Wednesday, 2 October 2019

AVANT KINEMA - Upcoming Screenings

AVANT KINEMA - FILM SCREENINGS - August to December, 2019


Location: Glasgow
Festival / Venue: Hedera Felix / ROST
Programme: Mycelia (issue 2) & SisM (issue 1) Launch
Film: In The Dark I Sat (2012)
Dates & Times:
Thurs 29th Aug, 7pm start


Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Festival / Venue: Art Walk Porty: Portobello Promenade
Programme: Tracing The Tide,
Film: Boy and the Sea (silent, 2019)
Dates & Times: Sat 7th / Thurs 12th, 9-10.15pm
Status: World Premier


Location: London, England
Festival / Venue: Portobello Film Festival, Westbank
Programme: Anne Pigalle & Art Films
Film: Ghost Worlds (Animal Rites) (2019)
Dates & Times: Thurs 12th, 6-10pm
Status: World Premier


Location: Split, Croatia
Festival / Venue: Kino Klub Split
Programme: All Female Evening / Powered by Agitate:21C
Film: Alphonso's Jaw (2016)
Dates & Times: Fri 20th Sept, starting 7.15pm


Location: Sweden
Festival / Venue: Västerås Film Festival
Programme: 1-Min
Film: Boy and the Sea (60 secs, 2019)
Dates & Times:
Sat 12th October, starting 4.30pm


Location: USA
Festival / Venue: Connect: International Videoarts Festival, University of Tampa, Florida
Programme: Film, Animation and New Media department
Film: Atrocity (2014)
Dates & Times:
23rd October, 6-9pm


Location: USA
Festival / Venue: Engauge Experimental Film Festival, Interbay Cinema Society, Seattle
Programme: --
Film: SuperFly Super 8 circa Nineteen Seventy-Seven (2016)
Dates & Times:
7th November

Status: Semi-Finalist


Location: Brazil
Festival / Venue: International Panorama: Pinacoteca Ruben Berta Museum, Porto Alegre, Brazil
Programme: Videoart and Experimental Cinema volume 2
Film: Boy and the Sea (2019)
Dates & Times:
7th & 8th November, 7pm.


Location: Edinburgh
Festival / Venue: Edinburgh Short Film Festival, Summerhall
Programme: Conventionality Isn't Me
Film: Boy and the Sea (2019)
Dates & Times:
9th Nov, 7.30pm


Location: Australia
Festival / Venue: North Bellarine Film Festival
Programme: Film & Video Art / Blast From The Past
Film: Ghost Worlds (10 mins, 2019) / Superfly Super 8 circa 1977 (2016)
Dates & Times:
Festival runs 15th to 17th November


Location: Brazil
Festival / Venue: International Panorama: O Sítio Art and Technology, Florianópolis, Brazil
Programme: Videoart and Experimental Cinema volume 2
Film: Boy and the Sea (2019)
Dates & Times:
26th October


Location: Edinburgh
Festival / Venue: Open: SSA + VAS at the RSA (Royal Scottish Academy)
Programme: CutLog - Artists Moving Image
Film: Boy and the Sea (2019)
Dates & Times:
Exhibition runs 22nd December to 5th February 2020


Wednesday, 4 September 2019

AVANT KINEMA International Screenings / 10 Year Anniversary / New Biography / Free Downloads

AVANT KINEMA PRESS RELEASE: Avant Reekie, Parallel Portobellos + International Screenings

2019 is the tenth anniversary year of Borders based duo Sarahjane Swan and Roger Simian's "creative collaboration across multiple art-forms". Known initially for their Indie songs and accompanying "low cost, high concept DIY music videos", under the name The Bird And The Monkey, Swan and Simian began making short no budget experimental films and fully immersive video art installations in 2012. The pair recently rebranded themselves as Avant Kinema to reflect this broadening of their artistic practice into cinematic, artistic and literary realms.

The first half of this year was mostly spent returning to music: Bird Monkey's haunting collaboration with Prague based English bluesman, Justin Lavash; the free download re-release of 2015 mini-album, Moon Moth, and the limited edition CD release of the Ghost Worlds (Animal Rites) soundtrack LP - Avant Kinema's collaboration with hand-pan player, Undertoad. An e.p. of tracks taken from this is still free to download courtesy of Sparks From The Mothership.

