The project F I L M dates back to 2008, when Ola Ståhl was unexpectedly given the handwritten manuscript of the unpublished memoirs of his great granduncle, a person about whom he knew virtually nothing. Having previously worked extensively with the re-staging and re-working of found sound and text, Ståhl began reworking this found manuscript, seeking to engage and amplify its peculiarities not simply or primarily in terms of its content, but also in terms of the style of the writing, its poverty and its affected, stuttered, polylingual quality. Considering the manuscript less a genealogical document than the index of a series of significant geo- and sociopolitical shifts, these re-workings were intended to explore the ways in which particular forms of writing articulate subjective political experiences; how, for instance, the experience of migration creates a polylingual site where language becomes uncertain, subject to continuous displacement, or how the lack of conventional literary tropes articulates and negotiates positions within shifting class structures. The overall project F I L M comprises several series of such rewriting exercises, utilizing different methods, interweaving the manuscript with fragments of text from a wide array of discourses around such disparate but interlinked topics as literary and film theory, medicine and optics, camera and film mechanics, and theories and histories of class, economics and migration. During residencies in the US 2009-2010, Ståhl exhibited, published and performed the project at Headlands Center for the Arts and various locations around the Bay Area, CA, at the Bureau for Open Culture in Columbus OH, in the magazines OEI and Journal for Radical Shimming, and as part of a compilation of posters / cards edited by Nico Dockx and featured as part of the Venice Biennale. These versions of the text make use of interlinked processes by which: (1.) the text is reduced to its nouns, listed and printed in silver ink on black paper in the shape of rectangles corresponding to aspect ratios referencing the history of cinema (with Jesse Boardman Kauppila); (2.) the text is juxtaposed with contextual archival material gathered in Sweden, Finland and the US (where the narrative is primarily situated) on printed, superimposed transparencies; (3.) the text is translated very quickly between Swedish and English, in such a fashion that traces of many of the loops and repetitions you go through as a translator, trying to find suitable equivalents between languages, are kept in the text, generating a rambling, incessantly looping, repetitive voice which never ceases to assert itself despite its own stuttered absurdity; and, (4.) the text is translated back and forth between text and video resulting in modifications of the written text and a series of video collages (with Cassandra Troyan).

F I L M is an intermedial collaboration between Ola Ståhl and Cassandra Troyan, that explores intersections between fictional writing, archival material and film historical and theoretical discourse. Based on a common narrative material, they have produced parallel work, constantly referring to each other. Ståhl through a text based practice and Troyan in a series of video work.

The project dates back to 2008, when Ståhl started to work with a found manuscript containing unpublished memoirs written between 1881 and 1954. Using the manuscript as a starting point – its content as well as its stylistic peculiarities – they explore how particular forms of writing articulate subjective political experiences, related to questions such as belonging, migration and class.

KRETS will present two text volumes, containing experiments where Ståhl has deconstructed and reworked the biographical material. One part is composed by loops generated as the text has been swiftly translated back and forth between English and Swedish. Traces of many of the loops and repetitions have been kept in the text, as a form of amplification of the manuscript’s peculiar impoverished quality, rendering explicit its relationship to the historical, geo- and sociopolitical and cultural contexts from which it derives. The second part consists of all nouns from the manuscript, presented parallel with references to the history of film technology, as well as fragments taken from medical literature reflecting on the cessation of the body’s functions and the memory. Flickering over the pages, these words appear as simple images that create a rhythm reminiscent of Sergei Eisenstein’s ideas about filmic language.

In both format and reading experience, there is a clear link to early cinematic development, analogous to the narrative account of the text. In Troyan’s video work – moving from relative abstraction to visual collages with direct references to archival material, the original manuscript and Ståhl’s rewritings – this connection is further emphasized. Elements from the video work have also been picked up as references in the text volumes. Through this looping process, an extended form of writing is explored, which oscillates between different media and simultaneously reflects on the impact of technology on our perception – and thereby on the autobiographical narrative as such.

F I L M (reading / performance, extract)