Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

Having left Bulgaria, it was now time to do some proper European travelling. Some proper backpacking, and sightseeing! So, I went to Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic and spent 5 days at the international film festival.

Aside from this festival, Karlovy Vary is actually a cute little holiday town, known for its spas and bathhouses which once housed Goethe and Mozart, amongst many others[fun fact: Mozart’s son died here]. What this means, is that there isn’t actually much to do there, apart from walk around, and see how pretty it is.

So, I spent those 5 days watching 23 films, and if that number seems wild to you, I should also mention I only saw one of those films on the first day.

It was just so cheap. You buy a festival pass, which entitles you to buy 3 tickets a day, but buying tickets is incredibly tricky, because films sell out very quickly, however there’s no knowing if the screening is fully sold out. For every screening there is a second line for people with passes but no tickets. People start joining these lines up to 2 hours before a screening, because 5 minutes before the film starts, if ticket holders haven’t found their seats, this mass of ticketless scum are able to bum rush the cinema and scavenge any free seats available. It was actually fairly civilised and I saw a lot of films like this. At certain smaller cinemas, there were no seats available, however the floor was, and for ticketless scum, the floor is more than we deserved.

The accommodation side of the festival was also ludicrously cheap. I slept in a school which was converted into a hostel for the festival. I had my trusty sleeping bag with me, however I could’ve used a mattress on that solid wooden floor.

Some quick stats on the films I saw:

Films I fell asleep during: 5, mostly because of lack of coffee/sleep and them being late night screenings

Films I walked out of: 1, because what I thought was a screening of short films turned out to be a quadruple length episode of an animated children’s show for ages 2-5, with its main point of difference being that one of the main characters was blind. I watched 40 minutes of this before walking out. And I was surprised that the full audience of adults stuck around for the rest of it.

Films I actively hated: 1, The Dead Don’t Die by Jim Jarmusch. I have a love/hate relationship with Jim, but this film was an actual pile of poop. Imagine watching all these actors you like be almost funny in a not very funny script which is super slow, lazily written and does nothing new or interesting. I know that some people call this Jarmusch’s style, but I’ve seen far better films by him. It at least looks like everyone had a lot of fun making it.

Overall I quite liked a lot of the films I saw, I don’t need to give you full reviews of all of them, but in particular the 3 older Czech films I saw were really good. They were all comedies, with two of them made in the early 90s, in direct reaction to the aftermath of the velvet revolution (Smoke and It’s better to be Healthy and Wealthy than poor and ill) and the 3rd was from the 60s, in direct reaction to communism (Barnabas Kos Case). All of them were fascinating documents from turbulent times and also still funny and entertaining films.

Other highlights were two films as part of a retrospective of Egyptian director Youssef Chahine, whose work I’d never heard of but now I’m very interested in, and the Future Frames short film sections, which were each from different countries in the EU and were all really well made.

Basically, I saw a lot of films, and my brain nearly broke. I’ve got notes on all of them somewhere, but I needn’t bore you with them.

I’m now in Prague for a few days, enjoying being in a city which is so full of things to see and do. There’s bit of travel coming up, and considerably less film screenings.

Thanks for reading and all the very best,

Tim Carlier

Hello July Morning, Farewell Bulgaria.

Today I am in Burgas; Tired and a little delirious having been awake all night to see the first sunrise of July. I found out about this tradition yesterday, and was invited to hang out, drink beers and listen to the live bands on the beach. We were there from the sun going down to when it rose, surrounded by hundreds of others doing the same. It was such a lovely night, and the vibe was incredible. Needless to say, I may have cheated and had a little nap, but I lasted for most of the night, meeting many interesting people. Conversation always seemed to turn towards the future and what people wanted to do with their lives.

It seemed to be a perfect cap to the end of this pretty spectacular month in Bulgaria.

This week was one of my favourites, as I had to fully switch gears and full focus on making my art installations. It was my first time ever presenting art at an exhibition and I loved it. The process of installing everything and deciding where it should be placed in relation to the space and everyone else’s works was really rewarding. I am eternally grateful for the hard work World of Co hosts, Daniel, Lidiya and Stella, put in to sourcing everything and making sure our work was presented the best it possibly could be.

