Sunday, 23 October 2016

Oct 26 post for my critique group

Dear Malvina, Gabrielle, Kayoko, Birgit and Derek,

For my first project to be critiqued by the group I am sending you a video that I have started to put together. The video is 19:07 minutes long. I am some days early with sending it out.

Please know
That I am experimenting with video instead of creating the sound piece I was talking about during residency in Berlin, I have discussed this with my advisor. Images are even better than sound alone….

What I am doing here
Is to juxtapose experiences of the Holocaust to current events: Nazis and extreme right wing people in Germany protesting against accepting refugees of Germany. Show the situation in Syria. So I want to show newly arisen hate against foreigners, this time against muslims in Germany and weave images and voices from our German Nazi past into those current experiences. I am also weaving in an interview I had done with a refugee from Syria and am talking about his terrible family situation. Due to those new right wing extremists coming up in Germany, the authorities changed the law last year and it is not possible anymore for war refugees from Syria to bring their families. The two poems I am reading (in German) are reflecting on war and on the Holocaust.

Material I have been working with:

-       I did an interview Fareed Abd Albaki, Refugee from Homs, Syria, in Berlin 2016

-       I did an interview with Dr. Peter Gary, Holocaust survivor, 1923-2016, you hear his voice in the film

In between you hear the voice of Adolf Hitler, I am playing excerpts of his infamous ‘prophecy’ speech from January 1939 in which he openly announced that the Jewry of Europe will eventually be destroyed. (this is interesting because so many Germans after the war said they had no clue what was going on in the camps and didn’t know where Jewish people were taken).

The first setting is the destroyed city of Homs in Syria, which I am juxtaposing to a sound piece I created.  I am reciting the poem Todesfuge (death fugue) by Holocaust survivor Paul Celan. In the poem which is full of metaphors, he describes life in a concentration camp in the face of death. The sound piece is a collaboration with NY composer Concetta Abbate.

The next scene is at the closed border of Macedonia in the spring 2016 where solders are shooting at refugees. The rest of the film so far is, I think, self explanatory…..

I have put this slowly together during the last two months, it has been an incredible amount of work. Especially editing the interviews, finding tv material and editing it, doing research and putting in the subtitles, editing sound and putting it together with film,etc etc

Now I need to go to the studio and paint, paint, paint…..

general impression?
Please give me your honest feedback. Also if you find mistakes in the subtitles (which I did during the past three nights) please let me know. It is easiest when you mention the minutes and second of the part you are commenting on.
First I thought it was way too long, but then I want all the pieces that I have collected there, thus it will just be a very long piece of work……

If you would like to take a look at the other work I have done during the past 6 to 8 weeks, please be so kind and go to my blog OCTOBER 15. Any feedback you have to my paintings/the
i-movie piece about Berlin/ the foto series about genocide/feedback to sound piece etc etc would be more than welcome.

So here is the piece, you know the password…..

It is important that you watch it in the biggest possible format, if you can listen to it via a headset, it would be even better……..that would be the setting like in a gallery…..

No worries if you don’t have the time to engage with a 19 minutes piece at this point. I would just ask you to watch it in one piece please.

Thank you so much, I appreciate your feedback so much.

Hugs to all and see you in 2.5 months in NYC!!

Ira xxx


  1. Ira,

    To say I was moved by the video is an understatement. This is one of the most significant things I've seen by the people in our program.

    It lends an important dimension to your work I hadn't been aware of. I see this as a fundamental component of your overall practice. I'm not sure if you're going to continue with this, but I hope you do.

    One of the reasons this resonates is that what's happening here is happening globally, in various forms. Those energized faces of excited hatred in the hooligan rally, echoing what one finds at Trump rallies. Or the history of lynchings in the US. Or (one could go on for pages.) Ultimately what you're highlighting isn't specific to Syria and Germany, in many ways.

    I don't think this is too long at all. And you've edited the piece fantastically. You're a great interviewer--you're off screen, and listening attentively, and rarely insert your own voice into the interview.

    The interview with Fareed is the most powerful part of the entire video. (I'm keen to know the backstory, how you wound up interviewing both of them.)

    I don't think this only belongs in a gallery. It's too important to exist in a room somewhere for a small number of viewers. This should go onto youtube. Your goal here is raising awareness, and I think this has the potential to reach a wide audience. Early on Fareed says something about how millions know about their situation. But the reality is not enough know about this. I've seen almost none of this footage. His testimony needs to be put out there.

