Hugo Olim at Ilhéstico

Hugo Olim (b. 1978, Madeira) is a gleaner of images and sounds. His body of work is one that deals primarily with found footage in an experimental way, incorporating other facets such as sound or technology through a careful treatment of montage and appropriation, seeking to broaden the dialogical field of images pertaining to cinema.

Curated by Miguel von Hafe Pérez, two of Olim´s works (within the field of the Ilhéstico) are being shown in the collective exhibition at Porta 33 (commemorating its 30th year); Subs (2011-2019) and Head, Tail, Rail (2013).

Subs is a construction of fictional tales in which Olim creates new narratives by deconstructing film tapes of cinematographic trailers, using only their subtitles. This deconstruction, or reconstruction, provokes new interpretations of those things said in commercial films that we do not, or do not wish, to identify. The films are completely immersive for its viewer; in Head, Tail, Rail the images (belonging to the “technical field” of 35mm) are placed alongside their subtitles. These images never become tedious or repetitive because the deconstruction of a story from just its subtitles and the repositioning of the artist, not only in the frame, but also in the time of the film (cinema, above all, is time) is a unique experience. For Paul Klee, what Olim does it is an attribute of painting; that is to make the imperceptible, perceptible.

If in Subs Olim constructs narratives, in Head, Tail, Rail he constructs geometries and rhythms. Here, Olim manipulates again that which is invisible in the 35mm film tape; the perforated areas that hold the tape – first in the film camera, then the projector and the ´optical sound´, that is, sound present on track presses of the film itself whose winding lines can be seen in its spaces. In cinema, this is considered that which does not appear in the frame, but rather exists beyond it – being “out of frame” (or “out of bounds”). Here, one could say that Olim choses to present those things outside the physical frame, or even the very frame itself – if one considers the frame a means of containing the image – as Jacques Aumont asserts “[the frame is that which separates the image from its exterior]”[1]. This short film is a kind of visual and acoustic symphony with different colours and textures, even some dirt on the film (unfound in the 4K). Oftentimes, the film plays in longitudinal direction, neglecting the need to be secured by a projector. The perforations, in this way, lose their function and become a geometric element that give both a metrical visual and rhythmic composition. There is nothing that indicates to the viewer the provenance of the film, and although in its spaces we see letters or numbers (one section even displays the outlines of (female) figures), we do not see identifiable images. The film support becomes the tape itself, the sound also having no diegetic presence, except for rare and fast musical moments which act as a kind of interference. In the end, it is as if the absences of a movie (the aural and visual disturbances) come to have a life of their own, bringing to the visual and aural field, what we always strive to conceal, the technicalities themselves coming to have form and artistic function.

In this way, Hugo Olim´s works concerning film are a kind of Ready-made, in which a common object, such as analogic film support, is that unimportant element that Olim extracts, so that the invisible is elevated to the status of an artistic work; one anchored in mid-twentieth-century practices, namely Surrealism (or, if we want to be exhaustive, to cinematic experiences as old as Muybridge). Olim´s work is the result of a lengthy practice and a microscopic and complex technical point of view. It is not only the manual work (which is decreasingly present today) that is complex, but also the thought process that presides over the choices made by the artist that question the truthfulness of that we see – nothing is superfluous, even if it is.

Oscar Niemeyer once said of one of his works in an interview that the important thing was ´not the arches, but the space between them´. So too for Hugo Olim the importance is, very often, the space between the things; the silences, the gaps, or merely the hidden codes that manipulate the form and raise questions about the image and the visible, even if it is hidden.


[1] [1] Aumont, Jacques, A Imagem. Lisboa: Edições Texto & Grafia, 2011, 3ª Edição, pág. 86

With a career in film production spanning more than 10 years, Bárbara Valentina has worked as production executive, producing and developing several documentary and fiction films for several production companies including David & Golias, Terratreme and Leopardo Films. She is now working as Head of Development and Production Manager at David & Golias as well as a postproduction coordinator at Walla Collective. She is also teacher at ETIC in the Film and Television Course of HND - Higher National Diploma. She started writing articles for different magazines in 2002. She wrote for Media XXI magazine and in 2003 she began her collaboration with Umbigo magazine. Besides Umbigo she wrote for Time Out Lisboa and is still writing as art critic for ArteCapital. In 2010 she completed a postgraduation in Art History.

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