Originally published by Hambre Dossier: Aberrant Intervals, September 2017
The following article contains three parts of a five part manifesto called ‘The Quest For The Cine-Rebis’ which was originally published in FILM PANIC Magazine in April 2016. We put this manifesto together early in 2016 but the ideas contained within it had been gathered over a period of about five years, building up a pile of notes on our desks made up of scraps of paper with thoughts and reflections about all aspects of cinema, filmmaking, art and creativity. During 2015 and continuing in 2016 we had something of a breakthrough in our work, some doors were opened and we had and are still having the most productive and creative outpouring that we have yet experienced. This last year has seen the production of three feature films, one short film, two video installations, several expanded cinema performances and a book of poetry. This fervent time has confirmed that for us there is only one path, that we can only really function in an environment of creative freedom outside of both the industrial world of cinema and the academic world of art. Ours is the path of creativity and imagination, what we believe to be the essential elements of art; it has nothing to do with complicated theories, it has nothing to do with selling work or marketing and building an audience, it is entirely about following in the trail of our imagination and deepest interests and being true to one’s own creative metabolism. In the following extracts you will find some thoughts, reflections and ideas that have sustained us, that have kept us in touch with our own creative spirit and that we use to protect us from the criticism, indifference, distractions and attacks that are inevitable when one is walking a path out of tune with the march of their times. So here it is, absorb what is relevant to your own journey and disregard the rest, be pigheaded in your creation and serve no-one but your own creative spirit.
Thanks for reading,
Daniel Fawcett & Clara Pais
Extracts from ‘The Quest For The Cine-Rebis’
ART IN EXILE
We are living in a cultural wasteland. Art has become a label stamped on anything with a vague bit of gloss, or framed by a gallery, or endorsed by a critic, and we are all scared to call their bluff, to call out against the poverty of art. The once liberating idea that anything can be art has lost value and taken the confidence out of those that feel in their hearts that what they are being given as art is nothing more than quick-fire gimmicks, an easily consumed, easily forgotten reinforcement of conservative values. We look briefly before moving on as quickly as possible so we don’t have to face up to the fear of exposure that we no longer really know what art is.
So art is in crisis, and if art is in crisis it is only because we as a society are in crisis. If we have a genuine lack of confidence in the arts, it is because our footing as a society is so unsteady. We don’t know who we are, where we are going or what our purpose is any more. We feel frustrated at the way life seems to be and we find easy targets for our frustrations such as foreigners or the government or some other unseen, ungraspable oppressor around which we can weave a conspiracy theory. Worst of all, we have turned the arts into a frivolous, luxury affair; a clean and safe atmosphere where only the politically correct and academically articulate can operate. Occasionally we pretend to be deeply moved or even offended by some limp gesture that ticks all the boxes of the controversial but in the end we remain in the safe zone of regurgitated opinions and shallow thought.
We may have forgotten what art is and what its purpose is but maybe that is OK for now because it hasn’t gone away. It’s still here and to bring it back to full consciousness we need not struggle to define it but to remember how to look at it, listen to it and experience it. An act of opening up to it is needed.
As viewers we need to slow down, meditate, contemplate, resist quick categorisations and submit to the work as an experience. If something repulses, offends or upsets us, then we should give it more attention. True art is not a rigid thing, it is not a statement, it is an expression, it is fluid, it always dances on the fringes of clarity.
The current state of art leans too far towards the masculine drives; it revels in hierarchies, material value, money, power, rationality and strict definitions. We need to engage more with the feminine to readjust this imbalance. More play and irrationality, less political statements and certainty. More exploration, more risk, more harmony between the body and creativity, more healing and more community. More poetry, less facts. More myth, metaphor and feeling, less news and information.
Art is not journalism, art is not propaganda, art is not product, art will not tell you what to think but it will open avenues to new ways of thinking. Art is an act of engaging with the world through creation; it is about participating in the mystery, beauty, horror and wonder of existence, it both creates a map of consciousness and aids us in reaching beyond our current limitations. Art is the greatest tool for transformation that we have, it is a gift, we need to believe in its power again. It is time to go in search of this exile and bring it home.
TOWARDS RECLAIMING CINEMA AS ART
Much of what we have to say here is relevant to art in general but as our medium of choice is cinema we direct our investigation towards it. Cinema is a young medium but over its short history there has been a stiffening of movement and in some areas rigor mortis has set in. But there is hope because creativity prevails and that which dies becomes the breeding ground for new life.
Cinema is an artifice. To express truth through cinema one must indulge in the theatre of forms and not shy away from the truth in the illusion. We revolt against the popular belief that cinema is a tool for objectivity; for us all films that claim to be capturing reality without mediation are lies. To pretend that a film shot handheld with natural lighting and long uncut shots is any more truthful than the latest CGI blockbuster is not only a mistake, it is lazy and dangerous. Realism, believability and rationality – the favoured modes for conservatives – have become the tools to create a conformity of expression that numbs our senses and limits our imagination. Instead of being tools in the service of freedom and the betterment of humankind, they have now become the walls to imprison us from ourselves. Fortunately, imagination is still untamed and will eternally be subversive. True art is a flying carpet that can lift us above all limitations and release us from all restraints.
