Visual Territories

Today abstraction is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror, or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being, or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal.” Simulacra and Simulation by Jean Baudrillard. Theo Tagholm’s short film of the same title begins to disseminate images of the landscape and enters a new understanding of the environment. Be inspired by one of the Artists’ Films that screened at ASFF 2016 and push boundaries into the everyday.

A: Simulacra is based upon the idea that abstraction is no longer something that can be mapped – it has become integral to the landscape as a manifestation of the hyperreal. How have you used film to demonstrate this idea, and how do you think that the short form has been the best way to express it?
TT: To me the hyperreal was a starting point, but perhaps its a hyper unreal as all the footage I used was stock footage, so I have had no experience of creating those images, no more so than the viewer. But the images, those of America, from an aerial view, speak to a collective subconscious that we all have now, we’ve all been to America in our cinema experience. I wanted the viewer to see the images stacked on the other, the something else that we never see, propped up by the photographic hierarchy, photographic propaganda for a real that can be quantified by a singular image. The sheer number of images and videos now stack up, many of the same things, do we need to place more on top? There is a turning point in the film with the empire state building upside down, puncturing the plane of the sky, this to me represents the new hyperreal within the narrative of the film, the man made nature of the real stacked on top, the image trumping the experience.

In the film we begin with shots of nature – as we progress through the film we encounter suburbs, the roads that link them, the urban metropolis tipped on its head and the images become more fractured until a tipping point changes the nature of the city. Simulacra is about the nature of, our bombardment by and relationship to the image. The fracturing surface in the film recalls observations of the field of vision, the act of looking. The surface, the frame, image, origin, original, copy, real and re-real.

The frame of the image is commodifying the terrain and framing our relation to it. The signifier and signified become more disparate as the layers segment off – cut – quarantined ­from the original location they become their own truth. The fragments become a frame in themselves, constituting a new real, a new nature of our cities, that again become processed by our notions of nature and the state we exist in. A Duchampian notion of the Infra-slim also comes into play here – where the image sits on the real and is separate, but at the same time joined by a shared real.

The image becomes a symbol of the construct of our cities, built by ourselves, out of nature becoming a new nature – a habitat of the real, an institution of how we are. So saturated in the image of the city as us and nature as outside the real, we see the wild as all outside the city.

A: Where did the idea for this piece originate?
TT: I have always been interested in the idea of the surface, especially the photographic surface and how this slips from the thing that it is. How the real flutters away in a photo to become something else in itself. I wanted to help the viewer see the image, you know a camera can’t see what it’s representing but a human selects a thing with the image as the thing it looks at. I wanted these things to become the fragment of seeing, breaking apart the hierarchy of the photographic order.

A: How do you think that your film reflects the idea of the digital age?
TT: I think there is an ennui that sits on the surface of the photo, a new loss of God, a loss of the real, or FOMOR (fear of missing out on the real) A constant upgrading of resolution makes all your images a touch low res, there’s a feeling that your memories and images aren’t quite up to it and will in turn (of course) become redundant. These images have become a rhetorical unless shared, validated by the sharing but they still sit on the surface and can’t puncture the experience – no amount of 3-D effects will do this.

A: Where does this film sit within your practice as a combination of both art and film – pushing forward images of cityscapes into a textured motion picture? 
TT: To me this film is furthering my considerations on looking and seeing.

A: Are you interested in the dialogue and distinction between art and film?
TT: I don’t feel that there’s a need for distinction between art and film, it’s more the distinction between art and YouTube these days!

A: Increasingly, it seems, contemporary practices are looking at a sense of collage, or multi-disciplinary threads, seeking something new and innovative that harnesses technology. Is your work representative of this?
TT: I think that photography and film making have become problematised by themselves, I think people are just looking to get a bit deeper and bit more under the skin of things at the moment, we’re all looking to break the machine.

A: What filmmakers are you influenced by?
TT: Painters have really shaped my film making, it’s that act of looking that really drives my work. Hockney and his work and his great book on optics really interests me. Gerhard Richter I really wanted to emulate as a painter but I’ve realised that it’s his re-painting of the photograph that is of interest to me, making the surface, saying what is this photo thing to re-present on the canvas? Of course I love a bit of Wim Wenders, Lynch and Takashi Ito.

A: How do you think that film festivals are shaping the careers of filmmakers like yourself?
TT: I hope film festivals bring films you might not click on to a wider audience. I worry sometimes that they are sightly insular and inward looking but getting the images on a scale not possible in the home is great for seeing them in a cinematic way.

ASFF is open for entries until 31 May. Show us your work and you could be screening with us in 2017. For more information:

1. Theo Tagholm’s Simulacra. Courtesy of Vimeo.