quinta-feira, 14 de fevereiro de 2008

I’m not a video artist, I am a filmmaker

— round table with Pedro Costa, Catherine David, Chris Dercon (moderator)

— Published in Dutch in De Witte Raaf (September 2007)

Chris Dercon: Taking up Bazin’s question – ‘Qu’est-ce que le cinéma?’ – many find that today it is no longer relevant. Instead, we should ask – as filmtheoretician Edwin Carels once suggested – the question ‘Where is cinema?’ The response is of course: ‘Everywhere.’ Catherine David is seminal for this discussion. In 1998 David produced, together with Christine Van Assche and Raymond Bellour, Passage de l’image, which was one of the first exhibitions that really questioned the issue of cinema being exhibited – as opposed to the exhibition of cinema. They also questioned the tension that we can nowadays detect in the museums, which is not only that so many white rooms are being darkened, but also the tension between the mobility and immobility of the image and the spectator. After that in 1995 David initiated and presented for the first time the installation D’Est of Chantal Akerman, which was based on the film D’Est of 1993, at the Jeu de Paume. The third step of course was the presence of documentary film and video at Documenta X and the presence of Jean-Luc Godard’s Histoire(s) de Cinéma. And the fourth step is Catherine’s presentation of the work of Pedro Costa in Witte de With in 2003-2004, based on Costa’s film In Vanda’s Room (2000). Actually, Catherine called Pedro Costa and said, ‘Why don’t we make an exhibition together?’ And Pedro replied, ‘What? How do I do that?’ We will talk about how it worked. Later Catherine also presented an exhibition of the sculptor Rui Chafes and Pedro Costa – with material from Costa’s In Vanda's Room and his more recent film Colossal Youth (2006) – at the Serralves Foundation in Porto (2001-2006).
Which brings me to Pedro Costa. His most recent film, part of a collective film in which also Chantal Akerman and Harun Farocki participated, entitled L'état du monde, was produced by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. Interesting to know is that Jeff Wall is finishing an essay about Pedro Costa. So you see that a whole new world becomes involved. Pedro Costa always refers to his post-punk period. He watched John Ford westerns, which were influential when he was a young kid. But also he adored the films of Straub - Huillet. And in 1989 he made O Sangue (The Blood), which was followed in 1995 by Casa de lava (Down to Earth). In 1997 he made Ossos (Bones) and that is the moment Catherine David connected with Pedro Costa, upon seeing the film Ossos, a 35 mm-film shot with a heavy équipe, with assistants and a script, very cinéma. Later Pedro Costa decided to leave that part of the business and shot in 2000 In Vanda’s room, a move from film to video. Making that film he actually worked like a painter, every day with his small dvd-camera he went to the room where Vanda, a junky, lived, like a painter who goes to the studio on an everyday basis. That ties in with his admiration for Straub - Huillet because they made this beautiful film about Cézanne who goes out every day to paint the Mont St. Victoire. Pedro Costa is not only talking highly of Straub - Huillet, in the sense of their amazing reinventions of the cinema, but also about the way they filmed painting. Because his recent film Colossal Youth (2006) contains an amazing scene where he shoots a beautiful Rubens painting at the Gulbenkian Foundation.
Let’s start with Catherine David. Catherine, in 1995 you and Chantal Akerman decided to produce the installation D’Est, based on Akerman’s film D’Est from 1993, for a show at the Jeu de Paume. Why was that installation so important for you and why was it for Chantal?

C.D.: Can you describe the installation? The installation had, I believe, three parts.

Catherine David: I hope I still remember; it was a long time ago. There were many monitors, put together in different sequences, and the editing was very different from that of the film. After that a black hole, I think. The third part I remember very well: the sound. It was Chantal reading a text about people walking and the concentration camps.

C.D.: Why did that installation have such an impact on you?

