as right as the previous, other readings. So you peel off the meanings – or the attributions of meaning – and the music helps, opens up The Gate in that way. It’s a kind of fluid in this procedure that helps rethink your own remembering.

It’s very interesting what you say, but I don’t feel the contrast. I feel more that it works in a different dimension; lets say it’s the emotional dimension. That has its deeper part and the surface part of it. The deeper part is in old time base art, you start at a certain point and you end up. In the end, you reevaluate it again what you saw, like in music, like in any Bach piece. The structure of a “Wohl Temperiertes Klavier” [J. S. Bach, The Well-Tempered Clavier] is offering you the leitmotiv coming back in a later phase.

The music has the same function in my films that the leitmotiv may be not the image anymore. But the music connects the mood, structural elements, and bridges these gaps. Of course, the gap is terribly big because the original footage and the way I edit is really a jumping from scenes to scenes, from situations to situations. Without having the possibility and the advantage of planed staged fiction film. The actor comes in and you don’t like that way, you say, “Come in from that direction now with this light on your face….” and you may repeat it again and again, or recompose it.

With the found footage it’s like any “objet trouvé”—well it is not the pissoir, but it’s still something that is recontextualised and it’s not anymore pissoir, it is a fountain. A Dunchamp fountain resembles the pissoir, but you’re not sure anymore whether there is a pissoir only. It’s the same with the films and there where the music comes in as a very certain element of this texture, bridges the gap, gives an emotional float, and sometimes it is the opera singer’s voice, the main hero’s voice, or feelings and emotions. Sometimes it is art of motion how we see this thing. So it’s not helping to forget, but it smoothes the way how we float in this time Möbius strip. I feel its more a kind of Möbius trip.

S. S.: Thank you very much for the conversation.

Sven Spieker
Sven Spieker is a founding editor of ARTMargins. Spieker specializes in European modernism, with an emphasis on the Eastern European avant-gardes, postwar and contemporary literature and art, especially in Eastern and Central Europe. Spieker's publications include Destruction (ed., MIT Press/Whitechapel 2017); The Big Archive: Art from Bureaucracy (MIT Press, 2008; Korean translation, 2013); The Imprints of Terror: The Rhetoric of Violence and the Violence of Rhetoric in Modern Russian Culture (ed., with Anna Brodsky and Mark Lipovetsky, Vienna, 2006); Bürokratische Leidenschaften. Kultur- und Mediengeschichte im Archiv (ed., Kadmos, 2004). Spieker teaches at the University of California, Santa Barbara (USA) and lives in Los Angeles and Berlin.