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Anna Abrahams talks about Eye on Art

“Every evening is like a film with an open ending.”

By Sasja Koetsier13 September 2021

Eye on Art: where cinema and other arts meet. An ongoing sequence on Tuesday evenings, with most diverse programmes, exploring the intersections and cross-connections between film and other arts in a format as wide-ranging as the films themselves.

Anna Abrahams is the programmer and enthusiastic host of this long-running series of programmes. “If you love film, and are curious about what more can be done through this artform, then these evenings are for you.”

Not what, but how

You might have seen an instalment of Eye on Art already, without realising it: thematically, these evenings often link to other programmes in Eye, or the current exhibition. The focus of the Eye on Art evenings is not principally on their content, however, as programmer Anna Abrahams explains. “We are much more interested in the ‘how’ than the ‘what’. During the exhibition by Ivo van Hove and Jan Versweyveld, for example, Eye on Art looks at how theatre-makers use audio-visual media in their productions and what new ways are being found to translate the theatrical experience for audio-visual media.”

All About Theatre About Film: Antonioni Project (after Michelangelo Antonioni) (2009) © Jan Versweyveld
Antonioni Project (after Michelangelo Antonioni) (2009) © Jan Versweyveld

Bar

The fact that Eye on Art focuses first and foremost on the creative process means that every evening, in Abrahams’ words, is “like a film with an open ending”. “Someone tries something out, and this process of trying out is what it’s all about”, she stresses. “What results from this might be more to your liking one time than another, but it will always be something special; something to look back on and talk about. I always invite our visitors to come and discuss what they have seen at the bar.”

Context

“Everyone who loves the moving image should be able to enjoy this”, she believes. “I am absolutely not looking to create an elitist niche. Some of the films are extremely accessible, but sometimes you need someone to open a window onto them. This is why we always present the films within a context.” The makers themselves are often present, or an introduction is given, or a performance or a small-scale installation. Sometimes, Abrahams asks an artist to provide a musical accompaniment to the images. “In the case of more abstract films in particular, this can be a good way of creating a way in for the viewer, without getting pedagogical. It’s more like looking through someone else’s eyes.”

Avant-garde

Eye on Art regularly dives into Eye’s rich collection. For example, experimental films from the 1920s and ’30s from the Filmliga archive, or avant-garde films from the 1960s and ’70s, purchased by the Filmmuseum as it was then, in cooperation with the Stedelijk. Early in the new millennium, Abrahams herself was involved in setting up the Filmbank, an initiative to show the work of contemporary experimental makers in Dutch cinemas. When the Filmbank was incorporated into Eye in 2010, these films also became part of the Eye collection.

Still from Die Büchse der Pandora (Georg Wilhelm Pabst, 1929)
Still from Die Büchse der Pandora (Georg Wilhelm Pabst, 1929)

Sense of community

“The Filmbank brought about a resurgence in the genre. There was a sense of community again”, she remembers. “It’s a DIY culture where makers often work in a very solitary way, while an essential characteristic of previous periods of flourishing in experimental film had more of a communal feel.” The Filmbank lives on in the purchasing and distribution programme Selected Artists’ Moving Image. These works newly added to the collection, by both new and established artists and experimental filmmakers, are presented twice a year in Eye on Art.

The future of film art

The Researchlabs – another regular part of Eye’s programming, where Eye on Art keeps a finger on the pulse of the next generation of artists currently still studying at the academies – offers a glimpse of the future of film art. Students from a range of different arts disciplines taking part in this programme are invited to draw on Eye’s collection for inspiration and material for their own productions.

Work by Lisa van Breggen for Researchlabs in Eye, 2016
Work by Lisa van Breggen for Researchlabs in Eye, 2016

Creative impulse

“What is film and what more can film be – this is always the crux of the matter”, Abrahams explains. The crosspollination with other artforms can provide a creative impulse, pushing film art in unconventional directions. “You often see that innovators in film started out in other disciplines. David Lynch graduated from that art academy as a painter; Maya Deren was a dancer. At first, their films had a limited reach, but eventually these innovations find their way to bigger audiences.”

Still from David Lynch: The Art Life (Jon Nguyen & Olivia Neergaard-Holm & Rick Barnes, 2016)
Still from David Lynch: The Art Life (Jon Nguyen & Olivia Neergaard-Holm & Rick Barnes, 2016)
Still from Elastic Recurrence (Johan Rijpma, 2017)
Still from Elastic Recurrence (Johan Rijpma, 2017)

Curious

For example, Eye on Art has now also attracted a loyal following among film lovers. But Abrahams is convinced that the programme series can attract many more people – those who simply haven’t heard of it yet, or who may think it’ s not for them. “If you love film, and are curious about what other directions this artform can take, then these evenings are for you.”

What's next?

Eye on Art takes place twice a month, always on Tuesdays.

See the upcoming programmes

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