Catherine David: Well, it’s difficult for me to pinpoint. We were working together and discussed a lot; Chantal thought a great deal about how to put things together. It was a very precise, economic way of entering into the film but also very organic, like seeing the bare hands merging into it. When you see the film D’Est (1993) you can be perfectly happy with it. But I think the installation added something different: It made the viewer very aware of the complexity of what was behind it and of the possible editing. After that, Chantal worked more intentionally on an installation or a piece and I never found again that kind of precision and vulnerability, a kind of fragile balance.

C.D.: Why do you think she wanted to make this installation? She could have said, ‘I am a filmmaker, it doesn’t work that way. I want to focus on money, I want to have my film released.’C.D.: Why do you think she wanted to make this installation? She could have said, ‘I am a filmmaker, it doesn’t work that way. I want to focus on money, I want to have my film released.’

Catherine David: Chantal was very open. She was given the possibility by the Jeu de Paume and Walker Art Center, so she thought, ‘Why not? Let’s do it.’ And she began to think about it and found it interesting. She intended to develop something from the film, and the film became something else in my point of view.

C.D.: In an interview in 1995 – if memory serves – she said, ‘In cinema, producing is so difficult. It has to do with selling tickets, it’s about money all the time, and I would like to be more free, I would like to do something with cinema – like playing games, writing poems – and it’s also a question of trial and error.’ And she adds the beautiful remark, ‘Unlike the cinema, if you do not succeed in a museum, that’s okay too.’ Do you think that she was at that moment depressed about her situation as a filmmaker? It was very difficult to find money to make productions. Do you think that she makes so many installations to regain a sense of freedom?

Catherine David: That’s difficult to say. It’s a different kind of risk and investment compared to big productions. Pedro Costa, for instance, is not investing billions in his films. I don’t know whether this goes for Pedro too, but filmmakers used to be weary of their own situation and they thought the art world more glamorous, more immediate. You have to be a little naïve and ingenuous to hold that opinion, but it was probably triggered by a lack of recognition and by the difficulties generated in the processes of making and showing films. Filmmakers think that going to the museum is easier, more immediate, faster, more glamorous. You receive more attention.

C.D.: It’s very strange that you say this. When you look at the works of filmmakers such as Philippe Parreno, Matthew Barney, Pierre Huyghe or Douglas Gordon, they commit, as Jeff Walls says, an imitation of the cinema, a kind of secundary mimesis. They imitate the production of cinema, because they find the cinema amongst others more glamorous and you’re saying that filmmakers like Akerman and others find the visual arts world more glamorous. So somehow there is confusion about which is the most glamorous.

Catherine David: I think this is a question for Pedro. Frankly, I always felt that it’s not because there are things ‘dancing’ on the wall that it’s a film, that it’s interesting or good. We have to be to some degree precise and serious.

C.D.: Pedro Costa, did you ever see an installation by Chantal Akerman?

Pedro Costa: I saw the installation D’Est at the Centre Pompidou. Akerman had a retrospective at the Pompidou four years ago. I did not see the installation at the Jeu de Paume.

C.D.: Did you think it strange that Chantal Akerman, someone you admired, suddenly made video installations?

P.C.: No, I thought it was obvious. And I think it’s strange that other people, like Philippe Garrell, for instance, are not involved. He should be involved.

C.D.: Why should he be involved?

P.C.: It does not depend on the filmmakers. We are pushed into the museums, the art galleries. Normally, decisions or choices are made by curators or critics who point out the aesthetical, pictorial qualities of the work of some filmmakers. It’s more or less accepted now, this separation between commercial, mainstream filmmakers whose work is shown in multiplexes around the world, and the “artistic” filmmakers who are judged as “almost painters,” closer to the beaux-arts. And I think it also had to do with the cliché that we have a more distant, detached relation to money. In fact, it’s about the absolute opposite, we must think about it all the time because of the simple fact that we don’t have it. Personally, I would prefer showing my films in multiplexes… But working with Catherine is different because she loves cinema and knows it quite well. When she asked me to exhibit I was a bit afraid. But she was very precise. She said: ‘You spend your days working inside this community, with these people, so you must have some interesting material.’ Strangely enough, when I looked at the tapes again I realized I didn’t have that much…

C.D.: You say that you don’t have much material but for Colossal Youth you shot 350 hours.

