AXW– Ved’ma uses 3 screens — Why?
CE-The first inspiration for “Ved’ma” was the Russian fairytale “Vasilissa the beautiful” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasilisa_the_Beautiful) and its characters: the beautiful girl, the witch’s white, red and black riders, the witch herself and a puppet which speaks. Traditional fairytales generally depict feminine stereotypes, either the beautiful, good, successful one or the ugly, nasty one who perishes in the end. The Russian witch, Baba Yaga, however is a two-sided character, in some tales good and beautiful, in some nasty and ugly, sometimes she appears to be split into three women or three sisters. I thought this is a woman who is multifaceted and in this closer to what I think a woman is made of.
As a result I wanted to revisit this myth of the Russian witch and break with all the hierarchy of the traditional fairytale: there is no beautiful or ugly, no success or loss, all three of them are lost and looking for something, they are struggling for answers but don’t seem to find them, and, they could as well all be united in the same person at the same time. All three women could be the very same woman at different stages of her life, three sisters or three generations.
I might have managed to show everything in one storyline and one screen, but this would have meant again to choose, i.e. to choose to show one story of one woman before the other. But, what I wanted above all, was to break away from that eternal circle of predefined identification which fairytales always put you into. I wanted to translate this lack of hierarchy of the storyline, the equality of characters, to the external form of my work and to show them all at the same time, so the spectator could choose which one is more appealing to him/her or watch them all at the same time. The spectator might thus feel a bit lost, but this just recreates the feeling that these women have while perpetuating their rituals.
The second inspiration for “Ved’ma” were renaissance-painting-altar-pieces. These are multiple panel paintings showing biblical myths, which are a symbol for transmission of moral values and ideals. The protagonists of the panels in these altar pieces don’t interact, they stay within the static boundaries of their frame, each having their well-defined purpose.
I wanted to use this symbol and twist it by replacing these ideals with dysfunctional behavior in contemporary society, as if this behavior had become the new “moral value”: exclusion from a group, exclusion of the elder generation, the chase after the perfect body.
The “contemporary society” is represented as being somewhat ghostlike, you can’t barely see it physically on screen, only in the shape of small anonymous groups which push the young woman aside or in what it makes the protagonists do as a result. The protagonists are at first subdued and treated as victims in a Sisyphonian ritual from which they eventually break-out and interact with each other to find a sense in all of this, but in the end this sense is kept hidden, in order for the story to repeat itself over and over again.
AXW- You mention Ved’ma as a metaphor for relationships, asking:
Who influences whom? Who depends on whom? How do we perceive the other? Who manipulates whom? Who guides us, who serves us as a role model, as an ideal? Can you “answer” one of these questions and explain it more to us?
CE- In general I am interested in how relations between people function or not in an anthropological and existential sense.
In this triptych, and with reference to the “fairy tale” theme, I wanted to concentrate on how and what we transmit ethically from one generation to the other and whether the transmission has necessarily to be linear. Usually, when we look at generations from a stereotypical point of view, it is the older generation who has gained wisdom about life which they should pass on to the younger ones and the younger ones should be those who come to the older ones to ask for advice. If we continue this stereotypical thought there is a linearity in the transmission of wisdom from old to young, from left to right.
In my work, I again want to question this kind of “one-way”-road. I question it through its content:
The main character is the central one, the witch, the old homeless woman. Society doesn’t need her anymore, nor her wisdom and power, so eventually even she lost faith in herself and her capacities. In a last attempt to attract someone who could be “initiated” by her or who just keeps her company, she prepares a catapult as a form of ritual.
During this ritual several gestures she executes trigger at some point reactions from the characters in the films on the left and right side. She thus influences or controls the other characters without really being aware of it. When the catapult is launched in the end, it attracts the young woman on the left screen to approach her.
The young woman is naive in her wish to go towards and get to know people. But every group she encounters fails her, manipulates her physically and doesn’t want her to become a part of it. Still, she keeps on trying. She is looking to be part of something, to be led by someone in life, a structure. In the end she stumbles upon the witch.
Together they perform a dance in which it is not clear who is leading, sometimes it is the witch, sometimes the young woman. But in the end the witch cannot provide the answers or fulfill the needs of the young woman, which is represented by the hand of the young woman penetrating the witch’s humps without finding anything in it. Together, in a rage, they glide out of the frame and become the children of the fat women/false mother. The traditional generational order of transmission has thus become blurry.
And I question it through the form of the work:
If I had shown the transmission of values over generations in a traditional, stereotypical, linear way, the witch should have been on the left side, the mother in the middle and the young one on the right side. There is still a linear transmission from the left screen via the middle screen to the right screen, but as I have turned the order of the characters upside-down the possibilities to influence, manipulate, to guide or depend are multiple and can be interpreted both ways.