2019, part two, is all about the films for Swan and Simian. They already have forthcoming screenings lined up as far and wide as London, Sweden, Croatia, Australia, the USA, Brazil and closer-to-home, in the Scottish capital.

"Yes, I guess we'll mostly remember 2019 as our Edinburgh year," says Sarahjane Swan. "Back in June we had one of our hand-processed Super 8 films included in the EIFF Walk With Us project. Basically, what that involved was the screening of a collaboratively made film at the Filmhouse on the closing day of the Edinburgh Film Festival."

Roger Simian, interjects: "The editor for the project had stitched together work by 14 filmmakers from throughout Scotland into a kind of cinematic patchwork quilt. Each segment was quite different - I think ours was the only one shot on analogue film - but it all joined seamlessly together to make a unified whole because of the great editing and the shared theme: Walk With Us."

"It was very exciting," beams Sarahjane. "We'd previously attended a screening at the Filmhouse as part of the festival when we were shortlisted for the EIFF Short Film Challenge in 2016. Of course that was splendid, but this time they awarded us with our first ever gongs and really gave us the red carpet treatment."

"Johnny Walker was the sponsor of the event," explains Roger, "and so we were both handed a golden statuette of the Walking Man in the Top-Hat and a personalized bottle of Walkers' Black Label whisky."

Perks of being picked for EIFF's short-form strand also included: attending the red carpet premier of Mrs Lowry & Son at the lavish Festival Theatre, concerning the tumultuous relationship between the artist L.S. Lowry (Timothy Spall) and his bed-ridden mother (Vanessa Redgrave); plus an invitation to the Festival's Closing Gala Party in the plush surroundings of the Playfair Library Hall.

Swan and Simian also recently received notification that their latest short film, Boy and the Sea – shot in Ayr on long-expired Super 8 film and processed using household ingredients (Caffenol) – is to be projected silently along Edinburgh's Portobello Promenade this month as part of the Art Walk Porty Festival. The same film will later screen, with the addition of full sound, at Summerhall, as part of Edinburgh Short Film Festival, in November.

"It's fantastic to have landed EIFF, Art Walk Porty and the Edinburgh Short Film Festival all in the same year," says Roger Simian, "and because we were enrolled on Playwrights' Studio Scotland's Borders Playwriting scheme last year, in order to adapt our 2014 installation, Orphine, into a 45 minute stage-play, we ended up also getting free tickets to a National Theatre of Scotland play, Red Dust Road, at the Lyceum during this year's Fringe. So this really does feel like the year we broke in Edinburgh."

"That's not to diminish the importance of the other great festivals and programmes around the world who have picked up our films this year," Sarahjane points out. "Our first ever film, In The Dark I Sat, just had its first ever public screening since 2012 in Glasgow at a launch party put on by the experimental lit publisher, Hedera Felix.

We also have screenings coming up over the next few months in Sweden (Västerås Film Festival), Croatia (Kino Klub Split), Florida (Connect: International Videoarts Festival), Seattle (Semi-Finalist at Engauge Experimental Film Festival), Australia (North Bellarine Film Festival), Brazil (International Panorama: Videoart and Experimental Cinema) and hopefully also a festival in Athens, which we plan on visiting."

"And, of course, this month we have the impending premieres at parallel Portobellos," Roger says cryptically.

"That's right," Sarahjane explains. "We're going to be represented at opposite ends of the UK, pretty much simultaneously. On one of the days that Boy and the Sea has its Art Walk Porty screening in Portobello, Edinburgh, the Portobello Film Festival in West London will be giving our 25 minute film, Ghost Worlds (Animal Rites), its World Premier."

London’s Portobello Film Festival - run by the tireless, Jonathan Barnett - has been one of the most important platforms for the films of Sarahjane Swan and Roger Simian through the years. This is an international festival, but with an identity firmly rooted in the local community of West London. Ever since its beginnings in 1996, its amazing ethos has always been that it's free to enter films and free to attend all screenings.

"This will be our sixth screening at the Portobello Film Festival in seven years," says Roger. "Hell, five of those were premieres, including our first film, In The Dark I Sat, in 2012."

"We were lucky enough to make it down to London for Portobello a couple of years ago, when our film, Merzfrau, screened," says Sarahjane, "and it was an amazing experience, which we shared with friends and family. We even got to meet Jonathan Barnett in person, which was great.