P.C.: Catherine’s idea to show the rushes of In Vanda’s Room, for which I shot 180 hours, made it a delicate and strange operation. Because making a film boils down to making choices. Of what is going to be seen and heard. You do multiple takes of a shot to make it right, to improve your mise-en-scène, to try and make an actor surpass himself. So, in the end, what is not good is not shown. It’s that simple.

C.D.: Let’s pin this down. Catherine asked you to show material at Witte de With. And she mentioned the rushes and you accepted that as a challenge? For me, one of the most amazing and shocking scenes in your film In Vanda’s Room (2000) is the one with Ventura in the bedroom and Vanda mentions Mr. Crocodile. The scene on the bed lasts about 18 minutes and could exist by itself. Would you refuse if I asked you to take out that scene and present it on video monitors?

P.C.: I don’t know. I never thought about that. Probably it would come out as just another ‘gag’. The kind you see in 90% of contemporary video art. I’m not a video artist, I am a filmmaker and a film is a construction. Pieces are made to fit together, if they don’t the whole thing will collapse, or worse, will lack movement and tension. Every shot or scene I do depends on the one that comes before and the one that will come after. Of course you could say that every scene has its specific value but cinema, in the end, is the art of bringing together some moments in order to tell a story. You may find me a bit reactionary but I think cinema can never forget its narrative foundations.

C.D.: Then why did you show the rushes?

P.C.: Firstly, because I really want to show my work everywhere. ‘Normal’ theatres are closing its doors on me for commercial and political reasons. So, if I can only show my in museums and galleries – what the hell! The audiences are basically the same. The same people that today line up to see Van Gogh tomorrow will line up to see Spider Man 3. And because my work fits into the realistic tradition and can create some very weird nightmares in a modern art museum… it’s almost scandalous! So I thought it could be interesting to confront people with themselves or with the way their other halves live. And, by doing that, underestimating the usual routine of the contemplative, aesthetic, sublime experience. They would have to make an effort; they would have to do their own editing. I made a very schematic division between interior and exterior moments, with on one screen all the interior shots and on another screen all the exteriors. A very simple idea: dividing the private, secret moments and spaces from the public, collective ones. This way, the viewers have to find the distance and organize the relation not only between themselves and the things happening on the screens, but also, between both screens and, perhaps as important, between themselves and their neighbours in the museum’s room. It took us one hour to tell one second of Vanda’s life. We met with very concrete problems of time and space that craftsmen like Griffith or Chaplin had already dealt with.

C.D.: The difference, of course, compared to the time of Griffith and Chaplin, is this self-referentiality. In the fifties and sixties you already had a kind of meta-cinema, commentary on cinema. Now there is this self-referentiality. Do you agree?

P.C.: I am not sure. I just think that filmmakers have become more and more fascinated with themselves, with the way they do things, and with the way people react to that. There’s a lot of vanity involved and a great deal of unnecessary sophistication. There is nothing to expect from a cinema that copies itself or copies painting. It’s a case of artistic and moral impotence, fetishism or cultural tourism. It results in the ‘everything goes’ attitude that is evident today in theatres and in museums.

C.D.: But that means that if the film world is mostly interested in the subject, in the story, you might have to turn elsewhere if you want to be precise about form and show your fascination for form. To the museum, for instance. You worked with Catherine in Rotterdam and you worked with the sculptor Rui Chafes in Porto. You show in the context of the museum another aspect of your work, which might not have come across in the context of Cannes, in the context of film museums.

P.C.: I don’t know. It’s always about the work. I am never ‘shooting’ or ‘filming’, I’m working. And this work involves a lot more than just filming. I mean a filmmaker should not limit himself to artistic purposes. Living the film, day by day, is not an artistic job.

