ELECTRIC FOREST: PART 1 || ROUTE SALE
ELECTRIC FOREST SCREENINGS are being organized and produced by FRAME Finnish Fund for Art Exchange in collaboration with Avanto Festival.
The Finnish artist Eino Ruutsalo discharged his patriotic duties in the Continuation War from May 1921-2001 to November 1942 as a pilot of a Fokker D.XXI fighter. The experience left an indelible mark on the young man's life. "In flying I had got used to the fact that images that came in front of my eyes always moved on. They never stopped! It felt necessary to give to paintings that same movement I had experienced things with. It was on the fast track!" Ruutsalo wrote about his memories of the war.
Eino Ruutsalo: Kinetic Pictures (1962, 7')
The opening gambit of Finnish abstract film. The method used to make the film is stated in the opening credits: "Designed and painted by Eino Ruutsalo." The film is made almost entirely without a camera, by painting, writing, etching, punching and scratching the film stock. Ruutsalo worked for two years on the film. The final five-minute collage is three minutes shorter than the original concept and consists of about 8,600 frames or 'individual paintings' as Ruutsalo called them. for freedom. The graphic and fast-paced camera choreography picks up speed throughout the film, culminating in a sequence where the flying bird (dancer Riitta Vainio) is shot down. The percussion-dominated score was again composed by Otto Donner, and the choreographies were by Riitta Vainio, a pioneer of modern dance in Finland.
Eino Ruutsalo: Two Chickens (1963, 4')
According to Ruutsalo himself, Two Chickens was composed spontaneously on waste footage. The piece is a hysterical cavalcade of images featuring a nude female (actor Ritva Vepsä), awkward auditions, cream crackers, a floating feather and excessive amounts of paint and colour. The pictures fly past at a breathless pace, with Ruutsalo manipulating them in a fit of intuitive frenzy. The sophisticated tape collage by Otto Donner on the soundtrack is a forgotten highlight of Finnish film music. Two Chickens is cinematic action painting, and in its condensed expressiveness, Ruutsalo's most idiomatic and durable masterpiece.
Eino Ruutsalo: The Jump / Le Saut (1965, 5')
True to Ruutsalo's style, the film is an odd combination of black humour and melodramatic anxiety. The procession of images is a natural blend of scantily clad ladies and concentration camps, hand-painted waste footage and studio shots of a man (actor Kaarlo Juurela) in felt boots. The Jump is not only Ruutsalo's funniest film, but it is also a milestone because of its soundtrack. The avalanche of electronic sounds by Erkki Kurenniemi and Otto Donner is still amazingly fresh and brilliantly effective film music, a kind of early prototype of minimalist techno music. The deafening composition is paralleled visually by a brief sequence shot in a street where a group of men and children seem to be covering their ears in pain; originally their ears were stung not by electronic noise, but by the exceptionally freezing weather in a windy street.
Eino Ruutsalo: ABC 123 (1967, 5')
This Lettrist film signalled Ruutsalo's return to a more open cinematic form. The raw material of the film consists almost exclusively of fragments from a book of typeface samples, which Ruutsalo tore into pieces and then animated and coloured. "In the '60s I was in the middle of an avalanche of elements, one of the most important of which were letters and montage," Ruutsalo remembers. Once again the film includes references to war. There is a lot of funeral music on the soundtrack as well as sounds of warfare, airplanes in particular. The presence of death is almost tangible when the letters and graphic signs suddenly line up into a symbolic string of bullets as a machine gun sounds on the soundtrack.
Eino Ruutsalo: Food (1968, 5')
Food is a perfectly absurd collage of images and sounds which seemingly have no rational connection with each other at all. "Our food is radioactive. Pollution falls down into our cities and over us. It is everywhere. The world is tinted with new colours, reality appears in the colours of views, values tumble, existence is a risk – only dreams and waiting remain," Ruutsalo wrote. Resembling nothing so much as automatic writing, Food is the most liberated of Eino Ruutsalo's works, a spastic synthesis of the potentials of kinetic cinema. All its images are made of waste footage from Ruutsalo's earlier films: scratched faces, the statue of Marshall Mannerheim, refrigerator doors opening by themselves, geometric shapes, spring mattresses, etc. Food was in part a collective work as long sequences of the film were painted by Ruutsalo's three children.
Eino Ruutsalo: Is This the World of Teddy? (1969, 10')
From the mid-1960s Ruutsalo vacillated constantly between absurdism and pacifism. Is This the World of Teddy? signified yet another step forward on the path of pacifism. The film is made up of news photos and short dramatised fragments which Ruutsalo once again manipulated by painting. One of the greatest features of Teddy is the electronic score composed by Osmo Lindeman which was performed on Dico, an instrument designed by Erkki Kurenniemi.
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Pasi "Sleeping" Myllymäki (b. 1950) graduated as a graphic designer from the Lahti Institute of Crafts and Design in 1976 and got a day job in the Department of Visual Design at the Iittala glassworks. Inspired by the do-it-yourself spirit of the punk movement, he began planning Super 8 shorts of his own. "My aim from the beginning was to inject the fierce independence and unbridled frenzy of punk into film," Myllymäki says. He recalls being influenced by the Hungarian painter Victor Vasarely. Having no camera of his own, Myllymäki began collaborating with Risto Laakkonen, whom he met at the DIY film-makers' club in Hämeenlinna. Working at night, in the weekends and on holidays, the duo made altogether over 40 short films between 1976 and 1985.
