The guest artist this month in The Wall - a space that we have enabled a wall for screening guest works associated with the cinema or the cultural programme- is Salomé Lamas, young Portuguese filmmaker that works between visual arts and cinema.
A constant in her work is the body, the presence and absence of the body, of the own body, and the relationship with the landscape that inhabits.
Three films loop: A Torre, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum and Norte, el juicio del fuego. Forest and trees; rocks and sea; fire and smoke. Different characters, bodies wich traverse the landscape and lead us to extraordinary stories.
Interview with Salomé Lamas
"Sometimes it is a matter of waiting to witness an accident or to watch the transformation of the banal into the extraordinary"
Question: A man walking through the forest until it becomes part of the landscape. A woman that says “I can't look at the sea too long, otherwise I lose interest in what happens on land.” Masked people around an amp on fire. In the three films shown in The Wall and in other of your works like Landscape x 3 we see bodies related to the surroundings. I would like to start this conversation talking about this. Could you explain your interest filming the presence/absence of bodies and the space that they occupy?
Answer: My approach to the human figure is extremely different if we start to analyze every work on my filmography, but your remarks on the mentioned films are extremely accurate – those remarks could also be taken as the symptom of a strong line that links a few works.
I usually tend to use the human body to explore a (confined) reality – let it be a circumscribed physical territory or a dream-like landscape. Also we could be dealing with the inscription of the human figure in the territory, tackling a playground-landscape, addressing the sublime – some of these vectors show an interest for scale and distances.
We are either captivated by a spectrum-figure to whom the surrounding world has no utility, thus his pure idealism is never shaken by bitterness or irony - a character in constant convalescence; a shaman-figure that guides us across a landscape of wonder; a figure’s inscription in the territory, a figure that tackles a playground-landscape; a figure struggling with intellectual yet explicitly physical experience of the sublime – some of these vectors show an interest for spatial-gamut, scale and dimension. In the game of presence/absence some object-like figures aim to represent larger immaterial ideas such as history, memory or trauma, they act as simulacrums, they are ghost figures, marginal figures or parafictional figures that often inhabit the margins of reality (no man’s land).
The act of translating, of transporting one language into another is an exquisite combination of both fidelity and freedom.
Q: In the same time, the spaces that you capture in your films are all natural. It seems that the basic elements (earth, water, air and fire) play a role on them. Could you talk about your process working with them?
A: Indeed I always departure from reality. My aim is to translate the language of the things or the language of the real into the cinematographic language. The act of translating, of transporting one language into another is an exquisite combination of both fidelity and freedom. It is not about saying the same again it is about creativity and about veracity, plausibility, essence.
There is something very physical and down to earth in the way I work. I chose a reality that is circumscribed or self-limited by land or time. I project myself into that reality where I act as a strange body, my presence will eventually create some kind of friction with its surrounding or with the occupants of that territory – its consequence? Drama. Sometimes it is a matter of waiting to witness an accident or to watch the transformation of the banal into the extraordinary.
Q: I would like to talk about the sound. The same presence/absence of the body in the space is perceived about the sound and the music in your films. In A torre, for example, suddenly appears a piano that leads to the wind. Or, the musical moment of the woman singing in the end of Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. I would like to know about your process with the sound, music and silence in your work.
A: I don’t often use music in my films. Or maybe I do! Most films are very austere when it comes to sound almost in a direct cinema fashion style. Now that you are pointing that out I realize that in Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (2013) the soundtrack is artificial and over the top; the sound treatment in The Tower (2015) is minimal and delicate; I’ve just finished Eldorado XXI (2016) where there is a one-hour shot where sound plays a very important role, while we watch an hypnotic, trance-like image the sound delivers the spectator a close up of personal testimonies, soundscapes, radio shows, music – it resembles a symphonic orchestra – it demanded a very delicate final mix; also we are now editing Extinction where I collaborate with classical composer Andreia Pinto Correia.
I can play with the limits and the authority of non-fiction film, I can dance with fiction and non-actors
Q: It's really powerful the way that your films transform. Going back to the specific case of Theatrum Orbis Terrarum for example, the film ends in a really performative way with the woman singing looking directly to the camera and surronded by smoke. This exceed of the conventional limits between genres or models is something characteristic of your films and I would like to ask you about this crossing point between visual arts and cinema and the building of your own language.
A: Transformation is desirable. Sometimes my work lacks dramatic progressing – the hero’s arch in classical narrative – it is often the case that structure relies on the juxtaposition of imagery or ideas, in adding 1+1+1+1, etc. I guess that if one takes that road one must find solutions. Models, genres, fact vs fiction, etc are behind very stimulating academic discussions in my practice they are only common notions that I can play with – I can play with the limits and the authority of non-fiction film, I can dance with fiction and non-actors.
Every image swings between fact and fiction, this ambiguity is at the same time the power of representation.
What do I watch on screen? Do I watch reality, truth, manipulation, fiction, or all at the same time? These questions belong to film/visual arts but when they are thrown to the society of spectacle that we all inhabit today become questions that belong to all of us.
Some goes for display and ways of presentation, each work has its place it turns out that some can fit in both but we shouldn’t forget its effects on the work and in the spectator’s perception of the work. It is a very interesting experience to watch a work in a black book commercial cinema and later install it in a museum where it will play in a loop and people come in and out.
Salomé Lamas, Portugal, , 2015 6', DCP
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum
Salomé Lamas, Italia, , 2013 28', OV (sp+bs), DCP
Norte, el juicio del fuego
Salomé Lamas, Portugal, , 2015 40', OV, DCP