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Serge Garcia

Serge Garcia
The actor-director picks up the old telephone, hangs up, over and over again ; the soundman records all the takes. We are on the film set of Declan Clarke’s latest opus, What are the wild waves saying? (FID 2022). To concentrate on the sound takes of an almost silent film : here is an economy of attention, of caring for details. Serge Garcia shows us a string of sequences of flourishing activity, culminating in collective silence and careful listening. Until in the end Declan Clarke shares, in voice-over, his artistic and intellectual heritage, the nexus of all the moments of labour and observation shown here. (Nathan Letoré)

Interview with Serge Garcia

Antenna was shot during the making of another film, What are the wild waves saying ? by Declan Clarke, on which you worked as a crew member. How did this encounter happen, and why did you decide to make a film of the process?

Declan and I met at FID in 2021. We connected one evening when he shared an experience he’d had the night before where he got mugged at 3am in Marseille by two men and then proceeded to clarify how that incident intersected with his marxist ethics when he declined to file a criminal complaint at the police station that would identify the assailants. Suffice to say I really appreciated his disdain for cops and his marxist leanings. It laid the groundwork for a friendship that has since evolved in Berlin where we both live and work.
Initially Declan approached me about shooting What Are The Wild Waves Saying? but I politely declined for fear of ruining his film with my lack of technical knowledge about lighting and my general lack of confidence when it comes to operating the camera (I was brought in as his 1st Assistant Director for the shoot instead). We shot for a couple of days in The Stasi Museum in Berlin. This building houses the ghosts of the repressive stranglehold of the police state during the GDR (German Democratic Republic) so I thought it would be a missed opportunity to not document the making of Dec’s film within the walls of one of the most chilling institutions of the Cold War. This project was made possible with Declan’s generous support – he supplied me with like 3 or 4 32m rolls of expired kodak film from his refrigerator and his Bolex. He proceeded to also cover the processing and scanning expenses with the budget from What Are The Wild Waves Saying? I didn’t want my appetite to shoot a film about Dec making a film to interfere with my actual paid work as his AD so I found pockets of time to shoot behind-the-scenes style footage during calm moments when he and his cinematographer Simon Köcher were setting up shots and doing light meter readings, etc.

Your film gives a key position to sound recording and music, while Declan Clarke’s film is in many ways almost silent! Why this choice?

Prior to the production of both films, Dec, Simon and I had the opportunity to visit Rosa Barba’s exhibition “In a Perpetual Now” at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin. I loved the show and was struck by how the sound and music from the various installation pieces interacted and sometimes clashed to create an elastic ball of sound in the room. This visceral and layered sound experience made me feel warm inside and planted the seed for how to approach the sound for Antenna.
I recorded audio of our film set without telling anyone. I could have mentioned something to the crew but I wanted to catch wild audio tracks that convey the conversations and film production lingo that often colors a film set without anyone censoring their speech or mannerism. I could have also asked the crew for their permission but then it wouldn’t have been as fun… At any rate, the idea to layer all of these audio files evolved from my experience at Barba’s show, even the jazzy drum solo flourishes. I edited the film before ever seeing a cut of What Are The Wild Waves Saying? so I followed my intuition without worrying about how Dec would edit his film or use sound and silence. I had the feeling he would like the abstract approach to sound for this project. Especially its references to Barba’s expansive cinematic installation. She’s an artist that we both admire.

Antenna culminates with a voice-over declaration by Declan Clarke concerning his political, historical, and aesthetic position. Could you tell us more about this declaration : was it part of a wider interview? Why choose to include it as a voice-over ? Why only choose this section?

Somewhere along the line I knew the film would need more context to outline Dec’s work. So in an attempt to add another dimension to the film I asked Dec if he’d be open for a short 40min interview to inject a bit of narrative into the project to help outline his relationship to left-wing politics and its history, marxism, and how these things intersect with his art practice. He obliged. I’m interested in debunking and/or critiquing notions of creativity and authenticity within the arts because it often perpetuates a romantic and generic myth of “the artist.” I can’t speak for Declan on this but it was important for me to weave this into the film and have him talk about his work in a way that situates his art practice as a critique of society and culture that is infused with historical analysis and class consciousness. I feel like Dec’s work does this well which is how I came up with the title of the film: Antenna.

Interview by Nathan Letoré

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Technical sheet

United States, Ireland, Germany / 2022 / Colour / 16 mm / 9’

Original version : english
Subtitles : english
Script : Serge Garcia
Photography : Serge Garcia
Editing : Serge Garcia
Sound : Serge Garcia
With : Declan Clarke
Production : Declan Clarke (Trouble Pictures).
Selective Filmography: A General Disappointment, 2022
Cycle One, 2021
Grand Central Hotel, 2021
El Patojo, 2020
Noncompliant, 2019
Gordo As Gordo, 2019
A Child Of House: Shaun J.Wright, 2019 Jackie House, 2018.