2017, 16mm, optical sound

red wall.jpg

a film by Miki Ambrózy

duration: 20'
source formats: 16mm, 8mm, video
production format: 16mm
distribution format: 16mm, color and  BW, optical sound

There’s my life, why not, it is one, if you like, if you must, I don’t say
no, this evening. There has to be one, it seems, once there is speech, no
need of a story, a story is not compulsory, just a life, that’s the mistake
I made, one of the mistakes, to have wanted a story for myself, whereas
life alone is enough.
— Samuel Beckett: Texts for Nothing, IV (1967)


The buddhist master Dōgen writes: “When bearing a child, do parent and child emanate together? (…) You should study and penetrate how the time when parent becomes child is the practice and realization of bearing a child.”

My transformation from child to parent was like an endless cycle of resistances, including going from digital filmmaking into the underworld of laboratory based work. Every obstacle possible came my way and I embraced them all.

The writing that accompanied me on this journey ended up becoming the film itself: writing as film/film as writing, image as text/text as image. The relentless flow of life passing through…

notes | credits

All of Rites was developed and assembled in Labo BxL (artist-run lab in downtown Brussels), L’Abominable (collective lab for preserving heritage formats, La Courneuve, Paris), MTK Grenoble (hosted by Etienne Caire), and L’Atelier de la Senne (Brussels).
Original formats: BW 16mm reversal film, BW and color 16mm print film, 16mm colour negative film, DV video, 8mm colour reversal
Production format: 16mm
blue wall.jpg

Produced by Visualantics
Photography, printing and text - Miki Ambrózy
Edit - Fairuz, Miki Ambrózy
Editing advisors - Els Van Riel, Andreas Hannes
Negative cutting - Mariette Michaud
Photochemical engineering - Etienne Caire, MTK Grenoble
Typography - Salome Schmuki
Sound design - Boris Debackere, Miki Ambrózy
Composer - Kostas Chanis
Sound camera - Guillaume Mazloum
Technical support - Boris Belay

quoted works
Susan Sontag: Against Interpretation (1966) © London : Penguin Classics, 2009

Internegatives and effects
 Etienne Caire (MTK Grenoble)
 Guillaume Mazloum (L'Abominable Paris)
 Miki Ambrózy (LABO BxL)

Release prints
 Color by DeJonghe, Kortrijk

Produced by Brecht Debackere
Produced with the financial support of the Flemish Audiovisual Fund (VAF)

word | image

Fascinated by the pulsing, running nature of projected film, I begin to assemble traces of words, objects, meanings and impressions and print them onto film. Hidden within these gestures lies my wish for a state of serenity.  The pieces of film pass through my hands:  in search of balance between word and image. They move along our obsolete machinery in the film lab. Even when I resist, the traces keep generating.

Written over the period of two years, Rites of Resistance is based on a loose collection of autobiographical poems. Through a method of distillation, I have been driving towards a minimum of language that would satisfy my self-imposed criteria for a sincere text, one that manifests without self-consciousness about matters of the everyday. I used 16mm experiments with film to feed my desire to re-print text, meaning and image in a simple, direct form, without the paraphernalia of narrative construction. When I give no intention to my words, something starts moving inside the text.

As every artist working with celluloid knows, film commands its own time of making - I believe this is a force more decisive than the often mentioned fragility of celluloid. Rites is a handmade film which feeds on the never-ending joy of watching an image materialise, of viewing a strip of film straight out of the dryer, of evaluating a result in the light of experience. A pulsing, running experience - on the path of looking for solutions that lead to new problems.

how are we to resist?  

This was my original question driving the film’s passage. The duality of resistance/release is expressed through a construction that moves in and out of impressions, the liquidity of life, death, passing, the mind. It calls upon the spectator for both thinking and sensing, and, sometimes, to give it all up - beyond ideas like resistance. The film proceeds until a sense of knowing emerges as to what belongs where, in which order, and until what balance.

Rites offers an intuitive narrative construction with multiple temporalities. On an autobiographical note, the film is an ode to our hands amplified - the hand that makes, with the mind following behind. In terms of production, I kept assembling images and texts - both crafted manually, through revisions stretched out in time. 

The film simultaneously explores passages between formats, between ways of creating images (camera, darkroom), and ways of bringing the text side by side with layers of image and sound. Some sections create resistances, some flow into each other. The form is placed in a poetic parallel to the experience of becoming a parent, assuming a role, confronting entanglements from generations before and for generations after. The shifting of time into a new fluidity. Rites acknowledges the relationship between losing one’s self in handling a material (celluloid) and in being disoriented out of love for another human being

In terms of the politics of production, Rites is based on the belief that the heritage format of 16 mm film requires us to insist: on the material, on perseverance, on projection on film. Such material consciousness is rooted in the romantic tradition and it references the craftsmanship that is typical of anonymous skilled labour. The position of this kind of independent cinema is determined by the collective commitment to the face-to-face transfer of skills and distribution through artist-run collective labs. These are places where the erasing tendencies of “efficient” production are defied daily. In this sense, Rites of Resistance makes a statement about the post-medium condition of contemporary art: there’s a collective stake in handing down the craftsmanship that goes into celluloid-based production. Rites exists because of the generosity of makers-artists who insist. We keep such productions alive out of the desire to do something well for its own sake.