Albrecht Dürer, Melencolia, 1514, engraving

Human Frames is a series of ten film programs examining the human condition. Comprising of both contemporary and archive images from across Asia and Europe, this project is inspired by the ancient theory of humoralism as a framework by which to analyze certain aspects of the human character. In today’s society the predominant discourse tends to represent man as a mass of particles analyzed within our complex political, social, economical, cultural and religious context. We are embarking on an ever-increasing process of individualization, paradoxically entwined with an equally growing uniformity of human behavior, yet we often forget that the specific needs and characteristics of mankind have remained the same. Sifting through the mass of Internet platforms and social networking sites as Facebook, Myspace and Blogger, leads us to question the summumof individual expression as we witness the fact that people, regardless their cultural identities and origins, spend a significant portion of their day expressing individual humors and feelings of happiness, excitement, sadness, fear, and melancholy, just to mention few. The communication of these feelings has become a daily ritual for many people and these states of minds are no longer expressed in an intimate environment, but are shouted out to the entire world.

Charles Lebrun, Expressions of the Spirit's Passions, c. 1663, drawing

The observation of this phenomenon leads us to reflect on the fact that within the often abstract and grouped treatment of the human being in contemporary exhibitions and publications, an important aspect of man, personal sentiments, are often excluded or marginalized. Sentimental approaches have been removed as they do not fit the rational and objective thought patterns of our time that often focuses on the revelation of the real within the claim of objectivity and truth. In the field of experimental cinema and video art, however, the expression of personal pointviews, as well as their visual and sonorous treatment, has remained key characteristics. In contrast to other cinematographic genres, the often independent and unconventional production conditions of experimental cinema have encouraged an important number of solo works made with modest financial means and without a film crew. Despite or thanks to these economic obstacles, today we are witnessing an extremely dynamic development of new media works encouraged by the wider availability of technology over the course of the past ten years. The films and videos made under those particular conditions relate to the filmmaker and his chosen subject (often himself) in a very particular way and are often testimony to the high potential of human emotions. Melancholic cinematographic journeys, lonely road trips, introspective portraits, joyful artistic experimentations…, the works cover a large spectrum of ideas and emotions and are therefore an ideal medium for the Human Frames film cycle.

Fritz Möller, Höchster Schreck, n. 159, 1895, photography

Human Frames is an attempt to explore the meaning of these current experiences within contemporary art film. It will focus on ten emotional states: melancholia, fear, anger, fanaticism, isolation, madness, happiness, desiremono no aware, and impermanence. It will depict the timeless and universal panoply of human tempers that lay beyond national, social and cultural affiliations. The goal is not to force the films to fit into the analyzed temperament, but to illustrate the nuances and richness of those feelings through a creative cinematographic approach. Each program highlights its own meaning while pointing to the links that they have to each other. A theoretical and textual documentation covering the film cycle will allow for a general reflection on the subject while acting as a starting point for further artistic research. The project and its website will become an international platform where artists and curators can exchange their artistic and theoretical experiences and works.

In working with artists and curators from both Asia and Europe, Human Frames hopes, just like with humoralism, to span disparate practices and processes and to chart ideological convergence and divergence alike. Whilst it focuses on rarely seen and often marginal work, the project will be presented in such a way that it presupposes no prior knowledge of artists’ images, with the intent of rendering this otherwise rarely seen material accessible to a wider public. The universal character of the chosen theme is appropriate for a transnational project that will include an equal number of works from both continents. It will allow for avoiding cultural and social stereotypes by not regrouping the films by country, but by assembling them within mixed programs around the different humors; the films will confront various point of views – influenced by specific cultural codes and film traditions. The multiplication of viewpoints will offer the audience a rich and complex exploration into the states of mind and will allow for a better understanding of other cultures by discovering works within this specific thematic context. Similarities and divergences in form and content will make up the cycle’s variety and strength. Furthermore, our definition of experimental cinema is relatively open; films can range from creative documentaries to filmed poetry, from traditional experimental techniques on celluloid reels (super-8, 16mm) to digital animation and mobile films. The selected artists are chosen from different artistic backgrounds (contemporary art, cinema, design, animation etc.). Even though we have decided to focus on recent art films, some major historic figures will also be included.

Barbara Hlali, Revolution contra revolution, video/animation, 2009, 3'32

Human Frames is presented by Silke Schmickl and Stéphane Gérard from Lowave in Paris and developed in partnership with The Substation in Singapore. Independent guest curators Masayo Kajimura (Germany/Japan), Victric Thng (Singapore) and artistic consultant François Michaud (France) will join our team for several programs. Tetsuya Goto (Japan) will be in charge of the graphic design.  The Human Frames cycle, which will tour internationally, will be supplemented by two large-scale public events at The Substation in February 2011 and during the Human Frames exhibition at KIT Düsseldorf (11.6.–24.7.2011).

The project is supported by ASEF, Singapore.