Pablo Pijnappel (né en 1979 à Paris) 1921-1977, 1979- , 2003, 9’34’’, Vidéo
Mêlant l’authentique et l’imaginaire, Pablo Pijnappel construit une autobiographie fictive, un roman des origines dont le héros apparent est son grand-père, à la fois figure substitutive du père et alter ego inversé du narrateur. Le film de famille devient ici un matériel fictionnel : les images n’illustrent plus le commentaire, elles l’engendrent et interrogent ainsi la fabrication de la mémoire et de l’identité.
Interview extrait de metropolism.com :
It is like being in a great web of images and texts, facts and thoughts. Pablo Pijnappel’s films and slide presentations are not easily disentangled. Each work is dedicated to a family member or friend. This way, the artist tries to come to terms with his own roots.
It was not immediately clear what language we would be speaking. Pablo Pijnappel was born in Paris, but has a very Dutch last name, which might suggest that we would be speaking Dutch. We decided on cosmopolitan English, to which Pijnappel regretfully commented, ‘…where you always miss the nuances.’
The starting point for Pijnappel’s work is the family from which he hails, a family of immigrants – some of his relatives still lead nomadic lives. In films and slide projections, Pijnappel sketches, as it were, a map of these lives. He is not searching for truth, or for a source of some kind. Imagine a map of a subway system, where every exit at which he stops indicates a new point of view. The tale is told by way of personal encounters, of which the grand course of history takes no notice whatsoever. Pijnappel translates these meetings into labyrinthine, sometimes dynamic, sometimes extremely contemplative films.
The contrast between the stationary camera and the fleetingness of life is a major aspect of his work. He records and documents his subject matter without making the potential distinction between fact and fiction. The dividing lines between the conscious and the unconscious, between reality and dream, remain diffuse. Pjinappel refers to psychoanalytical methods and techniques and to the mechanisms of human memory as means of explaining his working method. The film, based on time, is the ultimate medium with a capacity to visualize human memory.
To date, each of his works has focused on a family member or someone close to him. His first 16mm film, 1921-1977 1979-, made in 2002, sketches a portrait of his maternal grandfather. Andrew Reid (2003) highlights his stepfather. For Felicitas (2005), Pijnappel unravelled the history of a woman who is a good friend of the family. In one of his most recent works, Walderedo (2006), his paternal grandfather is the central figure, portrayed in broad, circumscriptive motions. The grandfather is a pioneer in psychoanalysis in Brazil. In this film, Pijnappel tries to understand his grandfather’s motivations. What made him into one of the forerunners in the field of psychoanalysis in Brazil ? Pijnappel interviews his grandfather’s former colleagues, visualizing their thoughts, and quotes his grandfather : ‘Psychoanalysis is not infinite. It is always human. But psychoanalysis is not aware of time. It continues your whole life long.’
In Walderedo, similarly, a picture is given of Pijnappel’s father, who lives in Tokyo. Walderedo Ismael de Oliveira is an artist, but he rarely draws anymore. He seems to be walking around with his soul under his arm. Could psychoanalysis bring him some comfort ? It is not entirely clear what this film is in fact about. Is it about his grandfather, his father, or is it perhaps about himself ?
Ilse van Rijn : You put a real emphasis on the importance of the medium of film for your work. But your audience, looking at a film such as 1921-1977 1979-, seems to be browsing through a photo album. Old family photographs are interspersed with archive material, and found footage is mixed with newly filmed material. So past and present keep shifting back and forth. How do photography and film relate to each other in your work ?
Pablo Pijnappel : ‘I like to work with what I call timelessness, a utopian idea in which “time” in fact ceases to exist. Simultaneously, there is a certain point in time, the “timepoint”, that is important to me : How did I get to be where I am now ? Where are my roots ? What is my past ? Those are the questions I ask. I found the material that formed the starting point for 1921-1977 1979- by accident, in my grandmother’s attic in Rio de Janeiro. I was studying then at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. My Dutch grandfather appeared to have made a film in which he wanted to reconstruct his own personal life story. When I saw the locations that had played an important role in his life, I knew that telling his story was the purpose of his film. He stayed in the Netherlands during the Second World War and later built up his life again in Brazil. The film was made in the 1960s, evoking all the requisite nostalgic feelings. In 1921-1977 1979-, I reconstructed both his life and my life at the same time. In those images, you see a photographic perspective, because I began my career as a photographer, but it was my interest in the narrative aspect that finally brought me to film.’
Ilse van Rijn : Text and subtitles play a special role in your films. In Andrew Reid, the spoken text becomes image. Sans serif letters on a white background make it possible to read what you are hearing. The telephone conversation visualized this way is transected by restful, if not panoramic vistas. In Walderedo, we hear former colleagues of your grandfather speaking about him, but we do not see images of him or of the people being interviewed. What are you trying to achieve with this tense relationship that text and images have to each other in your films ?