C.D.: The installations by Chantal Akerman and your two experimental installations, could they be a new form, a new kind of cinema?

P.C.: No, I am not searching for novelty. I am more attached to the surprises that routine can offer. “Routine pleasures,” as Jean-Pierre Gorin says. I worked with Catherine and Rui Chafes because I have a lot of respect for them and I just tried to do the best work I could – like a shoemaker would make the best pair of shoes. But I am not making tables; I don’t know how to make tables.

C.D.: Catherine, why were you so interested in the rushes of Pedro Costa?

Catherine David: When I saw In Vanda’s Room it was clear that something very strange was happening. There was for me something very strong and profound in what I perceived in the film that you cannot get without a very specific – I wouldn’t say methodology, because that’s too sterile – without a very specific alchemy. And I was interested to find out whether it would be possible to give minimum access to this alchemy of the movie, to the way Vanda is filmed, something that the classical perspectives can’t give. I think it’s more or less the same Pedro did in Porto, in the show with Rui Chafes in which he also used material from Colossal Youth.

C.D.: Can you describe that?

Catherine David: One day Pedro asked me how many hours a day the museum was open. In Serralves it's similar to many museums: 8 hours a day. So Pedro said ‘Okay, let’s take 8 hours of Colossal Youth.’ And he chose one of the scenes he just mentioned and showed it entirely. Hardly anyone, apart from perhaps a few extremists, would stay in the room until 6 p.m. But those who did lived a very specific experience. Again, it has nothing to do with being maniacal. I am asking the filmmaker to do something for the museum. It’s in a way asking to transgress, to work differently or reach other depths of the movie. There were moments when he said, ‘No, this is impossible.’

P.C.: Kafka asked his friend Max Brod to destroy all of his work after his death. Some sick cinephiles just live to see director’s cuts, the lost bits of Citizen Kane or all the unedited takes of Renoir’s Une partie de campagne. It’s stupid; Renoir’s film is what it is and the rest is garbage. Kafka was very serious, I imagine, when he said: “Burn it all!”

C.D.: What is the difference between that operation and your operation?

P.C.: I thought it could be interesting in the museum, not in the cinema. The rushes could be interesting for some people. In theatres my films are not shown to millions. In a way they could be interesting as a document. I would like to see leftovers from some colleagues, sure.

C.D.: In Porto Catherine and Pedro showed material for 8 hours, being fully aware that nobody would actually see the whole. What I find very interesting both in this case and in the case of Chantal Akerman’s D’Est is that we are presenting cinema and video in a museum and we accept the incompleteness of the reception. Why do we accept that the work is never seen in its totality? And it happens most of the time. When we go to the Venice Biennale we need 72 hours to see all that stuff. We never spend that amount of time. And yet we feel completely satisfied and the artist feels completely satisfied. Why is that so interesting?

Catherine David: I am not sure it’s interesting as such. The idea is not to have a frustrating experience where you do not see a thing entirely. I am always very angry when it is not announced how long a film or performance lasts… Having said that, I always prefer to be at home with my DVD. But I realise that, looking at the way people go through the exhibitions – consuming them, or whatever you want to call it – that it is important to organise things well. In the case of Porto, when someone wanted to watch Pedro’s film for 8 hours, the circumstances were really comfortable, no mess, no noise. I think what was happening with D’Est may not have been very accessory or interesting in the thirties or in the sixties. At that time in French society you had a community of cinephiles, which came to an end in the late seventies. I think any opportunity given to people, however small in number, a few dozens, to be confronted with this complexity and extremities of the filmic art, is very important and worth doing.

C.D.: Can I probe further? Doesn’t it have to do with what Jacques Rancière said about the importance of cinema today for the visual arts, when he said we are confronted with the situation that cinema has become schizophrenic yet we want cinema to become again a kind of bachelor machine. The only way we can dream of cinema as a kind of utopian language is by reinventing cinema, which is indeed like a bachelor machine.