TEN YEARS AFTER: A Biography of Sarahjane Swan & Roger Simian

Scottish Borders based experimental duo, Avant Kinema - aka Sarahjane Swan and Roger Simian - have spent the decade since meeting in 2009 collaborating on interdisciplinary works spanning films, music, writing, photography, installation art and expanded cinema. 

Swan and Simian first met ten years ago when Roger inherited the role of Sarahjane's guitar teacher from his brother, who was travelling to America for several months. The pair bonded over a shared interest in Indie Music and the Modernist Avant-Garde Art Movements, such as DADA and Surrealism.

Roger remembers Sarahjane quizzing him on his art knowledge. "She asked me which artist had invented Cubism. I said Picasso and she nodded. Then I said: 'Oh, yeah, and also George Braque,' and then she was impressed."

"I think he was just as impressed that I'd heard of Captain Beefheart and that I used to get my Mum to tape the John Peel Show for me whenever I went out for the evening," says Sarahjane.

I'd never met a woman before who actually liked The Fall and Sonic Youth and could reel off their song-titles at me," laughs Roger. 

The duo's arthouse credentials were strong from the start. Sarahjane was a graduate in Fine Art Sculpture from Gray’s School of Art; Roger - a fanzine editor and indie musician, whose previous bands included John Peel favourites, Dawn Of The Replicants. They soon began drawing on these combined influences, working on two Sarahjane Swan solo singles, with accompanying music videos for Shark Batter Records, the label run by Roger and his brother, Mike Sorensen.

The pair then embarked on an intensive three year Indie music odyssey, writing and recording two albums' worth of left-field songs with low budget, high concept DIY music videos. These were all created under the name, The Bird And The Monkey. Friend, Paul Kerr, editor of the MP3 blog,
The Devil Has The Best Tuna, suggested this, prompted by the surnames, Swan and Simian. Throughout the years, Bird Monkey songs have aired frequently on BBC 6 Music (Tom Robinson), Acacia Radio (Ian Hales), Amazing Radio (Jim Gellatly) and the track, Moon Moth, was used in the soundtrack of BBC2 drama, The Cut


In 2012, Swan and Simian made their first short film,
In The Dark I Sat, which premiered at London's Portobello Film Festival. That same year the duo were invited by Richard Ashrowan, at the time artistic director of the Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival in Hawick, to create a fully immersive installation for the festival's fringe programme, which they titled, Sung To The Crows. Swan and Simian have since gone on to create four more installations - Orphine (2014), Things Fall Apart; The Centre Cannot Hold (2015), Tibbie Tamson Unbound (2015), and Alphonso's Jaw (2016) - all involving multiple video projections, music, words and sculptural works. The Expanded Cinema Performance, Ghost Worlds (Animal Rites), followed in 2018 as part of Alchemy Film & Arts' Celebrate Super 8 event in Hawick. The support of Richard Ashrowan and the Alchemy Festival have been extremely important in Swan and Simian's development. This relationship has extended into the duo running local community workshops for Alchemy Film & Arts on Super 8 Filmmaking and Creating Installations.

Avant Kinema's films have screened throughout the UK and Europe as well as on US cable access show, Here Comes Everybody, and across the Toronto Subway System. They were shortlisted for the EIFF Short Film Challenge in 2016 and returned to the Edinburgh International Film Festival this year as part of the Walk With Us programme.

In 2018 Swan and Simian enrolled in Playwrights' Studio Scotland's Borders Playwriting Programme and completed a full-length script, Orphine and the Underworld, based on one of their earlier installations. 

Avant Kinema have taken on the role of curators for the Scottish Borders based arts organization, Sparks From The Mothership, whose primary aim is "to promote Popular Experimentalism throughout the Arts and Culture". Throughout 2019, SFTM has put out monthly free download releases by several alternative acts associated with the Borders Underground Scene, including material by The Bird And The Monkey (both retrospective and new) and an e.p. of music taken from Avant Kinema's Ghost Worlds soundtrack collaboration with hand-pan player, Undertoad. 

Avant Kinema are also amongst the founding members of a brand new international arts group AGITATE:21C, whose playful acronym stands for: Avant-Garde International Team At The Epicentre of the 21st Century. Swan and Simian proposed this monicker prior to a public vote by members of the collective's FaceBook Group. They have since taken on the role of setting up A:21C's "Scottish chapter", as well as creating the movement's first video ident.

