Director: Philip Scheffner
Script & Camera: Philip Scheffner & Merle Kröger
Sound: Philip Scheffner
Dialogues: Merle Kröger
Editing: Philip Scheffner
Soundmastering: Rashad Becker
Duration: 42 min.
Year of production: 2003
The Video a/c is based on the audio CD 'a/c' by Philip Scheffner, released on the label pong.
The Video a/c:
The video a/c is not the 'musicvideo' for the CD but its own, independent piece of work, using the moving image. Based on the CD a/c Scheffner developed a 42 minutes long experimental video, referring at places to the audio tracks and includes them in its narrative form. The video elaborates moments of (a)synchronisity between image and sound and develops its own narrations using associative images and subtitles. It is a re-interpretation and further development of the work, using the medium video.
'We have to switch off the a/c, it's getting cold!' The physical sensation of the cold unsettles the mind and hurls it back from Bombay to Berlin where the temperature is far below zero. a/c is the diary of this state of mind between Berlin and Bombay. The recording device capturesacoustic and visual fragments, the sound of it's own motor, interiorperspectives. An atmosphere of restlessness, examining the question of where is here and where is there? The sharp line between one's own base and the surrogate homeland starts blurring. It is always the here where connections to there flare up.
The larger part of the recordings have been made between 1996 and 2001in Bombay and Berlin. The outside view is focusing, zooming in on an angry monologue in the middle of a traffic jam. The noise of the city sinks constantly into one's ears, a space without silence. As you cannot record silence as long as the machine is running.
The voice of an Indian friend, just a glance, blurred by the sound of the fan on the ceiling.
Memories of a song, a hymn to Bombay. 'It's not your city it's a city you come to, which frightens you, which seduces you but it's not yours.'
a/c is a journey to a fictional place, where nobody belongs to and which doesn't belong to anybody. A place which is composed out of short, fading and coincidental moments and memories. A place which you cannot store by pressing the 'record' button, but which only comes to existence by pressing it.
As described in the press release, most of the material used for the production of a/c consists of recordings, done on MiniDisk and Mini DV between 1996 and 2002 in Bombay and Berlin. From the extensive material collected, some sequences were selected and modified using standard desktop editing and filter facilites. a/c attempts to describe an abstract, imaginary place. An urban space located somewhere in-between and mostly present in memories.
A place which is situated between two personal points of contact:
Berlin, because that is the place where I live, work and spend time.
Bomaby, because I have good friends there, whom I visit regularly and who happen to live in Bombay. Would they live e.g. in Vienna, that would be my second point of contact.
The context 'India' with all its (exotic) connotations plays a very limited role to me.
Having said this, this subtext was of course crucial for the work with the images/ field recordings and the final composition / video.
If you attempt to paint an urban image based on field recordings, your own work - like it or not - is being lined up in a long tradition of soundscape-research, the description of locations, audio tours, etc. If the Western listener/viewer is suddenly attracted by the 'exotic' place Bombay, you find yourself right in the middle in a discursive board game of ethnographic stare, exoticising, assumed authenticity and eurocentrism.
The question is being raised: who is speaking, who is recording and for what purpose.
In my work for a/c I tried to tackle such questions already at the level of selecting from the recorded material as well as throughout the process of editing the sequences.
The used material can be divided roughly into four areas:
1.The noise produced by the recording device while attempting to record a situation.The different levels of 'video-noise' that is produced by the camera, when you film in very low-light situations with a high gain setup.
2. An interview recorded in Bombay with the Indian script writer Urmi Juvekar on a famous song from the Bollywood movie 'C.I.D'. Excerpts of the Film 'C.I.D.'
3. Sounds/images from the cities Bombay and Berlin.
4. A concrete situation with the above mentioned script writer while stuck in a car in a traffic jam in Bombay.
Regarding 1: The Recorder
The noise made by the recording device might well be the most important level in the project to me. It illustrates both: the impossible act of trying to record a moment in time as well as the person pressing the record button. Normally such noises are being erased throughout the process of post-production. To the contrary, at a/c these noises are at the core of the project and build the foundation of the entire composition. The relation between the noise of the recording device and the recorded sound is behaving invertedly proportional. The actual and identifiable field recordings become sound freckles in the audible process of recording.
Regarding 2: The Song
The song 'Bombay Meri Jaan' (from the film C.I.D.) is regarded as the inofficial hymn of the city of Bombay. It is a kind of Indian clichee. If there was any Indian documentary made on Bombay, this song would most probably be used. The Indian script writer Urmi Juvekar tries to remember this song line by line, translates each line from Hindi to English and attempts to explain the meaning in the context of Bombay. Western clichees of Bombay are being mirrored in the Indian clichees of the city. This song is also a starting point to ponder city in general.
Referring to the video, excerpts of the original film 'C.I.D.' have been used to create a parallel, independent narrative which is developping throughout the whole film. A scene, where the two main protagonists drive with a car through the city has been been newly subtitled. The two protagonists start an intimate conversation on the history of 'air conditioning' which creates underlying subtexts of longing and desire.
Regarding 3: The City
Most of the city sound /image recordings used in a/c are impossible to place.
They tend to be rather general street sounds / scenes.
Regarding 4: The Traffic Jam
The unedited recording of the traffic jam serves as some kind of impact of reality on the composition. In the apparently free floating oscillation between places we are suddenly stuck. This inertia becomes the origin of some swearing, descriptive observations of the everyday, the destruction of the illusion of boundless mobility. The place Bombay, for the Western ears exotic and full of projections is being put in its place by the perspective given from a woman living in Bombay: 'I don't like anything about Bombay'.
Through the dramatic use of such interwoven layers as described above, an abstract, personal space seems to emerge which most probably does not find any resemblance in the real world.
One review of a/c described the result as 'anti-documentary' - an understanding which seems attractive to me, especially as most of the material used is documentary.