2013, HD, 16:9, sound, no dialogues
video installation consisting of two parts
Promised Land I – video installation (projection) – 07:00 min
Promised Land II – video installation (projection) – 03:50 min
Screening version – 11:21 min
director, producer, editing, sound mixing, props: Julia Charlotte Richter
camera: Ben Brix, Barbara Hirn
original sound: Paul Mayer
make up: Franziska Zoubek
assistance: Ann Schomburg
actors: Ben Akkaya, Michael Bernhard, Matthias Eberle, Nicola Mastroberardino, Ronny Miersch, Sebastian Songin, Daniel Stock
Thanks: Museum Folkwang, Kunstring Folkwang, Sebastian Fritzsch, Isabel Hernandez, Kunsthaus Essen, Jean-Christophe Ammann, Corinna Schnitt, Bjørn Melhus
13 questions for Julia Charlotte Richter by Clemens Wilhelm
I don‘t think I have ever seen a film scene with so many men crying together in one room. How did you get to this image?
An important aspect in my body of work is the prospect of one’s future and the condition of the society one is born into. Each of my videos focusses on a certain social group or peer group. Lately, I was thinking about the financial catastrophes and about the people behind all that. This is one reason why I became interested in the image of business men. The characters in my video are at an age that still allows a lot of growth and development –there is “a lot of future” – and in their careers they might reach much higher positions.
My first thought was: I want to develop a scene with a group of “business men” and I want to see them cry. This was some sort of starting point. Later on, I developed the whole sequence of PROMISED LAND and tried to find suitable actors etc.
Would you say that PROMISED LAND is a comment on the economic crisis? Does it show the human side of the crashes of banks, which is not shown on the media?
I was also quite angry and furious when I developed PROMISED LAND. Helplessly, people were observing the quakes of the financial world and its megalomaniac, scandalous figures. So I would say, my work refers to these quakes and the questioning of values in a society driven by profit. The image of crying, and of crying men in particular, always leads to thoughts on humanity and a hidden but natural vulnerability. But I think for me it was important to limit this humanness: every man in PROMISED LAND cries alone, they do not console each other. The video’s atmosphere leads to a claustrophobic climax, the facade can no longer be maintained and they start to cry – but the crying does not relieve neither the men nor the observer. And there remains this question: Why do they cry? I did not have the intention to reveal a reliable motivation – I was keen on creating this pure scene: a business world, full of rituals, certain ways of behaviour and financial goals and – on top of that – the collapse of the facade.
One could also read this as an image of the crisis of male dominance. Or is this a comment on the end of the white male ruling the world?
If we talk about the economic crisis and values within the business world, it must be a discussion about male dominance, and its crisis as well. It is a system developed and led by men. Of course, it felt challenging for me to show a scene where male dominance is shaken. Many texts, comments or articles now address this arguable crisis of the male role. However, the core is still the same: we live in a society of male dominance. And this does not only refer to the business world – and what I see of it as an observing outsider – it is what I feel every day in ”my world”.
There are no words spoken in PROMISED LAND. Instead the bodies do all the talking. Do you have an interest in body language?
Yes, I am definitely interested in body language. I am also interested in showing situations where not a word is spoken and this implies that the bodies, the gestures and movements – or maybe the lack of movements – are emphasized. Small gestures, gazes or facial expressions become increasingly important. The figures I show often have something in common: they wait for something and seem to be stuck in a certain time and a certain place. The lack of spoken language underpins the atmosphere of being stuck, I think. However, I also made some works – and I will do so in the future – where spoken or sung words are extremely important.
In some of your other works, bodies also play a central role. In YOU HEAR SOMETHING, a young woman describes the processes of decay in a dying body, in HALFWAY and DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE the bodies of girls are shown at the verge of turning into women, and in JB and SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING, the bodies of young female dancers and gymnasts are performing routines. What fascinates you about these bodies? Are these bodies perhaps symbols for something else?
When I produced YOU HEAR SOMETHING, I was interested in the clash of the girl’s spoken words and her appearance. The other works you mentioned do not include any dialogues or spoken words.
I find it very fascinating to think about the observing gaze in relation to the bodies looked at. I always try to define for myself how the camera is supposed to look at the girls, and what the camera look might simulate. The characters in my works mostly express a certain kind of gaze – they gaze at each other, they look directly into the camera, or they seem to look into themselves. On the other hand, there is the camera that stares at them, a gaze they – symbolically – have to cope with. I often work with girls who are not professional actresses. I usually find them in schools. They receive all necessary instructions, but on top of that they are encouraged to be themselves in front of the camera.
SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING and JB, works that were created a couple of years ago together with Barbara Hirn, focus on presenting one’s body within the frame of a dance performance. In addition, the aspect of training and practicing becomes important. Actually, this idea of „training“ and „practicing“ is also relevant in works such as HALFWAY and others. As I mentioned above, the girls’ task is “to be themselves in front of the camera”, but the girls also practice a body language they have learned through the influence of their social environment, the media and contemporary concepts of beauty. I think it is not only the body that becomes a symbol. It is the development of characters, actions and sceneries altogether that lead to a meaningful dimension and become symbolic.
How is your work process? How do you develop your ideas? How does it start?
My projects deal with the struggles and emotional conflicts that shape one‘s individual concepts of life and one‘s longing for a fulfilled existence. It is a continual attempt to create metaphorical places of transition. I collect pictures and images, which I can transform into a metaphorical situation. I use many different sources to generate images – novels, movies, series, articles, news papers, conversations, observations and so on.
At the beginning, there often is a first image, a setting or scenery to which I add more and more images, actions and details. I take notes in order to make sure that no imagined detail gets lost. Some weeks ago, I was reflecting the starting point of a work in a discussion with a friend who is also an artist. We both agreed that there really are these moments of „plop“, when suddenly an image pops into your mind, and then it is there!
