"roos wall dot tsay zed"
CZ (see sample video)
4K Video and Stereo Sound by Dan Senn
|Rus Wall . CZ
“roos wall dot tsay zed” was filmed August 30, 2023 in Holešovice,
Prague at the corner of U Městských Domů and some other street. It is video of a portion of a retaining wall
adjacent to the long row of storage garages filmed in Danger Alley six months
earlier. The sound track is an adaptation of ACTION
SPEAK for fixed stereo or quad mixed media composed in 2022 at
using a Korg MS-20 clone the Behringer K-2.
A Short Essay
Rus Wall . CZ, the title, came from wisps of thoughts while often walking by this crumbling section of wall at the end of Danger Alley . The structure, constructed from now bulging concrete block, triggered memories of the Berlin Wall I’d climbed to the top of, the western side, in August of 1971 while traveling with an American University choir. A "Russian wall", I muttered walking by for the first time thinking I might make a piece of this as I had in Of One Mind a month or so earlier. The mortar markings, however, were not so interesting and verged on being horry. Then it rained for several days, this, having the effect of darkening and enriching the colors of the wall and so, the day before filming, I stepped close, looked upward and noticed the broken and exposed concrete blocks at the top against the clear sky. Ahhh. A starting point?
And then there is that raging Russian invasion in Ukraine... Immersed daily in news reports, while keenly remembering the open anger I’d encountered in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1971, I helplessly drew connections between the Berlin Wall, the Cold War, Ukraine, and this dilapidated structure likely built in the late 1940s or early 1950s. I have no factual data supporting this except that my nearby studio building, was erected in 1938, and the sports field this wall is connected to was probably built just after WW2. In any event, my memories, hardened by my soldiering father’s wartime experiences as coupled feebly with my own observations in 1971, a connection was made and sent to the background.
I do not overtly make message pieces, as do most artists these days. Yes, the above thoughts are a true in the wispy context presented but pale in contrast to purely aesthetic and technical considerations. As mentioned, the rain filtered wall had become “beautiful.” The ground was muddy, sloped, but stable enough with plenty of room for my tripod. Even so, it is not always easy to stabilize my Manfrotto tripod in these conditions. The area was just far enough away from the street and sidewalk providing a modicum of privacy—there would still be plenty of walk-bys. Unlike Venting on Stupkova and Danger Alley, I would not have to contend with people walking through the image field. Given the location, I mulled, it’d be best to shoot in the morning, say, between 8a and 10a. And I would start at the top and move downward with lots of recursive movement. The visual narrative, as with other mapping works of mine remained important to the aesthetic.
So, meaning for such works, for me, must be understood, internalized, from the beginning and dished to background if possible. For this work a retrofitted simpatico is befitting as the clumsiness of the film conditions, those including just-professional gear, are a sufficient obstacle pushing the fleeting (wispy) nature of meaning, most certainly during the shooting and editing, into gray-matter-obscurity. The paradox of this kind of work is that to have the “right” gear would simply take fringe projects out of reach due expense, as well as personal and social relevance.
With the just-professional gear I have, focusing is difficult as the view finder is small and not blinkered. Smooth movement between stationary image points is difficult. There is no crew to protect the camera man, that'd be me, from being interfered with—intense concentration amidst mosquitos of all kinds required. Indeed, these and other difficulties can overwhelm the shoot begging the question "Why would I do this work in the first place?" The answer is "Because such difficulties repress imitation of existing work while keeping the devil at bay.
"Difficulties", as I use the word, and in the sense of the ancient practice of Raku pottery, as Thoreau and Cage exquisitely understood, immensely intrude on producing useful artifacts. Here, it is a struggle from beginning as I confront various physical limitations. Thus, every second of the final work, Rus Wall . CZ, is impacted as I make do with what I have to work with which, to be open, is not nothing and yet a great distance from the rococo-ridden status quo. We, my partner and I, are not suffering in Czechia and yet I seek out crooked vents, a crack in a pillar, and horry bulging wall, perhaps, a remnant of the Young Pioneers, to make art that pushes my abilities to new limits and only to be seen by a few. Why? Because it difficult and as I grow older, I know this is wise to do so.
Finally, the meaning intended in this piece does not disallow interpretations unique to every viewer, this including myself as I revisit the work in the future. In general, however, I do not warm to art that seeks to control my interpretation or that of others. What I’m thinking about is my business. "Tell me something I don't know" was a phrase often voiced by Sal Martirano as he ignored the writing on the wall. And yet, trying to send a social/personal message to others using art, is sometimes necessary (Václav Havel) and occasionally instigates invention... yet too often represents nothing but a big fat embarrassing lie—a retrofitted metaphor meant to sell the object, lift one's social position or to overcome
known well to the emperor’s well dressed tailor. Intended meaning is
often used as a battering ram to separate the special ones who “know”
from the “children” who see the undressed king or just a dirty wall
someone has painted over. In this sense, my need to describe what I’m
doing here in Rus Wall . CZ is utterly hypocritical except that I cannot get beyond my ascent to the top of the Berlin Wall in 1971. DS 090423
Dan Senn (Prague-Watertown) is an intermedia artist working in music composition and production, kinetic sound sculpture, experimental and documentary film. He has been a professor of music and art in the United States and Australia and travels internationally as a lecturer, performer and installation artist. He lives in Prague where he directs the Echofluxx festivals, and Watertown, Wisconsin, the USA. Dan's work moves freely between expressive extremes and languages depending upon the aesthetic joust at hand. Dan is cofounder of Roulette Intermedium in New York City, Cascadia Composers of Portland Oregon, and the Echofluxx media festivals in Prague. (read more).