2017, 2.5K video, 16’41”, color, sound

Viktor Brim’s art lies in observing. What sounds mundane and everyday is, upon closer inspection, complex, as every act of seeing inherently carries a stance and position, a specific relationship to the object of observation. Brim’s talent lies in neither glorifying nor demeaning the landscapes, objects, and people he sets his gaze upon, neither mystifying nor analytically reducing them. Through the precise measurement of the duration of his gaze and the exact framing of the image, he effortlessly manages to make the observed tell its story as if by itself. And this happens on the levels of the past – through inscribed traces – the present – through documented presence – and also the future – through the implied extrapolation of the events, always only partially visible, by the viewers.


Brim’s films primarily describe places and tell stories through and with them in their function as carriers of history. He selects landscapes that are devoid of people in the current present of the recording, but fundamentally made, conceived, or shaped by humans. Brim does not let people speak directly, express their assessments, ideas, and visions in words, but shows all of this through already realized manifestations, through legacies in the world. The notched landscape, which humans have made their own and shaped according to their intentions, serves as a mirror, archive, and witness.


The video work “Monoscape” starts from a relatively circumscribed, unspectacular area: a small harbor area in the north of Cologne. Brim focuses on this monofunctional space, where various traffic and goods flows converge and must be synchronized, as he is fascinated by the complexity and dynamics of the logistical system behind it. He shows us a scene designed for a global temporality, ignoring local conditions and never resting: a dynamic real-time sculpture, directly connected to the network of globally circulating goods through its veins and reaching far into the local countryside with its arms.


In this already confined area, Brim’s and his cameraman Simon Baucks’ freedom of movement was additionally limited, as they were only allowed to stay in a small area. Through the use of telephoto lenses, they managed to extract surprisingly many different visual tableaus from the existing ensemble. And it quickly becomes clear that this is not about documenting a local, specific harbor area, but about observing a global network of goods circulation. It is a system that once had humans as its starting point and center but gradually became independent and follows its own inherent laws and logical rules. Humans are now merely observing, serving peripheral figures, and accordingly, the human protagonists in Brim’s film appear: cramped in massive control rooms, where they operate two or three levers, or standing outside, lethargically waiting for the machines to do their work and the omnipresent production logic to transfer them from A to B. Brim depicts humans apathetic in a system they have created themselves but which has long since escaped them and surpassed them.


At the same time, “Monoscape” is also a celebration of the elegance of machines and industrial processes, their unwavering and simultaneously mysterious functionality, and their appearance between monumentality and delicacy. The film dedicates itself to these technical conductors to such an extent that its entire rhythm is generated from the rotating, lifting, and rolling movements of the logistical apparatuses. “It should create an atmosphere that spreads through the objects and their interaction,” writes the filmmaker. The fact that this succeeds is also due to the fact that Brim does not purely divide the logistical processes into their different segments and analyze them but examines the individual machines and their functions for their performative potential. Each shot is like a stage where precisely choreographed actions take place. It almost seems as if they are not being observed documentary but staged for observation.


The film decontextualizes the technical processes: we do not understand what is moved, lifted, and pushed for what purpose and where. Brim looks at the visible structures, at the surfaces and edges of the huge sculpture, and questions them about their aesthetic and narrative potential. The sheer magnitude of the individual machines often exceeds the frame: the entire image content is set in motion, there is no orientation, no stop, no outside, and we viewers also get lost in this vast choreography of technical processes. In the montage of his tableaus, Brim focuses not only on visual analogies but also works with contrasts. He unfolds the complexity and diversity of the visual manifestations and creates a whole range of sometimes contrasting appearances: synchronous and counteracting movements, force and fragility, speed and standstill, gravity, and weightlessness.


From an insignificant point in the Cologne harbor, Brim looks at the manifestations, organizational structures, and relationships of an omnipresent global system for the transport of goods. An extremely branched, differentiated network that potentially connects and synchronizes the smallest corners of the world. The film creates an image of a logistical fabric that communicates through nodes and lines and bears astonishing resemblance to models of neural structures. The rhythmically sophisticated montage creates its own pull, allowing us to immerse ourselves further and further into this technical fabric. And in following the rhythms, the flowing and jerky movements, the continuous blinking of the warning lights, the pendulum movement of the gripper arms, the trembling of the fastening straps, the turning of the crane houses, and the slow rolling of the container bridges, it becomes palpable that the emerging moods, meters, and atmospheres not only reference the external but also correspond to internal conditions.


Daniel Burkhardt