To emphasise the cinematic issues at play in her video works, Cytter calls them ‘films’. Here, she presents her latest (and perhaps most self-reflexive) ‘film’ to date, SOMETHING HAPPENED, 2007, alongside four drawings and a wall text.
The film, a home-made film noir complete with femme fatale and a gun in a drawer, follows an argument between a young man and woman that ends with both being shot dead. As in most of Cytter’s works, SOMETHING HAPPENED involves amateur performers and a domestic environment, here bathed in horror movie reddish light.
The film is influenced by Natalia Ginzburg’s book È stato così, 1947, though the links between Ginzburg’s story and Cytter’s screenplay are tenuous. In both, a woman shoots a man, and it is possibly here that the ‘empathy’ between the artist’s production and the Italian book takes root.
Two short paragraphs from Ginzburg’s novel are flashed up on screen, at the beginning and half way through, but are too briefly displayed to be fully read. Viewers can only grab snippets of text, merging them with Cytter’s scenario. The artist proposes DIY stories; once her screenplay is in place, it is the actors and the viewer who weave the plot. This interruption of written material is one more element at their disposal, adding another layer of meaning to the scenario.
The blurry image brings to mind both the camera-on-the-shoulder Dogme aesthetic and trashy reality TV, two poles between which Cytter’s work seems to navigate. The self-reflexivity of the piece is also reminiscent of Nouvelle Vague experimental storytelling, possibly best exemplified in Godard’s Deux ou trois choses que je sais d’elle, 1967. As in the work of her 1960s predecessors, the artificiality in Cytter’s film-making is constant, and somewhat laborious.
The actors mumble that they have forgotten their lines, or that they wish that they were being watched. They manipulate pouches of fake blood, repeat sequences and lines. They stop talking though their voices continue as an internal monologue. Cytter makes video about making cinema—in the 60s this kind of Brechtian approach surely brought a new understanding of cinema. In 2008 it feels slightly banal.
Of the four drawings, one represents three faces, possibly portraits of Ginzburg’s characters, while another shows a beef chart where the names of the cuts have been swapped with Berlin restaurant names. On a third, three figures dance a ring-a-ring-a-roses amongst blue foliage.
The ‘film’ is billed as the starting point to the pictures, but the relationship is as disturbed as the sequences in the film: a wall text comments on the viewer’s position in the gallery space, directing from one piece to the other—‘the reader is able to look at the RED drawing… and read this text at the same time’—perhaps in an attempt to link the strangely disjointed elements of this exhibition.
Coline Milliard is a critic and curator based in London