VIP - VideoChannel Interview Project

Stoll, Simone

Simone Stoll
German videomaker

The Refugee Film Collection

Interview: 10 questions

VIP Video Channel Interview Project

1. Tell me something about your life and the educational background
My interest in art lies in a personal need to comprehend the human existence as well as the human being. Though I do interweave personal experience into my work, there has been a keen interest in related fields of body and mind which led me first to psychology studies, then to an artist-in-residence within a psychiatric hospital and finally, to two artist residencies with fundamental research labs in the neurosciences.
My first artistic choice was painting, next to performance, theatre, dance. When I moved from my hometown Frankfurt/Main to West Berlin, I continued to combine those fields; studied painting while working at theatres and studying psychology at the university, TU Berlin. What seemed to be a chaotic spread of activities, reveals as the main character of my production and research. At the time, a keen awareness of women’s politics was also, in my understanding, a necessity.
In 1990, I moved to London to study at London University Theatre Design, followed by Advanced Studies in Theatre Design at Central School of Speech, Drama and Visual Arts. I had the great pleasure of studying under very supportive teachers who were painters themselves. In London, I was also active member of a group of artists that run an alternative art centre; my part was to organize performance and Live Art events.
My life then continued in Reykjavik, Marseilles, New York and finally I arrived, after two decades, in Frankfurt¬¬ where I live presently.

2. When, how and why started you filming?
Soon I began collaborating, parallel to my personal work, with another artist in form of site specific installations. He brought the photographic and soon filmic aspect to the work. After a few years of this collaboration, I began using video for my artistic creation. Thus, I was able to integrate a performance aspect to my work. Keeping the means simple, often with a fixed camera, I created intimate situations replacing the canvas with the eye of the camera. Later, I became also interested in the possibilities of digital treatment, which, once more, relates to painting e.g. colour treatment, layering. Nevertheless, my main interested still lies in the poetic, pensive side of the moving image.

3. What kinds of topics have your films?
The vulnerability of body and mind was probably at the origin of my work, which led later to a broader view on the fragility of the human and, more than ever, of all existence. Time is also an important element, limited time of a human lifespan or infinite time of the elements. As a painting may demand a certain openness of the onlooker to be fully perceived, it also takes time to enter the pictorial world, to become aware not only of artistic elements, but also of the effect it may have on oneself. Also, I like to use silence specifically, it leaves space for thought and gives room for the viewer to further immerse him/herself into a scene, a landscape, an emotion. Ideally, I wish that the viewer feels touched, connected to the inner self or to simply feel a growing empathy towards the world.

4. Concerning your included video: please tell me more about the aims and the contents.
The video Abschied (Farewell) speaks of an uncertain travel, of that moment one has left but not yet arrived at one’s destination filled with deep thoughts and melancholy. ‘Abschied’ shows a train ride through the eyes of the viewer glancing through two windows into a wide rainy landscape, fields, car parks and electric poles passing by. The raindrops on the glass may stand for tears, their traces seem to travel in a slower speed opposed to the rapidity of the train, at one point, those drops unify the two fields of vision.
The text scrolling over the windows may be read as messages from a person left behind. Tender words trying to give hope for this travel, this change, this moment of uncertainty, or, they may be words spoken long ago that resonate in the mind. A third layer of thought enters the movie with a dream-like performance of a woman immersed in nature; first she sits in grassy waters, then, her image blends into white sand, into the element of eternal nature. Yet, the voyage, the direction of time does not halt for dreams and so the journey continues.

5. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc?
Keep it simple and direct. I usually build up linearly to then strip down to the essential. I seek to create a poetic, at times sensual, a sensitive moment.

6. Tell me more about the technical equipment you use.
The technical equipment has never really been of particular interest to me. I do not see myself in the competition with filmmaking but rather as a video/artist/painter. As I want to keep the technical effort and its expense low and additionally, prefer not having to rely on assistance or collaborators, my technical tools are reduced to digital cameras and video editing programs.

7. How do you finance your films?
Privately, running on a small budget is part of my approach.

8. Do you work individually as a video artist/film maker or do you work in a team? if you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?

For sound, I have asked collaborators to create a sound for an existing video, or have simply asked for permission to use and possibly reedit an existing recording. Other than that, I prefer working alone. Teamwork demands constant communication and exchange in whatever way. When working in a team, one can’t tatter speechlessly along building layer after layer to the project, as I can do working in solitude. Teamwork can be fun, enriching and a good way to get out of one’s bubble of thoughts and style, a great challenge and push to try something new and of course, one may learn from the other. But for me, at this point, it may only be a temporary project.
On the other hand, I have over last decade taken part in international video collaboration projects where the video artist reacts and creates on the base of some other artist’s piece.

9. Who or what has a lasting influence on your film/video making?
My view has been forged by writers, performers, dancers and of course by painters. In the 80s, I saw Bob Wilson’s performances at the Schaubühne Berlin, William Forsythe as a choreographer, but also Einar Schleef, Heiner Müller, Heiner Goebbels and Meredith Monk have inspired me in those days. Women activists also played an important role. I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given, like the two-years art-residency amidst the psychiatric hospital in Aix-en-Provence. Previously, I followed an invitation to stay in Reykjavik which had had a lasting impact on my pictorial language. But in the end, it really is life that has the greatest impact on my creations as one gets confronted at different stages with ever new challenges of human existence.

10. What are your future plans or dreams as a film/video maker?
I prefer not talking about unrealized projects but I shall be happy to present the latest piece when time is ready.

Can works of yours be reviewed online besides on the platforms of The New Museum of Networked Art? If yes, where?
List some links & resources