"The past ten years have been a mindblowing whirlwind of creativity and exploration," says Sarahjane Swan, "and we really feel like we're moving towards something big. Maybe the stars are finally in alignment and the time is right for us to start creating our masterpieces."

Roger Simian joins in with the enthusiastic conjecture. "We want to be at the forefront of creating 21st Century artworks that are interdisciplinary, combining all the artforms - the music, the visuals, the words - works that are looking more towards the future than towards the past. It's time to put our best foot forward."

Watch this space...

FREE DOWNLOAD RELEASES: The Bird and The Monkey /
Sarahjane Swan / Roger Simian / Avant Kinema with Undertoad

Throughout September 2019, Sparks From The Mothership, are releasing a collection of free download releases made up of demos and rarities by The Bird And The Monkey, Sarahjane Swan and Roger Simian. Last month's free download, an e.p. of tracks from Avant Kinema's soundtrack collaboration with hand-pan player, Undertoad, are also still available to download.


Tuesday, 16 April 2019

SUPERFLY SUPER 8... Film (2016) by Avant Kinema

**Shortlisted for the EIFF Short Film Challenge 2016 with a World Premier screening at The Filmhouse, Edinburgh, 6th Aug 2016.** 

 **Two further screenings that same month at Edinburgh Digital Entertainment Festival.** 

**English Premiere at LSFF (London Short Film Festival) in January 2017 at the Moth Club in Hackney. (We attended this screening with the assistance of a Creative Scotland grant.) ** 

**European Premiere in Barcelona (17th February 2018) at an International Super 8 screening event (Mostra de Videoclips Rodats en Super 8) - part of the Minifestival de Música Independent de Barcelona.** 

SUPERFLY SUPER 8 circa NINETEEN SEVENTY SEVEN (2016) by Scottish experimentalists, Sarahjane Swan & Roger Simian (Avant Kinema), was the duo's first ever delve into Super 8 filmmaking. Shooting on TRI-X B&W reversal film, using vintage analogue film-cameras, Swan & Simian set out to create "the Super 8 dream of a classic Film Noir as if made by New York No Wavers".

Directed by Sarahjane Swan & Roger Simian

Performer: Sarahjane Swan

Cinematography & Editing: Roger Simian  & Sarahjane Swan 

Music: The Bird And The Monkey 

Duration: 2 minutes 30 seconds 

Cameras: Canon 514XL & AGFA Family

Film: Kodak TRI-X reversal 7266

Processing & Scan: Gauge Film

Film completed: 24 June 2016

Edited in iMovie

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

ALPHONSO'S JAW Installation / Film (2016)

In 2016 we created an immersive, multi-format installation for Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival, called Alphonso's Jaw.

The installation, and subsequent short film, were inspired by our facination for two objects we discovered amongst Edinburgh University's Anatomy Collection: (1) the cast of a disfigured face; (2) a prosthetic jaw constructed on an early nineteenth century battlefield.

Through some research we unearthed the story of Alphonse Luis, a young French gunner struck by shrapnel at the Siege of Antwerp, 1832. Having suffered horrific facial injuries, losing his lower face, Alphonse's quality of life was eventually improved when the Surgeon-Major and a local Belgian artist collaborated on the construction of a silver prosthetic jaw, painted in flesh tones and adorned with whiskers. 


We uncovered historical accounts of Alphonse Luis' injury, surgery, recuperation and rehabilitation in medical journals of the day, and drew on these for an exploration of identity, disfigurement and reconstruction.

In Alphonso's Jaw we imagine that Alphonse Luis has become dislocated from history to exist outside of any specific time or place, trapped in eternal convalescence, soothed by the dreams of his Battlefield Muse, who is equal parts Night Nurse, Scheherazade and Beauty from Beauty and the Beast. Luis' Battlefield Muse is, in turn, both horrified and fascinated by her patient.

As well as multiple video projections, music and sculptural elements - which included dislocated white hands thrusting from walls clutching crimson rose buds; numerous handcrafted prosthetic legs; and an American army stretcher haunted by WWI shell-shock victims - our installation included the following poem.

short film by Avant Kinema


Beauty and the Silver Mask
poem by Avant Kinema

My name is Beauty.
My name is Scheherazade.
I gorge on words, feverishly
in the privacy of my cell cot.
Words nourish my soul.
Each twilight I whisper words of freedom and captivity.

