What I Miss About People, and What I Don't Miss About People (Norway | 2017, 11 min)
Directed by: Marte Aas
The dog moves around in a deserted rock landscape where she has settled for unknown reasons. This landscape, with small traces of human activity, suggests a disaster that has wiped out all of civilization, while hinting at human exploitation of natural resources as a possible cause of the disaster. However, the dog does not appear to be affected, it talks about extremely prosaic things as it traverses around the quarry.
Interview:An Interview with Marte Aas, director of "What I Miss About People, and What I Don't Miss About People," conducted by Caleb Dawdy, Curator of Art & Experimental Film
CD: I would like to begin with asking about your history in film and art. What were some of your first entry points into art, and then specifically filmmaking?
MA: I was educated as a still photographer during the 1990s, and with the post structuralist discourse and the emerging post conceptualist strategies that ruled the art scene in those days, I soon became interested in the more expanded field of photography. Video and film became a part of my way of working as an artist.
CD: What style of art did you begin with, and how have your storytelling forms changed and/or stayed the same?
MA: With my background as a photographer, I have always been interested in photography´s potential for telling stories and carrying narratives. This interest evolved to film. In fact, the first film I made was a video reconstruction of a photograph. I wanted to compare and investigate the narrative structures in moving vs. still images. In addition to this, I have always worked with a reductionist strategy, a kind of "less is more" approach, trying to make room for the viewer and their possibilities to project their own stories and ideas into the work.
CD: The use of this dog to tell this story of a “post-human” world is both perfectly suited and easy to connect to, could you discuss the impetus for this story? Did you think first, what would our pets be doing...or rather, would our pets tell this story best?
MA: I became interested in this particular location, a granite quarry, because of its formal qualities and because it depicts human intervention with nature in a very tangible way. I started filming there without any idea about the plot. I was extremely concerned with the concept of the Anthropocene at the time, and how this concept alters the way we have to look at nature. But also how it is anthropocentric, universalist and capitalist-technocratic and assumes a generalised anthropos, whereby all humans are equally implicated and all equally affected. This is not true, of course. The idea of making a vision of the future with a dog as the lone protagonist emerged from these ideas.
CD: Were there any other versions of this story, whether in format, delivery or genre? If so, could you speak to how and why the changes were made to deliver the piece we see here?
MA: I started to work with the granite quarry wanting to make lithographs (images of stone reproduced using stone) but the place was so cinematic, so I just had to make a film as well.
CD: Working with film also seems to fit this story perfectly. It’s a medium that is classically understood, and though expensive and at times volatile, it does seem like the medium that would exist after society crumbles. Were you always planning to use film with this piece? Could you describe your history, or other projects of yours, with film?
MA: I was planning to use film with this piece quite early on. Although I also work with different medias, such as images, objects or installations, trying to create an intertextuality between the different works. In my latest solo exhibition at the Center for Photography in Copenhagen, I showed several films, photographs and printed matter as one big installation.
CD: What are some of your influences in art and storytelling?
MA: I find lots of influences in art, both from established artists showing at the big biennales around the world and from students I work with or random meetings with artworks in galleries or venues. I am particularly interested in art that challenges me, gives me insight, or moves a thought in one way or another.
CD: What are some of your influences in cinema specifically?
MA: In cinema I am influenced by many different practices such as materialist film, documentary film, avant garde cinema and post internet strategies.
CD: In using film and a live animal, it’s easy to see that there could be a few hiccups in that journey. Were there any large issues filming this?
MA: My dog Pepper, playing the role of the female dog in the film, told me that he likes to act in front of the camera and that he would love to do another film soon. At one point I wanted to include a couple of peacocks on the set, but they weren't as cooperative, unfortunately.
CD: What were some beautiful moments that you encountered by accident when making this film? The film is shot on 16mm with a Bolex camera and in the starting phase of the production I was experimenting with double exposure. In one of the rolls of film something wrong happened and the footage turned out blurry, unstable and not double exposed at all. This footage became the centerpiece of the film, working as a visualisation of the instability in the landscape and the dog´s world.
CD: If anything, what do you hope that an audience takes away thinking or feeling after seeing your film?
MA: Maybe some new thoughts or perspectives on life, humanism or the future?
CD: Do you have any films or projects coming up that we can keep our eyes open for?
MA: I am making a new film about the painter Edvard Munch´s connection to the weather, meteorology, climate changes and geo engineering. Munch's famous painting "The Scream" is said to be the visualization of an inner landscape, but some meteorologists think it might have been an actual weather phenomena he saw before painting the motif. And that this phenomena is connected to air pollution. The film is commissioned by Haugar Vestfold Art museum.