Slide exhi­bi­tion view
Haus am Kleistpark
Berlin, 2020
Hiroshi­ma City Museum 
of Con­tem­po­rary Art, 2020 
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2017, 2,5K video, 16‘41“, col­or, sound

Vik­tor Brim’s art is about look­ing. What sounds pro­fane and every­day is com­pli­cat­ed upon clos­er inspec­tion, as an atti­tude and posi­tion is inher­ent in every instance of see­ing, a par­tic­u­lar rela­tion­ship to the object of con­sid­er­a­tion. Brim nei­ther exag­ger­ates nor deval­ues, nei­ther mys­ti­fies nor ana­lyt­i­cal­ly min­i­mizes the land­scapes, objects, and peo­ple that he turns his atten­tion to. By exact­ly cal­cu­lat­ing the dura­tion of his gaze and pre­cise­ly crop­ping the image, he suc­ceeds seem­ing­ly effort­less­ly in let­ting that which is viewed to speak for itself. And this true at the lev­el of the past (through inscribed traces), the present (through the doc­u­ment­ed pres­ence), as well as the future (through the sug­gest­ed extrap­o­la­tion of hap­pen­ings that are only vis­i­ble in frag­ments by the viewer).

Brim’s films pri­mar­i­ly depict sites and nar­rate through them and with them in their func­tion as car­ri­ers of (hi)stories. He choos­es land­scapes that are emp­ty of peo­ple at the present moment of film­ing, but which are fun­da­men­tal­ly made, con­ceived, or shaped by peo­ple. Brim does not give direct voice to peo­ple, or allow them to express their per­cep­tions, ideas, or visions in words, but rather shows these things by means of already real­ized man­i­fes­ta­tions, of residues in the world. The scarred land­scape that human beings have made into their own and formed accord­ing to their inten­tions serves in this way as mir­ror, archive, and witness.

The video work mono­scape orig­i­nates from a rel­a­tive­ly nar­row­ly defined, unspec­tac­u­lar area: a small har­bor dis­trict on the north­ern side of Cologne. Brim focus­es on this sin­gle-func­tion space, where var­i­ous flows of traf­fic and goods meet and must be syn­chro­nized, due to his fas­ci­na­tion with the com­plex­i­ty and dynam­ics of the logis­ti­cal sys­tem behind it. He show us a scene that is designed for a glob­al tem­po­ral­i­ty that ignores local cir­cum­stances and is nev­er at rest: a dynam­ic real-time sculp­ture with direct arte­r­i­al con­nec­tions to the world­wide net­work of cir­cu­lat­ing goods and with roots stretch­ing deeply into the local environs. 

In this already cramped site Brim’s and cam­era­man Simon Baucks’s free­dom of move­ment was fur­ther lim­it­ed as they were only allowed to stand in one small area. By using a tele­pho­to lens they were able to extract an aston­ish­ing array of dif­fer­ent visu­al tableaus from the found ensem­ble. It becomes quick­ly clear that this is not about doc­u­ment­ing a spe­cif­ic local har­bor zone but rather about observ­ing the glob­al net­work of the cir­cu­la­tion of goods. It is a sys­tem that once had human beings as the point of depar­ture and the cen­ter, but has grad­u­al­ly become inde­pen­dent and fol­lows its own inher­ent laws and log­i­cal rules. The human being is thus only a watch­ful helper fig­ure on the mar­gins and the human pro­tag­o­nists also appear in this way in Brim’s film: boxed into vast driver’s cabs, where they oper­ate two or three levers, or stand­ing out­side, lethar­gi­cal­ly wait­ing, as the machines fin­ish their work and the ubiq­ui­tous pro­duc­tion log­ic trans­fers them from point A to point B. Brim shows the human being, apa­thet­ic in a sys­tem that he him­self cre­at­ed and which has long escaped him and sur­passed him.

Yet at the same time mono­scape is also a cel­e­bra­tion of the ele­gance of the machine and indus­tri­al process­es, their unswerv­ing and simul­ta­ne­ous­ly bewil­der­ing func­tion­al­i­ty and the mon­u­men­tal­i­ty as well as del­i­ca­cy of their appear­ance. The film is so com­mit­ted to these tech­ni­cal pace­set­ters, that it gen­er­ates its entire rhythm out of the turn­ing, lift­ing, and rolling motions of the logis­ti­cal appa­ra­tus­es. “It should pro­duce an atmos­phere that spreads out through the objects and their inter­ac­tion,” writes the film­mak­er. This is suc­cess­ful also because Brim does not mere­ly divide and ana­lyze the logis­ti­cal process­es into their dif­fer­ent parts, but rather exam­ines the indi­vid­ual machines and their func­tions for their per­for­ma­tive poten­tial. Each shot is like a stage on which per­fect­ly chore­o­graphed actions take place. It almost seems as if they are not being watched from a doc­u­men­tary per­spec­tive but are rather staged for the pur­pose of being observed.

The film decon­tex­tu­al­izes the tech­ni­cal process­es: we do not under­stand what moves, lifts, or shifts which part where. Brim looks at the vis­i­ble struc­tures, at the sur­faces and edges of the giant sculp­ture, and inter­ro­gates them for their aes­thet­ic and nar­ra­tive poten­tial. The sheer pro­por­tions of the indi­vid­ual machines often go beyond the field of vision: the entire con­tent of the image is put into motion, there is no ori­en­ta­tion point, no foothold, no exte­ri­or, and even we as view­ers go miss­ing in this pow­er­ful chore­og­ra­phy of tech­ni­cal processes.

In the edit­ing of his tableaus Brim con­cen­trates not only on visu­al analo­gies but also works with con­trasts. He breaks down the com­plex­i­ty and poly­mor­phy of the visu­al for­ma­tions and cre­ates a whole spec­trum of part­ly con­trast­ing impres­sions: syn­chro­nous and oppos­ing move­ments, pow­er and fragili­ty, veloc­i­ty and stand­still, grav­i­ty and weightlessness.

From an insignif­i­cant spot at the Cologne har­bor Brim looks at the man­i­fes­ta­tions, orga­ni­za­tion­al struc­tures, and inter­re­la­tions of a ubiq­ui­tous glob­al sys­tem for the trans­port of goods. An extreme­ly frag­ment­ed, dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed net­work that at the very least poten­tial­ly con­nects and syn­chro­nizes the tini­est cor­ners of the world. A pic­ture of a logis­ti­cal web emerges that com­mu­ni­cates through nodal points and chan­nels, and shows sur­pris­ing sim­i­lar­i­ty to mod­els of neu­ron struc­tures. The rhyth­mi­cal­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed edit pro­duces a grav­i­ty all its own that keeps pulling us into this tech­ni­cal web. And in com­pre­hend­ing the rhythms, the flow­ing and jerk­ing move­ments, the con­tin­u­ous blink­ing of the warn­ing lights, the pen­du­lum motion of the claw arm, the shak­ing of the cable stays, the rota­tion of the crane booms, and slow rolling of the con­tain­er crane it becomes clear that the result­ing moods, tem­pos, and atmos­pheres ref­er­ence not alone the exte­ri­or, but also have a cor­re­spon­dence and cor­re­la­tion to inte­ri­or states.

(Daniel Burkhardt)