© Anouk De Clercq

This year VIS Vienna Independent Shorts, in collaboration with sixpackfilm (represented by Mr. Gerald Weber), dedicates a special spotlight programme to the short films of esteemed Belgian artist, Anouk De Clercq. Friday, the 27th of May, indulge in 70 minutes of visual delight at the METRO Kinokulturhaus from 21:00. Anouk De Clercq will also pe part of the Animation Avangarde jury.

In preparation for the Spotlight programme, we had the chance to talk to her about her filmmaking process, sources of inspiration and whom she would want to “direct” her memories and imagination. 

“Anouk De Clercq’s works explore the audiovisual potential of computer language to create possible worlds, many of which have a strongly architectonic character. She has received several awards, including the Illy Prize at Art Brussels in 2005 and a Prix Ars Electronica Honorary Mention in 2014. Her work has been shown in Tate Modern, Centre Pompidou, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, MAXXI, Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Ars Electronica, among others.” (portapak.be)

VIS: Your work has a very cinema-stripped-bare feel to it. How do you start making your films? Is it from an abstract idea which you try to give a concrete form to, or do you begin from something material and explore its potential meanings?

Anouk De Clercq: It’s true that I have made stripping my major occupation, not in the sense of scantily dressed ladies, but in the sense of a reality reduced to its essence.

Before I actually make a work, I first describe it. First, there is a list with words or short phrases, fragments that I have read and marked, or written down, as if I need to pass along the synonyms in order to arrive at the actual word. Then I point it out: There, this is it, in order to come to show or reveal it.

While I am working, everything – the visual elements, the forms, the sounds, and so on – they all seek out their own origins. Everything (a hill, a light, a wall, a line, a circle, a dot) searches for a name. When everything has acquired a name, I name the work, give it a title.

VIS: And who would you say has had an impact on the way in which you think of space and its links to imagination and memory?

ADC:Len Lye and his "Free Radicals" taught me how a figure can move between two dimensions (between 2D and 3D). Lewis Carroll and Julio Cortázar showed me the way to other possible worlds and other perspectives on this one.

VIS: You seem to want to push the boundaries of what something can or cannot be. You manage to make the screen feel three-dimensional, sounds seems more like a mental soundscape, while color links the screen to the actual screening room. How do you create your cinematic images?

ADC: I’ve studied both music and film and am very much interested in literature, architecture, theatre, so I feel very much at home in between these different art forms. I like to move between different traditions – that of fiction film and experimental film, that of the cinema screen and the art gallery, that of music and art and theatre – or between different eras. It is in these in-between styles, periods and spaces that my work finds its form – in unexpected combinations, small conjunctions, minimal fusions.

VIS: And how do you see language fitting in with all of these conjunctions? Especially in your latest short, “Black”, where the language is a foreign one for you and the majority of potential audience, it’s our main “compass” for making sense of the world. How would you say it shapes our viewing experience?

ADC: Lately, since “Thing”, I feel more confident to explore writing as a way of being more precise, more communicative or even more intimate. In “Thing”, text is the backbone of the film - or at least the starting point - but in “Black” it is the most crucial element.

I like to compare the experience of “Black" with what happens when you read a book. Gaston Bachelard says that as you read, you read a room for yourself. In the case of “Black”, the reading is shared with the other people in the screening room but it still remains quite an intimate affair I think.

VIS: In some of your work there is a connection between degradation/death and creation, like in “Swan Song” and “Black” that makes the “object” of film seem more like a process. How does the viewer and his imagination fit into this process?  

ADC: At the heart of almost every story in the world lies the encounter between light and darkness. First there was darkness and then comes the light, creating life. This ancient premise can be related to the experience of film as well: The curtain rises and the lights go out in the cinema. The whispering of the audience gradually subsides as it waits for the illumination of the silver screen and the imaginations and beginnings of a story to come with the light.

VIS: Finally, given the choice, whom would you have “direct” or “shape” or “choreograph” your memories and imagination?

ADC: Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Because he is the master of "floating worlds” and I feel very much at home in his films.

Interview by
Diana Mereoiu