INTERVIEW – EYES / EYES / EYES / EYES
The film is punctuated by a short untitled text by Franz Kafka about the figure of Prometheus published posthumously. Why this text in particular and how did it accompany the making of the film?
‘EYES / EYES / EYES / EYES’ is an artistic project that was commissioned for an exhibition with a predetermined theme: ‘human beings’ peculiar, intense relationship with statues’ or, in other words, the acts of destruction and adoration induced by images.
The point of departure for the film is the destruction of images, the phenomenon of iconoclasm, the history of which takes place in parallel to the general history of violence. Having looked at countless examples, I realised that though the image of the effects of destruction is a highly valuable document for forensic examination, it may conceal another image: that of destruction itself. The intrinsic image of violence.
In this context, Kafka’s parable took on great relevance. Including it in the film was a subtle way of connecting the statues (which were at the origins of the project) to the physical and psychological pain caused by violence: a constant, excruciating pain that turns you to stone.
Subverting the order of the clauses and situating ourselves in a state of ontological uncertainty – between flesh and stone, between subject and object – was a way of defeating the essentialist, dichotomous discourse traditionally used to justify the use of violence. This is the real aesthetic and political driving force behind the project.
Kafka’s text in the subtitles (which is repeated in a loop three times along the film) is alternated with another text. This text written in collaboration with the poet Gabriel Ventura also recurs cyclically during the film (though with variations), like a story that repeats itself. How did you work on the writing? And could you tell us more about this circular form?
Rather than a circle, the project’s basic form is probably the sum of a spiral and a helix: geometries that can interlink and become completely unpredictable. The spiral and the helix are present not just in the spatial and narrative structure, but also in the shapes of the objects, in how they move and the relationships they establish with one another.
The way Gabriel and I worked was based on writing and the accumulation of texts: both essays and stories or poems. The texts grew in parallel to the conception and construction of the archive. We made sure the reality we were proposing truly existed, that it had its own laws and its own atmosphere, which is something only the camera could capture. It was only when we finished filming and started editing that we had a script. It was born through contact with the images and sounds, and became just another object among the amalgam of stones, photographs, fans and tube lights.
Most of the film is set in an archive that holds fragments of toppled statues and “has an unusual quality: it denies its own existence. It falls apart without warning”. What is this mysterious place supposed to be?
When I was doing research for the project, I visited various municipal warehouses where sculptures that had been vandalised and removed from the public space had been stored. There, I found out that, in the same room as the statues, they also kept piles of bagged-up bone fragments found in Barcelona when the ground has been dug up for construction work. I remember seeing one or two people sitting there, patiently classifying each fragment. The image was extremely simple and moving. Much more so than the image of any statue, whose symbolic and dramatic value is a given.
The archive that appears in the film is a fictitious place where fragments of toppled statues are kept, along with the stones used to destroy them. The image hanging above each shard indicates its origins, whether it is a photo of the statue or of a hand launching a stone at that statue. It is a space whose existence is obviously impossible and that has no presumed beginning or end.
All archives, as architecture for classification purposes, are paradoxical spaces. They are both instruments to act against oblivion, through discernment, and oblivion itself, precisely because they ordering classification, they separate and determine. The archive in the film denies its own existence by acknowledging itself as that paradoxical place. It is conscious of its status as an instrument and as architecture, as a bureaucratic device, and it sabotages itself again and again.
As we leave this archive, the film (until then in black and white) switches to colour, as if to signify the transition from one dimension to another. Could you comment on this choice?
The transition into colour marks another dimensional change, but it is not intended as an opposition to the rest of the film. Just like other variations occur throughout the course of the narration, in which new hierarchies between the elements generate alternative realities, the same happens with colour. In fact, colour appears in an exaggerated way, as a deformation of the image, which makes it as real or unreal as black and white.
With the transition to colour, the image we had already seen at the beginning of the film of a convex security mirror used to reveal blind spots returns. What led you to this choice?
The idea of recording the mirrors arose spontaneously. It was the last day of filming and we were at a depot belonging to the Barcelona municipal cleaning service, which is also used to store statues removed from public spaces (I decided not to use them in the film). While we waited for the technicians to wrap the statues in clear plastic, we decided to film freely around the place. Lorries were coming and going constantly.
We were so absorbed in the logic of filming that, at some point, everything started to seem like it was part of the world we had created: cables, mirrors, tube lights, lorries, fans… It was all there, as though we were in a delirium. What’s more, in the park above the depot, there was a pond with a waterfall and a sculpture that was literally just two stones, one next to the other, like those in the archive. The different-coloured buildings, the palm trees, the lamp posts, the ventilation chimneys, and even the people had a strange presence. Once again, the camera intervened to decipher that reality, which was as banal as it was enigmatic.
Sound (and silence) are extremely important in the film, which closes on the long, slow creaking of a dead leaf. How did you conceive the soundtrack?
Sound was extremely important during the creation process. But there was never a set script for the sound, just like everything else. We were guided by the aesthetic relationships between the different elements, which were more defined by sound accidents than by the images themselves: the scratching of stones, the vibrations of the archive, the hum of the fan, the clattering of the service lift, etc.
The creaking of the death leaf, the sound that ends the film, was filmed just for fun, but it ended up being kept in the final cut. Just like the film begins with the camera observing itself, showing Marc (Cuscó, the director of photography) when he starts and stops filming, it ends with Nora (Haddad, the sound engineer) creating a sound track that is played until the end, until she decides to stop recording.
Ultimately, the camera and the recorder were objects that actively interacted with the other elements of that reality, as did the lights, the stones and the humans. The fact that they portrayed themselves emphasises this objectual, relational condition.
And finally, how to interpret the title of the film?
The title ‘EYES / EYES / EYES / EYES’ emerged while we were preparing for filming, like a kind of premonition of the final form the film would take. It works like an image. It has no meaning in itself and it does not refer to any specific cultural or linguistic context. It therefore allows for all possible translations.
The French version, which we are preparing for its world premiere at FIDMarseille, has been translated as ‘YEUX / YEUX / YEUX / YEUX’. It’s quite beautiful. When you translate it, the title changes completely, because the image formed is radically different, yet it refers to exactly the same thing, the same object repeated four times: eyes that are always the same and yet different.
Interview by Marco Cipollini