newsletter N° 118      

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Art 39 Basel takes place June 4 – 8, 2008.

Art Film

The Stadtkino Basel again features a varied program of films by and about artists during this year’s edition of Art Basel. Art Film will be starting earlier than before, on Sunday, June 1, with the world premiere of Chiara Clemente’s film portrait of five New York-based women artists. Further highlights include an evening featuring a film by Lawrence Weiner, English artist Isaac Julien’s film Derek (an homage to the legendary artist/filmmaker Derek Jarman), and the screening of a classic of experimental cinema, Traité de Bave et d’Éternité, made in 1951 by Lettrism founder Isidore Isou. Art Film is curated by film scholar Marc Glöde (Berlin). This Brunner, a collector with profound knowledge of the international film scene, and artist John Armleder will also be staging evenings with special guests.

Art Basel was the first art fair to create an independent platform for the film medium. Since 1999 a wide-ranging program of films by and about artists has regularly been presented in the ideal conditions of the Stadtkino Basel (Steinenberg 7, entrance via the garden of the Kunsthalle). The screenings spotlight films by both internationally renowned artists and young talents, undiscovered until now by the public. Art Film is curated by Marc Glöde (Monday, June 2; Wednesday, June 4 through Friday, June 6), This Brunner (Sunday, June 1 and Friday, June 6), and John Armleder (Sunday, June 8).

The series kicks off on Sunday (June 1, 10 p.m. at the Stadtkino) with the world premiere of the documentary Our City Dreams, Chiara Clemente’s portrait of five women artists who live and work in New York: Marina Abramovic, Ghada Amer, Kiki Smith, Nancy Spero, and Swoon. The director visited them in their studios and draws a fascinating picture of women who not only belong to different generations but represent very different artistic approaches as well. Ms. Clemente and the film’s producer, Tanya Selvaratnam, will be present at the event.

On Monday, June 2, two programs are on the agenda at the Stadtkino. The first, at 8.30 p.m., is dedicated entirely to Polish artist Wilhelm Sasnal and features several of his short films, some of them premieres. The second program of the night is at 10 p.m. and showcases works by Olaf Nicolai, Peter Downsbrough, Chris Larson, Nina Fischer, Maroan el Sani, Hans Op de Beeck, Patricia Piccinini, and Ursula Mayer.

On Tuesday evening, June 3, American artist Lawrence Weiner will present Water In Milk Exists, his second excursion into the porn genre, following his legendary 1976 film A Bit of Matter and A Little Bit More. In this non-narrative cinematic essay, the artist treats human bodies as objects. On Weiner’s film set, real people (not porn stars) experience sex in its everyday banality. But there is no ritualized series of sex scenes, as would be typical of a porn movie. Moreover, the artist underlays the individual sequences with spoken texts from his children’s books. Screened in association with the Swiss Institute New York, the film will be shown at the Mascotte sex movie house, Elisabethenanlage 7, at 11 p.m. (doors open at 10 p.m.). Lawrence Weiner will be present.

On Wednesday (June 4, 10 p.m. at the Stadtkino) viewers can see a varied program of pieces by Peter Roehr, Manfred Kuttner, Manon de Boer, Matthias Müller, Christoph Girardet, Karř Gold, Tim Blue, Kevin Schmidt, 3 P = 3 Players, and Kolkoz. Thursday (June 5, 10 p.m. at the Stadtkino) features works by Tobias Rehberger, Deimantas Narkevicius, Kent Monkman, Marie Losier, and G.R.A.M.

English artist Isaac Julien’s film Derek (written by Tilda Swinton) is an homage to the legendary English artist, filmmaker, writer, and gay activist Derek Jarman (1942-1994). The centerpiece of the film – shown Friday, June 6, at 8 p.m., at the Stadtkino - is an interview with Jarman conducted in 1990 by film producer and author Colin MacCabe, in which Jarman, who was ill with AIDS, looks back on his work. But the film is also a story of England from the 1960s to the early 1990s, for Jarman’s biography and footage from his films illuminate multiplicitous cultural change.

The next item on Friday’s Stadtkino program, at 10 p.m., is the road movie DAFT PUNK'S ELECTROMA by directors Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, a duo better known as Daft Punk. In a world without human beings, two robots set out on an odyssey through a hauntingly deserted American landscape of surreal beauty on their quest to become human. The soundtrack features music by Todd Rundgren, Brian Eno, Curtis Mayfair, Sebastien Tellier, and Chopin.

The Art Film program closes on Sunday, June 8 (10 p.m. at the Stadtkino) with Swiss artist John Armleder presenting the legendary experimental film Traité de Bave et d’Éternité (1951) by French artist Isidore Isou, founder of Lettrism. Regarded as the cinematic manifesto of Lettrism, Traité de Bave et d’Éternité broke all the conventions of its time and created a scandal when it was premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1951. Isou’s introduction of discrepancy between sound and image provoked particular incomprehension among his contemporaries.

Over the years, Art Basel has become one of the places that highlight not only how closely the various arts have approached one another but how intimately interlinked and reciprocally influential they have meanwhile become. This phenomenon has emerged particularly clearly with respect to film and its relationship to art: film has joined classic artistic mediums such as painting and sculpture as an integral part of artistic exploration and practice. Against the background of the growing debate between museum and movie house over the appropriate venue for film art, the past few years have underscored the breadth of this discourse, which includes everything from outdoor screenings, film happenings, and backdrops for music events to B-movies, videos, installations, and light sculptures.

Art Basel’s film program allows some of the lines connecting the arts to be traced. It provides an opportunity, in a movie-house setting, to explore the broad spectrum of forms that transcend the frontiers of traditional art-exhibition venues like museums or galleries.

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