Living in London inevitably means dealing with the idea of mass surveillance, which is often pretty discreet until you really start to pay attention to the dozens of cameras staring at you, while getting on the tube to uni. CSM MA Communication Design student and SHOWstudio collaborator Adam Csoka Keller deals with these concepts in his video work, and shot his project ‘ASYMPTOTE’ not in London, but primarily in ex-Soviet locations: the heart of state surveillance and collective bodies.
The project takes references from Spartakiada, a national tradition that’s rooted in 1955, which was a “colossal gymnastic performance that used choreography to unify people into large patterns and structures.” The goal of his project is not only to reflect on the past, but most importantly to address the current state of society and its values. “The undeniable power of these references and their associated meaning lead to the intrinsically human question, in regard to the balance of conformity and individuality, order versus chaos.” We sat down with Adam to learn more about his new video work.
How did 10 Waltzes come about?
10 Waltzes was originally commissioned by the the National Ballet, as a homage to the great Nijinsky “The God of Dance”. All the models used in the video are ballet dancers, and we mainly shot the scenes while I observed them stretch and reshape their bodies between the different compositions and variations of poses that we tried while shooting the campaign. The inspiration for the styling and set design was the moment when Nijinsky suffered his first “nervous breakdown”. He couldn’t sleep, was plagued by fears, went into screaming rages and spent the rest of his life in and out of psychiatric hospitals and asylums.
Could you speak a bit about your collaboration process? We see that you frequently collaborate with a photographer and sound designer.
It is never a work of one person. From the moment you start gathering research and inspiration for a project, you are influenced by other voices that slowly start reshaping and building your vision. I have been lucky enough to meet an incredible team, photographer Evelyn Bencicova and sound designer Arielle Esther. The collaboration process started when we met back in Berlin, and slowly we started building a collective vision while working on numerous projects together. We all need each others’ work to be able to make the projects come to life. A photograph comes to life if you you give the frame the ability to move and the video comes to life with the sound design’s power to create an overall atmosphere. We recently held an exhibition together in my hometown Bratislava, which has been a great feeling after constantly releasing content online, having the ability to create a life, an organism of its own including sound, video, photography and performance.
Can you please tell us about your references? What sort of artists and concepts often inspire and are present in your work?
Being the last generation in contact with a totalitarian political regime, the inherited experiences have naturally influenced my research and practice towards state surveillance and mass manipulation. The main concept that is often repeated in the work is the use of collective bodies. My previous studies on Fashion Under Socialism has naturally influenced me to use fashion as a medium to unify the people into a whole.
From a cinematic perspective I am very much drawn to mass performances and mass gatherings where the body is used to create different patterns and structures, and suddenly from an aerial view it dissolves into pixels. A classic example could be Leni Riefenstahl’s progressive and innovative editing on the 1938 Olympia, but mainly I am looking up to the masters of Soviet Cinema, where all my fascination with montage and manipulation really began. My recent obsession has definitely been revisiting all the great MTV music video classics, mainly including Chris Cunningham’s work, good old 90’s, a place where surrealism met technology.
What is your vision for your video work? Where would you like to see yourself after Central Saint Martins?
The biggest enjoyment in the work I am doing, is the collaboration between sound design, music and live audio-visual performance. Berlin has proven to be a great city to build on that. There is room for improvement and growth in your work every day, all you need to do is surround yourself with the right people that will help you along the path. I am still in the beginning of that journey. What fascinated me, from a commercial perspective is that video as a medium is slowly being reshaped into a 20 second visual feast that instantly transmits a mass of information. Social media is reshaping the way music videos and fashion film are being created and I am very much drawn to explore more of that. My recent work with SHOWstudio reminded me there is something about fashion film that is definitely tempting to look into; it is a place with no limitations and has a unique ability to create a world of its own.
Words by Aric Miller
All imagery courtesy of Adam Csoka Keller