A Conversation w/ Pedro Ferreira
The following email conversation took place in October 2016, upon the acquisition of Little Portugal (2014) directed by Pedro Ferreira for active Video Out distribution. The interview was conducted by Matthew Ballantyne for a University of British Columbia undergraduate co-op placement with VIVO Media Arts Centre.
MB: Matthew Ballantyne
PF: Pedro Ferreira
MB: Do you find a tension or incongruity between super 8 film and contemporary scenes and settings? Do specific mediums act to draw out associations to times and places?
PF: I see super 8 film as a contemporary art practice, only it is not a profitable one as opposed to other mediums, traditional or digital. That practically excludes super 8 from the art market. There are contemporary filmmakers around the world shooting super 8 film and still bringing new artists’ moving images. But the question is who defines contemporary scenes and setting? Are museums, galleries and biennales the responsible ones? You can always find a film loop installation in these institutions. Maybe festivals? Or perhaps collectives, movements and cities? What about the entire digitized super 8 films on the internet and found footage works using that imagery created by users? Are they less contemporary scenes because they are pretty much outside of the capitalist system and don’t circulate in institutions? I think it’s very hard to track down and define what the contemporary scenes are, maybe in some decades some scholar somewhere might reconsider this whole period and point to scenes, artists and works that were not given due credit. Specific mediums are associated with specific times and places because they are intrinsically related to the period that they were invented in – in the case of super 8 it was mass produced and commercially available during the 1960’s – but that doesn’t make the medium stuck in any time or place. It’s up to artists to give new meanings, to interpret and reuse available mediums in many different ways.
MB: Do you approach work in Canada differently than working in Berlin or Portugal?
PF: Yes, I approach it completely differently. In my practice, I am always limited to little resources that I can fit in one suitcase, to mediums I have access to in the place where I am and the money I have to spend on making art or lack thereof. All these aspects factor into my work. In Canada I received a grant to be there, I had access to unexposed film, to a film lab, took workshops and had the chance to be part of a strong and devoted art community that I haven’t found in either of the other two places. In Portugal, I mainly work with found footage, video installation and documentary. In Berlin, I have access to film and I plan to join the DIY film lab, one day. But all three places relate with each other through precarious jobs and living conditions and their exploitation of young people in all kinds of work.
MB: When were you first introduced to super 8 film?
PF: The first time I had access to shoot super 8 was during a film production in Portugal in 2012. I was working as assistant director and at the end of the production, the director had two extra black and white film rolls that he was not going to use. He offered me the rolls and lent me his camera too. That was when I made my first personal super 8 film, “Home Sequences”.
MB: Do certain mediums feel more precious than others?
PF: No, every medium has its own characteristics which makes each of them singular in a certain way.
MB: Are there elements of novelty in using less accessible or immediate forms?
PF: It is just more fun to work with something less accessible, that you can transform the image directly with your own hands or destroy something rare and reinterpret it.
MB: In your Little Portugal work, did the images come before the audio recording?
PF: Yes, I shot the images first when I went to Toronto for the first time in 2014. I was living closer to Little Portugal then and saw myself reflected somehow in this Portuguese community, the immigrant that moves to a different continent to find new opportunities and better working conditions. That is why the film ends up with a close-up of my face. The audio came after when I moved to Toronto for the second time in 2015. I was trying to get a working visa to be able to stay in Canada and I saw an opportunity to record the phone call and to use the content ironically with the film that portraits immigrants.
MB: How do bureaucratic systems inform your understanding of a place?
PF: Bureaucratic systems say very much about a society, how their citizens engage with their time and how it affects their personality and behavior. While I was trying to understand how to get a working visa from inside Canada I went to an office, I spent many hours on their website and I called them but everything was hopeless. To be in Germany is even worse. I feel like I am living in some parallel Kafka world, there is always another form to fill out, another office to go to, and it really makes you powerless and makes you question the place you came from originally.
MB: What relationship does the physical body have to a strip of film?
PF: Touch, movement and both are living organisms.
MB: How far do you feel mediums can be pushed or intervened upon while still maintaining their uniqueness?
PF: There are no limits.