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Sundays In Majdanpek
on a Saturday in Whitechapel
Steven Ball & Rastko Novakovic continued

SB: It’s interesting to me that you talk about the two parts as “contrasting”. How is the image of the mine a contrast to the images of the cinema especially as we’re seeing the work here now as a whole, historically integrated as well as integrated within the work? A similar idea crops up in your programme notes where you talk about “contradictions”. I don’t necessarily see contradictions or contrast but continuity. Is this perhaps a dialectical contradiction?

RN: Yes, I would hope so. It’s dialectical in the sense that it’s been productive for me and within the work itself. There is the obvious difference in the time that was spent on each part and the way they were made. Part one was made very quickly, within a week. I was trying to consolidate a lot of previous thoughts I’d had about the situation in Serbia, making it from within the belly of the beast. The second part has much more distance both in time and place. But I was trying to approach each in the knowledge that they would be shown together. There are contradictions between the very mobile, rhythmical first part and the much more static second part.

Audience Member: There is a formal contrast in that in the first the camera makes a spiral five times, and in the second piece you have an inherent spiral in terms of the mountain being eaten away by the mine, slowly moving inward. I think there is an inherent formalism in that, but the second piece is much more reliant on the content of the image to give the spiral shape and I felt that it carried through in that while the second part is like an oscillation between the UK, Amsterdam (though I’m not sure how that fitted in) and Serbia, the first is an attempt to mine the identity of a particular place within that place.

RN: There are very strong formal considerations and it’s easy to go for that interpretation because it lets you in. But I don’t necessarily want the audience to be let in, or let off the hook, easily. There are things that resist you in terms of where it’s going. To explain the third place in the triangle: there’s Majdanpek, there’s London and there’s Amsterdam. For personal reasons I was in Amsterdam for a while and it’s present only in terms of the sound in the introductions to parts one and two; that’s the only record of that place, so it’s almost a way to step aside and look at both of these parts from a different place. I feel that moving between one shot and another shouldn’t be easy or facile. Even if you move from here to there, two metres, you have to cross a distance and that can be manipulated later in editing. But I don’t want to make that leap from London to Serbia easy, or the image that people have of Serbia or could get from this video. It’s there to tease people, to get them in and ask questions, but there is also an element where you get to a point and you can’t get any further, a horizon, it’s a culturally specific thing. That doesn’t really answer your question…

SB: The work doesn’t ask or answer any questions, rather it proposes a number of situations within the same space. Particularly in the second part and the way the text shifts between registers: the aphoristic nature of some of it, then elements that seem quite personal or apparently to do with the making of the piece such as the first line: “I spent a week thinking about whether to take a camera up on that hill”…

RN: …but it’s also a way of dramatising a situation which is not necessarily dramatic. I don’t want to shy away from using ‘I’, but the ‘I’ of the author is not the ‘I’ that you see here before you…

SB: …but that’s probably the way in which the majority of people viewing it would read it, which perhaps could be a fiction…

RN: I don’t hide that…

SB: So this could be part of a game and the fact that it uses the personal register is interesting, like the slightly earlier text about acquiring a British passport.
I was also interested in this line to do with the landscape: “My body in the landscape and the landscape in my body”. It seemed to me that this is something of a reworking or extension of a Romantic notion of landscape, the relationship of the viewer to the landscape and the landscape to the viewer. Could you talk a bit about that?

RN: There is a definite engagement with Romanticism, but it’s also the contradiction between text and image, rubbing two things against each other. On the one hand there’s idealism, on the other materialism: consciousness creates reality or matter precedes thought. That kind of opposition is something that I found fruitful. It’s the same thing that Peter Whitehead talks about, for instance the opposition between image and text.

With relation to the British passport, I think the line that’s taken from The Rules of the Game is far more relevant to me than the opening one: “…the London parks which hold the kind of green only the English can describe…”. I only know that line in the film from seeing it as a subtitle. There is that aspect of text coming back into play. It’s also that Octave, the character played by Renoir in the film, is talking about a personal nostalgia, but also another kind of nostalgia that’s much broader, for a world that never existed. Obviously, as a black and white film you can only imagine the green and in mine there is a manipulation of the colours. That approaches the issue of nature and culture in a different way. There was a time when “everything used to happen more instinctively”. Also, does getting a British passport make me sufficiently English to describe the English green?

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