Focus! – Martin Baran: Underpass – In Medias Reus

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Martin Baran’s flings are attempts to create an „active film”. In his videos he plays with different signs which – being mixed with the elements of film language – challenge the customs of the viewer and the idea of the optimal forum of the avant-garde film.

Marin Baran – alias Reus – tries to emphasize the unfinished character of the images. His goal is to connect with the potential viewer. The Kosice based artist –  also flirting with the forms of music, street art and underground poetry –  tends to recycle existing ideas which being replaced into a new environment question the canonized qualities of the forum itself.

The problem repeatedly mentioned within Eastern-Central-European contemporary film scene is the forum where the avant-garde films are being shown. Whilst in the „West” experimental cinema created its own infrastructure outside of the mainstream in countries like Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia or Croatia the trend became part of fine arts. The avant-garde, non-narrative films moved from the screen of art houses onto the white walls of galleries which overwrote the traditions of the connection between the viewer and the experimental video works. In an exhibition space a viewer has to face more stimulating elements than in a darkened room where the optimal focal point is more strictly set, the image is better framed.

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Reus’s Underpass is a possible answer to solve this conflict. The creator makes a game out of his film by applying a simple method which lets Underpass work in both of above mentioned forums. Reus shows only black words on white background later white words on black background in order to build a scene. It could be interpreted as an improved version of concrete poetry which besides the typographical arrangement of the words, allows pre-established sound and rhythm. The impression is heightened by other atmospheric elements (noise, music, dissolve) which stimulates the viewer’s imagination. If one was only to glance at the film it would look like a witty visual gag. If however one takes the time and follows the words the film could transmit a whole dramatic situation. In order to fight the concentration difficulties the side effects of the everyday information-boost, Reus uses a radical attention-directing gesture. He describes the environment with only one or two words at the time which are only present for a moment or two. The chosen viewpoint is necessarily subjective (POV). The more words the viewer misses the more information he needs to fill up the holes. To make the viewer want to work on his own interpretation following an intelligent beginning Reus speeds up the tempo, ads a soundtrack as if he was building up some kind of a narrative. But Underpass „on its own” does not have a storyline. The existence of a plot fully depends on the cognitive competence of the viewer[1].

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The In Medias Reus[2] did fail to hit the same standard but the incorporated reflection makes it worth mentioning. In this piece Reus communicates using only sign language which requires extremely active viewer’s attitude. The director refuses to repeat the „text” through any other form of languages. Which means that in order to understand one has to abandon the film viewing traditions. With a sign language dictionary it is possible to translate the monologue but to be able to do so the optimal forum will change to an environment where one can stop, freeze and rewind the images. This challenge could allude to the often quoted issue about the film language which states: film language like any other language has to be learned. But Reus’s work is quite weak in this specific way. So even if the allusion was deliberate because of Reus’s stumbling, the reference is dysfunctional.

Reus’s videos might be slightly unfledged at this point, but they do show the alertness of the artist, his need to work on the conflicts connected to the avant-garde. Reus’s answer is not to rebel but to adapt. He tries to create films which are able to deal with the loss of the classical forum concerning the experimental moving images, or which even demand a change of scenery.

Written by: Dorottya Szalay

 

Underpass

 To watch In Medias Reus click on the picture.

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