    Since this is so close to being ready for widespread public dissemination, some picayune thoughts about things you might want to think about:

    * You asked for input re: the subtitles. I think around 3 times the word "loose" pops up, but it should be "lose." Also, at 10:30 "save" should be "safe". And at 13:30 "its" should be "it's".

    * While watching it I wondered if a good title for this thing might be a quote for Fareed: "To live under the bomb, it's not a life."

    * I'm wondering about the music, which appears at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end. Part of me wants to see the entire thing without any music. While it's melancholy, I think the music is also too pretty for the subject matter, and at risk of calling to much attention to itself. I worry that it "prettifies" the work, whereas silence might have more of an effect. If you do keep the music, at 13:19 it ends abruptly; it's the one spot in the entire video where that calls attention to itself.

    * At 14:28 the subtitles scroll up in that Star Wars manner. If this was part of the original television footage, you can't do anything about that, but if it was what you added, I'd stick with the font & style used throughout the video. Just as your interviewing method works because you don't call attention to yourself, same w/the subtitles.

    * Why not include English subtitles for the poems?

    * Some thoughts about the credits: is it "reunition of families?" or "reuniting"? (Maybe reunition is the correct word; I'm just unfamiliar w/it). Also, I would put the info of Peter Gray first, followed by the info on Fareed. Let the reference to his children not being in school for 5 years be the last words of the video. And, when citing the footage, and poetry, etc, you'll need to put more info: the title of the poems, and the source. Also more information about the footage from television. The Purdue OWL is generally a good source to start getting info on citing materials.

    I spent a lot of time thinking about this work, Ira. It's not just powerful, it's information that needs to be widely distributed. That interview with Fareed is crucial. It also reveals the extent to which you really are someone devoted to documenting and testifying, in a range of media. I'm really impressed.


  2. Dear Ira,
    Thank you for your sharing.
    I am posting as several posts since your site only certain numbers allow limited.

    Your work provoked me in so many ways. And, I had trouble put into the writings are organized and comprehensive. I have been spending hours and days trying to write. I hope this will open the conversation. I believe we both want peace not war. I love to hear what you think about my response.

    I think your project addresses very big and difficult issue and I want you to spend more time and dig deeper into the subject. It is very courageous of you to do this. I want you to make this absolutely best for you. This one seems very different in style from other works I saw. I felt you were more quietly addressing the issues. This one, on the other hand, I felt more aggressive and not much space for contemplation. I prefer your previous style to give the viewers space to think. Then, I thought the real message was about you and the sad history of your country: you are openly criticizing your own people and connecting with Nazi. That is very painful thing to do.

    After listening to This American Life “Seriously” 599 episode today, I decide to finish this. I also want to state the state I am in is very unstable. I have been feeling affected by the U.S. presidential election and by the events in the world. I feel tremendous sadness where people are openly so viciously attaching each other. The amount of hatred openly and publicly expressed is beyond comprehension to me. I feel very sad. I could not keep watching the debates. I feel powerless in this situation.

    I would like to explain my stance and point of views are uniquely to me and it might not agreeable to you or others. I feel that is my contribution; however, to have different point of views. I inject my video background as well.

    I felt your emotion was charged with this issue. It was almost personal, or it was personal matter. I wonder what is your message. And, whom you are addressing to.

    I was not clear is you are making this as a journalist or, an artist. I could not determine by watching this movie. I watched 3 times and twice regular ways and once without images. The way things were juxtaposing confused me and difficult to follow. That made me think that was your intentions (as an art film ) at that time. I did like just listening to the audio brought me into the story better. The cutting and edit of the video was rough at the times I wondered this is the final edit or work in progress. The footages you shot/record: 2 interviews and your reading of the poem should be the main, but broadcast footages seemed dominant when I watched. I think because this unbalance, I wonder about this is more about journalism. But, then the journalism has to stand on the fact and researched bases. And, the author has to stay neutral and unbiased regardless of her/his opinion. So, it was not. Then, you might wonder why I am so hung up on this. Then, I want you to listen to “Seriously”. I want to stand behind Ira Glass. The public figure openly telling untrue things in public and people will believe in that. Now, you might think I am accusing you not telling the truth. I am not. But, I think ultranationalism in Germany didn’t cause the Syrian refugee crisis. And, what Syrian refugees face and what Nazi did are not same thing even though it might tap into the same emotional landscape.

