We were invited to spend a month as researchers in residence in the freetown
of Christiania, Denmark
. This squatted community was created in 1971, a response to the lack of affordable housing in areas of Copenhagen at the time. Over the past 40 years it has established itself as a distinct alternative to other municipalities, operating on principles of consensus democracy and a deeply held opposition to property ownership. Christiania's
recent battle with the Danish state has resulted in the decision to buy the land collectively, an outcome that is as conflicted as it is consensual. As founder members of the volunteer-run, non-hierarchical Star and Shadow Cinema
, our collective interest lay in researching these two fiercely autonomous ventures alongside one another in order to see what could be gleaned from a comparison: 40 years to 5 years, sewage construction to wiki-building, major state interventions to local resident complaints.
Over the course of our stay, we captured as much of Christiania as we could map on 16mm and began to shape a film that would reflect the differences inherent in making decisions collectively as opposed to individually, taking advice and solace from both long-term residents of, and visitors to, this area of Copenhagen that was termed a 'social experiment' in 1971. Our approach to collaboratively constructing the film reflects the attitudinal and ideological stance of Christiania in its emphasis on flexibility and the attempt to minimise territoriality whilst maintaining an artistic rigour. This is not to say that working in this way is without its major challenges. Constant discussion and reappraisal are abiding features, as are tight-lipped acquiescence and open objection. But co-authorship and its peculiarities remain a touchstone for us and we are interested in our practice reflecting what is (gently) preached at Star and Shadow Cinema.
is a challenge to the dominant idea of a single artistic vision being the definitive characteristic of valuable art creation. Central to the process has been the notion that a task tackled collectively prompts a different imaginative input, leading to previously unimagined outcomes. Co-authored work is relatively familiar territory for us through our experiences of the alternative cinemas in the Kino Climates network
, a network which represents truly independent European cinemas. These venues often produce collaborative films, alongside organising
dissemination and screenings of the work of other artists associated with the network. Dutch venue Worm saw their collaborative film CTRL ALT ESCape
from Rotterdam screened at 2011's Rotterdam Film Festival and we take some inspiration from Worm's questioning of how a DIY approach can be viewed and accepted within the mainstream. We are also frequently exposed to films from the European Artist Film Lab circuit
, which has a tradition of collaboration in setting up facilities and making films, frequent visitors to the Star and Shadow Cinema being MetalkinG
from the French Atelier MTK
. Newcastle itself holds one of the most long-term film collectives - Amber Films – a group that is part of the area's history of collective organisation
, and part of the North East of England's active climate of cooperative endeavour
scenes were suggested, both implicitly and explicitly, by interviewees in Christiania
. Their words also feature on the soundtrack which layers recorded dialogue
with field recordings and improvised music made in collaboration with acclaimed harpist and improviser Rhodri Davies
. As in our' previous work Every Trick In The Book
(a skewed homage to amateur filmmaker HAV
Bullied) the conventional logic of documentary or narrative grammar falls away to make room for a stronger adherence to the logic of the concepts at hand. More Cooks emerges as a work that investigates the consensual processes of speaking out, letting go, holding your tongue and allowing myriad alternatives maximum time to develop.
We returned to Newcastle Upon Tyne in February 2012 with renewed vigour for the Star and Shadow Cinema and an increased commitment to continuing our collective search for a way to make work together. More Cooks screens to a preview audience at the Star and Shadow Cinema, Newcastle Upon Tyne on May 3rd 2012.