P.C.: Let’s just say that cinema has turned its back on the world, therefore on people. Less and less filmmakers take cinema’s side…

C.D.: You’re reformulating le cinema d’auteur. Good cinema is not about the régisseur.

P.C.: Cinema is not about the artist. It’s about being in the world, our world, choosing a place and figuring out elements of time and space and limits that are common to all of us. I believe that, if cinema goes beyond its realistic borders, it loses all of its powers. Look at Chaplin: it is not about him, it’s about us, from crossing a street to fighting a dictator.

C.D.: But Pedro, I do not understand your fascination for Andy Warhol. Andy Warhol’s Sleep is a physical rendering of the bachelor machine of cinema. And I do not understand your fascination for Straub either. Straub - Huillet’s Der Tod des Empedokles is a very difficult, complex film because it’s all about form, very severe. And Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet are not the ones who are going to figure themselves away.

P.C.: I don’t agree.

C.D.: They are expressing themselves. They want form; they want to create form.

P.C.: No. They just say that first you have to have an idea, and then you have to work with the material so that you can give it a certain form. Today many films or works of art in general are formless. That is to say, without an idea about this world and without sufficient concrete work.

C.D.: Okay, why do you find Andy Warhol so fascinating, such an important filmmaker?

P.C.: It is not fascination. It’s admiration. Let’s say I prefer Warhol to Cassavetes.

C.D.: Why? Why is Warhol a better filmmaker than Cassavetes?

P.C.: For me it’s a bit overdone, it’s as if Cassavetes wanted to turn cinema and theatre upside down and every which way around. He wanted to go against Hollywood – which is not bad at all –, to do something different. But this took so much effort that I think he lost a great deal of what cinema can really show. Lost a lot of mystery, for instance. And recovered some stereotypes and psychological fat. Warhol is just about the making. The action of making. And not aiming at the depths of the human soul. I feel closer to his method: let’s start small, with the surface of things and then, with work and some chance, we might go deeper.

C.D.: There were many filmmakers in the past 20 years who tried to film paintings. Straub – Huillet made a beautiful film about Cézanne where the camera stays very close and seems to enter the painting. Sokurov worked on Hubert Robert (A Happy Life), he worked on Saenredam at the Boijmans. Can we learn something from filmmakers in the way they shoot paintings? Do you shoot paintings differently from Sokurov or Straub – Huillet? Your new film Colossal Youth contains an amazing scene where you shoot a beautiful Rubens painting at the Gulbenkian Foundation.

P.C.: The main actor in Colossal Youth is Ventura, an immigrant from Cabo Verde who came to Lisbon in 1972 and worked as a bricklayer. When he told me he was one of the workers who had built the Gulbenkian Foundation, I proposed him to shoot a scene in the museum. Among all the paintings he chose Flight into Egypt. I just shot the painting and Ventura admiring the work. But I think Ventura was mainly admiring his own work – the wall he built. As if he was saying: ‘My wall is marvellous and it’s also nice to have a Rubens hanging on it!’ That’s the beauty of the scene, to me. Not only because of Rubens. You have to bring art a bit down so as to lift it up even higher. This said, it was a barbaric thing to do to poor old Rubens…

C.D.: Was it terrible because you made the shot with a video camera?

P.C.: Yes, it’s terrible because the video image is poor: electronic pixels dancing in a toneless soup. Video can’t do justice to Rubens or to mountains, trees, the sky or the sea. You can only attempt it with a rich 35mm image and a strong conviction. Straub and Huillet can do it because they have both.

C.D.: They are true believers.

P.C.: Yeah. That’s why they make such beautiful and true films. I am weaker, I am more like Warhol… it’s hard to be a true believer in this world.

C.D.: Catherine, how can the museum, how can you as a curator, how can the world of visual arts, how can the money of the visual arts help idealistic filmmakers like Pedro Costa?

