in the Category: art

Whenever I make a film, I want it to have an alienating aspect

Inspired by the great surrealist and absurdist painters and filmmakers, Elko van Raemdonck explores the possibilities of the visual in his video works. Together, we visit Lenin was a Mushroom: Moving Images in the 1990s, after which we talk about video art and alienation on the windy roof of the MHKA.

Interview by Parel Wilmering
Photos shot by Aurélie Bayad

What did you think of the exhibition?

I thought it was cool. I especially liked the video Road to TATE Modern by Şener Özmen and Erkan Özgen because the characters were in the middle of nowhere looking for something that’s in the middle of a city. The experience of the exhibition itself was very well thought through, with a lot of curtains dividing up the space. When every video installation has sound, it’s hard to place them in a large space together, because the sound will bounce off the walls. 

I also liked the work Vera Cruz by Rosângela Rennó with very unclear analogue images and subtitles because you ended up focusing on the text and sound, and you really end up in a specific experience where you create an image yourself, in your head, based on what you read and hear.

you end up in a specific experience where you create an image yourself based on what you read and hear

Tell me something about your own work.

I started by taking photos, and often automatically asked myself the question: what if these images moved? From this thought, I started creating moving images. I’m very visual and analyse all images; even when I’m on the train, I constantly think about the way things look along the route. 

I’m also interested in surrealism and absurdism, and I always try to incorporate that into my work. I want to question the viewer, and I like to make works that aren’t necessarily understood at first glance. Right now, I’m working on five-minute films, and they could be interesting to watch multiple times since they’re so short. That way, you can give the viewer something that’s still open to interpretation—something you can see different things in the more you watch it. 

I want to question the viewer, and I like to make works that aren’t necessarily understood at first glance

You mentioned you like the way the films were presented in the exhibition. What would be an ideal setting for you to present your films in?

I think every film is different. The film I’m working on now is made to be seen on a large screen in a dark room, like a cinema. But I’d like to start making more video installations as well and use the space to invite the viewer into a world you can physically enter. For one of my assignments, I created a space that took the viewer to a different planet. I made a projection onto a concrete wall, as stone feels very different from white fabric. This sense of stone was also prominent in my film. I then covered the lower part of the wall, and a section of the floor, in black sand. I also worked with audio and I placed a few rocks in the space. The film I showed there was a found footage film, with clips I found online that I made into one thing. With that, I took the viewer to a planet I introduced, which, in that space, they could also see, smell, and feel.

Which artists do you admire?

I’m a big fan of De Chirico. He was a pre-surrealist painter, and for some of his works, he would sit down in a square in Italy and paint a cathedral, except he would strip the building of all its details in his paintings. There would be a strange play of shadows between this stripped building and the background. That’s where my interest in surrealism started, really. I made an artwork about this as well: a photograph inspired by De Chirico’s paintings. 

As far as alienation in art goes, I was very inspired by Roy Andersson when I saw his film About Endlessness in the FoMU cinema. The shades of grey in his work, along with the way every shot is a painting of people doing alien things, is something I find very interesting. The way all the characters’ faces are painted white makes his work strange as well, as though they were moving corpses. 

What are you working on right now?

I’m currently finishing a five-minute film about two individuals who find a connection between them through bodily movement. I’m a big fan of movement and dancing in the film; I think the way bodies move is beautiful. It’s something I would like to explore again, and then make a film that’s over ten minutes long that also explores surrealism, absurdism and alienation. I think those themes will keep following me around, and I will keep using them in my work.

I’m a big fan of movement and dancing in the film

Lenin was a Mushroom: Moving Images in the 1990s
Until 21 August - Antwerp, M HKA
Explore this exhibition for free as a Subba member