Gijón in the eyes of Guillermo G. Peydró

The filmmaker and art historian, Guillermo G. Peydró, winner of the call Universo Vídeo, has completed a residency at LABoral during February. We have a chat with him to learn about the details.

Published: Feb 24, 2014
Gijón in the eyes of Guillermo G. Peydró

El Jardín Imaginario

Guillermo G. Peydró is a young filmmaker and art historian born in Madrid in 1981. He has been co-programmer of the Greenpoint Film Festival (Brooklyn, NY) in 2011. He has already received awards and recognition in alternative festivals in Europe and America: Official section of DocumentaMadrid 2012, Cinespaña 2012 (Toulouse, France), FIC Puebla 2013 (Mexico), to name a few. He has just finished his thesis where he explores the relationship film-essays about art and plastic arts since the beginning of the XXth century.

 

His works, which fall within film-essay, bring together a great theoretic knowledge on filmmaking and art, besides his own contributions born from the reflection on the genre itself, about the recognition of the creativity that is inherent to human beings or about society as a driving force for political and cultural change. The images, which at times are memories and at times are intuition, are at the same time documentary and poetic, moving from the author’s subjectivity to the objectivity of past and current events.

 

El jardín imaginario (2012) Versión francesa, subtítulos castellano from Guillermo G. Peydró on Vimeo.

He has taken part in the show Universo Vídeo_El Otro Audiovisual Español, from October 21, 2013 to January, 2014, curated by Alfredo Aracil at LABoral, with his films Art of The Actor and Louie’s Toy Garden. In this show Guillermo has received the prize Universo Vídeo, awarded jointly by LABoral and Gijon Film Festival. It entitles him to an art production residency at the Art Centre during February, which will result in a short film where the lead character is Gijon.

Just a few days before starting his residency, Guillermo answered to my questions and the result is what follows:

Laura: Has film-essay been defined more by what it is not than by what it is? Do you you have your own definition?

Guillermo: Film-essay has been delimited by approximation, based on several proposals that never come together. It is neither fiction, nor documentary, nor experimental (negative definition), but it might use registers from any of them. In the collective books on the issue, such as L'essai et le cinéma (2003) or La forma que piensa (2007), each author suggests different readings, different features that match only partially. Each essay searches its form based on the content, just like film-essay does. The form of an essay by Montaigne on the power of imagination is totally different from the form of an essay by Thoreau on civil disobedience, and the latter is in turn different to the great essay by Barthes on Japan. Yet the three of them are perfect essays. The authors try to find the right way to arrange the materials at their disposal, focusing on the form, and sharing, on occasion, their decisions with viewers. In a film-essay all expressive options in film history, around a discursive thought. Let’s try a definition: A film essay is an audiovisual work that shares an actual thought, starting from several visual intuitions and topics, using any available material not observing any artificial borders established by critics and distributors.

L: What would be, in your opinion, the ideal place to enjoy your films? What would be a suitable context to show your works?

G: One of the things I most enjoy about my films is precisely the transformation of the way of looking depending on the place of screening. The venue changes the work, and a film like Las variaciones Guernica has had a radically different meaning in its respective screenings at the festival Documenta Madrid, Superior Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), the Cinémathèque de Toulouse (former seat of the Spanish republican government in exile), the Parque España in Mexico City, the New York University or Museo Reina Sofía, which hosts the actual Guernica. The venue, the history of the venue, its functionality (festival, museum, university, art gallery...), change the film each time, just like the type of audience at each of these places has different expectations and they teach me to watch it in a different way. Screening has been of better quality at the extraordinary Cineteca de Madrid, where it was first shown, than at the bookstore Traficantes de Sueños, although the subsequent debate at this bookstore was longer and more fruitful, one of the best. The ideal place to enjoy my films is any possible place, and if possible, several different places for the same viewer.

 

Trailer – Las variaciones Guernica / The Guernica Variations (2012) from Guillermo G. Peydró on Vimeo.

L: You write articles, you make films and photography…is filmmaking for you a way to extrapolate into images your theoretic reflections on art and society?

G: My three main films have been created in relation with PhD thesis, as a part of it. I have attached them to it in the back cover. They have been my practical laboratory, a tool to ask myself questions about theoretic intuitions regarding film-essay. Any film-essay is a way to extrapolate to images the theoretic reflections of the author about art and society. However, in my case, there was also a direct link with the topic of my thesis, film-essays about art. I try to keep all my activity in the same direction, out of reasons of economy and ecology of resources. I have no physical time to shape every project that I have already planned, for this reason, I try that my theoretic research be directly linked to my practical proposals.