I enjoy periods of reading and researching on a certain topic – this phase always generates more and more pictures, and I also want to find out, how relevant a topic or imagery really is with regard to a wider social context. Additionally, I find it extremely important to talk about my ideas. There are some people – and this is so great! – I can share my ideas with; they offer advice, criticism and fresh points of view.
In this process of research, I get ideas concerning the characters, the shooting location, the camera work and the sound. And then all this has to be organized. The team has to be put together and I have to find actors.
For PROMISED LAND, for example, the actors got a list of body language, gestures and poses. Every actor received a fictive biography of a manager, which already included certain characteristics or little obsessive habits.
Your productions always have a very clean and well-planned look. What role does the technology play, and how do you deal with the technical complexity? How is it working with a team? Are you a perfectionist?
I mostly work with a team and over the course of the years I really found out how important this process of team work is. I would say it is almost essential in order to visualize my ideas – otherwise I would not be able to meet my personal requirements of intensity and precision. Of course, the transformation of an idea must be as perfect as possible. I often work with people I know quite well – and they know me and my wishes as a director. We really understand each other.
I always try to prepare the shootings and the expected camera work as well as possible. I prepare shotlists, notes etc. to make clear what I need. In addition, I try to allow some time to find pictures I did not plan before. The camera operators also make new suggestions, and this is quite helpful and enriches the shootings. I often work with two camera operators who shoot simultaneously.
The delegation of tasks during the shootings allows me to move between actors and cameras. I can see what develops and which kind of dynamics arise.
The choice of technology derives from the idea and its imagery. However, the technical equipment is not as extraordinary as it might seem. Of course, it is complex but I am not alone, and this helps me to make appropriate decisions.
You work exclusively in video. Is this a conscious choice? Can you realize all your ideas in this medium? Or could you imagine to switch to another medium if necessary?
The form follows the idea. I could imagine to use another medium if necessary. The ideas I realised so far all required the use of video. I surely tend to develop ideas that lead to the moving image, and this is the medium I am familiar with, but I will use another medium, if it is necessary.
Recently you have had a number of artist residencies. How have these residency stays influenced your practice?
All in all, my artist residencies were extremely fruitful and I was really productive. For me it is special and inspiring to have new surroundings influence my work. I came up with ideas that I maybe would not have developed if I had never lived in that certain city or village. Nevertheless, it is also challenging because, as I mentioned above, I usually work with a team. With regard to that, it can also be difficult to make one’s work during a residency.
What is the ideal space to present your work? A gallery, a cinema, or the internet?
It always depends. Lots of my videos are installations and for these works I prefer exhibition spaces such as museums, galleries etc. Some videos work perfectly within the frame of screening programs (e.g. in a cinema). There is no general ideal.
The presentation of my works on the internet can only offer some sort of impression, and it can never replace a sensitively arranged exhibition that includes spacial aspects.
At openings, it often feels like nobody even dares to mention the work in the gallery. Why do you think this is? And is this any different in video exhibitions?
It is disappointing that there is so little discussion about the actual work during openings. It seems that the exhibited pieces are the last thing people would talk about; there is no deep reflection, no criticism, no debate. I wonder whether this fact is connected to a lack of interest – is it more important to drink wine, to celebrate oneself and chat about other stuff? – or do the art works lack relevance?
Most artist careers have rough patches, especially in the beginning. I think most artists know moments of existential doubt. How many times a month do ask yourself „Should I get a real job instead of doing this“? Do you have a method to get out of these thoughts?
It can be very depressing not to know how to produce one’s work due to existential problems, but for me it was always the right choice to go on and to be patient. I simply want to do what I am doing now, and that’s why questions such as „Should I get a real job instead of doing this“? fly away after hitting me. Existential doubts not only lead to questions about “real jobs”. Simply speaking, it is hard to survive as an artist but I feel encouraged to continue, and this is what I will do.
What was the biggest lesson in art school? And what was the biggest lesson after art school?
In art school: Work hard, be patient and carry on.
After art school: Work hard, be patient and carry on.
Interview: Clemens Wilhelm, April 2014
Julia Charlotte Richter (*1982) is a video artist. She studied Fine Art at the School of Art Kassel (Germany) and University of Portsmouth (UK) (2004-2010). She holds a Master degree (Prof. Corinna Schnitt, Braunschweig University of Art, Germany, 2011). Since 2008, she has received various scholarships and prizes such as the scholarship „Young Art in Essen 2012“, granted by the Kunstring Folkwang and the Kunsthaus Essen, and the Stiftung Kunstfonds scholarship in 2014. Julia Charlotte Richter’s video works have been shown at numerous international screenings and exhibitions.
Kommende Ausstellung mit Videoinstallationen von Julia Charlotte Richter:
“Take for granted”
6. Juni bis 6. Juli 2014 im
Eröffnung: 5. Juni 2014, 19h
“Den beiden Meisterschülerinnen Mandy Krebs und Julia Charlotte Richter von Corinna Schnitt, die an der Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Braunschweig unterrichtet, werden zwei Absolventen aus der Klasse Marcel Odenbach der Kunstakademie Düsseldorf gegenübergestellt.
Ihnen gemeinsam ist eine stille, erzählerische Bildsprache, die zwar Assoziationen zulässt, deren Hintergründe jedoch nicht abschliessend aufgelöst werden. Der Betrachter als Voyeur sieht sich mit scheinbar vertrauten Situationen konfrontiert, die er durch seine eigenen physischen und sozialen Erfahrungen deuten kann.” (Ausstellungsankündigung d: ArtNews)