Over the last few years the tools of filmmaking have become available to all and we have now for the very first time reached a point where anyone and everyone is shooting movies; some for fun, some for work and industrial purposes and some for art. The first two categories are going great guns. Unfortunately, industrial language has permeated the home-movie and artist’s film, and this infestation is a problem against which we need to take assertive action. If we were all to speak the same language, if we were all to define ourselves the same way and see the world the same way we would be living in a kind of hell. Everything would be centralised, the worst kind of conservatism would dominate; a kind of industrial fascism would dictate how we see ourselves and how we express ourselves. This is a hellish reality, already dangerously close. It is therefore imperative that we revolt, challenge and subvert the conservative, industrial cinema with a true, idiosyncratic and personal art cinema that is subversive not only in content but also in process and form.
Here, we have set out twelve “actions” that we are currently using in our own work. They are a set of tools – or even weapons – that we can use to help disintegrate and investigate conventions and hopefully open new avenues of expression and unearth new languages.
We do not see them as rules; simply the first steps towards realising cinema as an art form that can express more truth, be more personal and aid us in going beyond that which we are taught to think and feel, enabling us to find out what we genuinely think and feel. We seek to overcome the fraud of realism and believability. Reality is an irrational experience and it is high time we step outside this neat world of categories of right and wrong; to bring to realisation our true individual nature and participate fully in the great creative play of life.
Performers must rally forces against movement, speech and actions that seem natural. We must reach to extremes in order to expose the artifice of identity; all personality is a mask. Once we learn that we are all actors playing roles we can begin to transform these characters to be in line with our true self.
Dialogue should be either utter gibberish or exquisitely crafted poetry. The middle ground is a barren wasteland, nothing of value grows there.
Strive towards a cinema that reveals what is hidden. Seek not to show the world as it looks; cinema’s power is not in capturing reality but in expressing the inner life. Whether you like it or not, you project your thoughts and feelings onto the world around you, cinema can be a tool for taking charge of these projections.
The artist director is neither dictator, army general nor company boss. The director’s purpose is not to control the film but to protect the film, to be a servant who guides the vision into the world. The time of overt masculine ideas of the artist must give way to more feminine attitudes, the artist as shaman, mother, medium and guardian of visions.
When in doubt, consult your dreams. Take your fantasies seriously. When creating, switch rationality and reason down to low and let your inner voices speak.
Make a film first and foremost as an act of personal exploration. Open a door to some unknown place and enter. Leap into the void. Risk is a primary factor in creating a truthful work of art. The journey of the film should alternate between total confusion, unknowing and a sense of revelation. Only after the film is complete will you begin to unravel its purpose and mysteries. Learn to trust the creative spirit that speaks through you. Learn to love being lost and not knowing.
Play is the greatest weapon you have to fight against the tyranny of rationality.
Political statements are the lowest function of art; spiritual expression is the highest. However, be wary of religious art; it is more often than not political art dressed to look like spiritual art. True spiritual art is beyond religion.
We live in a world, we are a part of a society and a community. It is therefore true that all art has a political dimension but art is not a party political broadcast. Let your politics manifest through action, form and general intention; don’t beat your audience with a sledge hammer message. Open doors to possibilities but do not push people through them. Trust each person to find their own path.
Form and content are one; ignore this at your own risk. To change one’s consciousness one must expand the form. Seek ways for form to become content and content to be the key in the door of creativity.
If you truly care about the audience, begin by making art for yourself. To think you know what the audience wants and needs is a crime against free will. Do not seek to manipulate and do not fall into the trap of thinking you know what is best for someone else.
Creativity is fluid. Identity is fluid. Gender is fluid. Nationality is fluid. All reality is an illusion, so to say yes to artifice is to say yes to truth. Participate fully in the play of life.
WHAT IS THE CINE-REBIS?
In alchemy a Rebis is a figure that is part male and part female; it represents a stage in which these two polarities have formed a union and a balance and are existing simultaneously in one form. In a world so long dominated by masculine drives it is time for us to shift the balance and seek a new harmony. The Cine-Rebis is a movie and a creative process which attempts to readjust this balance. It is not the end, not the final stage, but a stage that as a society we believe needs to and is beginning to come to consciousness.
In the end, cinema is only a metaphor for a deeper process that is taking place in both the individual and collective psyche. It is in part a matter of personal conditions that makes it the chosen medium for expression, but this happens also because the many aspects of this medium are relevant to accessing and bringing into consciousness whatever it is they point to.
We don’t think it is by chance that one of the central conflicts being addressed here is the tension between industrial production and the individual/artist’s creation; this conflict played out within the individual is a microcosmic counterpart to what is and needs to be played out on a macrocosmic scale. We do not doubt that in time the human species will move past this limited and self-destructive phase that we are in, but we must stop thinking we have all the answers and feeding the illusion that we are in control. Whether we have reached a peak or a new low point in civilisation is a matter of perspective. The ultimate goal is to go beyond gender, beyond nationality and beyond either/or definitions. To become who one truly is and be in a creative relationship with the world. To think of society not as a system of functioning productive parts but as a community of creative beings. To think of humans not as the dominant species of the planet but as a conscious witness of life.
And let us not forget that life is still at work, ever changing and mysterious. There is still everything to discover and to experience and many unseen possibilities await. The artist has a role to play; the artist’s work is to break down and transform old modes of being, to use imagination and creativity to explore and expand possibilities. To face their own limits at every moment and dissolve them. To go deeper and further to where words can’t reach, and all the time to bring back the fruits of their experiences as gifts for all.