I am the sadness of lost women
and the wild boys
who forgot the fluidity of youth
who forgot that skin and bones
will crystalize,
shatter into smithereens
like the Citadel of Antwerp
under the monster
mortar fire of the ticking clock.
Your name is Beast.
My favourite enemy, you invade
my dreams.
You are the Beast who imprisons me.
The shock of your devastated jaw holds me captive until morning.
They have allowed me one mirror.
In its shimmering skin, I see your face. Broken.

Your face has misbehaved.
It has smashed its shell open
with a spoon.
Form has fractured,
symmetry ripped in two pieces.
Did I smash the glass?
Did I smash it over and over?
Did I splinter your face to shards?

Your tongue is blind.
It falls, fat and undulating,
from the hungry centre
of your lost jaw,
craving nourishment,
searching all of the black space between stars for meaning.

I ache to have known your lips.

Through the haze of an
enchanted glass I see the dark forest,
your calloused hand tending to the wild flowers.
Your jaw is a ghost.
In the negative space
above your throat
I see the trace of your mouth's memory
sucked like smoke into the Vortex.

The Void whispers to me.

Restless, fidgeting, I turn
a pawn shop ring round my finger, thrice
and watch your face fall apart in silhouette.

Dragged by my heels
through the dark forest,
beyond the scratching branches,
and twisting roots,
mauled by wild talons
and the jaws of monstrous entities,
I see the green shimmer of a clearing,
breathe the rose's wild perfume,
witness the spilled blood of its petals, burgundy against the grass.
Your mouth has vanished into the mist, banished.
You have no words.
To hear your words I must first
enter your eyes, as green and deep and tempestuous as the ocean,
and become engulfed.
I must allow myself to succumb
to the brutal metamorphosis,
to allow myself to become you,
to become my favourite monster.

I fix my silver mask in place.

I will inhabit your skin and steal
the words from your mouth.

La Belle et le masque d'argent
poem by Avant Kinema
(translation by Raymond Meyer)

Je m’appelle La Belle.
Je m’appelle Scheherazade.
Fiévreusement, je me gave de mots 
dans l’intimité de mon lit de prison.
Les mots nourrissent mon âme.
A chaque crépuscule je murmure 
des mots de la liberté 
et de la captivité.

Je suis la tristesse des femmes perdues.
Je suis la tristesse des femmes perdues.
Je suis la tristesse des femmes perdues.
Installation by Avant Kinema 

**press preview**
- Hawick News
, 14 April, 2016

Friday, 15 March 2019

AVANT KINEMA / UNDERTOAD - "Ghost Worlds (Animal Rites)" soundtrack album - Indie/Alternative Handpan Collaboration

by Avant Kinema / Undertoad 
soundtrack album for Avant Kinema's 
Expanded Cinema Performance of the 
same name (Alchemy Film and Moving 
Image Festival, Hawick, 2018)

"The epic 24 minute long Ghost Worlds (Animal Rights), a gorgeous collaboration with Newcastle musician Neil Coles, aka Undertoad... is like listening to pillows of clouds floating over a zen garden while the Cocteau Twins' Liz Frazer gently ululates in the background. The first twenty minutes is so calming it should be available on prescription for stress and anxiety, one listen and you'll be so chilled your friends will think you've swallowed the Little Book of Calm. However as you hit the twenty minute mark everything gets a little more edgy and sinister as Sarahjane's unique vocals come more to the fore finally reaching a crescendo that sounds like they've opened Pandora's box to find it full of the inhabitants of the seventh circle of hell..." - Paul Kerr, The Devil Has The Best Tuna

Ghost Worlds (Animal Rites) is a collaboration between Newcastle-born Handpan player, Undertoad (aka Neil Coles), and Scottish Borders based artist-filmmakers & indie/alternative musicians, Avant Kinema (Sarahjane Swan & Roger Simian, who also create music as The Bird And The Monkey). 
The music was composed to soundtrack Avant Kinema's 25 minute long Expanded Cinema Performance, part of Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival's Celebrate Super 8 event at the Auld Baths, Hawick (Friday 4th May 2018). The track's evolution began with Undertoad creating an improvised Handpan jam. To this recording the duo then added their own musical elements: Sarahjane Swan's voice and Roger Simian's instrumentation.

The album is available to download from The Bird And The Monkey's Bandcamp page.