MODULAR CINEMA & VOCALOIDS (MARINA TURCO INTERVIEW PART 1 & 3)

KINO-JOURNAL OF THE AMAZED SPECTATOR 380297-2015

M.TURCO_7EDGAR PÊRA – Hi Marina!

MARINA TURCO – Hi!

EP – How are you?  I can’t see you…

MARINA TURCO – No, you can’t because I didn’t activate… Now you see me! How are you?

EP – Great!

MARINA TURCO – It was a long time ago…

EP – What was the first film you saw in a Cinema? Do you remember?

MARINA TURCO – I’m not sure, but I think it was “Fantasia”, from Disney, I think, so it’s a very classic way to make acquaintances with the medium, I would say. Classic Hollywood idea of Cinema as a dreaming state, almost.

EP – What did amaze you the most?

MARINA TURCO – I think there’s a delay in the audio…

EP – Do you have a good transmission? Of my image? Because yours is completely pixelized!It’s already with special effects!…It’s getting better, now…

MARINA TURCO – So, my fist movie was “Fantasia” from Disney, I think I was 6 or 7, 6 maybe…

EP – And what did amaze you the most, at the time?

MARINA TURCO – I think it was both the medium and the content and the facts of the film, that it was, in this case, I think, pure Amazement… It was a movie about a kind of magic, I don’t remember the story so much, but I remember the special effects.. Anyway, it’s a cartoon, so it’s not really a film. But I don’t remember the story or the thoughts I was thinking. I just remember it was magic and exciting, really exciting. It’s also a film with music, so it’s a kind of a proto-VJing kind of movie.

EP – Sure! Actually, 2 years ago I did a film for a Portuguese dance company, it was “The Swan Lake” and they didn’t have sets. So the screen was the set of the film and it was always playing my movie at the same time the dancers were playing. And starting point of inspiration for the colors of the film was “Fantasia”.

MARINA TURCO – Yeah?

EP – Yes.

MARINA TURCO – I would like to see that!

EP – It was great, actually. The cine-performance was shown in Oslo last year, actually…
And… so, when you were a teenager, what kind of amazement, in the language of the film, what kind of things did amaze you?

MARINA TURCO – Yeah, I used to live in, not in a big city, in a … relatively quiet city, nothing happens there. So, I think when I was a teenager, it was the time when MTV came out, in the 80’s, so I used to watch a lot of videoclips on tv. That was new and it was interesting. And again there was this combination of not narrative-cinema or tv and music which is very powerful. And when you are a teenager, music is a kind of a medium to form your identity, so you have your first groups and you share pictures with your friends, you are a fan, so this videoclip culture is really adding an important layer to this kind of phenomenon. It was ready from the Beatles but the fact that you had videoclips, even if they were maybe less impressive than going to the cinema, because you used (Henrique Pêra jr, appears and the conversation stops)
… I’s kind of my biography, you are asking about my relationship with images. Of course it fits different periods of my life, because when I was little there was not… a little bit television but the cinema was the most impressive thing but then it changed kind of in the 80’s with the videoclip. I like very much both videoclips with a very strong narrative content and those which were more like… the bands are just playing there, a combination with the narrative. I used to love Duran Duran, for instances, all this fantasy islands where they were shooting their videoclips… Amazing comes from the combination of what’s shot in the video and the medium itself. So, it’s interesting. The combination of a new kind of content and a new medium. It’s producing some kind of astonishment…

CAVERNA_44EP – And..in the 90´s you started to watch live video performances?

MARINA TURCO – Yeah, actually, in the late 90’s because as I have said I was living in a city where there was almost no club culture. Until 96 I was living in Sardinia, that was more about meeting people and live bands than about huge parties… But when I came to the Netherlands then I started to get interested in videos… In the first place because I was studying video-art and then… it was coming out this new genre of video-performance with dance music and then I started to go there too. It was also the first time, I believe it was Huberman, I don´t know if you know him?
I can write it down for you… I talk about him in my dissertation as well… He was very much into sampling as well, he was a pioneer in video sampling… Actually he started with music sampling and then he moved to video sampling. So, he used also B-movies, tv programs, footage like that, to mix and produce a very lively kind of performance… that was also another kind of interesting combination between content and form. It’s interesting that, with sampling you often have – in the beginning, at least – this kind of popular culture content. You didn’t see a lot of sampling with art moving images. It was all sorts of combination between medium and content than it was fixed. So it was like a reflection on our popular culture. And it was also interesting because it was so close by, you see everything on tv and at the same time it was watching these performance was like seeing yourself ‘we are the cools’ changing this pop culture around you so you feel a kind of power at these performances.

M.TURCO_1EP – What kind of films do you think that at that time would reflect this kind of evolution?