I presented two pieces at the exhibition, which was held at a beautiful little gallery called ‘Place 167’:

The first was my ‘little prayers,’ with the description:

“These are my little prayers. Please scan them, and watch them loudly on your phones. They’re best heard together.”

You can view all the prayers here.

This wasn’t incredibly successful on the night, as QR codes are a little finicky, and many people did not have success scanning them and assumed the piece was me playing a joke. But, this could also maybe be taken as a success?

My other piece was called ‘Temporary Rug’

“This is my temporary rug. It’s not as durable as traditional rugs, also it needs power and wifi to work properly. Oh, and you can’t walk on it or move it. Otherwise, it’s just like a regular family rug.”

I loved playing with projectors and using shadows like this. It took a while to get right, but I loved the effect.

Both of these pieces involved the usage of modern technology to recreate something which would have been made far better during previous generations. The fact that they’re both overly complicated and don’t quite work was not coincidental. It was a great experience to be at the opening and talking with people who were interacting with the works, giving their own interpretations and asking interesting questions.

The other works presented by Carrie Fucile and Ni Wen were also incredible. It showed how inspiring spending a residency with other artists working in different forms could be.

It was sad the next morning to be taking everything down. And it was even sadder that it was my last day at the residency. It truly was a fantastic month, and I’m forever grateful to World of Co. for creating such a wonderful residency, and to the Helpmann Academy and the James and Diana Ramsay Foundation for supporting me in this endeavour.

Now, from Burgas, I fly out to Prague and then catch a bus to the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival!

The July sun has risen, and my journey continues.

All the best, and thanks for reading.

Tim

Vitosha and Verdi

Today I finally do it. I finally beat my record of more than 3 blog posts. It’s been a huge effort, but I think it’s been worth it. Thank you for joining me on this journey of writing down things before I forget them. Here are some things from the last week I hope to not forget:

Firstly, I hiked up Vitosha Mountain, which resides just to the south of Sofia. It’s visible from most of the city, and becomes a snow sport haven in the winter. However now, just at the beginning of summer, it’s more of a hiking destination, and people would mostly do that during the weekends. I decided to avoid as many social interactions as possible and climb it during the week. This meant that the bus which drops you off at a reasonable place to start hiking wasn’t running. Instead, I decided to start at the bottom and make my way up and across through a series of routes I had mishmashed together. This was a ‘remix’ of a few ‘normal routes’ to create a more fun and worthwhile endeavour and this is what led to me doing a solid 9-10 hours of hiking, which was probably too much. It was great, and the mountain was great, and the weather was beautiful, and I saw so much! …but I was pretty much out of action for the next few days. I did love it though. The view of Sofia was spectacular. I would highly recommend it, but do your own research, and know your limits?

The next big adventure was a trip to Plovdiv, the arts capital of Bulgaria. Myself and the other residents caught a train (which takes about 2-3 hours from Sofia) and found ourselves in this brilliant little city. All the main attractions are within walking distance from each other, and sidelined by a huge walking street. It’s another place full of roman ruins, and many many galleries. It was also very very hot. As an English tourist loudly announced to her friend as they walked out of the shade of a park, the heat of the sun was ‘actually unbearable.’ This made the walking distances less reasonable, but still very worthwhile. It was particularly fantastic to see some contemporary art shows, such as one called ‘Digital Ecologies 2018-2019’. It was extensive, and spread over two different galleries. One of the films in the exhibition which was about recording sounds in the ocean was particularly good.

The main highlight of Plovdiv, for me at least, was seeing the opera ‘The Force of Destiny’ by Verdi, performed at Ancient Theatre of Philippopolis.
It was phenomenal; the live orchestra, the performers, the music itself and the ancient amphitheatre itself. It’s been a while since I’ve been so moved and inspired by a live performance. It was also incredibly interesting staging, in terms of the actual set and the usage of the chorus and the dancers. To use a modern phrase, ‘I was shooken.’

It was a nice, but short, and hot trip to Plovdiv. I would love to go again and spend more time there, but maybe in a better climate. Overall it was an incredibly worthwhile endeavour.

