Still Movie (2013)

Txema Novelo

Txema Novelo, 2013

Txema Novelo has completed work on his film STILL MOVIE, in the framework of the artists-inresidence programme (EMAN#EMARE ñ European Media Art Network and the European Media Artists in Residence Exchange) organised by Bandits-Mages (Bourges, France). Begun three years ago, Txema has now achieved the fifth and final chapter of the film. In parallel, he has brought out an online publication where the many references alluded to in the film can be explored.In STILL MOVIE, Txema Novelo is part of the cast, in a role which paradoxically turns out to be central, the Assistant to the Painting Master. Only he can find, gather and distil the flowers needed to make the elixir of plants, a philtre of perpetual youth which keeps his master in good health and allows him to painta final picture. The acolyte/apprentice, drained by this never-ending and stressful task, follows a quest of initiation in order to set himself free. The five chapters of the film chart the progress of his liberation.Both the character of the distiller, who transforms the state of matter, and the concept of an acolyte keeping his master alive through his active quest, may be taken as pertinent metaphors for the protean work of Txema Novelo. Born in the 80s (in Mexico, en 1982), the young artistís hybrid references are drawn as much from rockíníroll, video games and experimental cinema as from the history of art, mysticism and philosophy. Far from being nostalgic, his work instead opens up the possibility that a new renaissance could be happening today. Txema Novelo makes no disillusioned observations about the end of history; instead, he teleports into the present characters, works and productions whose vitality, inventive power, dissidence and boundless energy are the signature of the avant-garde underground. His narrative distils the esthetic, mystic and magic, in an atmosphere which could be labelled punk-glamour.Among the many ancient pictorial images in the film, the myth of paradise lost and the eviction from the Garden of Eden reappear as if they were still current issues, such as how to find unity and the full accomplishment of the self.As a background to this decidedly experimental concoction is the artistís Gnostic conception of existence. As he has said, ìGnosticism is knowledge; at least that is its etymology. Gnostics realize divinity as more of an algorithm than a position or truth. It is a system of knowledge more than anythingelse. The two truths and principles of Gnosticism are that every human is divine by nature, but are divided from the spiritual world by ìThe tramp of the worldî,the nightmare who divided us forever. It is the Christian mythos of the world as a structure. In this way, divine and divide are one and the same thing. [Ö] There has to be humor and humility to live lifeóitís the only way to survive the division. I have this bigger aesthetic idea that since ìdivineî and ìdividedî have the same root, and Iím obsessed with mystics and rock and roll, I have this figure that I call ìjoy division/sad divineî just to remind myself of the divided algorithm. If this were fixed it would be ìjoy divine/sad division.î To me itís always a reminderódonít get too comfortable in the world, donít ever getcomfortable in the world."Gnosis calls for a direct knowledge of divinity, reached through a thorough knowledge of oneself. In STILL MOVIE, the silhouette of the Assistant (the role taken by Txema Novelo) appears at the end of the 4th chapter (entitled ìTeurgia Triangularî), crowned by the three-branched cross, the ìPsychickCrossî introduced in ìThee Temple Ov Psychick Youthî (T.O.P.Y.) where it symbolises the movementís far-reaching initiative, developed in the 1980s, to liberate bodies and minds. Another reference is the reproduction of the planisphere ìT.O.P.Y. ñWorld Nett-Workî which recurs regularly in STILL MOVIE, like a sort of visual litany. T.O.P.Y. largely contributed to the fad for investigations into the occult, all through the 1980s and 90s, along with the growing trends of bodily transformation (tattoos and piercing) and hallucinogenic festive gatherings (raves, free parties, acid music)... In STILL MOVIE, it is as if the Assistant graduallyadopts the principles favoured by this liberating movementand directly embodies them: "Involvement with the Temple of Psychick Youth requires an active individual dedicated towards the establishment of a functional system of magick and a modern pagan philosophy withoutrecourse to mystification, gods or demons but recognizing the implicit powers of thehuman brain (neuromancy) linked with guiltless sexuality focussed through will structure. [Ö] Magick empowers the individual to embrace and realize their dreams and maximize their natural potential. It is for those brave enough to touch themselves. It is for those with thee first steps towards final negation of control and fear.î Adherents need an attitude free of any convention, beyond any blasphemy..The scene most emblematic of this liberation is the enactment of the final distillation. In it, the Assistant meets a set of characters, introduced following a triangular format, such as a Patriarch, a Priest, a female Slave, a male Slave and a Virgin, with himself embodying the Apprentice. In order to join this gathering,he is first frisked. The frame resembles that of a surveillance camera, perhaps a direct reference to contemporary systems of domination. The white flowers have already dictated to the Assistant how to set himself free from his Master, namely to alter the elixir rendering it toxic and deadly and then make him drink it. To do this, the white flowers must be plunged into black oil. Once dyed they are fed to the Virgin, clad in a red and white kimono, by the female Slave, clad in black. Three minutes later, they flow out as a red liquid from between the Virginís legs. It is at the end of this operation, after the