A homage to structuralism – Drahoslav Páluš: Static Movement – Metamorphoses

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Whether deliberately or not, Drahoslav Páluš follows Warhol’s footsteps by recycling the images of mass culture. In his short found footage films he trifles with the canonized qualities of television commercials.

While strictly avoiding comparison between the two creators, in order to interpret Páluš’s experiments, the innovations of one of the leading figures of pop-art and structural film are worthy of a note.

In December 1961 Muriel Latow, art dealer and interior designer advised the struggling Warhol to paint what he craves the most in the entire world, or to look for a topic with which everybody is familiar. By 1962 Warhol’s paintings were overwhelmed by greenbacks and Campbell’s soup cans. Warhol, who compulsively wanted to get rid of his persona as a commercial artist, found his new theme in the very commercial. The common, personal articles were reborn as iconic images in his works, and mass culture and high culture started to merge.

Páluš, a former student of Matej Bel University (Univerzita Mateja Bela), works currently as a graphic designer. From his experimental moving images, which were mostly made during his years as a student, two of them are significant: Static Movement (Statika pohybu) and Metamorphoses, both from 2007.

Just like the hard-line, structural experimental filmmakers of the 60s (Warhol, Landow, Sharits, Kubelka), Páluš works with simple situations. His piece, Static Movement is the five minute long banter between a Calgonit dishwasher tablet and bowl of water. Although the material, made for an exam at the end of a semester, is the new work of a young student, it illustrates perfectly the axiom of structuralism and fits the international trend of structural experimental cinema. According to the theoretical paradigm, originated in the 19th century, humans perceive structures before segments. The whole, run by internal laws, is much more than the sum of its parts. The value of the segments is determined according to their status in the whole. Static Movement repeats the once shiny, HD commercial as a slow motion recording with the pixels made visible. The unrecognizable blue squares slowly transform into tricolor cuboids, which are leisurely moving toward the patiently waiting water surface. After clearing the image, Páluš uses dissolves to ring the changes on the action, which makes the rendezvous of the elements impressively ethereal. After the dive he shows an almost static image of the vase-shaped waves for two minutes, until the screen decays to a field full of pixels and reduces to a sum of blue squares and rectangles. Static Movement echoes the motto of structuralism, which is articulated through the baring of the digital image and the exposure of the vulgarity of its elements.

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In Static Movement Páluš manages to transform material into spiritual. In Metamophoses he disfigures beauty into ugliness. This last film uses a technique, which has been tried by many others: the chiral symmetry. He mars women’s and men’s faces, which the advertising media forum considered aesthetic, by creating a new whole from two halves. The symmetrically re-matched fractions of a face form a monster-figure. Again Páluš uses dissolves, but this time they emphasize the repulsive quality of the portraits. The chiral symmetry deprives the commercial faces of the attribute of beauty, so instead of attracting the viewer they disgust him. In Metamorphoses Páluš recalls the structural theory of the relation between the whole and the segments. By the fragmentation and reconstruction of the beautiful faces, the quality of the segments changes radically, because of their new status in the whole. It is worth mentioning, that in both of his shorts Páluš the partly computer-generated musical poems of the English musician and composer, Jonny Greenwood.

Just like Warhol and his fellow artists, Páluš manipulates the anemic images of mass culture, which being uprooted from their original context, being repeated, multiplied, mirrored or slowed down, receive a brand new meaning. In both of the mentioned works Páluš experiments with the analysis of the segments and the whole from a structuralist point of view. With the construction of these films, he secures their place among the collection of short, meditative, structural films.

Written by: Dorottya Szalay

 

Statika pohybu (2007)

Metamorphoses (2007)

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