Now, we come to the final week before the exhibition. I’ve changed what I’m doing somewhat, and have added some additional pieces to my main artwork. But you’ll find out all about it in the next blog, which will sadly be posted after I have left the World of Co residency. It’s been an incredible month and I can’t wait to reveal what I’ve been working on.

Anyways, all the best, and thanks for reading.

Tim.

More art in Sofia

A large theme for me this week has been an interest in the permanence of art.

But first, I wanted to talk about how much fun Cyanotype is.

Lidiya, one of the hosts of the World of Co Residency, ran a fantastic Cyanotype workshop on Friday. If you’re not familiar with the process, it was invented in 1842 as a method of copying documents and diagrams. It is the process by which blueprints were created. It’s very simple and involves placing objects, or photo negatives on top of paper which has a photosensitive chemical on it. Leave it in the sun for a bit then wash off the remaining chemicals, revealing an incredible blue and white print. There’s more to it than that, but it’s very easy to do and we made some fun things.

I really liked the process because of my interest in using double exposures in film photography. I enjoyed layering different images and textures. Lidiya also brought in several photo negatives she had made, which looked great when processed with cyanotype. I’m really happy with what we made and would like to continue to make more and experiment. I suppose that’s the other great thing about it as a process; there’s plenty of room to experiment.

Later that day, World of Co also organised a brilliant workshop with the artist Vitto Valentinov. He’s worked in many mediums, including film, but now focuses on creating participatory artworks, which I had never really looked into. Now, I want to know much much more.
He builds, what he described as, ‘child-like scientific experiments’ which the audience can participate in.
I would highly recommend visiting his website and investigating his many interesting artworks, which have all been incredibly well documented.

I like this idea of making art more involved, and am considering some aspect being put into my own work for the upcoming World of Co exhibition.
I’ve been thinking a lot about temporary things, and creating art which doesn’t take up too much physical space, or can be taken apart and reused easily. Trying to travel light, and being in a city drenched with centuries of history gives a sense of detachment, and a constant reminder that nothing lasts forever.

Continuing this idea was a terrific exhibition by Master’s students from the Digital Arts Program at the National Academy of Fine Arts. It was called Technical Obsolescence, and dealt with old and new technology being either thrown away or reused. There were many great ideas, like a 3D printer programed to print a 2D photo, and footage of the UN elections being filmed by an ipad with an augmented reality filter on which gives all the politicians long Pinocchio noses. My favourite, however, was a refitted old Nokia phone which took 168×96 pixel photos and uploaded them to this blog.

This is one of the few times I will post a selfie.

On the other side of this were my visits to the Bells monument and the museum of Soviet art. These featured statues and soviet monuments which are still standing to this day. The bells monument was actually set up to celebrate the UN’s year of the child in 1979, and is full of Bells from around the world. Some are missing, or broken, but most are still there. The huge monument still stands and is used for occasional performances. However, a note for future visitors: Only children are supposed to ring the bells. I am sadly not a child but, being the dumb tourist I am, I still rang most of them.
It was worth it.

The museum of soviet art was a large outdoors area with many statues taken from around the city from the Soviet era. These statues depicted leaders and workers. There are still some standing around in parks and areas of Sofia, but most have been moved here. They’re solid, durable reminders of a past that not everyone wants to remember, but serve as important reminders of the country’s history. Some of them also work as terrific toilets for birds.

So, after all this, what are my conclusions to these ideas about the durability of art? No idea. I’m still thinking. Come back next time.

All the very best,

Tim

First week in Sofia

Hello friends,

This had been an intense and inspiring week of living in Sofia.

Every morning I’ve been walking and exploring the city, going deeper and further in different directions each day. Sofia is an incredible city with so much around every corner. You keep finding soviet monuments and roman ruins in the middle of parks, streets and even buildings. It’s a city that insists you explore it, and continues to reveal more and more each time you delve deeper.

