Alphaville Videoteca

INDEX #006: Mara Mattuschka - Iris Scan (1984-2003) (1984-2003)

Austria. Experimental. 62 minutos
Título Original: INDEX #006: Mara Mattuschka - Iris Scan (1984-2003)
Director: Mara Mattuschka
Intérpretes:
Formato: DVD  Calidad: DVD
Idioma: Alemán   Subtítulos: Inglés

The Austrian avant-garde filmmaker Mara Mattuschka, who was born in 1959 in Bulgaria, and at the age of 17, as a mathematical wizard, chose Austrian as her second citizenship, is one of the most important figures in experimental film in Europe. She is also the connecting link between Valie Export and the younger generation of experimental Austrian filmmakers.

The most impressive point of her numerous films, and in the latest period video productions (Id, Plasma), is the way she relates to her body. Not only has Mattuschka been the main protagonist on camera in each of her (video) films, since 1985, when she bears the name Mimi Minus, her body is also the canvas, object and subject that is painted, stretched, shaved, deformed with special effects, etc. The other point of reference in her work is a persistent and powerful analysis of past and present experimental and Hollywood film productions, with intensive research into sound and music. Not only does she interpret her texts in the films, she also sings, shouts and integrates sound in different forms in her work, in most of cases as an acousmatic voice, although in the case of Mattuschka, this voice is invisible, but embodied, and subverts the narrative link (the authority) in the image.

NABELFABEL 1984, 3 min

The Mara Mattuschka DVD gets off to a strong start with NabelFabel/Navel Fable (1984, 16mm, 3 min.), by far the darkest film on the DVD. In fact this short is a good deal more terrifying than most horror films, with its striking images of confinement, claustrophobia, and social oppression.

The film begins with a mannequin’s face wrapped up in newspaper which is unravelled in pixilated fashion. The nondescript face is replaced by a human face (Mattuschka’s I presume) wrapped in a stocking. Layers are continually removed only to helplessly reveal another stocking below. Adding to the tension and sense of oppression is the pained expression of the face (also animated) and a soundtrack comprised of a heartbeat, the sound of material being torn, primal screams, photographic shutter clicks, and electronic music. Although the liner notes interpret the film as a symbolic second birth, the foreboding atmosphere can also suggest a person trying to escape from a painful cocoon of imprisonment.

DER UNTERGANG DER TITANIA 1985, 4 min

Of the 12 films presented on the Mattuschka DVD several recall the work of Valie Export, including two which deal directly with female sexuality. The more substantial of the two is Der Untergang der Titania/The Sinking of Titania (1985, 16mm, 4 min.), a comic, scatological love story played out in a bathtub, narrated by an 18 year old woman recounting her perverse sexual awakening.

The short film uses a mixture of live action with primitive stick men animation, but conflates the two forms by filming Mattuschka’s alter ego Mimi Minus, bath cap and all, as if she were an animated cut-out figure. The film’s style is of one piece, with even jerky left-right camera pans mimicking the animated movements of the Mimi Minus character. The tub drain becomes a surrogate anus, first ejecting an animated stick man sporting an erect penis –after which Mattuschka cuts in a subliminal close-up of a hand holding a phallic cigarette– and then ejecting animated feces.

CEROLAX II 1985, 2 min
In this film, a 1 1/2 minute long satire on TV commercials, Mara Mattuschka uses black and white live animation.  

The star, Mimi Minus, has been invited to introduce the sale of a new product: a sticky-black brain washing soap, which M.M. first applies to her reflection, in order to wash one of her brain hemispheres clean, afterwards she applies the soap to her body: she sprays all the marks on her body and changes the spots to a new shade, then she numbs her senses with the miracle soap: first the pubic area, then the armpits, then the eyes, mouth and ears. In the end, the slightly devastated and freshly-cleansed housewife puts on a wig and looks scrutinizingly into the camera/mirror.

KUGELKOPF 1985, 6 min

In Kugelkopf, Mara Mattuschka subversively challenges the printing press and modern technology with her own body's power. Starting by shaving and slitting her head with a razor in sheer pleasure, she proceeds to make marks and patterns with the blood on a glass sheet.

The staccato motion of the ritual duplicates the golf-ball sound of a typewriter. This self-empowering act satirises violence against women, in particular the eye-slitting sequence in Luis Bunuel's Un Chien Andalou.The short concludes with another montage, this time of extreme close-up views of Mattuschka’s face literally being ‘painted’ in blood. This theme of painting on the body introduced in Kugelkopf with the animated blood covering the head and face is continued in later Mattuschka films.

PASCAL-GÖDEL 1986, 5 min

Using the body –in this case the hand– as a painting tool informs much of Pascal-Gödel (1986, 16mm, 5 min.), a formal study in contrast, with black and white, the use of a checkerboard, and positive/negative imagery.

The sparse black and white sets recall a film featuring another ‘tortured’ woman, Carl Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928).

PARASYMPATHICA 1985, 4 min

In Parasympathica (1986, 16mm, 3 min.) there is a continuation of the study in polarity and the black and white motif, with Mattuschka splitting her body in half vertically with her left side painted in black and her right side painted in white.

