A programme of films completed by influential avant-garde filmmaker Robert Beavers since his 2007 Tate Modern retrospective “To the Winged Distance: Films by Robert Beavers,” the majority of which are being presented in London for the first time. Although born and raised in Massachusetts, Beavers re-located to Europe in 1967 with filmmaker Gregory Markopoulos, and over the next decades made films in Greece, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and Italy. Following Markopoulos’ death in 1992, he set up the Temenos archive in Uster, Switzerland to preserve his work and legacy. He lives with the filmmaker Ute Aurand in Berlin and Massachusetts and continues to make films on 16mm.
His most recent work The Sparrow Dream, which will premiere at Open City, forms (with Pitcher of Colored Light and Listening to the Space in my Room) a loose trilogy of studies of the filmmaker’s domestic spaces. Interconnected, the films in this programme dialogue with one another. Often, the editing of one film is interlaced with the shooting of the next one, proposing an endless cycle of watching, filming, viewing, living. For Beavers, filming begins in the eyes of the filmmaker and is shaped by his gestures in relation to the camera. This attention to the physicality of the medium is evident also in the editing – a fully manual process that leads to a unique form of phrasing. As he has written: “A continuity develops for the filmmaker between the physical structure of the medium and each action involved in the filming, whether simple or complex and this bodily sense is extended in other ways during the editing.
With the support of the Goethe-Institut London
Robert Beavers’ films have received the support of G. & B. Schwyzer-Winiker Stiftung in Zurich.
Pitcher of Colored Light
Robert Beavers | 2007 | USA | 24’ | 16/35mm | sound
“I have filmed my mother’s house and her garden […]. The shadows play an essential part in the mixture of loneliness and peace that exists here. The seasons move from the garden into the house, projecting rich diagonals in the early morning or late afternoon. Each shadow is a subtle balance of stillness and movement; it shows the vital instability of space. Its special quality opens a passage to the subjective; a voice within the film speaks to memory. The walls are screens through which I pass to the inhabited privacy. We experience a place through the perspective of where we come from and hear another’s voice through our own acoustic. The sense of place is never separate from the moment.” (Robert Beavers)
Robert Beavers | 2010 | USA | 5’ | 16/35mm | sound
“My filming for The Suppliant was done in February 2003, while a guest in the Brooklyn Heights apartment of Jacques Dehornois. When I recollect the impulse for this filming, I remember my desire to show a spiritual quality united to the sensual in my view of this small Greek statue. I chose to reveal the figure solely through its blue early morning highlights and in the orange sunlight of late afternoon. After filming the statue, I walked down to the East River and continued to film near the Manhattan Bridge and the electrical works; then I returned to the apartment and filmed a few other details. I set this film material aside, while continuing to film and edit Pitcher of Colored Light, later I took it up twice to edit but could not find my way. Most of the editing was finally done in 2009; then I waited to see whether it was finished and found that it was not. In May 2010, I made several editing changes and created the soundtrack with thoughts of this friend’s recent death.” (Robert Beavers)
Listening to the Space in My Room
Robert Beavers | 2013 | Switzerland, Germany, USA | 19’ | 16mm | sound
Robert Beavers films his room in Zurich, and its immediate surroundings, during the editing of his previous film The Suppliant. The seasons go by and he observes, with great warmth his neighbours and hosts, an elderly couple. While he, a musician, plays the cello, she tends to the garden. All three characters share a space (though never at the same time) and a dedication to their respective activities: music, gardening, filmmaking. A celebration of light and colour and an intimate ode to existence.
Among the Eucalyptuses
Robert Beavers | 2017 | USA, Germany | 4’ | 16mm | silent
“Late afternoon quiet and a silent figure seated on a bench in Nafplion; the historic figures of Kolokotronis and Kapodistrias; plus the old factories and machinery, warehouses and train lines that are part of a Piraeus, now disappearing. (Filmed circa 2000, edited 2017).” (Robert Beavers)
“Der Klang, die Welt…”
Robert Beavers | 2018 | USA, Germany | 5’ | 16mm | sound
“Filmed in the same site as Listening to the Space in My Room, “Der Klang, die Welt…” was intended as a gift to Cécile Staehelin, who now lives alone in the house. In my film, Dieter Staehelin, now deceased, is speaking about the place of music in his life, and we see him and Cécile performing an Arabesque by Bohuslav Martinů on the cello and piano. She had once stated a wish for her life to end like the last notes of this music.” (Robert Beavers)
The Sparrow Dream
Robert Beavers | 2022 | USA, Germany | 29’ | 16mm | sound
“My starting point was a question about how the places where I have lived influenced how I see. With this thought in mind, I returned to one or two locations in Berlin that I had filmed for Diminished Frame in 1970. One was the milestone opposite Schloss Charlottenburg. In 1970, the milestone stood as a sombre sphere topped by a Prussian spike that I filmed in black and white; now I saw it as a golden globe surrounded by regenerate leaves with a view to Fortuna. I also found the same statue that I had filmed in Brooklyn in 2002 for The Suppliant standing in Leopoldplatz, Wedding.
“Between 2016 and 2019, I filmed in Berlin and Massachusetts, concentrating on particular domestic gestures and some locations connected to my childhood. The turning pages of a version of the Odyssey and the sight of a Korean War monument in my hometown, Weymouth, suggested different sides of the same subject: Nostos* or homecoming. The vision of Greece that was first awakened in my childhood remains a source. Despite different histories, one culture reflects another, and I asked the question:
“Why have I returned to film these places, which I left so many years ago?”
“For the deep view it gives now.”
“In Berlin, each morning, I remove the ashes from the ceramic oven in my room before lighting the new coals; each time a different thought arises while I look at the flames. There is an infinite number of qualities in fire.”
(Robert Beavers, July 2022)
*“nostos: return, homecoming; song about homecoming; return to light and life.
The word nostos is derived from the Indo-European root *nes- ‘return to light and life’; from Indo-European languages other than Greek, we see that this root occurs in myths having to do with Morning Star / Evening Star. The morning star ‘that heralds the approach of dawn’ which shines as Odysseus comes back to Ithaca indicates that Odysseus is returning from the dead as well as from his journey.”
Followed by a conversation between Robert Beavers and Mark Webber
“A continuity develops for the filmmaker between the physical structure of the medium and each action involved in the filming, whether simple or complex and this bodily sense is extended in other ways during the editing.”
– Robert Beavers