Catherine David: I am not interested in the ‘poor filmmaker’-discussion. Filmmakers can work the way they want and to some extent invent their own way. The museum is not doing very well either. If you want to work precisely and intelligently, I am not entirely sure that the museum can live up to your expectation. We should be more inventive and open-minded. The issue is simply where to get the money and where and how to distribute. For me, the circumstances – ‘Do we show this in a black box or in a big film theatre at the Champs Elyseés or are we doing an underground projection?’ – are not really the point. The point is how to work and how to behave in such a way that the result is a coherent production. So in the case of Pedro and others who are not working with a big budget the question – as I see it – is, ‘Is your conceptual and production structure coherent?’ I don’t think that the museum is curtailing people and projects. Don’t think of the museum as an alternative. It is one more space of exhibition. It’s one more source of financing – but not for any project.

C.D.: There was a panel conversation some months ago at the Cahiers du cinéma about cinema d’art et d’essai, about independent film. The argument was that the key problem of artistic cinema is distribution. Independent films are screened one night in St. Astier, a small place in the Dordogne, and Pedro Costa’s film is there shown in a small film theatre. The man who runs the theatre gets subsidies because he shows the film once. The film is no more shown. But it’s not only about distribution, it’s also programming. We have to learn to program cinema again. Is that where the museum can help?

Catherine David: Sometimes it can. Sure. But I think you have to be more inventive. I find it very bizarre that on the one hand you say that there’s no audience for your films and on the hand you keep receiving emails from people asking to get your DVD. What is the intended audience and what is the real audience? Of course the technical and political question is how to have the film circulate in a different way. It’s about exposure, raising people’s desire and interest. In the past 20 years the museum has become a very important platform for films that had little chances of being shown elsewhere. But that is not sufficient.

C.D.: You said you noticed an inflation of the idea that a museum should become a black box. You seem to be weary of the fact that many young artists – consciously or unconsciously, for good or for bad reasons – use the cinema in installations. What triggered this scepticism? You used to be one of the stronger defenders of the idea of the museum being turned into a big black box.

Catherine David: I won’t put it this way. It’s one thing to organise a museum as best as possible. It is not obvious to visualise moving images, to create a condition to mix them and have them relate with still images and artistry. What we often see these days is that anybody feels authorised to put whatever on the walls. Again, it’s not because we have a few images dancing on the wall that it is interesting – as a film or as moving images.

C.D.: The museum gets the leftovers?

Catherine David: Not just the leftovers. I think it has to do with the clip economy, with a very simplistic erotic movement. We should consider that. There is something going wrong.

C.D.: Doesn’t it have to do with you being a film lover, a cinephile?

P.C.: I cannot follow the argument anymore. So Catherine is a film lover and Pierre Huyghe does not know what a film is?

Catherine David: It is a very different thing. I was in Thessaloniki a few days ago at the Biennale. There were many images and I kept asking myself why there were so many unnecessary moving images, why people are allowed to make us float in a pure and continuous flux of indifferent images, as Serge Daney would have put it.

C.D.: Is it fair to say that the museum is no longer the saviour? We should not be too romantic, we should not be too optimistic, we have to be critical. Alexander Horvath is the programmer of Film Documenta. Having read Marc Lewis in a conversation with Jeff Wall, Horvath claims with them there are three kinds of cinema which do matter for artists. He argues that the cinema we’re all interested in is the avant-garde cinema of the fifties and sixties, which is what we call the experimental cinema. Secondly, we are interested in cinema that is an expression of cinémaphilie and thirdly, there is the tertiary cinema, cinéma tertiaire, to borrow a term of Antonin Artaud, which is neither experimental neither cinephiliac but something else. Horvath claims with these remarks in mind a renewed interest with artists in the whole of cinema. Is the whole of cinema too much of a utopia? I remember that Jeff Wall said that cinema is such an amazing opportunity to create a kind of wholeness again. He was not saying that in a holistic way. What he meant by wholeness is that cinema is a kind of universal language, which makes it so popular among visual artists. China, Korea… cinema is a global art form. It’s going beyond the peculiarities of the pictorial, which is basically a western tradition. Catherine, would you like to reflect on the idea that a whole of cinema manifests itself?

