“Finite Rants” is an online project curated by Luigi Alberto Cippini and Niccolò Gravina, a series of visual essays commissioned by Fondazione Prada to filmmakers, artists, intellectuals and scholars.
The list of authors includes German director and writer Alexander Kluge, Japanese photographer Satoshi Fujiwara, French director Bertrand Bonello, American director and actor Brady Corbet, Swiss economist Christian Marazzi, Argentinian director Eduardo Williams, French directors Caroline Poggi and Jonathan Vinel, REMEMBER, writer and cultural critic Shumon Basar, photographer Alessia Gunawan, AI researcher and professor Kate Crawford and architect Elizabeth Diller.
As stated by avant-garde director Hans Richter in 1940, the film or video essay is a form of expression capable of creating “images for mental notions” and of portraying concepts. Starting from Richter’s ideas, some later theorists identify specific traits in the video essay, such as creative freedom, complexity, reflexivity, the crossing of film genres and the transgression of linguistic conventions. “Finite Rants” aims to test the versatility of the visual essay in expressing thought images and demonstrate its relevance in contemporary visual production.
The aesthetic and theoretical roots of “Finite Rants” can be traced back to the experimental work La Jetée (1962) by French author Chris Marker. Defined by its creator as “photo-roman”, La Jetée is described by its voice-over as “the story of a man obsessed with an image of his childhood”. Set in a fictional Paris almost destroyed by a future nuclear holocaust, this dystopian, intimate and theoretical film expresses its distance from later narrative experimentations. The film thus integrates science fiction and obscure psychological introspection into a hybrid form, eliminating every concept of space and time, and freeing itself from a form generally considered definite. The authors of “Finite Rants” are therefore invited to confront themselves with a radical model of cinematic experimentation such as La Jetée, a fragmentary and dispersive story, consisting of a single short film sequence and a succession of static frames, which questions the very idea of cinema, understood as a set of moving images.
Following a process of creative collaboration between the authors and Fondazione Prada, the visual contributions featured in “Finite Rants” analyze social, political and cultural issues that have emerged in our present time and are normally addressed by the media with a documentary approach. Through the creation, editing and post-production of raw, heterogeneous and diverse images and visual materials, the authors are able to express personal visions and poetics that involve the viewer in an active and reflective role.
Satoshi Fujiwara, Alexander Kluge
A sublimation of intent and suppressed violence, obsessive skipping and mytomania, with no focused prayer. Satoshi Fujiwara elaborates political content amassed and originally sourced from videos created by Alexander Kluge into the vortex of mixed-media image democracy, conspiracy videos. An essay into overdosing and obsessing over collective thoughts and political figures, an overlayed black box of recent political traumas.
Editing and soundtrack by Francesco Tosini.
OÙ EN ÊTES-VOUS? (NUMÉR0 2)
Bertrand Bonello reworks the last minutes of his 2016 film Nocturama, which documents the logistical operations and the organization of terrorist attacks in Paris by a group of teenagers. His project is an ideal challenge to the canons of arthouse cinema, a true genre and production threshold of the French film industry. Starting with Où en êtes-vous?, a video commissioned by the Centre Pompidou in 2014 and conceived as a letter to his then eleven-year-old daughter, the director makes a new work altering the final sequence of Nocturama and completely modifying the textual component and the soundtrack.
[With the kind permission of Rectangle Productions]
Warning: This video contains violent images that may be disturbing to some viewers.
As part of an imaginary pan-European information broadcast, in which different disciplines such as linguistics, psychology and sociology are integrated, Christian Marazzi addresses issues related to the economic, financial and social implications of the current health emergency, such as the management of public and private debts, financial market fluctuations, nature of the new forms of power and social conflicts.
In his visual essay “Re-Mesh” a synthetic voice triggers a visual narration that perverts, distorts and shatters the forms that give substance to the collective mediatic imaginary, besides the graphic representation of economic trends and the related methods of data reading that influence the economic debate and the political choices.