In a Spanish magazine, I found a list of characteristics considered positive and negative by the Catholic Church. With two exceptions, the positive characteristics represent passive attitudes. In my film, I represent them mimetically. Using animated imagery, I let the juices which are stimulated by the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system flow over the body: tears, sweat, sperm, vaginal excretions. (Mara Mattuschka)

LES MISERABLES 1987, 2 min

In this film, Mattuschka works exclusively with animation. The cheerful cartoon characters Mimi and Max have a childlike-bisexuality, even when the subject seems to be the desire for and differences from the other sex.

The characters are all spoken by the same voice (Mara Mattuschka's), and the characters' representation is therefore channelled into a single and fictive form of expression...

DANKE, ES HAT MICH SEHR GEFREUT 1987, 2 min

Of lesser value is Danke, es hat mich sehr gefreut/I Have Been Very Pleased a silly one joke film where Mimi Minus masturbates in a sea of overexposed white made to appear like a beach (she wears sunglasses).

Her orgasm is a reverberating, child-like laughter which gives way to a moan and a concluding line of dialogue which forms the film’s title: “Thank you. I have been very pleased.”

KAISER SCHNITT 1987, 4 min

The birth of the alphabet according to Mattuschka.

DER SCHÖNE, DIE BIEST 1993, 10 min

Der Schöne, die Biest/Beauty and the Beast (1993, 16mm, 10 min.) finds Mattuschka in pure comic mode, as a chameleon playing many roles to her baby child: mother (we see her breast feeding in close-up), entertainer/teacher (playing violin to her baby); protector (adopting the role of a samurai by using a kitchen knife as if it were a sword) and prognosticator (a fortune teller seeing into her baby’s future).

Der Schöne, die Biest is evidence of Mattuschka’s continuing exploration of the concept of ‘expanded cinema’ developed by Valie Export and others in the 1960s. An ‘expanded cinema’ trait visible in this and other Mattuschka films, and no doubt influenced by the Austrian Actionist films, is the heightened performative aspect of Mattuschka’s acting (as performed by her alter ego Mimi Minus).

S.O.S. EXTRATERRESTRIA 1993, 10 min

S.O.S. Extraterrestria is by far the most intertextual film in the collection, with a multi-perspective referencing of the classic monster movie. Employing some fairly elaborate miniature and special effects cinematography, Mimi/Mattuschka appears as a giant woman causing city-wide havoc.

The most obvious film reference is to King Kong, with the female replacing the ape as outsider/outcast/oppressed/exploited, but some of the set pieces and actions reference Godzilla and the pseudo-feminist The Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.
The theme of masturbation also returns in perfect accord with the film’s intertextuality: the oversized Mimi ‘mounts’ the Eiffel Tower and masturbates on it (as revision of King Kong scaling the Empire State Building).
Mimi’s “grotesque body-art-performances”  begins with her in the make-up room putting on a bizarre costume which includes a ludicrous wig, and concludes with her performing all the famous big movie monster gestures: hovering over light towers, trains, and clock towers, swatting at planes, stomping on people, picking people up and eating them, scaling tall buildings, etc.

ID 2003, 10 min

The final film of the DVD, ID, is also the only non-16mm film on the DVD, and the first she shot on video (Betacam). The film, complex, poetic, and surreal, works well as the last film on the collection.

The film begins with Mattuschka, sporting a black wig, riding up an escalator which leads to a void which she falls into, in effect entering her own psyche, where she turns into a bizarre looking monster, part John Merrick, part lizard. The creature eventually splits into two, manifesting her döppelganger. The monstrous Mattuschka and her double dance in bizarre ritualistic movements that give way to violence and cannibalism (one rips out the other’s umbilical cord and bites it). This film cements another theme prevalent across her work, that of ‘masks’ that conceal one’s true identity, like the pseudonym Mimi Minus, but also through many physical masks (wigs, the stocking tights, the makeup in Beauty and the Beast, the mask in Ball Head, the crown in Parasympathica, and the monster döppelganger in ID). When her transformation begins Mattuschka is floating in a milky cloud, an image which gives the impression of a rebirth –another recurring theme. From this overexposed, white backdrop the film cuts to Mattuschka emerging out of a black marsh, with a backdrop of long straw-like black hair; she struggles with her döppelganger and then returns back to the reality of the escalator. The film is a perfect closer because it brings together the many themes seen across the earlier works: rebirth, the body, masks, the double, and the outsider; in short, the morbid with a touch of comedy.

Works included:
NABELFABEL 1984, 3 min
CEROLAX II 1985, 2 min
DER UNTERGANG DER TITANIA 1985, 4 min
KUGELKOPF 1985, 6 min
PASCAL-GÖDEL 1986, 5 min
PARASYMPATHICA 1985, 4 min
LES MISERABLES 1987, 2 min
DANKE, ES HAT MICH SEHR GEFREUT 1987, 2 min
KAISER SCHNITT 1987, 4 min
DER SCHÖNE, DIE BIEST 1993, 10 min
S.O.S. EXTRATERRESTRIA 1993, 10 min
ID 2003, 10 min
BONUSTRACK :Self-presentation of the artist