directors lounge monthly screenings
where things meet
Thursday, 28 November 2019
Stephanie Hanna conceives her videos in a process of knitting together performances, texts, video and audio recordings. Her works often incorporate collaborations with other artists, viewers or passers-by. The Berlin-born artist returned to her hometown after receiving a BA in stage design in Utrecht. Back in Berlin, she also received a Master in "Art in Context" at UdK.
Video images of performances, with an often documentary character, are being digitally reworked by the artist and thus condensed; and more audio tracks and camera views added. The are being transformed into independent art works without concealing their originally open process. The editing process makes the performative constellation of an open art form an even more tangible concept. As a result, the videos turn out to be short film essay.
Changing dispositions of plastic objects in a shop window, used as an independent gallery space, are being recorded. Then, they become trigger for performances directed to the camera. The show-room used to be their joint artist project before Hanna started to use it on her own. During these 7 years, she frequently invited other artists to collaborate and create responses to this space, located on a crossing at Donaustrasse and forming an L. The windows of the space open to the streets on all sides. Thus, acting, or just moving things around already has a performative quality. The boundaries between everyday life and art making become blurred, which is in Hanna's interest. However, using the camera becomes a means for further interactions, and to condense the process. The video-performances ("Marktforschung" 2017 and "Castelo de Plastico" 2017) are active interventions between the objects in the space, the artist and visiting guests.
The objects, Stephanie Hanna uses in her art, are often made from plastic, plastic packaging, or trays, but also plastic toys, buttons and found objects. During the periodic shop window exhibitions, plastic containers become columns, or architecture, or transform into art frames or archive boxes. This is the fluctuation of the things and their meanings, the artist typically tries to achieve.
In a studio performance with objects, bigger objects like pieces of furniture on casters, a hamster cage, a wheel and smaller objects like shoes and kitchen objects are being set into corresponding relations. The video ("what matters" - 2018/19 work in progress) starts with an almost empty space that will be filled more and more with objects. These are being kept in an intense aesthetic tension between each other, in each new setting, and in relation to the performing artists, seen from changing divers points of view by different cameras. The video "what matters" most beautifully reveals the background of the artist. The relation between objects and protagonist are always balanced in three dimensional compositions like a perfect stage design, in addition taking into account the viewpoint of the camera, always. And another interest of the artist becomes apparent: dance and performance art. Recorded over several days, the artist works on her own, clad in a green full body leotard, performing, at the same time handling the camera. Her concept of open process and interacting with others has been realized here by the multiple layers of sound track. Two first-person voices in two languages, German and English, representing two personae of the artist (who grew up bi-lingual) and a number of audience voices interweave on the sound track, apparently commenting on the visuals. They seem to be interacting in such direct ways, that the voice-over reaches a diegetic presence.
Another course in Stephanie Hanna's work are videos that are based on text. In some pieces, the artist literally reads a text, while visual observations of natural or everyday scenes offer an associative interpretation. For example, Susan Sontag, Judith Butler and Robert Musil are each being orally quoted in separate videos. In a very different way, Slavoj Ziziek appears in the series of text related videos. During a speech at Occupy Wall Street, his voice seems to be reflected by multiple voices: the activists use the technique of "human microphone" repeating his voice by surrounding participants. During the editing process, however, Stephanie cuts out his voice after some time, and it appears as if the group continues to conceive his thoughts collectively. The sound meets with the contrasting pictures of an empty road at night with cars passing by and with twittering birds. As a consequence, Occupy Zizek (2011) receives an ironic turn. Lately, working with texts for Hanna is also connected with an engagement for Nordic Summer University, a self-organized nomadic university in the nordic European countries and the Baltics. The university commissioned further text-videos responding to their key-note lectures.
Directly connected with Nordic Summer University is another text-video: “preparations for a depowerment manifesto" (2017). Stephanie jumps into a lake with an action camera attached to her head, and using her voice while swimming, she is reflecting on the contradictions of empowerment. For her, swimming is a way to relax and to collect herself to be able to write, on this occasion, on her book "a depowerment manifesto". This is a small book, already out of print, which you may still check out on her website, as PDF document.
Only with the beginning of non-linear editing (computer-based video editing) Stephanie Hanna started to feel comfortable with video as a medium for her art. Not only does it provide a means for associative montage, but also to combine multiple layers of audio and visual narration. In a certain way, we could say that she uses a tradition that is more related to filmmaking than to early video technique. The short video films are condense results of an open art process based on collaborations and interactions with others. In an inspiring way, Stephanie Hanna thus challenges traditional ideas of art or video-making. On the occasion of the screening, the artist will perform another part of "what matters" life together with the audience. And she will be present for a Q&A after the screening.
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