The experimentation which emerges from the visualizations generates a continuous variation of relationships with different forms of thought. It directly introjects the sources of inspiration for future standards of visual processing through the appropriation and deflagration of the current logic of Memetics, in the direction of a collective vision capable of revealing the concatenations between different phenomena.
Video and soundtrack: Francesco Tosini
CENSORSHIP SKIT 13’40”
Censorship has left most of its integrated and default explicit nature today. The amount of cross-platform visual feeds, that fills most of personal computer RAM, is a constant matter made by undistinguishable footage, as a sort of constant and never-ending playlist, occupying no-comment portions of our daily life.
The amass of such content, where non-explicit merges with per adult, violent, and advanced journalism materials, makes the case for an engineered palette of moral habits. Censorship hasn’t gone, but it has dispersed, leaving management of the occasional intrusions of violence to users’ platform-based routine.
Eduardo Williams gathered and shot different amount of footage and made a 13’40’’ visual essay merging a male couple of young cam boys, a cat killing and eating a mouse and a series of surfers’ fallings in the artificial river Eisbach in Munich, with projected death by drowning of several citizen-surfers that simultaneously evoke, in a sort of dualism, the themes of play and fun and dark landscapes of death, that was censured and released as a sort of testament to cross-platform visual production freedom.
In the first version of the video, uploaded on Vimeo and titled with the sequence of characters ;’’´`~..__ :3 , the introductory and final parts work as emojis in relation to the central scene, as shorter signs that affect the meaning and the tone of the main sentence. The director documents a non-human presence in the urban context, posing a series of questions on our moral and perceptual habits through the eventual shock or disgust it may provoke in some people, on the contrary, fascination and curiosity.
The need to eliminate the parts of the visual essay today considered by some hardly acceptable, that are here only virtually present, may lead users to reflect on the urge to challenge moral and aesthetic habits that are spreading in the web.
Video editing: Francesco Tosini
Caroline Poggi, Jonathan Vinel
Contemporary movie making at its best is made by sequential IRL images, whose raw presence has become a pivotal element in the progressive affirmation of a saturated account of what reality means. Captured moving images have being progressively contaminated by post-production and CGI detailing making “movies” ever close to a pure engineering process.
The advent of CGI imaging technologies directly flooded traditional filmmaking out of blockbuster revenues provided by studios animation productions, diluting purely digitally-achieved fantasies and transforming them in a chemically induced perfection filter applied to almost everything.
With Fantasmagorie (1908) Èmile Cohl introduced animation as a wandering initiative, in which space browsing and encountering objects were the main task a protagonist was subject to. An innocuos stylized man that preceded, and in a way determined, pre-rendering structures of animated characters. Bébé Colère is the last investigation by Caroline Poggi and Jonathan Vinel of media structures in contemporary cinema. A default CGI animated child is confronted with modern subjectivity and world coming of age issues, making animation a gloomy tool to subdue modern narrative feelings in favour of despair and micro-dosed hope. Animation based routines and easy-portraiture of desolation are strategically organised as a grim Dark Toon.
I’VE SEEN THIS BEFORE
We really have to strain still to discover the mysteries and the moments of escapism and ephemeral beauty hidden in urban scenarios, crossed during the commutes that mark our daily routines.
The visual essay I’ve Seen This Before is a stream of personal and digital visual annotations composed of light and intricate concatenations, a dynamic system of fragments of reality captured mainly in the author’s daily route along the périphérique, the ring road that surrounds Paris, symbolically separating it from the outside and metaphorically making it a city under siege.
Through accidental encounters, fragments of strangers’ conversations, voyeuristically captured urban visions, surveillance images, humorous and poetic linguistic misunderstandings, Remember constructs a stream of reality in which the dialectic between being a spectator and taking part in the scene is fluid; her eyes become ours, in a clash of languages that affects literary stratification, philosophical perspective, visual culture, dance and musical sphere.
