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We think that in 2019, the currency of the notion “expanded”, derived from the historical “expanded cinema” of the 1960s that gave our section its name in the early 2000s, has become questionable. At a time where moving images are literally pervasive in most of our lives, the “expansion” and debordering of cinema arguably takes place according to different parameters, if at all. While it might share the rejection of the systemic parameters of cinema and of its protocols of valorisation with the old avant-garde, it is also reflective of a changing relationship between life/subjectivity and the moving image.

One could say that the Forum Expanded, now in its 14th year, is the part of the festival where filmmakers who want to get out of the cinema and artists who want to get into it find their place. The majority of the artists whose works we show arguably belong to neither side, but the polemics of this idea are worth considering, regardless of how reductive or anachronistic. This is because they make us wonder once again about what the space of art – with all its shortcomings and pretentions – might have to offer to the cinema. And we believe that what it primarily has to offer is not merely a line of flight but also a sort of reflexive negation. That is why we have called this year’s edition “Antikino”.

Surprisingly, this is not actually a term with a set of fixed historical references. But it certainly invokes a history of the relationship between the cinema and the arts. It makes us think of the iconoclastic negations and rebellions within the cinema, which have none too seldom found no other place of refuge and appreciation than the avant-garde art museum. It also recalls that the critical and philosophical appreciation of cinema as art was throughout the 20th century frequently based on the negation of cinematic conventions, such the refusal of narrative logic or the libidinal normalisation implied by it. Only insofar as the cinema resisted becoming a mirror-hall of “synthetic identifications” (Lyotard) and steeped in aspects of the real that subverted the cinematic representability of life, it has been discussed not as mass entertainment but rather as being at eye-level with those other arts that were equally defined by self-negation. Such negations, which characterize modernity in the arts, inevitably add a reflective and “debordering” dimension, according to which the cinema is positioned as an epistemological and psycho-mimetic laboratory.

At the present time, when cinematic conventions are being ever more fine-tuned to statistic meridians and viewing habits, and the private self increasingly hinges on its mediation by more or less raw moving images, leaving the mirror-hall of identificatory desires – by questioning the cinematic representability of life – no longer appears as an artistic promise. An anti-cinema today can no longer easily base itself on everything that the apparatus of cinematic conventions forecloses. That is also why there is less and less contrast and tension between moving images in the cinema and the gallery space.

Perhaps it is thus worth contemplating a notion of Antikino that it is neither heroic, nor primarily formal or structural. We might connect this genealogy of the anti-cinema with a critical negation of the biopolitics of the moving image. Such critical negation is inherent to the refusal of the “synthetic identifications” that undergird the cinema as an echo chamber of the libidinal economy. From this point of view, cinema and its historical dialectics appear as a membrane that always registers “life” deficiently, even as this deficiency is in fact a surplus of life, that which pierces through the echo chamber, a materialist adaptation and realization of the rupture that is technically reproduced, animate image with regards to life. These are then the forms of negation to which we dedicate our notion of Antikino: namely those that render the (deficient) mobilisation and valorisation of life itself thematic.
For us, “Antikino” functions not as a descriptive term for the work shown at the 2019 edition of Forum Expanded. “Antikino” attempts instead to respond to the historical changes in the status of the moving image, asking how this status has changed in its relation to life, whether culturally, economically, technologically or ontologically. Structural film, expanded cinema and militant detournements of the cinema were historically directed against the reductiveness of cinematic and narrative conventions and their role in social reproduction. “Expanded cinema” was primarily an anti-disciplinary transgression, an opening-up of possibles combined with a materialist critique of spectacle and normative psychology. The “expanded” image culture that later emerged in the wake of technological innovations in the sign of the digital, however, suggested that a bio-political function of moving images was becoming consolidated: The function of the ubiquitous narcissistic mirror mirrored the post-Fordist imperative: the submission of labour could no longer remain formal. The dependency needed to assume a subjective character: it was now “living labour as living which needs to be subjugated” (Yann Moulier Boutang, 1998). The de-limited, ubiquitous moving image was the tool and the stage for an intensified extractivism; a primitive accumulation in the realm of subjectivity and life. The deepening of capitalist relations in neoliberalism and the rise of the digital culturally established an equation between the flows of capital and animation. But this equation has since been turned upside-down: in our distributed image-culture, the moving image no longer operates along a nexus of affective mobilisation and capitalisation, but increasingly stands for the catastrophic devaluation and expendability of life under financialised digital capitalism.

And this is where the “Siren’s Echo Chamber” comes in. The subtitle poses the question of survival and a possible escape route from an entrapped present. A mythological theme – that of the singing sirens and the Odyssey – is transposed into a present defined by experiences of migration, displacement, of intensified devalorisation, and affective feedback loops – or echo chambers. The sirens also symbolise both lure and alarm: The mythical and dangerous voices of seduction holding the listener in a deadly embrace and the sirens that sound the alarm of imminent catastrophe. We heard those dual voices communicating across several of the films and cinematic works or installations with which we were confronted this year. We are certain that they will be seen and heard by our audiences as well; even if they are wildly shape-shifting and don’t add up to one single narrative.

Some of their manifestations may be named: specifically, the shrieking mermaids in Karrabing Film Collective’s film that speak of a dying planet against the backdrop of the colonial intensification of extractivism in Australia; the ghosts of Fordism in the Amazon in Susana de Sousa DiasFordlandia Malaise, and the film that most directly references the Homerian myth: The Silence of the Sirens by Diana Vidrascu. But everything in this film is situated at a tipping point, at a point of possible inversion and groundlessness. It uses Kafka’s reinterpretation of the Odyssey, in which the sirens are not singing but silent, as a metaphoric structure. The film follows an actress liv-ing in Paris as she begins to question her relation to her birthplace, Martinique. It is not the echo chamber, but rather an anechoic, entirely soundproofed room that becomes an allegory for an anaesthetised present and the condition of severed relations.

The image we hope might emerge from the works we have invited to this 14th edition of Forum Expanded is that they turn the screen into a carefully calibrated membrane – calibrated like a sensory organ to register the sirens’ multiple voices – the drifts and callings of history. It seemed to us that being receptive to such callings and drifts is a shared ambition among experimental filmmakers today, much more than formal experimentation. To be receptive, but not adrift.

There are moments when the foil of myth liberates and sensitises the cultural tools used to make sense of the world, enriching and activating the polyphony and polysemy of images and narratives. The trickery necessary to escape the sirens in the canonical Greek myth might then perhaps also be interpreted as a necessary and conscious rejection of the lure – especially the lure and fantasies of homecoming, of fixed identities, of unambiguous meaning and of safe grounds and systemic certainty. We want to suggest that you look at the aesthetic choices and formal decisions made by the authors of this year’s works as such techniques of rejecting the lure. It is only beyond the echo chamber into which such lures lead that the cinema screen becomes a membrane that can be used to set sail – beyond the bounds of communally or systemically secured identity. Beyond its gendered heroism then, the Odyssey might tell us today that true knowledge is derived from the experience of migration. And that identity, by some irresistible drift of modernity, has itself become an echo chamber.

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