22. May 2016

In this DOUBLE FEATURE Corin Sworn presents the film “La Giubba”, which was shot in collaboration with Canadian artist Tony Romano.

By Daniel Urban

The Babylonian confusion was wrought upon humanity by the Old Testament God when mankind became overly self-confident and merrily began construction of the Tower of Babel, an edifice that was supposed to reach as far as Heaven. God watched the work unfold and began to fear that no longer would anything be unachievable for human beings, and in one fell swoop he mixed up the languages of the builders – today one might well say he “diversified” them – so that they were forced to abandon their plan due to an inability to understand one another. The effects of this divine act are perceivable on various levels both in personal day-to-day and vacation experiences, as well as in Corin Sworn’s new work “La Giubba”. The most striking feature of the film is that it relies on a full five different subtitle languages.

Corin Sworn & Tony Romano, La Giubba, 2015, Filmstill, Copyright the artist

“La Giubba” is a reference to the Italian expression “Vesti la giubba” (approximate translation: “put on the jacket”), which originates from the aria of the same name in Leoncavallo’s opera “Pagliacci”, in which, despite his extreme heartbreak, a clown who has been betrayed by his lover attempts to pull himself together to make the audience laugh: the show must go on. And soon we find ourselves in the world Corin Sworn creates – in which what already exists, such as historical finds, or past concepts and ideals are torn from their context of meaning or are questioned with regard to their reference to the present day.

Quotes from Aristophanes’ work

In terms of its narration, the barely hour-long film “La Giubba” is based very freely on the Greek comedy “The Birds” by Aristophanes, and is the result of collaboration with Canadian artist Tony Romano. The action follows a father of Albanian origin who, together with his daughter Era, is on the way to Falconara Albanese in southern Italy, on the hunt for a swimming instructor who is to coach both of them. Their paths cross those of the other protagonists: two actors, travelling with a minibus with the aim of bringing traveling theater from one town to the next, as well as the American nephew of one of the two who, despite a lack of knowledge of Italian, is supposed to be assisting the actors. The film is divided up by small passages in which falcons are filmed, whilst subtitles arranged by color display quotes from Aristophanes’ work.

In terms of aesthetics and script, the film is strongly reminiscent of Italian Neorealism, the works of which were directed by such illustrious names as Roberto Rossellini, Federico Fellini or even Luchino Visconti in the 1940s and 1950s. Italian Neorealism can be considered a sort of counter-project, firstly to Hollywood cinema with its heroic figures and exaggerated plotlines, and secondly to the Italian period movies of the day. The Neorealist films told everyday stories of so-called simple people, always with a didactic premise – the Italian screenwriter and film theorist Cesare Zavattini encapsulated this with his appeal for a “film about a postman”.

The dissolution of various opposites

In “La Giubba”, Corin Sworn (born 1976) interweaves classic motifs such as the search for sense or identity and problems of communication or isolation, touches upon film genres such as the road movie or even Italian Neorealism, and blends these to create a reverent and tranquil tale which, in its almost meditatively long shots, appears to search for a metaphysical resolution of various opposites in the sense of a dialectic.

Corin Sworn & Tony Romano, La Giubba, 2015, Filmstill, Copyright the artist

During the second part of the evening, the two short films “Carlo’s Vision” (2011) by Rosalind Nashashibi and “Ausgetraeumt” (2010) by Deimantas Narkevisius will be screened. These works correlate perfectly with the aesthetics and narrative style of Sworn’s work: “Carlo’s Vision” visualizes a passage from Pier Paolo Pasolini’s unfinished novel “Petrolio” – the vision of protagonist Carlo referred to in the title – which has been relocated to today’s Italy. Three gods pull Carlo through Rome on a dolly, during which process he can hear the thoughts of two of the gods. These relate to social-theoretical considerations for the administration of the city of Rome and ultimately deepen into philosophical ideas on sexuality and social classes, whilst on a pictorial level, the thoughts appear to be realized by means of manipulation of the coloring.

Working with filmic means

In “Ausgetraeumt” Lithuanian artist Narkevicius embeds shots of a performance of the song bearing the same name by the band “Without Letters” with images of the socialist architecture of the city of Vilnius, and thus creates a remarkable apparent mélange that sees contradictory emotional states collide with one another. The element that binds the works is the explicit will to work with purely filmic means – including with a language entirely of its own, many would say with more immediate access to that which is thematized than to that which is said.

Rosa­lind Nashashibi, Carlo’s Vision, Filmstill, Image via peep-hole.org