  3. part 2.

    I do believe that you can tell his story without inserting those broadcast news footages. I was uncomfortable seeing the subtitle in English while he was talking in English. I had no trouble understanding what he is saying. He didn’t have strong accent. If you interviewed and asked him to speak Arabic, then subtitle made sense. The background was bared and cold, and it was very far shot. It reminded of the video of the hostage, shot by the kidnapper I saw on TV. The lighting was not efficient, and the focus was soft. So, it was difficult to see his face/facial expression. The audio has hum and distracting when listened (probably from the fluorescent lights, and it can be cleaned up with filtering off). This was very contrasting to your voice I love and well recorded (reading of a poem), as well as Dr.’s voice. The beginning of this interview footage was strange. “Are you recording now?”, I don’t think that part is needed. Here, for story telling, I mean the life of xxx, I need to get know him. It is important to get familiarize the talk of the person I see very first time. When and where did he grow up? What do his arts were like? What kind of relationship do you have with him? How did you know him? Where did you interview? What did you use to interview with? I wonder how you conducted this interview. Have you talk to him before? How long did the interview last? Who was in the business of palm (boat)? Why did hi chose that by paying thousands of dollars? Why didn’t hi bring his family with him? How much money did he earn in Syria? Did he arrive at Macedonia? How did he travel to Germany? Why did he choose Germany? Does he in Berlin? How does he live now? What does he think about near future? Does he have family, relative, or friends who can help him? Can you think the solution to this Syrian refugee crisis? I can even see you telling the story, instead of those subtitles. I do prefer hear your opinion through your voice: that becomes your story not the collections of news.

    The very beginning scene was ghostly, but beautiful (sorry). I was feeling detached from what I was watching. Even though it was the images of destroyed city, the smoothness of the shot make it as if watching the fictional scene. The shot must be done by drone, made me think about drone was used for the targeted attack more and more. I remember watching War by remote: What do you think?
    October 16, 2009 by Frontline.
    It made chill in my back.

    I felt I need more space to experience your materials. I can see each segment as separate pieces and each piece has dialogue with each other in one or several rooms.

  4. part 3.

    Refugee crises, immigrations, and host country (Germany)

    I think the rise of the ultranationalism in the world tied into the current economy in the world. Like people in U.K. voted for Brexit, many feels worn out from their everyday life. When I watched “The inequality for All”(2013) made so much sense how top 1% are the game players and they do not care the rest. Until now, few recognize that. Abuse, arson, and lynching are absolutely wrong things to do. Ultranationalism is dangerous. I am more interested in why ultranationalism emerged in Germany: The country who went through Nazi. I worried about the divided world. The world defines good and evil on each other (we = good, others = evil) I think we are both good and bad. It is dangerous to point finger outward saying they are evil. That is the idea behind war. The talk is the key, not the war. We have to find the way to live peacefully together.

    I grew up very far away from the refugees. As fundamental base, Japanese government won’t allow refugees to enter the country. It is a small country and very homogenic one. In NYC, there is no refugee camp. I don’t see them here either. I can only imagine how it feels to live in the hometown where all those refugees of unfamiliar ethnic groups, speak language and customs I don’t understand pour in. Lack of knowledge was the issue can be addressed. Also, teaching of compassion and tolerance, nonviolence, no separation, and no division are keys.

    I can see I can be more compassionate and calm towards others when I am not stressed out about my life. I saw the closest encounter of other side of this refugee situation when I was in suburb of Helsinki this summer. This was my first visit to Finland and it is the furthest and most northern country, I have ever visited. I stayed at the Airbnb’s home for several nights and became a friend with the host. She is a mother of grown daughter with two little children. She is very warm and kind person. Yes, I am Japanese, Asian, and she is Finish. We get along very well. The night before flew back to NYC, I was on the bus with her and her neighbors way back to her home. There was a lady with a baby on the baby cart step into the bus. She was covered from head to toes with a niqab. My host started to yell at her. She was clearly very upset. A niqab seemed her trigger and she was verbally attacking her. We tried to calm her down. Then, we were at our stop. I was initially taking off what happened. But, I tried not to judge her. I do not know the background. I do not know what was behind this. I had to leave next day and didn’t have chance to ask about this incident.

