A City Poem

Skarpa is an exercise in conjuring the ghosts of twentieth century utopianism that haunt that most embattled of European metropolises, Warsaw. Drawing off the modernist tradition of the city poem film Skarpa seeks to counterpoint the built environment with the elusive subjectivities of its inhabitants. Switching between extended observational passages and overtly processed montage sequences the work engages the possibilities of digital production while admitting to the influence of earlier materialist film practices. Central to this process is an integral relationship between sound and image. The soundtrack composed by Sydney improvising trio Espadrille directly informs the structure and appearance of the film with the imagery often buckling under the weight of its unstable sonic counterpart. Constructed from footage shoot in 2007 the film documents the largely despised relics of Socialist Realist architecture and statuary that dominated the built environment and symbolic realm of the city’s post-war reconstruction. Within accepted discourses of modernist artistic production Socialist Realism is understood as an aberration: a bad-faith pastiche of classical and folk art forms dictated by, and in the service of, the repressive totalitarian state. Seen in the light of the contemporary moment these forms now yield a multiplicity of secondary meanings. Their weathered appearance and compromised aesthetic authority at once embodies and retroactively signposts the failure of the great socialist experiment. The title of the film Skarpa is a reference to a cinema building with appears fleetingly in a closing sequence. The building, now demolished, was initially constructed in 1956 and stood as a rare early example of an overtly modernist structure. Within the film its presence is evoked as another way forward and an affirmation that perhaps all is not lost.

Skarpa was shown at the Virtual Pop exhibition (29 June – 1 July 2015) at Massey University in Wellington New Zealand. The exhibition was held in conjunction with the POPCAANZ 2015 conference, you can view the catalogue here.

The video was also released in July 2015 as a limited edition DVD accompanying the Espadrille CD release Seconds on Psychopyjama records.

15 min 45 sec

HD Digital Video