Pablo Pijnappel : ‘I see much of my work as collages. I make use of the standard instruments for film, text and image, but I prefer to play them against one another, making them dependent on each other. Where you can speak of subtitling in the traditional sense in 1921-1977 1979-, in Felicitas, it is that text, instead of the image, that has become the consistent thread. Felicitas calls the structure of the film into question. The “collage” aspect also applies to the way I present my work. My films are never “finished”. To emphasize the narrative aspect of Felicitas, I am presenting the work in De Hallen in Haarlem in combination with so-called “satellite works”. Rio is an example. You could say that it attaches itself to Felicitas, that without the major work to which it belongs, it hardly has any right to exist. At the same time, the protagonist of the film serves as a binding element. She welds together the separate stories that are circling around her. Rio is one of those stories, a meeting point, in the literal sense, the city where immigrants see each other again.’
Ilse van Rijn : In Walderedo, we see your father while he is busy drawing. Slides of his drawings are projected during the exhibition in Haarlem. Walderedo is a 16mm film, shown alongside the Super-8 film, Caiçara. You spoke earlier about your perception of time and space. What role do you think memory plays in the way we experience space and time ? How do the various media you use relate to this ?
Pablo Pijnappel : ‘You always perceive time in a different way. The various media visualize this experience. I see the projections of my father’s drawings as an extra layer in the work. They fill the gaps in the 16mm film where you see my father drawing. For me, the dynamic Super-8 film refers to the way flashbacks work in human thinking and memory. In a short space of time, you get a huge amount of information. When you see the long, photographic shots of the 16mm film, you experience time as endless. Those shots function as ready-mades. They are a constructed element in the film. That is why I call my works collages.
For me, drawing relates to memory in a different way. You always remember rough lines and contours, silhouettes or still figures. Although you think that you still know everything, you have forgotten the details. You see that reflected in the drawing. The sketches and the studies made by my father symbolize this. Memory plays a prominent role in my work. We use every book we have ever read, every film we have watched, and translate the scraps and fragments into a moving image or a photographic novel. In order to make it into a coherent story, we fill in the gaps even before the information we have perceived becomes conscious. Freud referred to this human propensity as secondary revision.’
Ilse van Rijn : In Felicitas, we see images of a pier and the harbours of Rio de Janeiro. In a visual and a thematic sense, your films seem rather strongly related to those of cinematographer Chris Marker. His film, La Jetée (1962), is almost completely comprised of photographs. Marker introduced La Jetée as a photographic novel. According to Marker, in La Jetée, the past comes to the aid of the present.
Pablo Pijnappel : ‘Chris Marker is a great source of inspiration. In Walderedo, I quote my grandfather when he says that the human unconscious and subconscious know neither time nor place. There is no chronological or hierarchical order to memories. Memories appear as something you initiate today, touching the energy of then – the past. History moreover repeats itself, so there is not an issue of time, but sooner of an infinite form of going and coming, of blissful enjoyment and recurrence. That is why I like timelessness. Marker brilliantly visualizes our preoccupation with time and memory.’
Ilse van Rijn : That brings me to the father figure that keeps appearing in your work. The father figure is the thematic connection between 1921-1977 1979-, Andrew Reid and Walderedo. In Walderedo, your father is drawing a portrait of you. Do you see your grandfather and your father as a substitute for yourself in your films ? Do their quests represent your own ?
Pablo Pijnappel : ‘I have never seen it that way. Psychoanalysis cuts through the lines of personal histories. It brings them up for discussion and points you to where you have come from. The questioning methodology of psychoanalysis is a perfect way to narrow in on your repressed problems and pin them down. In Walderedo, you hear the various voices of my grandfather’s colleagues and my father’s current wife. Nobody is objective. However much it may be a recording instrument, even the camera is an extension of a subjective eye. But where a photograph or a film is more direct, a drawing is, as I said, the ultimate medium to show that you can never be objective.’
Ilse van Rijn : You seem to be accommodating a lot of family members in your work. How big is your family ?
Pablo Pijnappel : ‘The substance of my investigation of visual narrative makes a transition to a more universal history, by way of the personal history of my family. Through images, we are all bound to one another. What Freud formulated at the microcosmic level no doubt also applies to the macrocosmic level. Add to that the fact that the repetition of time is an influence on our perception of space. Think of the way that the human mind in a state of sleep is not at all concerned with any linear or hierarchical organization of time, nor consequently of space. Today, various times exist alongside one another. In “no time”, you are in Berlin, London or New York. Tomorrow I am leaving for Alaska. My family’s genealogy represents life in today’s global village.’
Ilse van Rijn : Human beings are nomads ?
Pablo Pijnappel : ‘Indeed.’