Pasi "Sleeping" Myllymäki: Good Night (1978, 7')
Good Night (1978) is based on a Polaroid picture of Pasi's face taken by a fellow employee at Iittala. Myllymäki enlarged the picture, rasterised it and turned it into a graphic, almost abstract, series of variations. The cinematic self-portrait was Myllymäki's breakthrough in the 8-mm film community. It was awarded the silver medal in the fantasy series of the Finnish DIY film-makers' competition, and was selected to be included in the international 'Olympic games' of amateur cinema, the Unica Annual Festival, held in Baku in the Soviet Union. The film was a comment on the sleepiness of the amateur film-maker circles, down to its very title. "It is visually a perfect synthesis of kinetics and surrealism. Good Night signifies a breakthrough into the bruised zone between insomnia and nightmare," Myllymäki wrote in his preface to the film. This is the film that signalled the beginning of Myllymäki's collaboration with Risto Laakkonen.
Pasi "Sleeping" Myllymäki: Sleeping (1979, 1'25")
The film begins with a reference to Buñuel and Dali's Un Chien Andalou, a symbolic close-up of the cutting of an eye. We are treated to scratched, abstract film, followed by rapidly changing, perforated and scratched landscapes. The soundtrack is full of juicy, clever effects, starting with a racy guitar riff by Myllymäki played at high speed, reminiscent of the famous intro in the Sex Pistols' Pretty Vacant. One of the distinctive features in Myllymäki's later films is the way people, especially their faces, are covered up. This recurring motif appears in a memorable scene in Sleeping where a man (Myllymäki himself) walks about in a yard, repeatedly covering his face with a white sheet of paper. When his face appears from behind the sheet, it is scratched out. The images recalling the stream of consciousness technique present us with a disturbing sense of shame. All that remains is the landscape, the gesture and the act of watching.
Pasi "Sleeping" Myllymäki: Horizontal (1979, 3')
Horizontal is the most mysterious of all Myllymäki's films. It is a controlled formalist experiment with lights, colours and sound. The background of the film is made up of the swaying hum of an acoustic guitar produced by manipulating the speed of a reel-to-reel tape recorder. A sheet of paper folded into an accordion changes its colour as the lights change. According to Myllymäki, the purpose of the precise synchronisation of the film is to emphasise the underlying "concept of musical notation".
Pasi "Sleeping" Myllymäki: 3000 Cars (1980, 3')
3000 Cars was an instant minimalist classic, and one of Myllymäki's best-known films. Using stop motion, Laakkonen and Myllymäki shot the front grilles of cars in the parking lots of supermarkets in their home town. Appearing always at the same point in the frame, the headlights create an extraordinary flickering effect as they flash by, frame by frame. A 13-second sequence repeats over and over again until the optimum duration of three minutes is reached. On the soundtrack, the monotonous ticking of Myllymäki's acoustic guitar is accelerated close to hysteria by increasing the playback speed.
Pasi "Sleeping" Myllymäki: Gesture (1981, 2')
In the stark, overcranked motion study, a man with a black hood over his head (Myllymäki) is sitting on a bench in a park. The hum of an industrial plant (Iittala glassworks) is heard in the distance. The man raises his hand in extremely slow motion and grabs the trunk of a slender birch tree.
Pasi "Sleeping" Myllymäki: Five Holes in Celluloid (1980, 2')
"The light of the projector hits the silver screen unobstructed in all its whiteness through five bullet holes made directly in the celluloid," Myllymäki wrote about the concept of the film. On the soundtrack metal tools are slowly being moved on a table.
Pasi "Sleeping" Myllymäki: Colouring Book. Now! (1980, 3')
A felt-tip pen is colouring a black-and-white adult comic book. The picture becomes coloured. Nude photos from Playboy magazine are framed to exclude the women's faces. The scratching on the celluloid starting from their genitals is echoed on the soundtrack. The sound of the rubbing pen segues into the sound of Myllymäki masturbating. As the scratching continues, the people in the picture are replaced by others. "In order to understand the profound message of the film we must realise the symbolic, sexual and biological meaning of the area repeatedly framed into the picture," Myllymäki stated. "Colouring Book. Now is a beautiful film about the yearning to return to the womb, to tenderness and peace. It combines childhood and sexuality with loneliness." The film was disqualified from the national competition of the Finnish Federation of Amateur Film-makers.
Pasi "Sleeping" Myllymäki: Break Break (1985, 3')
The last film to date by Myllymäki is Break Break (Murra murra, 1985). It is exceptional in that it was made by Myllymäki alone, without help from Laakkonen. The movie is a jittery stop-motion impression where each frame is different and every second frame is entirely black at the outset. The electronic sounds of Herbie Hancock on the soundtrack are a perfect match for Myllymäki's kinetic flash experiment. Except where indicated, all quotations are from Mika Taanila’s essay “Outsiders of the Seventh Art Finnish Experimental Cinema 1933 – 1985”, in the book Sähkömetsä (Central Art Archives, Helsinki 2007)
Curator Marita Muukkonen, FRAME Finnish Fund for Art Exchange
Tel. +358 (0) 505857504
Curator Mika Taanila
Compiled by Mika Taanila, Total duration: 67'