Homage: Ivan Ladislav Galeta
You hardly ever find two comments on Galeta’s cinema that mention the same two of the countless strands that run through his films. It is even difficult to accept characterizations for him as a key exponent of certain movements, techniques or directions within the avant-garde because Galeta, through only 5 quintessential films, has excelled in several of these areas and yet did not champion nor denounce any formal system, he did not claim fatherhood of any technique.
Galeta is one of themost definitive artist-filmmakers of the second half of the 20th century and one who has led a life true to the paroles of his artwork. A romantic artist rather than an entrepreneurial globe-trotter, he promoted the work of others as much as his own and was a constant seeker of new, captivating methods with which he would merge social purpose and art.
With a creative activity that spans over forty years and includes photography, installations, sculpture and object art, performance, video-art, expanded cinema, sound and TV interventions, and the written word, Galeta’s films appear to be only a fraction of his legacy. Indeed his single-channel filmography, the basis of this presentation, ends before the 90s. Fromthen on hewill continuewithmore conceptual art pursuits; the blending of his video art and hiswork as a custodian of the biosphere produced the ENDART series. T (EYE) is one of the 18 elements of the ENDART 5 (2008), presented here to remind that Galeta has not only worked extensively on video in his later days but that he has indeed used it from a very early stage.
Metanoia (1969) is his earliest film, produced at the Forum of Film Amateurs while finishing university. Between Metanoia and his next film in 1977 (a first version of WAL(L)ZEN, called Forwards Backwards Piano at the time) Galeta will complete numerous video art pieces and establish himself as an important artist of the moving image in Croatia and internationally. Although Metanoia does introduce the existential questions, which will re-appear throughout his work, it does not yet apply one of the key elements that will bind the other five films together: time and space relation to reality.
WAL(L)ZEN (1977-1989) was re-worked at the Béla Balázs Studio in Hungary and determines, according to Galeta, the basic principle of movement. A piano player is able to perform a Chopin piece backwards and Galeta will film it backwards and forwards creating four different variations of a movement bound to time.
The rhythmical editing concept of WAL(L)ZEN is one of the key elements that makes a first appearance in his work. This musical geometry of montage will characterize all his films, even those that have no visible cuts or are completely silent.
The use of title and closing credit sequences for adding well-hidden or more obvious connotations is another Galeta trademark. PiRaMidas (1984) which was also produced at the BBS, begins with dedications to Hermes, Lao Tse and Einstein among others. Even the preoccupation with stating the datesof first conception and final realization of his films (in PiRaMidas 1972-1984) is part of this process, while at the same time yet another obsession with time. PiRaMidas is a geometrical timetravel by train. To a certain point in space and back again.
The title of Two Times in One Space (1976-1984) does not allow room for questioning Galeta’s focus on this subject; Time and Space. Although many of his films could appear as found footage works, this is the only one time where Galeta borrowed images and he treats them almost as a Duchamp-ean “ready made.” His use of titles is again utilized, but here only in order to highlight his respect of the original material, a short film by Nicola Stojanoviç. A simple optical and sound effect converts this already gripping short to one of Galeta’s most conceptual single channel films, a battlefield of space and time.
Circles and spheres are a recurring motif in Galeta’s work. sfaira (1971-1984) dedicated to Pythagoras and Plato is a homage to two of his favourite spheroids: the Earth and the Sun. The protagonist, as we are informed by the title sequence, is a sculpture named Earthbound Sun and the film’s photography, a stunning example of optical printing techniques, shows his affection to both.
Sfaira’s subject, the sun and the cosmos appears as a precursor to Galeta’s magnum opus Water Pulu 1869 1896 (1973-1987).
Galeta with this filmdelivers a pictorial and literaryMaximalism, in a way that only cinema could do but had not done before.
Laszlo Beke called Water Pulu 1869 1896 an “absolute” and “pure” film, one that defies interpretation. Indeed to merely count the incorporated elements seems impossible, let alone explain them.
Galeta has created a black hole, an object whose gravitational pull inside the radius of cinema is so strong that no film viewer can escape it. He applies amathematical and geometrical editing system in a film that shows hardly any edits. His conceptual manipulation of themere footage of a water-polomatch is at the same time as eye-catching, complex and original as anything that ever came out of an optical printer.
The film is explicitly abstract and at first this visual strength allows deliberate implications of its own narrative nature to go unnoticed. As the nuances in both sound and image continue and peak with the end credits, the presence of an unseen narrative is established.
The levels of engagement with Water Pulu seem indefinite and can go as deep as one’s knowledge of literature,music, painting, philosophy, mathematics, numerology, history, politics, linguistics, economy, physics and metaphysics.
However, Galeta’s small cinematic universe is indefinite but not infinite; sometimes he lets you see the edges.