• CNAP Award  
  • Flash Competition


Liv Schulman

Liv Schulman enjoys working with figures who become alter egos of sorts. After the investigator in her metaphysical detective series Control, she introduces us to a new avatar. The point here is to reach a certain level of exposure. Thus, in the opening scene, we discover bit by bit this mutant clone and her peculiar attire, who recounts her dreams through puzzling images. This figure, a crude collage of CGI fragments and live-action shots, exudes angst and desires. This material guides us though a disorienting journey, mixing a string of personal obsessions, including references to Marx, Freud, Haraway and many others, with a delightful sense of humour – a trademark of Schulman’s work (films, texts, installations, performances). Under the guise of a fun delirium, in a floating world with an unquiet language, here and there appear a protuberant breast, a giant leech, humanoid earthworms, stones and other fluid or soft figures with low-fi digital bodies. From one digression to the next, often peppered with kinky associations, the political gesture that slowly takes shape invokes sex and libido (obviously), the affairs of the world (a vociferation about Perón), scatology (Freud again, as always), the economy, and a joyfully mocked masculinity. With a clone that perpetually goes wrong, breaks down and gets going again, the film keeps moving forward like a tornado in slow motion, a cozy nightmare, all the while poking fun at our contemporary failings. Persona is a journey though the realm of urges and fears – the raw materials of some libidinal politics -, and beyond the initial prompting to create, it deals with tangible realities, our actual and even scarier form of delirium.
(Nicolas Feodoroff)

Interview with Liv Schulman

As an artist, you do performance, write and direct films. Persona is linked to an exhibition at the Fundación Andreani in Buenos Aires. How did the project come about?

Persona came into being as an in situ project. It reprises a character I am familiar with, who is an artist without too many ideas caught up in the machinations of creative production. This character I play was already featured in the previous series Brown Yellow White and Dead: she’s an artist who no longer knows what to do. I happened to have an exhibition in Buenos Aires that was going to take place at the Andreani Foundation, a building from the colonial era that has been converted into a brutalist museum. I thought it would be interesting to use the exhibition space itself as raw material for my intervention and I asked the Foundation’s audiovisual department to send me some videos of the place. Once I received them, I began to watch them and imagined, through a collage process, how the character could be so desperate that in pursuit of their imagination, they begin to live in the museum, in order to fulfill the request to turn their life into an exhibition. This led the character to live in their own filth, their own detritus, bodily fluids, snot and their own imagined smells. For example, in the opening scene, the character dreams. I wanted something very intimate, very vulnerable to happen in the institution. Then I added the character of Ariela Bergman, my best friend who is a cinematographer and who also co-directed the image of the film. I represent her with a disproportionate body and a small camera in her hand to explain her job. And then we used 3D models available for free download to make props. The result is a bit self-deprecating and a bit pathetic, as usual.

Self-deprecation that manifests itself in a taste for the grotesque?

Let’s say that the main reason for doing all this is to use humor as a weapon of criticism and the necessity of not working whilst working, of participating in this phenomenon which is our relationship to work. If I want to pinpoint what I think is funny and important, I have to start with my experience. In the film, I am the first to put myself in a very silly, uncomfortable, even unflattering situation, such as when the character hasn’t written anything for ten years. As for the father figure, it’s me disguised inside a grotesque flashback. I wanted to talk about an economic crisis that I grew up with, and which still interests me. Animation allows this flexible approach – it allows you to do anything, which is always rewarding.

Digital images, real characters and also these strange animal figures with bodies that are constructed and dismantled. What led you to this hybrid form?

As I said, I was interested in the process of collage, of creating or compiling with the preliminary elements of the script: the museum, the holes in the wall, the pipelines where the energy of the film was to flow, which had already been filmed at my request. The rest of the film was shot in pajamas, without leaving my house, for a week and what followed was to put grotesque bodies to faces and bodies modeled in 3D. I liked the idea of creating an alternative reality, based on something we are supposed to know but which is constantly unraveling and which proposes a hybridisation with its material. I wanted to propose human and non-human forms, and I have always liked mixing media, hybrids and self-deprecation.

How did you come up with this gallery of characters who belong to the art world for the most part? The idea of a kind of community?

I wanted to work with different versions of what I already knew or had to hand, including myself, because the characters are inspired by me and my friends, and played by us. My gallerists had been to the house a few days before and I asked them to play themselves, and the same with the museum and the camerawoman. I like the idea of an intimate community, because the film takes the pitch of a community of neighbors who start to make craft beer almost with their own bodies thus creating a communal monster. And also it was something of a game and homage, to ask friends to film just their faces with a phone and then think of a body to create a character whose personality we know more or less. As it’s animation, we could imagine anything, humans, stones, animals, anything could happen.

In addition to a sense of humour and ridicule, the art world encompasses desires, dreams, economics and politics, all of which are recurrent preoccupations of yours. The same goes for language, which plays a very important part in your work. How was the text written?

It started with a very intimate writing process that was based on real dreams I had in 2016 and 2017. My writing process is actually lengthy and obsessive, I produce a lot of writing that I keep in files for years. I wanted my character to be very exposed, even vulnerable, to all the possible changes, macro and micro: their thriftiness, the drive to make a living out of art, their submissive relationship to the actors and gallery owners, etc. What amuses me is to see how elements of the political order affect everyday life, and I wanted to work on humor, which is a critical element for me. I don’t necessarily try to be funny, but the absurdity of life to which the characters are subjected in their relationship to the institution and to the reasons for making a film, for example, always makes me laugh. I then structured the film around the idea of characters who are added either to make a request, or to demand something, or to transform themselves or the character. The key idea I worked with was transformation, because I wanted the character to change or learn something towards the end of the film. It’s a pretty classic process actually! So I had to steer the writing towards that end, except that what the character learns at the end is frankly useless.

Why did you use the digital image in an unsophisticated form?

Actually we didn’t have much time and we had mastered 3D to a certain degree, the 3D process generally is very lengthy and we wanted to do something more rough and ready, more of a collage, layered, amateurish thing. I thought it would be funny if the characters were very crude, close to who we are but out of step, in a divergent future, which wouldn’t be very well shot. Besides, our working group with Ariela Bergman is called “Gruppo Innoble” which means ignoble group in a language we’re not even sure of.

Interviewed by Nicolas Feodoroff

  • CNAP Award  
  • Flash Competition

Technical sheet

Argentina / 2022 / Colour / 17’

Original version : spanish
Subtitles : english, french
Script : Liv Schulman, Ariela Bergman
Photography : Ariela Bergman
Editing : Ariela Bergman
Music : Valentin Bonnet
Sound : Fernando Mannassero

Production : Pauline Ghersi (Visage Productions).

Filmography :
The New Inflation, 2021
Brown Yellow White and Dead, 2020
Le Gouvernement, 2019
L’Obstruction, 2018
Control a Tv Show, 2010-2017
La desaparición, 2013