Tent Academy Awards | Joel Autio

Interview by Floor Kortman, video stills by Joel Autio

On 12 July the Tent Academy Awards showcases the best Dutch and Finnish video and film art among the graduates of 2014. Video art is not the past; it is very much the future. New technologies make the world of video a very exciting place right now, which will be reflected in the TAA. During the award show on 12 July they will show the nominated clips, films, documentaries and animations, which will also be on view in the exhibition until 17 August. We talked to Joel Autio, one of the Finnish nominees, about the video ‘Weep not for me, O mother’.

‘Leena’s daughter is no longer at home. Suddenly she feels her life meaningless. What remains is either petrifying loneliness or eternal bliss of the icons.’

Who are you?

Who who who who.

How are you?

Fine, thanks! This year’s been quite hectic, but I’ve had a chance to rest for a few days this week, hanging out with the dogs, taking naps.

How did you start making video art, and what do you like about it?

Cinema is a relatively young art form. There’s still a lot to discover, to evolve, to transform. I believe it still has exceptional potential as an art, which I find very exciting. Since 2008 I’ve made a few short films and short documentaries, but the film you’ll see at TAA is the first one I’ve made with a bigger crew, meaning more than 4 people were working on it. It was also the first project I chose to shoot on film instead of digital.

Can you tell me something about your video ‘Weep not for me, O mother’? Is it scripted?

The name was taken from an Orthodox icon I saw nearly a year ago. The icon’s name originates from 9th Ode of the Holy Saturday’s Canon, in which the dead Christ comforts the mourning Saint Mary.

Nearly everything was scripted beforehand when we started to shoot the film last summer. There were more predefined restrictions than leaving room for improvisation: no camera movement, no focus pulling, every action should be shot without needing to cut it into pieces, etc. Despite all the restrictions I had created, I wanted the acting to feel as natural as possible. That was the biggest challenge for me as a director.

And, would you care to explain the narrative structure of the video? I noticed the hard cuts between the different scenes and the fact that you leave a lot open to interpretation, maybe you can say something about this.

There are a few seconds of darkness and silence between each scene. First, by using this method I wanted to break the feeling of continuity that would have occurred if I had cut all the scenes together. The film needs to be seen as a whole; a broken engine needs all of its parts to work. Second, I wanted to give the viewer a little time to think and feel what’s happening on the screen; give a little time for the story to form into viewers mind, whatever it may be like.

Can you tell me about the ‘feel’ of the video, your use of film, the faded colours, the graininess, what are the considerations here? 

When I was a child, once in a while we visited these family friends. Using a projector they showed us scratchy and grainy diafilm slides. In them there usually were just barren landscapes, old buildings and this eerie family. I found these slides rather boring. When looking at Weep not for me, O mother I like this reminiscence of watching a reversal film show, but with moving images. The empty landscapes and the strange family are still there, but this time they’re alone, scattered and lost.

Obviously this nomination for TAA and the exhibition is pretty exciting, but do you have any other plans for the future, anything you’re working on?

I’m writing a new short film script at the moment, which we’re planning on shooting this summer with the same crew. This time there won’t be restrictions.

The video ‘Weep not for me, O Mother’ by Joel Autio will be shown at the opening of Tent Academy Awards on 12 July, and will be on view in the exhibition at TENT until 17 August.