The effect of reality arises from the impossibility of grasping all the elements of the scene at once, as well as from the technological programming of coincidences which, by definition unpredictable, dance together making the video editing assimilable to a choreographic practice.
SEASON ENDING (THE DAY OF FOREVER)
“Composed of screenshot ruins and smeared data, Season Ending is a portrait of the present landscape, where science fiction is just late realism. It’s Mia and Abdallah’s story, the last couple, the last night. The End of History came and went. Since then, it’s been the day of forever. Endings may offer the promise of salvation, redemption, even liberty. Therefore, we tell ourselves endings in order to live, in order to keep them from actually happening. What comes after? Will we be fine?” — Shumon Basar
By dissolving the limits of the essay form into narrative, and by disorienting the story through poetic, technological revelation, Basar expresses a personal vision of our collective obsessions with recent planetary biopolitical traumas. What emerges is a fascination with mass damages, real or imagined, where beginning and ending coincide.Drawing on his personal archive and assimilating key motifs from the Finite Rants journey, Season Ending is a further experimentation with the possibility of reorganizing visual deluge. One that invades information channels via the accelerated corruption of materials that are seductive, but, ultimately destined for imminent normalization.
The result is an expression, through images, of an authorial product that starts with verbal language. It then transforms viral materials that escape patterns of recognizability. Aspect ratios are restless and the surge feels inevitable.
A disintegration of narration corresponds to the disappearance of memory. As in amnesia, we cannot remember the sequence of events that led the protagonists to the end; we can only perceive their fragmentary presence. Is an obsession with the future always an anguish? Are we finally free when the future is past?
Video edited:Francesco Tosini
Music excerpt: Amnesia Scanner AS U WILL BE FINE
Solitary confinement generally acts either as an imposed or self-conscious therapeutic process, making pacts with loneliness, reducing echoes and expanding environments into solid-mood states. Singular bodies and their movements in present-day urbanised compounds are undetachable from emergent control policies and suspect-driven caracterisation, teamed fears and class-belonging.
Alessia Gunawan’s Point Zero makes the case for an analysis on spookiness as a driving force of individual belonging, or the disintegration of identity that is generated through hallucinatory conversation with oneself, while observing from an external perspective.
By assembling POV footage, HD images and technologies inspired by optical sensors for digital cameras into a lyrical rendition of vastness and void over physical matter, the narrative sequence inexorably returns to the zero level of disorientation of certainties; the reflection on the fundamental elements of the visual medium gradually gives way to poetic expression, just as the sentences are lost in the breaths and music of Aircode.
The domestic environments, luxurious but cold and alienating, provides the ground for the alteration of different states of consciousness.
A diluted take on sub-horror themes where entry point of expression is granted by low-key image capture devices, making it a distributed platform for communication and a emotional messaging-board outside of standardised narrative installments.
Music excerpt: Aircode
Artificial intelligence can seem like a spectral force or a disembodied computation, but it consists of physical infrastructures that are reshaping the Earth, while simultaneously shifting how the world is seen and understood. By adopting a first-person perspective, which refers to the graphics of virtual open-world scenarios, Extractive Visions explores the CGI environments of a desert, a server room and a computer lab, where the recurring and symbolic element of sand evokes sandbox simulations.
The voice of the author Kate Crawford accompanies us through the environments, while the brief interruptions of the images coincide with revelatory visions, subliminal flashes showing places strategically removed from the collective imaginary, almost accessing the unconscious of the technical space.
Text is drawn from “Atlas of AI: Power, Politics, and the Planetary Costs of Artificial Intelligence” (Yale, 2020)
Video and soundtrack: Francesco Tosini
CGI: Francesco G. Gagliardi
The act of making the invisible visible drives much of the work of Elizabeth Diller’s studio. In response to the prompt given by the project Finite Rants, the author chose to make tangible the double-headed crisis that defined 2020. The visual essay Exhaustion quantifies and spatializes the intersection of a racial and medical reckoning.