MARINA TURCO – Yeah, there are many movies that represented and at the same time exploited these new techniques and this new live video form of expression… I don’t know because I didn’t really research on the relationship between VJ and film but I can think of more on the 90’s… There is, I don’t know, for instances, Peter Greenaway… I use Peter Greenaway, in my book to refer to a kind of modular narrative, but not specifically VJing. But he started already in the 90’s, early 90’s, with movies that were… that had that kind of script that was built up in a modular way. In that sense it was also a kind of sampling perhaps, or a kind of Montage which can… can be inspired by live video – but I don’t know if it’s… I’m just guessing, I mean… Peter Greenaway, he also started VJing in 2004, so he was very much close as a filmmaker to this new use of the medium.

EP – Yes.

MARINA TURCO – Then I think, as you told me, this new genre, or this new way of making cinema that is connected to the “cinema of attractions”, as Tom Gunning defined that, this filming style, this way of using special effects was also related with a much more dynamic way of thinking of the moving image and much more also based on how the rising of digital media over more traditional ways of making special effects provided a completely new experience of cinema, which is not so much based on… not mainly based on the narrative storyline but also on the effect on the spectator.
So, there are different ways of thinking about that stuff, I think. I talk in my dissertation about, for instance, movies like “Kill Bill” or ” Crouching Tiger”… So movies which are not just special effects but also special effects which provide both in the content and in the filmic style, a kind of (simultaneous) amazement… they want to thrust me the amazement of the medium and of the things that happen in the film at the same time…

EP – So, you feel that Cinema of Attractions is some kind of modular cinema also, right? Because you wrote bout my cine-concerts “Suswestern” like modular narratives. So, you feel  it’s another dimension we add up to cinema of attractions/modular cinema when we do a cine-concert?

MARINA TURCO – I think you can look at the modular in 2 different ways: you can look at the modular at a very abstract level, you have that kind of modules that you can use and remix and reuse in any kind of performance or platform… Or you can think of the module as kind of genre, as a kind of a typical style of a group of performers. I rather think about the modularity in a very philosophical way. So, even in an abstract way. So I think the modularity of the “Sudwestern Saga” is totally different from Greenaway´s modularities, of course. Their idea is that film used to be a recording medium, a medium that kind of took distance from the story by telling that in a fixed way. More or less with a narrative content but anyway you had these film wheels so you had an object, you had a setting for the projections, so it’s more comparable to the book, in a way.
With new media we come back to where text was more flexible and more connected with the performer. So, for instance, in all our culture, the all-greek culture… you had these classic Homero’s books which were in fact storytellers telling of parties, celebration, etc. And you needed this modularity because you cannot learn a whole book by heart and then tell always the same words. But you needed a storyline and to have, like in commedia del’arte – which I also compare to your work – you needed to have like ready-made pieces that you could combine in different ways depending on the audience, and depending on the setting, the length of the show or the performance, or the storytelling action. So that’s interesting in new media that we kind of went back to all our culture for many things. Also the combination of words and image and also performance – it can be compared to the pre Gutembergian period, to the year before the book was invented, the press was invented. Also, the theater appeared in the 16th century, and it was more a question of improvisation and the main plays had not a fixed text so there was a repertoire, there were modules that you can always set… because you cannot totally improvise. There was a module that could be the storyline, or a single joke. Like in Homer, for instance, in classic greek epic [theater] you have a certain way of calling each you on the same way. But then you could make the story or the single episode longer or shorter, so…

EP – Okay… Now I am really having difficulty understanding everything you say.

MARINA TURCO – My computer is warming up a lot, I don’t know why. Because I have an old laptop from 5 years ago and it doesn’t work fast anymore. Can you hear me now?

EP – Oh yeah, yeah!

MARINA TURCO – Okay…

3DGUY_1EP –  You know I did a 3D film, a short film, (Cinesapiens – part of the 3X3D trilogy feature with Greenaway and Godard) it was based a bit on Cinema of Attractions, because when I first read Tom Gunning’s and André Gaudreault texts about proto-cinema I found out some kind of theoretical basis to approach many of my films. Because for me, my references were much more the excentricionism of soviet movies but not really the very beginning of Cinema.

Actually, I got into trouble with Cinesapiens because some people thought I was making fun of… well, cinephilia. Maybe because it was the opposite austerity cinema Sometimes irony is a a weapon that can backfire… Some accused me of “assaulting the spectator”…Do you think we still can call Cinema to the moving images world in which we live now, with screens everywhere, from laptops to smartphones… Do you think it still makes sense to use that word, Cinema?

MARINA TURCO – It’s difficult to say. Maybe it’s more the other reality or mixed reality but I think if you reduce it to the bones than you can say cinema is maybe just this amazement that makes you petrify, it petrifies, like, ‘Ooh!, what’s?’, you know? So, that moment is maybe… you can maybe still call Cinema. Or that you are completely absorbed in the story, I mean, you are seeing, and this definition also comes from the opposition to what’s this new trend of interactivity. So, it doesn’t… I don’t think there doesn’t exist an absolute definition of Cinema. Cinema is what you define each time at each historical moment in relation to other things that are there. If you need this concept of Cinema then… then you need the word Cinema and use past experiences that you still need. But if you think, if you feel like, ‘I don’t need to say it was a cinematic experience’ then you don’t need cinema anymore.

