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When We Were Monsters

Steve Reinke , James Richards

Germany, USA, 2020
20 minutes, 08 seconds, Colour, Stereo, 16:9
Original format: HD Video
Available formats: HD H.264

Cinema is always Frankenstein; a composite being. Indeed, what is more monstrous than the cut? The filmic severing of an image from its origin reveals it, making it available for inspection. Working intermittently together since 2008, Steve Reinke and James Richards have been exchanging material across the Atlantic to their respective studios in Chicago and Berlin. Drawing upon a loose shared archive of found and self shot footage, music and found texts culled from essays and poetry, these dismembered fragments slowly assemble into an exquisite corpse.The starting point for When We Were Monsters was a video tape of projection footage made by the artist Gretchen Bender. originally edited as a series of video projections for Bill T Jones’s dance piece Still/Here, for New York’s Whitney Museum in 1994, Bender drew upon a large cache of forensic images given by a plastic surgeon. Clinical images of infections, deformities and morbid injuries are turned by Bender into an abject flicker-film.Made during the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic of spring and summer of 2020, When We Were Monsters reflects lockdown existentialism with its combination of molecular porosity and existential vastness. Expanding Bender’s medical gaze to include a broader scientific gaze, the film combines new sequences and animations, interleaving texts and a rich soundtrack of audio and spoken word. Often collapsing into an abstract of erotics, we see glimpses of Ivan Pavlov’s ghost dogs, fungi and fovea, wounds, flowers, dust and stains, fire ceremonies, organic flickering, hallucinations and intoxicated language.