Sunday, 5 January 2020

Avant Kinema - 2020 Visions

2019 was an exceptional year for Avant Kinema's Sarahjane Swan & Roger Simian with film screenings in Glasgow, Edinburgh, London, Croatia, Sweden (Västerås), the USA (Florida), Brazil (Porto Alegre & Florianopolis), Australia (North Bellarine) and Italy (Foggia) as well as broadcasts across several US states as part of the experimental cable show, Here Comes Everybody
The duo were awarded a grant for analogue filmmaking equipment by the Hope-Scott Trust and won the Pauline Fay Lazarus Prize for work using the human form for their hand-processed Super 8 film, Boy and the Sea, at the opening of the SSA + VAS: Open exhibition in Edinburgh.

Boy and the Sea is currently screening daily as part of this exhibition at the RSA, on the Mound, until the 30th of January, and can be seen around 12.30 each day in the Cutlog Moving Image room. 

2020 is already looking to be even more exceptional for Avant Kinema with the announcement that the duo's film, Alphonso's Jaw (which grew out of their 2016 installation of the same name at the Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival) will tour the world throughout the year as part of the TIME is Love screenings. The promotional poster for this 12th edition of TIME is Love - which has Universal Feelings: Myths & Conjunctions as its theme - features a still from Alphonso's Jaw.

TIME is Love was started in 2008 by African artist and curator, Kisito Assangni, as "an annual video art program on the theme of love in hard times... Conceptually diverse, emotionally incisive and visually inventive, the selected works transform the most familiar video art into an illuminating investigation of contemporary culture".  Each year Assangni handpicks artist-filmmakers from around the world to fill his programme. 

This year Avant Kinema continue their regular exploration of analogue filmmaking equipment and processes with a series of handcrafted, artisan films. 

The first of these films, Flow State (influenced by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi's 1970s theory on the mental state of complete absorption in a creative or practical activity) features a cartridge of vintage Super 8 filmstock, each frame painstakingly scratched and coloured by Sarahjane Swan, resulting in a kind of "moving abstract painting" which plays in concord with the largely improvised experimental soundtrack. Here's the 60 second trailer for the film:-

Avant Kinema have also been commissioned by the New Modernist Editing Network, based at the university of Glasgow, to create an artwork in response to a text from the constellation of Modernist editions which the network has identified. For this project Swan and Simian have chosen to work on an interdisciplinary "translation"  of the French Symbolist poet, Stéphane Mallarmé's "untranslatable" final poem, A Roll of the Dice will Never Abolish Chance (or Un coup de dés jamais n'abolira le hasard). 

Avant Kinema's finished work - which should incorporate a mix of film, music, writing and photography - will be presented as part of the exhibition, Imprints of the New Modernist Editing, at Shandy Hall in Yorkshire, one-time home of Laurence Sterne, author of the 18th century novel, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. The exhibition runs from the 12th to 26th of July and features a workshop on the 13th of July on the relationship between text and non-verbal elements. 


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: 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 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: Italy
Festival / Venue: In Absentia Digital Pavilion, Cineporto di Foggia - Apulia Film Commission
Programme: Connect: International Videoarts Festival / Semiosphera / The Wrong
Film: Atrocity (2014)
Dates & Times:
22nd November 


Location: Brazil
Festival / Venue: International Panorama: O Sítio - Arte e Tecnologia, Florianopolis
Programme: Videoart and Experimental Cinema volume 2
Film: Boy and the Sea (2019)
Dates & Times:
26th November.


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 30th January 2020


Location: Croatia
Festival / Venue: Kino Klub Split
Programme: Short(s) Petting - Powered by Agitate:21C Web Oriented Group
Film: Anna of my Seventy-Two Senses (2017)
Dates & Times:
Exhibition runs 27th December

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.