EP – Okay, Okay… So you this… this… the kind of spectator that goes to see VJamming, VJs and music… or any kind of live cine-concert… What do you think is the greatest difference in terms of participation or in relation to the spectator who goes to a movie theater?

MARINA TURCO – I think in that sense it’s not the factor amazement that’s different because you are amazed in a movie theatre as well as in a club. But I think it’s more of a… you participate in a mobile way, so you move and you… and you listen to the music – in that way it’s a different kind of participation. But you could call cinematic a VJ set, you could call it cinematic if you find it… I think it’s of course different: you cannot dance in a movie theatre! That’s the main difference, I think. Also, it could be interesting to show some movies like “Kill Bill”, for instance, I think it should be fantastic to show it in a setting where you can dance as well – or movies where there is a lot of music. I mean, Why not?

PICTS OLAF WANDA TELEMOVEL_ 30EP – … Now I’m getting good image and sound…  Can we just go back to repeat what is your definition of what is modular cinema and modular performances?

MARINA TURCO – Now, there can be different definitions… but for me… I took the definition of modular narratives a little bit from Lev Manovich’s idea of modularity of new media. So, you have a storyline or you have a performance – scripted, in a way, not necessarily narrative – it’s more or less fixed in advance, and you can fill it in by combining modules in different ways in a different order, or making them shorter or longer – depending on what you want to achieve. So, in the case of your ” Sudwestern Saga”, for instance, you have different kind of modules – because you have the storyline, or the shootings that would represent different episodes in the story – but you also have modules that are purely like intermezzos. Like shooting of the cities where the performance takes place or has taken place in the past, etc. So, you also have a modular kind of construction but also in different layers. You use different kinds of modules. It can be live footage, for instance. And what’s the big advantage of this kind of performances is you have variability. You can indeed change different aspects of the performance. Also, on-the-fly with relatively few adaptations. You don’t need to improvise everything. You have these modules, you just have to choose which modules you’ll use at the moment. You know your material very well, so…

It’s a very… I argue that this kind of… this manner of dealing with narrative at the performance it is often in connection with popular cultures where there is this higher level of participation. Small audiences and strong presence of liveness in the performance also, in participation afterwards, like in the fandom culture. It fits very well also digital cultures where modularity is a kind of the building stone of the digital – because you have only one type of code and you build on it. Also, the fact that you can translate easily from one medium to the other, you can say, ‘I have this footage and I can do… I can modularly break down from a film a series of pictures’, or from a series of pictures making a movie. So, it’s in the medium itself, this modularity. You can exploit it in different ways.

EP – How do you envision the future of moving images shown collectively? After you’ve studied about this VJ culture – do you see that there’s some kind of trend or something that’s going to change the ways of presenting these moving images?

MARINA TURCO – I think there will be many directions some also from VJing. This idea of the moving image can be… Well, I’m not so good that I can say, ‘Oh, this one will be the trend!’

EP – Sure…

MARINA TURCO – I mean, I’m going to watch a performance by this Japanese Hologram singer, in June, in Amsterdam, she’s Japanese, she’s a Star. She plays the guitar… she can perform like a 1,000 times a week without getting tired -and she can perform… she can sing songs from many many different songwriters. And now, because she’s so famous in Japan, but also starting all over the world that now all people want to be [sound starts fading away…] …be a famous star… their songs, so they will… You don’t see me anymore?

EP – No, not really. The image is working now…So you are going to see an hologram concert, that’s it?

MARINA TURCO – Yes. The artist has written the code of this virtual performer and the technicians – because she has a staff of technicians, they are many, but some of them are really the core staff, they travel with her, of course. They are also in a way performing with her. I’m watching if I can find her name back… Well, my computer… Atsuna Niko! And it’s a Vocaloid. She’s a Vocaloid. She’s a mixture between a vocals and an android, I guess.

EP – Vocaloid…

MARINA TURCO – She’s really famous in Japan. Yeah, it’s a new form of Magic, I mean. I don’t think all these Vocaloids will substitute humans… There are many scientists that say robots will substitute humans and it happens, in fact. But I don’t know if.. I mean… robots still need people to exist so, I don’t know. I don’t want to be apocalyptical.
And there is also this trend, neural imagery… recordings of the brain and brains waves and devices which can reproduce what you are thinking, in a way. That’s also something interesting. You cannot hear me?

EP – No. It’s okay

MARINA TURCO – Because my computer is heating up. I can feel the ventilator working…Are you in Lisbon?

EP – Yes, I am in Lisbon. Not very far from the center, very near the river, near the 25th of April Bridge. . Okay thank you very much, Marina, see you soon…

MARINA TURCO – Bye, Edgar! 

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