I’m here for the World of Co Residency, which is a pretty fantastic little establishment that’s just turned 2 years old. It’s based in an apartment which is a 30 minute walk from the city centre, and less than 10 minutes walk to multiple parks, art galleries and much more. There are three of us attending the residency this month; Ni Wen, a video artist and writer from Sichuan, China, Carrie Fucile a sound artist from Baltimore, USA and myself. We all share a large studio space in the apartment and will be presenting an exhibition on the 28th of this month. Aside from our own various projects, we all take part in weekly lessons on Bulgarian language and Bulgarian art history.
We’re also being treated to various workshops, like a fantastic wood carving workshop which was run by Steliyan Steliyanov. During this I made the little piece you can see below. It’s been a while since I’ve made something outside of a computer. It’s made me want to do much more craft.

This week we’ll also have a cyanotype workshop and an artist talk with a local filmmaker. It’s shaping up to be an incredible month.

Having even spent much of this week walking, exploring, visiting art galleries and seeing local exhibitions, I’ve become a little overwhelmed. I’ve found forgotten interest in folklore, and art history. It’s such a difference being in a country with such dense history, and so much art.

We’ve visited several exhibitions, including one of beautiful Vivian Maier photographs, and a haunting Josef Koudelka exhibition, with photos taken during his exile from his home country of Czechoslovakia. But most interesting for me have been the 20th century works by Bulgarian artists, seen in the National Gallery. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like the works of Ivan Milev, Hristo Simeonov, and so many more. The National gallery may have nearly broken my brain.

This week’s test_signal is about this. The huge amount of art, culture and history that surrounds this city and almost every step you take in it. I suppose this is true of most of Europe, or even most places around the world. Maybe it just takes a step outside your own country to see it.

Oh, and another important event for me this week was seeing the Bulgarian female choir Vanya Moneva. I’ve had a fascination with Bulgarian folk music for a while, since discovering the album ‘The mystery of the Bulgarian Voices.’ I would highly recommend listening to it and any recordings of Vanya Moneva. It was incredible to hear those beautiful voices, haunting harmonies and strange rhythms live, as well as see the impact they have on the locals who went to the concert.

Anyways, that’s me for the week. Thanks for reading.

All the best,
Tim.

Hello from Sofia, Bulgaria

Welcome to this new blog, by me, Tim Carlier.

I think this may be the 3rd blog I’ve ever started. But hopefully this is the first that makes it past 2 posts. I have a terrible habit of not keeping up habits. But this time it’s different. This time I’ve got to keep going. This time, I’m in Bulgaria.

I’ve not been here for long, only around a day at the time of writing, so I can’t really express my thoughts on living in Sofia yet. That’d be like expressing my opinion on the entire country of Bulgaria having only read the first sentence of its Wikipedia article. Give me another week and I’ll read the full article. Or at least most of it.

So, instead of talking about Sofia just yet, I wanted to talk about what this blog, this project and my life are going to be about over the next 5 months.

Through the incredible generosity of the Helpmann Academy and the James & Diana Ramsay Foundation, I have been granted funds to travel to Sofia, Bulgaria to undertake a month long residency at the World of Co. Then, attend a three month experimental film course at the MET film School in Berlin, Germany. These, amongst many others, are phenomenal opportunities and experiences I’ll be documenting in this blog.

There are many things I hope to gain from this program. I want to learn more, to improve my skills as a filmmaker and also to meet people, collaborate and build international connections.

As I said at the start, I am terrible at keeping habits, so I’ve decided to force myself into creating a few. This blog, for instance, will be a weekly update on my life and where I’m at currently. A documentation of the things I’m doing, what I’m learning and who I’m meeting. There will also be daily Instagram photos, and a weekly vlog-thing. The vlog is called test_signal, and is more of an attempt to experiment with film to express how I’m feeling and what I’ve been up to. It’ll be very hit and miss, but hopefully something comes out of it.

The first test_signal is about going away. I’ve lived in the same room for about 6 years now. I’ll probably go back there after this trip, but over those years I accumulated hundreds of 35mm film photos using a little camera called the 135TIM. I had them all up on the wall, Good and bad, and they seem to put together a picture of my life over those 6 years. The holidays I’ve been on, the friends I haven’t spoken to in a while, and some genuine attempts at artistic photography. They’re all packed away now, leaving empty walls. But now here I am, with some new empty walls and I think that’s pretty exciting.

I think that’s everything I had to say for this week, but thanks for reading this. I hope you’re well, I wish you all the best and I’ll see you in a week.

-Tim