By Baptiste Léger.
What I Miss About People, And What I Don’t Miss About People. A shaky image of the black ground. Grey rocks. A dog. Brown puddle. A deserted landscape. This is the film's atmosphere. An industrial sound dresses the image. Sometimes a woman’s voice appears, this is the dog voice, she says what she misses about people and what she doesn’t miss about people. Because, yes, people are gone. The voice talks about extremely prosaic things as the morning walk, the smell of big people jogging, popcorn, plastic, electric cars, the warm of a fire place on the winter. This dog is alone and walk around this apocalyptic landscape.
I had the opportunity to see the movie on Friday 7th September 2018 during the day seminar "Art and Climate" at the Kunstnernes Hus. It is a short movie around 10 minutes where the main character is a dog lost in an apocalyptic landscape. The photographer and film maker Marte Aas was kind enough to answer to my questions about her movie.
Baptiste Léger: Before we talk about the film can you tell me more about your artistic work, your favorite subjects?
Marte Aas: I am educated as a still photographer and have been working with photography and film within the visual arts scene for 20 years now. One of my main fields of interest has been the urban landscape. I have been interested in how we relate to the landscape, how we use and inhabit it, how we structure it. And also how our ideas about landscape are connected to history, politics and ideology. I have also been working with issues connected to photographic representation and to gender issues.
BL: So you are a photographer and also a filmmaker. What does the photography give to the viewer that a movie doesn’t give? And vice versa?
MA: Still photography has an enormous ability to display narratives because the viewer always tends to “fill in the gap”, to project meaning into the frame, and the before and after of the photograph. Also because of its dumbness, photography gives room for the spectators own thoughts. Film works in a different way, because of the time aspect, the movement and the sound which often accomplishes the images. It embeds the spectator, but also make less room for afterthoughts.
BL: To treat the subject of climate change you choose the movie as media. You film with a shaky image. Is it merely aesthetic (because, yes, the images of the movie are incredible) or is there something else behind that?
MA: I chose to use more subjective and unstable images in the film to underline the unstability of the world the protagonist (the dog) is inhabiting. And also to suggest the dogs point of view in some of the images. And to make the film a bit more playful and suggestive.
BL: Now you really have to tell us more about the location of the film. Is it the moon? Is it Chernobyl? Did you go to an apocalyptic future? The landscape is amazing and scary.
MA: The location of the film is a granite quarry south of Oslo. It is in use and one of the biggest quarries in the region. It is a very ambivalent place, because it is both very beautiful with all its geometric forms and surfaces but at the same time a violent place where man forces big blocks of stone out of nature. It is truly an example on the man made landscape of the age of the Anthropocene.
BL: You chose as a main character a dog. Why this choice? Did you find the dog there or did you bring it?
MA: The dog is my friend and companion and I asked him politely if he was interested in playing in one of my films. Luckily he agreed to play the role of the female dog in the film☺
BL: During the film, you give to the dog a voice. She said what she missed about people and what she didn’t miss about people. The dog doesn’t appear to be affected, she talks about extremely prosaic things as the morning walk, the smell of big people jogging, popcorn, plastic, electric cars, the warm of a fire place on the winter. Why those choices?
MA: I guess it was a way to talk about big, difficult questions in a more personal and down-to-earth way. I have to say that the actual text in the film is written by the author Per Schreiner. Even though we agreed upon the starting point about the lone dog missing humans for the story.
BL: So we quickly understand that humans are not on the planet now. Did they die, or did they leave the Earth? But I think this is actually not the main question, do we have to reflect on the reason of their departure/absence? And what’s happened to the planet?
MA: I have no idea! Ask the dog. Joke aside - that’s up to the spectators to reflect upon.
BL: With your artwork you address the issue of climate change. Why did you choose this subject? Is it for you the main question of our century? And do you think art can resolve the climate crisis?
MA: The climate crisis is one of the most serious problems the world is facing today and should absolutely be addressed through every means. Most people are aware of this by now, but we are still afflicted by the cognitive dissonance between what we know and how we act. One of the main problems in my view is the total dominance of the capitalistic system that favors growth and profit over all other concerns. These capitalistic imperatives are not compatible with the reduction of global warming, so they need to be changed. I do not think that art can solve the climate crisis, but art can suggest different solutions, views or mindsets regarding every aspect of human life. Art can ask important questions or move thoughts. Climate change puts pressure on the inherited aesthetics, poetics and politics of representation, so it might be necessary to invent new strategies, find new stories or narratives and find new metaphors to guide us on the way.
BL: Barack Obama tweeted in September 2014 “We are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it." Do you think the climate change evolves so quickly?
MA: Yes, unfortunately I do.
BL: Marte Aas, are you an optimist?
MA: Well, I can’t say that I´m too optimistic, but we just have to keep on trying to work for a better world. That is our obligation as human beings!
What I Miss About People, And What I Don’t Miss About People impresses with a complex simplicity. The viewer is immersed in the movie, the industrial background sound creates a kind of bubble around the viewer. We face a disaster which is not directly shown. As a viewer, the film creates a very important contemplation, we are submerged by the dog’s innocuous sentences. This movie cannot be indifferent: we are all concerned. After this 10:51 minutes follow hours of thinking. Thank you, Marte Aas.
Marte Aas, What I Miss About People, and What I Don´t Miss About People (2017) 16mm film with sound,10:51 min. See