Catherine David: Not really. Frankly, cinema is not my core business. I think I know more or less what a film is and what working with images means, which is a different thing. I still think that cinema is a way of living, of looking at the world. I think the main issue is to make people aware that images are important, that different ways of filming and making different decisions are important.

C.D.: And the museum can help to create this awareness?

Catherine David: The museum can contribute.

P.C.: Museums are turning cinema into something very old. “The old place,” Godard called it. Cinema now can be compared to Rubens or Tintoretto. Griffith, Chaplin, Dreyer, Murnau, all those guys are now equals to the Venitian or Flemish painters. Don’t you agree?

C.D.: I agree. Jean-Luc Godard said that it was harder to see a good copy of The Searchers than a good Rubens.

P.C.: Absolutely. But I think museums could do good things, show images and sounds from our world, not only as artistic works, but just as documents. It could be great if a museum turned into a place to document sensibility. But this horrible flow of videos and pretentious pieces spreading through the halls and corridors… Well, it’s nothing new: Cézanne was already furious with the 1900s salon.

C.D.: If, say, the Bonnefanten Museum buys a copy of Colossal Youth and assures you it will be show as part of their collection, will you accept?

P.C.: Of course, I would be very happy.

Member of audience: Pedro, did you consciously change from film to video in In Vanda’s Room?

P.C.: The main reason I changed to video was to find a way of being more focused, by having more time and less money. Nowadays, a film production crew resembles a police raid or a military occupation operation. Jean Renoir used to say that all of his American films were bad – which is not true – because he was too slow for Hollywood standards. He said he had to go to India with 3 or 4 friends to make what he had in mind and he did one of the most beautiful films ever, The River. Already a long time ago, when I started as assistant, I felt that the comedy of terrors that I witnessed, this mimic of power and class relations that people call ‘a shooting’, was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I even think that also painters nowadays are involved in the same circus: agents, press-agents, assistants… Julian Schnabel must have assistant painters. Anyway he’s an awful filmmaker. It took me some time and some films but I think I found a more realistic and honest way to do it.

Member of audience: What are the parameters to decide which material is for the cinema and which for the museum?

P.C.: As I said, the first time Catherine and I worked together in Witte de With, it was about the rushes. It was up to the audience to do an editing of what they saw and heard and make something of it. It was not a construction, a finished film. Again, in Serralves Museum, in Porto, when I worked with my friend, the sculptor Rui Chafes, the idea was to offer the best experience possible to the visitors, but, nevertheless, leaving them the freedom to work out a sort of montage of my images and sounds, of Rui’s pieces of iron and, as importantly, of themselves, their fellow visitor and the space of the museum. What I am showing are always excerpts or rushes or pieces from my films without a finished edition but not in an experimental way.

C.D.: Not experimental, you say, but perhaps somewhat documentary?

P.C.: Let’s say it’s a sensual experience. I like to think that you go to the museum to see how the world is and what my neighbourhood is about. It’s not very different from a film theatre where we all go to share the same secret, at the same time, and, still, recognise its shape, form and message. It’s all about visiting our world. We are all the same poor creatures whether we are in the Louvre, the Warner Multiplex or the Venice Biennial.

C.D.: What you have been saying is ‘bring us back to the beginning.’ We said that the old question of Bazin ‘What is cinema?’ is not relevant anymore because the main question is ‘Where is cinema?’ I think that having heard Catherine David and Pedro Costa we have to correct this. We cannot disconnect the question ‘Where is cinema?’ from the question ‘What is cinema?’ Thank you very much Catherine David and thank you very much Pedro Costa.

Transcription: Maaike van Stolk