    “2016 : Between January and July 2016 77,000 Syrian refugees in EASY areregistration system has been detected. Around 196,000 have provided during this period an asylum initial application. 2016 also have applied with "unexplained" nationality asylum 13,000 people. Among them are Kurds and Palestinians from Syria, as the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees told the MEDIASERVICE on request. Source

    2015 : Throughout 2015 approximately 429,000 Syrians have been detected in the EASY system and 159,000 have filed an initial application. In addition, some 12,000 refugees have lodged an application with "unexplained" nationality. Source

    "Since 2014, the Syrians, the largest group of asylum seekers in Germany. A total of around 600,000 Syrians have fled to Germany since the beginning of the Civil War: Between 2011 and 2014, 100,000 Syrians are by the federal interior ministry entered Germany. In addition, those who were in 2015 and 2016, registered in the EASY system. The total number represents an approximate value is because it can lead to miscarriages and double counting in the EASY-figures. Source"

  5. part 5.

    The Inequality for All (2012)
    At the heart of the film is a simple proposition: what is a good society, and what role does the widening income gap play in the deterioration of our nation's economic health? We are endeavoring for INEQUALITY FOR ALL to be a paradigm-shifting, eye-opening experience for the American public. We want to accurately show through a non-partisan perspective why extreme income inequality is such an important topic for our citizens today and for the future of America.(c) Official Site

    Remember (2015) film
    Remember tells the story of Zev Guttman (Academy Award (R) Winner Christopher Plummer), a 90-year-old struggling with memory loss who is living out his final years in a serene retirement home. A week following the death of his beloved wife Ruth, he suddenly gets a mysterious package from his close friend Max (Academy Award (R) Winner Martin Landau), containing a stack of money and a letter detailing a shocking plan. Both Zev and Max were prisoners in Auschwitz, and the same sadistic guard was responsible for the death of both their families-a guard who, immediately after the war, escaped Germany and has been living in the U.S. ever since under an assumed identity. Max is wheelchair-bound but in full command of his mental faculties; with his guidance, Zev will embark on a cross-continental road-trip to bring justice once and for all to the man who destroyed both their lives.

    Human Mask by Pierre Huyghe
    It is non narrative film. He express through the beautiful cinematography in profound ways for me. It is about humans, natural disaster, and apocalypse.

    Drones War

    What happened to history’s refugees? conflict

    A visual guide to 75 years of major refugee crises around the world

    592: Are We There Yet?
    JUL 29, 2016

    593: Don’t Have to Live Like a Refugee
    AUG 5, 2016

  6. part 6
    Reference continue

    Topography of Terror Documentation Center

    I spend one afternoon at this place. I applaud German for establishing the institution to openly show the dark history of Germany.
    It was well exhibited, and very educational. I was thinking about president Obama’s visit in Hiroshima this May. He was the very first president to visit Hiroshima after the nuclear bombing by the U.S.. They were clearly said “This is not apology visit”, but the gesture counts for so many Japanese and others (Koreans) lost (140,000), or hurt by this atomic bombing.

    President Obama’s speech at Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park in Hiroshima, Japan (find in the above site)

    Berlin museum controversially recreates Hitler bunker
    Published: 28 Oct 2016 15:48 GMT+02:00

    The building was constructed in 1943 by architect Karl Bonatz, intended as a shelter for Reichsbahn train passengers, and served as a bunker during bombings. Thanks to its dense exterior, under the East German Government its low temperature made it an ideal storage space for fruit. When the wall came down, it opened as a techno and s+m club on various levels, straightforwardly named ‘Bunker’.

    I visited to this private collection museum last summer. It was one of the most strange museum visit. The history of this building, 12 euro to enter, reservation only, 20s white male with suits spoke fluent English and made us move through the collection with his command. We were not allowed to roam around. And, had to behave and told us we are so lucky to be here, allowed to visit this museum and to see the art works. As you might guess, no natural lights, extreme thick walls, can almost feel the confinement of space by the 5000 people. Christian Boros and his wife Karen, owners of this museum live on the top of this bunker with children. I felt the space was much more powerful than any art works in there. It would be much more appropriate if that bunker was owned by the city and allowed the public to visit as the piece of the history.


  7. Dear Ira -

    Apologies for the delay - I’ve had a grueling few weeks and wanted to be able to give your video a watch when I could do so on my computer, at home, and without distractions. Finally, last night I was able to do that.