philtre of eternal life has been turned into a poison that the Assistant is seen wearing the Psychick Cross marking his liberation. The filmís title ìSTILL MOVIEî refers to a monumental painting by Arturo Rivera and the whole of this scene is a reminder. The distilling scene is a virtual reconstruction of the painting ìClase de anatomÌaì, where a group of four men dressed in dark suits are seated on a terrace in an enclave surrounded by two high grey walls with French windows. The men are talking, sitting round a table on which a skinned cowís head takes pride of place in the foreground. On their right, a dark-haired woman, dressed in a red and Installation, 2011: a record player playing David Bowieís ì Magic Danceî (1986) a vinyl pattern on the ground retraces the Cabbalistic seal ìTree of Lifeî or a diagram showing where to step when dancing.9www.valevergasdiscos.comwhite kimono, squats on a sort of wooden stage; a red liquid flows from between her legs onto a white cloth beneath her.Txema ës interest in the mystics and rockíníroll is closely associated with his use of the esthetic codes of the Atari Generation, to which he clearly belongs. In many of his films, he summons up visual allusions with recurrent patterns, paying tribute to the birth of Atari Visual Music in 1978. It has been said that this was dreamt up in the brains of technicians high on drugs and it calls to mind Brion Gysinís invention the ìDreamachineî, a spinning cylinder, filtering light through geometrical cut-outs from a central bulb. If you wanted to relax or have psychedelic visions, you would view it through closed eyes.Magic, hallucinations, mysticism and rockíníroll... it helps to explain why ìgrimoireî was his namefor the catalogue at his one-man-show in the Yautepec Galerie (Mexico, 2012). An installation from this show, ìMagik Dance8î appears in Still Movie, in the scene where the Assistant has time to practise his magic.Txema doesnít confine his experiments to one field and has had a hand in musical production per se, producing a film specially for the groups on his label ìVale Vergas Discosî. The original soundtrack for STILL MOVIE is as much a voice off as a musical accompaniment: the ethics and the esthetics of groups,their philosophical and political leanings are as important as the messages of the lyrics or the song titles. These include ìSleepî by Ford Proco and Charles Mingusí ìFreedomî in ìCuicapeuhcayotî, Chapter 1 ; ìQuicksilver Glide Divineî written and performed by Spectrum in ìEdenî, Chapter 2 ; ì(Well You Know)Iím A Kisserî written and performed by Seekers Who Are Lover, ìCirugia Culinariaî written and performed by Syntoma in ìTeurgia Triangularî (Chapter 4).Extracts from Bob Dylan songs (ìI should be Releasedî) rub shoulders with the yellow smiley, the emblem of Acid House Music, and the triangle on thethird eye, the logo of Spacemen 3, who also defend the use of psychotropic drugs in the making of their post-punk, space and psychedelic rock (as they called it: ìtaking drugs to make music to take drugs toî).At first sight, the idea of being part of a generation and of re-inventing oneís place in history seems to overshadow issues related to any particular geographical culture. The culture the artist adheres to seems to be global, transcending frontiers. That said, the will for a deeper dialogue between Mexico and Europe is apparent in STILL MOVIE, by means of a two-way exchange of influences and shared relationships.Over a three-year period, Txemaís film has taken shape in the towns of Mexico, Oaxaca, Los Angeles, Berlin and Weimar, according to each element of the scenario. Thus the two main mentors of STILL MOVIE are the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and the musician Walter Schmidt, who plays the Painting Master in the film. Walter Schmidt is an icon of Mexicoís musical underground which emerged in the 1980s, playing in the groups Size and Casino.Shangai. His mother is Mexican and his father an ex-SS soldier taking refuge in Mexico. Friedrich Nietzsche is often quoted by Txema Novelo throughout his work. Aleister Crowley, the eminent influence of T.O.P.Y. who invented the concept of ì Magikî, considers Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche to be a saint, and a true prophet... He has a place in STILL MOVIE through his links with Mexico, revealed in a letter he sent to Heinrich Kˆselitz (Sils-Maria, 14th August 1881) where he declares: ìOn the other hand I regard it as my reward that this year has shown me two things that belong to me and that are intimatelyrelated to meóI refer to your music and the landscape before me. This is neither Switzerland nor Recoaro, but something quite different; in any case something much more southernó I should have to go to the Mexican plateau alongside the calm ocean, to find anything like it (Oaxaca, for instance); andthen, of course, it would be covered with tropical vegetation.î. Nietzscheís tomb appears in chapter 1 when the Assistant lays the Sonic Youth record ìKill Yr Idolsî (1983) on it, like a Scarlet Letter addressed to the iconoclastic philosopher, and so does his desk (chapter 5, ìUmgeben von Lichtî) whern the Assistant searches the map of Oaxaca to locate his Master in hisstudio and give him the liberating elixir. After visiting Nietzscheís tomb, the Assistant goes to the tomb of Nico and sends her a white prayer in the form of the Velvet Underground record ìPraise ye the Lordî (1988).As the actor, Txema Novelo invites us to follow his own initiatic quest for liberation. On his way, he distils the white flower of eternal life mixed with the red flower of poison and death, to become an androgynous being who is at last free and whole, morphed by his encounters with rockíníroll, the concrete poetry of Augusto de Campos, the Wixaritari people and his use of peyote (hikuri) and an old Nahuatl.poem .. while as the director he proves himself tobe a modern-day sorcerer artist.