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Fotogenia – Delluc Avant Garde prizewinner Ian Gibbins in Conversation with Laura Bianco

I was so very pleased that as a juror for FOTOGENIA festival, Mexico City this year, I selected The Life we Live is not Life Itself by Australian filmmaker Ian Gibbins and Greek poet Tasos Sagris (and produced by +the Institute for Experimental Arts, 2021) for the DELLUC Avant Garde prize. Although all the films were of a very high creative standard and of many different approaches, this film really stood out for its marriage of technical exploration and political sensibilities. Through complex techniques Ian has wholly created a fictional world that also appears recognisable. A world that is impossible yet also familiar. Where faces in ‘posters’ change their expressions, and the sea crashes dream-like at the end of the street. You could say that, as in dreams, we are there and not there as sensate human beings. But we could also ask what position we are really in as viewers, in relation to the unfolding constructed scenes which parallel the concrete labyrinths that have been built by developers in the last forty years? For those of you following Ian’s work, he can be found in conversation with curator Laura Bianco of Tranas @thefringe, Sweden on YouTube. Covering ‘The life we live is not life itself’ and ‘After-Image’ it provides some very interesting background to the complexity of his thought processes, and how a filmmaker works with a poem and all its resonances, so enjoy 🙂

The Life we Live is not Life Itself

(Vimeo description)

“The life we live is a series of illusions… a fleeting smile… mistaken decisions… dangerous, unpredictable… yet, we will meet again, as lovers… parents… children… and you will know who I am…”

Tasos Sagris’s poem, with its haunting soundtrack by Whodoes, offers us an extended exploration of lives lived in parallel, at cross-purposes, in and out of love, around the world, from the innocence of children to the wisdom of elders. There are the good times when summer seems to last forever, and the bad, when persecution and misadventure could land us in prison, with nothing but rain to hear our voice. But what is the reality? What is mere illusion? Can there be more to life than simply living?

The raw footage for the video was shot mainly in and around the city of Adelaide, its suburbs, the nearby Fleurieu Peninsula and Yorke Peninsula, South Australia, supplemented with images from around Greece. But nothing in the video is quite as it seems. Most scenes have been composited and animated from multiple sources. So we look down a city laneway and see friends walking along a beach. Storm clouds, ominously aglow, gather behind skylines. And after the rain, floodwater surges across plazas, covers the floors of ruined buildings.

Who inhabits these strange places? Whom will we meet there? Look carefully in the malls and side-streets: we can see our fellow walkers, and then, again, again… And in windows of city buildings, in old frames hung on walls of broken brick and cracked concrete, we see the faces of the young and old, the boys and girls, the men and women of our imagination, our desires, our reconstructed memories. As alluring as they seem, none of them is real. Rather, they are the product of artificial intelligence, trained on thousands of our fellow humans, and generated by cold, unfeeling algorithms.

No video can truly capture the inner thoughts that inspire a poet’s words. Instead, we can construct a world in which the real and unreal seamlessly merge, creating environments beyond day-to-day experience, yet somehow familiar, somehow recognisable as elements in the shared narratives of our lives.

Is this Life? Who amongst us is truly Living? Let’s see. And perhaps we will meet again … on another rainy afternoon… “like now, like now.”

• official selection, and winner, Fotogenia Film Festival 2021, vol. 3 (Mexico City, November, 2021);
• official selection, ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival (Berlin, 25-28 November, 2021);
• official selection and finalist, Vesuvius International Film Festival XVI (Italy, 2021);
• official selection, Puntomov Video Orbits International Video Festival, 2nd edition (Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México, Toluca, Mexico, 2021);
• official selection, 18th Annual Another Hole in the Head Film Festival (San Francisco, December, 2021);
• official selection, Fonland International Festival of Video Art and Performance (Coimbra, Portugal, November, 2021);
• invited screening, The Wrong Biennale No 5 – Encounters with Incomprehension (November 2021 – March, 2022);
• official selection, 6th Trujillo International Independent Film Festival (Peru, 23-26 September, 2021);
• official selection, 2021 International Screening of Experimental Films and Videopoems TRANÅS AT THE FRINGE (Tranås, Sweden, 16-24 October, 2021);
• official selection, Spanish version, Nahui Ollin Film Festival 2021 (Durango, Mexico, August – September, 2021);
• official selection, 9th International Video Poetry Festival (Athens, June, 2021);
• honorable mention, Video Art and Experimental Film Festival (New York, 2021).


(Vimeo description)

“I see them and look them away … see stinger-ray hide in bush … climb for a better view … afraid of spider-snake-lizard … we watched them watched us … “

Locations include Hart’s Mill, Port Adelaide; the Gilbert Street Hotel, Adelaide; Lynton railway station, Belair Line; Hawker Avenue, Belair, South Australia.

An after-image is the residual image you see if you look away at a blank wall or something similar having stared at a brightly lit scene. The after-image is a negative of the original in terms of light-dark and colour. It is mostly due to the photoreceptors in the retina becoming desensitised by the original scene. It fades after a few seconds as the receptors reset.

• invited screening at The Wrong Biennale No 5 – Encounters with Incomprehension (November 2021 – March 2022);
• offical selection, Shockfest Film Festival Silver Bullet Virtual Screening (USA, December, 2021);
• official selection, 2021 International Screening of Experimental Films and Videopoems TRANÅS AT THE FRINGE (Tranås, Sweden, 16-24 October, 2021);
• official selection Another Hole in the Head – Warped Dimension – Tripping the Light Fantastic (San Francisco, May, 2021);
• official selection Carmarthen Bay Film Festival (Wales, May, 2021);
• official selection, 10th Pune Short Film Festival (India, December, 2020);

Text originally published in e•ratio 29 (2020).