    I have to say, I found it to be very moving and powerfully informative. I agree with most of what Derek said - about it needing a much broader audience than just gallery/museum visitors - as it shows the stark truth in an engaging, honest and effective way. It’s a strong “wake-up call” to help viewers see what has happened and is happening right now. How people’s lives are being turned upside down, how the white supremacists are activating, and how tense and threatening the situation is for the refugees.

    It is very important to bring the truth to light, and I admire your strength and courage to shine a spotlight on the situation which shows history repeating itself. Instead of shouting into a bullhorn to get people’s attention, you have created poetic realism, a piece that is both poignant, poetic, and real.

    What I find so amazing is how I am able to feel the meaning in your words, even if I can’t understand them.
    Your delivery, the tone and tempo of your voice is so absolutely perfect for this. I can’t find the words to describe what it does for me, but your voiceover has a similar effect as the voiceovers in Wings of Desire - the classic film by Wim Wenders.
    I agree with Derek though, that subtitles for the poems you’re reading in German would add a lot to the work - especially for those of us who can’t understand the language.

    I really liked the music and I enjoyed hearing you reading the poetry over it. I would make the music a little fainter behind your voice - but just a tiny bit quieter.

    It would be good also, to edit out the places where your voice is heard in the interview with Fareed if possible and perhaps instead put your question in as a text/subtitle. I say this mainly because the audio on your voice isn’t as good as on Fareed’s - so there’s an imbalance. But also, because it’s the only place where we suddenly become aware of the interviewer.

    As Derek said, the Star Wars style text receding into background seems out of place.
    Blocks of text that sit on the screen long enough to be read would be better.

    As far as your subtitles go, I think Derek caught the few translation errors that showed up in the film.

    Is there a photo of the Holocaust survivor included? I’d have to watch it again because I don’t remember.
    If not, I would really like to see image(s) of his face if possible...

    I’m really curious about the aerial footage of Homs.
    How/where did you get it? Was it filmed with a drone? When was it shot?
    Do you need to put in credits (perhaps you did already) for the footage?

    A couple of things that come to mind that you may want to look into:

    Liquid Traces - The Left-to-Die Boat Case
    This is a powerful video I saw in the MoMA exhibition I went to this week called Insecurities: Tracing Displacement and Shelter.
    The 17 min video is a fascinating (and tragic) piece by Charles Heller and Lorenzo Pezzani about the Left to Die Boat.

    Swimming in Auschwitz
    This is a 60 min video about 6 women Holocaust survivors telling their stories.

    I am so impressed with your video, Ira. I really hope it is seen by millions of people and that you’re able to get it out to a wide public soon.

    . . . . . . .

    Ira ~ I just took a look at your October 15 post and see that you have been extremely prolific!
    I can’t believe how much work you’ve done! I love seeing your experiments with brush, paint and canvas. It looks like you’re making some great discoveries in your process. Also, the shadow portrait photo series shows promise. And, I loved your ode to Berlin - you have some stunning photos in that collection!


  8. Hello Ira,

    Again, I apologize for the delay in responding.

    I have to say that I agree with a lot of what Kayoko says. This is of course a very loaded and emotional topic. I'm going to respond as if I don't know much about you or where you are coming from as if I were seeing this piece in a gallery...

    It is unclear to me if this is a documentary piece or a personal piece. It it is a documentary piece, I find it confusing as to what the real information is. You are comparing Nazi Germany to the current political situation. I agree there are certainly similarities but I think this is an obvious parallel and I encourage you to dig deeper into why these are similar. Why not try interviewing the same Germans or the same Syrians about both Nazi Germany and the current Syrian refugee crisis?

    I would personally like to see the video take a more abstract/personal direction. I love the beginning and the end where you read the poem juxtaposed against the images. At first it was frustrating with my limited knowledge of German to only pick up a few words and I wanted to know more about what you were saying and thinking but I also appreciated how lost I felt in this confusing and violent situation. Maybe this is something that you could play with?

    I also get confused with the "real news" excerpts. They seems to jump back and forth too much between your opinion and "reality" which I think could be an interesting direction to go as well but you would need to push that further.

    The last word of caution I have is that if this is going to be seen in a wider setting it feels a bit one sided and I caution that you will not be able to open the eyes or ears those you are trying to reach.

    I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any questions on what I said.