U/Tropia: Showroom & Lie-Down Cinema

In cooperation with Wiener Festwochen.

The word utopia stands for a mostly ideal, distant vision that is incompatible with the present. Tropia is a medical term for the deviation of an eye when focusing on an object. The term zoetrope describes an optical device and forerunner of cinema, whose effect is based on the interaction of technical possibilities and human perception. A dystopia is a fictional story set in the future, often with a negative outcome. U/Tropia is an installation and visual artwork whose overall effect results from the combination of two different viewing perspectives, i.e. the movement of running, or simply lying down. Brent Meistre of Rhodes University in Grahamstown (South Africa) and Daniel Ebner of VIS Vienna Independent Shorts Festival have set up their U/Tropia, whose name deliberately recurs to concepts drawn from medicine, technology and society, as both a showroom and a lie-down cinema. The shorts presented open up U/Tropia as a space for new perspectives on the past, present and future.
U/Tropia evokes an amalgamation of interwoven associations. The most immediate is probably the most well-known - the imaginary non-space of 'Utopia'. That fictional island in the Atlantic Ocean conjured up in Thomas More's 1516 book, took on a role not unlike that, which "Africa" plays for the "West" today, constructed from imagery and narratives. The title of this exhibition thus infers a relationship to Europe. The literal translation of the Greek word Utopia is "not" and "place", indicating that in defining ourselves we construct something other than our own realities, which actually cannot exist. Representations of the African continent have appeared both as utopian and as dehumanisingly dystopian, particularly in the history of cinema. Vision, with its power to project, highlight, render invisible, frame and scrutinize, thus becomes the primary materiality in this show. For this reason, at moments in the show, seeing becomes dissociated, ruptured, and deprived of understanding, to subvert and challenge expectations. (Brent Meistre)

Focus: State of the Art

Short Film between Cinema and Art

Moving pictures already left their original home, the cinema, many decades ago. The alleged search for a new, maybe better home, however, never came up with anything concrete. Instead we have a vast number of presentation spaces today for analogue and digital formats. And actually it’s not about the puristic question of finding the “right” space for film anymore, but rather of using the various spaces – the “fluid screens” (Marchessault/Lord) – for moving pictures in the right way.
For short films in particular, breaking out of the “black box” has always been and remains very appealing. The non market-based format doesn’t conform to the usual commercial standards, and who wants to be permanently degraded to be the supporting film and appetizer anyway? Therefore art spaces with their light walls and proximity to the art market can be auspicious places for expanded moving pictures, but presentation in the “white cube” often also has its pitfalls.

While the two spheres – art and cinema – used to be clearly separated, the boundaries are more blurred today. More and more museums are integrating their own cinemas into their premises (often without knowing exactly what to show there). And cinemas and festivals alike are increasingly discovering the exhibition space to make particular works accessible “live” with the aid of performative means.

This year we want to take this topic on board, exploring the situation of short films between the art and cinema context in The State of the Art. For this we bring art into the cinema and paint moving pictures on the screen; we examine how the means of art and cinema address political processes; and, in cooperation with the Wiener Festwochen and the Filmarchiv Austria, we have prepared especially curated exhibitions of short works at the Künstlerhaus and METRO Kinokulturhaus. Be prepared for discoveries.