L: An essential part of your work seems to be the contribution of ordinary people to the current political, human and artistic problems …

G: All my work revolves around the transformation ability of art. Art is a mirror that reflects the society that generates it. It is a free language intended to say the things that cannot be normally said (due to censorship or to a disability of everyday language). Any person is potentially a creator, but the official educational system gradually limits the reach of our imagination. Some of my reference artists have worked on this conflict, formulating new proposals to extend the meaning of art: Jean Dubuffet regarding outsider art, Joseph Beuys with his concept of social sculpture, where we all have a great responsibility in the political decisions-making process in our city and country. Beuys was a staunch advocate of direct democracy, which is the opposite of the concept of voting every four years and letting the elected representatives do whatever they deem appropriate, including the opposite things of those that made people vote them. This conflict can and must be seen (also) from the perspective of aesthetic creation. The artist provides new mechanisms to analyse reality. The essayist shares new forms which are extremely freewheeling to establish links between ideas, wishes, memories or dreams, and the audiovisual essayist extends this teaching to the thought in images. All this works following an approach opposite to the classic Hollywood approach: Not escape, but rather active involvement; Not invisible editing, but rather blatant manipulation. The aim is to have the viewer leave the theater and the museum with new capabilities to stablish connections and formulate ideas.

 

Democracia Real Ya - New York (2011) from Guillermo G. Peydró on Vimeo.

L: Do you believe that the true culture is outside institutional culture? How free can a creator be if he/she is institutionalised?

G: An artist who works outside the institutional system of art allows the researcher better isolate, perhaps, the essence of art as an anthropological fact (the case of outsider art) and, on occasion, it may be freer from the political perspective (the case of street art). Nevertheless, this does not necessarily entail that the sculptures of the farmer who is the main character of my film El jardín imaginario should be more valid or authentic than those by Cellini or Brancusi, and neither that within the institutional sphere an effective political critic is not possible. The freedom of the artist is a complex question. There is no reason why one should be truer than another one, the one that has already been accepted or is institutionally supported, and the one that is performed outside, with passion and, on occasion, only recognised posthumously. I believe that this truth depends on the creator’s attitude and commitment with his/her work, rather than on the external support or acceptance that it receives. The freedom of the creator outside the system is probably greater in terms of the approach than in terms of results. All options are open on the piece of paper, on the blank canvas, in front of the camera. The creator has no commitment, nothing is expected of him/her, but what he/she does will have less impact and less capacity to influence others. And a great deal of the relevance of art resides in its capacity to reach others, enrich the way they look at the world, their knowledge, their critical capacity. On the other hand, creative high-budget films are handcuffed in too many ways. This leads to situations of total stagnation which, at that point, are hard to unblock because of the commitment undertaken. A possible solution, then, is to try and unblock the situation from below: Searching new formulas with more basic media. The career of some of the most restless artists, like Alain Cavalier, has been about this. In any case, institutional venues devoted to creation should have more independance and freedom, so that they can host the most honest creation, and acceptance criteria should not always be economic, ideological or promotional.

Las Variaciones Guernica

L: Which artists have influenced your way of looking at the world and, therefore, your way of doing as an artist?

G: The life of any creator is a permanent learning process. My influences regarding the concept of art come from everywhere: from painting to music, literature or, obviously, cinema. From John Bosch to Messiaen, from Miles Davis to Cortázar, from Sóphocles to Wajdi Mouawad, from Montaigne to Chris Marker. Nowadays we have access to an overwhelming volume of art, and everything that I consume is somehow inside my mind when I look through the camera and when I am editing. Regarding strictly filmmaking, three filmmakers have been a turning point in my career, decisively extending my idea of cinema. These are Kubrick, Tarkovsky and Chris Marker.

L: Which challenges did you have to tackle in this residency at LABoral?

G: In Gijón I want to carry out my previous work regarding cities. The city and its spaces have been from the beginning a metaphorical space closely linked to cinema, both in fiction and non-fiction filmmaking. From the urban symphonies of the twenties to the poetic and psychoanalytic exploration of the cities of our time, from the Berlin of Walter Ruttman to that of Wim Wenders, from the Paris of René Clair to that of Rivette or Leos Carax, from the contraposition country/city in Murnau to the late Hitchcock in iconic spaces (British Museum, Statue of Liberty,...), the modern city, which Baudelaire started to understand and portrait, which Benjamin dissected, reaches with cinema new interpreting possibilities. This is my starting point, which I have to put in relation with the reality of the city and its inhabitants on the other side of my camera. The destination point, so far, remains unknown to me. In any case, I have to be realistic with the filming time and the established deadlines. The result will be a bare minimum agreement between reality and wishes.

L: How should a city like Gijón be narrated through a camera? What difference do you see with the other cities that you have researched?

G: I will start to know that from the day of my arrival, because I don’t know Gijón. Some cities have more literary connotations that others, such as Paris or London, and the creative course may consist on having a dialogue with previous looks at these spaces. This is the basis of my film El jardín imaginario. In the case of Gijón, there is not so much associated literature, so the look will be freer.

Guillermo’s work leads to several paths or, in other words, thoughts, critics, hypothesis, allowing the viewer to take part. We must keep on investigating and posing ourselves questions. He opens the dialogue. We join the game.

We will still have to wait a little to know what are the questions that Gijón poses through the eye of his camera.

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