Experimenting with moving images

6:00 min

Swedish experimental film and video art has moved toward documentary in recent years. Three filmmakers talk about their processes.

There's a lot more to film and video than what is typically shown on TV or at the cinema. A whole world of moving images exists where artists break down aesthetic boundaries and challenge audiences to think more deeply about what they're seeing.

On a sunny summer evening Radio Sweden's Ryan Tebo met with several moving image artists at a screening at Bio Rio in the Hornstull neighborhood in Stockholm to find out what is currently happening within experimental film and video art in Sweden. 

"Artists using moving images has exploded over the almost 15 years I have worked at Filmform. The equipment got cheaper. It was easier to sit at home or wherever and make your own video art. To use moving images, we have them all around, everywhere," Anna-Karin Larsson, director of the Filmform experimental film and video art archive, said.

A decade ago Swedish film and video art was mostly based in narrative and performance, with artists performing to the camera. The work often used humor and music was dominant, with many works almost seeming like experimental music videos. But Larsson says that now, there has been a distinct shift to a more serious, documentary approach.

"Artists today work more with elements of documentary. It's merging, you can't say where those genres actually start and stop exactly. To work with experimenting with techniques has perhaps moved more into the new media scene. And younger artists are looking more into documentary skills and really looking into how to shoot and edit, and not just to tell a story," Larsson said.

The production collective Crystal Beacon's video Mvua Farasi seems on the surface to be a more conventional documentary about the people and horses at a racetrack in Kenya and how the powerful El Niño storms affect them.

But Jennifer Rainsford, one of the three directors, says that they wanted to challenge the typical way images of Kenya are presented.

"For us because we were filming in Kenya it was like what kind of images are made of the other or of Kenya. The kind of images we saw were NGO footage or the stereotypical images of zebras and tigers. When we started playing with the images and the perception that people have over here of Kenya. I guess it's a play with the documentary," Rainsford said.

Though the setting of the film is documentary, most of the film is scripted and blurs the boundaries between fact and fiction, in a way most documentaries try to avoid.

"As soon as you come with a camera you start doing some kind of fiction. There's never a situation where there's a camera recording where you're not creating a story, where people represent themselves. I don't think it matters so much for us if it's documentary or not," Rainsford said.

While Mvua Farasi blurred fact and fiction, Martina Hoogland Ivanow's film Annelise Frankfurt mixes and layers the past with the present. It is a free-association portrait of the eccentric choreographer of the same name. Hoogland Ivanow says that she mostly holds to the form of a classic documentary portrait but she throws the elements out of balance.

With the archival images and sound layered with new material, the viewer is left disoriented in time in the film. And this openness is something Hoogland Ivanow strives for in her work.

"That's what I prefer when I see work, that it leaves something to the viewer, it leaves some space. Because there's so much information that if you leave a little bit of space, then there's something for the viewer left to fill in. And that's something I try to do keep in all work I do," Hoogland Ivanow said.

Maria Magnusson also worked with archival material in her film Take It Apart and Put Together Again, which tells the story of a hippie motorcycle club from Stockholm in the 1960s. For her, working with the actual materials of the film is important.

"When I make films I like that it is supposed to be physical. You see the scratches and dust and also the psychedelic part. You get more concentrated on this specific story he's talking about then," Magnusson said. "We are not perfect as persons. And when you have analogue, you have the scratches. It's more like you feel the surface," Magnusson said.